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Instructor Introduction – Ian

My name is Ian and I’m thrilled to be a part of this instructor team on our summer six week. I’m writing this message from a perch in a sunny Monday afternoon porch in Portland, Oregon, the city that has served as my home base for the last eight some years. The picture above is of me with my housemate’s dogs, two dear companions.

This will be my second China language course with Dragons and I’m eager to return with a rekindled enthusiasm for intercultural language learning and for personal explorations of self awareness and globalization, all against a rapidly changing Chinese backdrop. I’m excited to be returning to familiar scenes and faces in Kunming and thrilled to explore new territory beyond.

I generally tend to avoid delving into my chronology because I’m more interested in what feels fresh or urgent today, but for the sake of context here are some broad brushstrokes about me: I grew up in Maine but moved out here to the Northwest for college and have since stuck around. I studied Chinese Literature at Reed College, which included a year stint studying in Taiwan. Summers at Reed included conservation/trail work as well as some time as a sea kayak guide. My year after graduating I moved to Colombia for a year to teach English at a high school and to build and hone Spanish language skills. The year I returned from Colombia I started working doing student support and community engagement with a racial equity lens at an elementary school here, and have more or less stayed in that realm since.

So what’s been fresh and urgent? In the intervening year since my first Dragons course last summer I’ve enjoyed a very welcome and grounding weekly routine. My day job is working between two elementary skills as a bilingual ESL Educational Assistant supporting English language learners with verbal and literacy skills. Outside of school I teach a once weekly adult English class for immigrant and refugee folks and am supporting one of my schools develop an ongoing one-on-one Spanish-English language exchange partnerships among the parent community to forge more connections across cultural, linguistic, and racial lines. Another source of joy and inspiration for me this year has been my involvement with the Portland Childcare Collective, which is a group of folks who volunteer their time to provide free childcare at meetings / events of community organizations working for social justice.

Working in public schools has been at once inspiring and sobering, and has felt like a bundled microcosm of many of the inequities resounding more broadly in the US and the world. It’s been inspiring for the resiliency, creativity, and wisdom of our kiddos and sobering for the lack of adequate resources, materials, reasonable staff-student ratios to meet the needs of diverse students with diverse needs. There’s something about the simultaneity of the adversity and inspiration that has been sustaining for me. It is this resilient seed that I hope to bring to our work and explorations in China together this summer. It’s a sticky world out their with crazily complex overlay of economic, political, and representational systems vying to silo us into different roles in the in the social mechanisms that are our inheritance. But it’s also a time of growing social consciousness and awareness in the power of connection, of dialogue, of networks of solidarity. I hope we can allow ourselves be vulnerable with the things we’re struggling with, celebrate our creativity and will to be curious, and honor each other as peers and allies.

Other things about me: I love Steven Universe, getting sucked into cute animal wormholes on Youtube, putting intention into dream recall, chess, Tai Chi, and chai tea.

So looking forward to meeting and learning with you all.

Ian