Thinking about teaching geography makes me wonder how I learned about the far reaches of the world. To be completely honest, my curiosity did not come from the classroom. As a young girl, dreaming about traveling, the places I wanted to go was completely determined by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. I know, I know it sounds crazy but hear me out. My only image of the world beyond New Hampshire was through this funny, adventurous duo. I fell in love with the idea of going to Rome because my young idols fell in love with the beautiful Colosseum as a convenient backdrop while interning at a fashion company in When in Rome. I begged to go to Atlantis in the Bahamas because MK and A solved the mystery of stolen treasure in between trips to the beach, of course, in Holiday in the Sun (oh yeah they fell in love there too). I wanted to see the sights of London because MK and A uncovered the history of the city while competing in a international Model UN competition in Winning London. I dreamed of going to Paris because MK and A found adventure visiting their grandfather, the ambassador to France, in Passport to Paris. I even wanted to learn to talk like the Aussies do Down Under because MK and A moved to Australia as part of the witness protection program in Our Lips are Sealed.
As I got older I started to find more enjoyment in geography and world history classes. To me, there is nothing more exciting than learning about a new place and I couldn’t wait to be the person that exposed the wonders of the world to my students. I was expecting the students to be wide eyed and completely enthralled in the 53 slide PowerPoint I presented packed with fun facts about the 7 continents. Unfortunately my lesson was not met with the level of excitement to had hoped for. After pushing through from slide to slide I quizzed the students on some of the basic facts I had presented. They knew some but they didn’t seem to process it all when I gave them the prompt ‘I want to travel to…’ for their page of the book, most of the students wanted to visit Antarctica to see the penguins or Australia to see the kangaroos. What about Europe? What about all the slides I had about the historical cities of London and Berlin? What about the Amazon Rain Forest? All the students wanted to do was draw penguins and kangaroos. I understand this response from 12 and 13 year old kids but I couldn’t help but wonder how to get these kids excited about geography and places they have never known, places they probably cannot even imagine? I somewhat jokingly wonder what are the kids to do without the exposure to the adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley?
I have since grown out of my tween obsession with Mary-Kate and Ashley but my interest in traveling has remained. I think about traveling often and the list of places I want to explore is endless. In fact, I would be strained to name a place that I would not want to see. I get excited when I think about the places in the world I have yet to see and the people I have yet to meet and I just wanted to spread this excitement to my students here. After realizing the exposure to other parts of the world is not the same as my childhood exposure I recognize that my method of instruction could use a little work, but I can see teaching geography and opening the eyes of young kids to the wonders of other places and cultures in my future.