A recent summer adventure included a trip to Eastern Europe with two teacher friends. Since we were going to be only a few hours from a school we’ve worked with collaboratively in the iEARN Holiday Card Project, I arranged a visit with Maja Kovacic of the POS Socka Elementary in Slovenia, a small village school of 31 students. My father’s family was from Slovenia, so I was especially excited about visiting the country for the first time.
The day of our school visit started with hot and sunny weather, windy mountain roads, signs in Slovenian and a GPS that didn’t recognize any streets. After sporadic laughing at the crazy situation, the back and forth and round and round in turn abouts, a dead-end in a farmer’s yard, help from friendly people who didn’t speak much English, and a rescue from Maja at a pizza castle (yes, a castle turned into a pizza restaurant), we were headed to the school.
By now we were late, so the students were all waiting for us. They started right in singing a song in English and then launched into a lively Slovenian Dance, complete with authentic costumes and an accordion player. I was so over taken by emotion that I was fighting back tears during the whole thing. I’m not sure if it was the amazing opportunity to meet with these wonderful teachers and students half a world away, or if it was the fact that my family’s roots were in this absolutely beautiful country, but that was a moment that I will never forget.
The teacher’s lounge was set up for us with freshly baked potica, a bread my grandmother made often. Touring their cozy and welcoming school, and meeting the gracious staff and students made me fully realize the value of our interactions in the iEARN project. The festive holiday cards sent to us so carefully crafted with glitter and pine trees were made by the hands of these smiling students in front of us. Here they were in a small school on a Slovenian hillside, and there we were in a suburban town near Chicago, IL, now face to face as friends, colleagues, and work partners…talking about teacher’s unions, budget cuts, class size and curriculum. So similar, yet so much to offer each other in view-point and experience.
What an amazing opportunity for sure.