Sitting here in Connecticut in the middle of a Nor’easter storm, it is hard to believe I will soon be with you all in Jordan. I’m Jen O’Brien, a native upstate New Yorker who came to Connecticut for grad school where I studied the behavior coqui treefrogs in Puerto Rico…and I never left. I soon realized I loved teaching high schoolers and found the school where I have been teaching for 19 years: Watkinson School. While I started out a pretty traditional science teacher, my classes evolved (with me) to be more an more interdisciplinary with a distinctly global and social justice focus. Years ago, I led (aka inherited) a service learning trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, made a tone of mistakes, attended Dragons Rocky Mountain Educator Seminar where I was transformed, built our student trip to Uganda from scratch and eventually got my dream job…being Global Studies Program Director at Watkinson. I now lead 25 juniors and seniors though this diploma program, lead the Uganda trip (going back in June) and still teach science.
The Jordan trip will help expand my understanding of this critical region and help me be a better facilitator of my students ability to think critically, empathize and challenge themselves. Specifically, my school is currently exploring running a trip to Jordan and possibly Jerusalem. Fate had me looking on the Dragons website when I realized this trip existed, and when I approached my head of school about this trip as a way to explore our own Middle East dreams, she said, “Go!!”.
Selfishly, after planning so many learning and travel experiences for others, I can’t wait to be on the receiving end: to be challenged, unsure about the outcome of an experience, trust in the process and to frankly to be a “student” again.