Friday, February 14, 2014

From Europe to the Utah State Capitol

 I had the really awesome opportunity to spend the day with my international exchange students for a field trip to the Utah State Capitol.
 We toured the beautiful building and learned about the process of government. Legislation was happening!.. and the place was bustling with politicians, attorneys, media, and groups of students from all over the state.
It was so busy that there were no tour guides to take us around. They gave me a packet of info and I had to be the guide! Poor students, I didn't know much about the Capitol except that I used to hang around there when my mom worked there as a typist for a short while. I did have a few stories up my sleeve. I told the students about the miracle of seagulls that swooped down and ate all the crickets, saving the Mormon pioneers from famine. I also told them about my ancestor John Pack who was a scout with Brigham Young. He went ahead of the pioneers to scope things out and came back to report and help the rest of the pioneers make it safely into the valley.   We pretended to be lobbyists in front of the House of Representatives. We hung around outside the doors of the Senate where important things were happening. I saw 2 people I knew! One was my primary teacher/across the street neighbor growing up--now attorney. The other my cousins husband, also an attorney. The students didn't think this was as awesome as I did because "everybody in Utah knows each other?? duh!"   We were off to a good start.
We met up with another coordinator and her group of 20 or so exchange students for lunch. ( we planned this ahead of time) The students then had the awesome opportunity to meet with the State Superintendent over the schools. We had the students go up by country, introduce themselves and where they were from, then share one thing they like about school in America and something they think we could do better.  We had students from Hong Kong, Brazil, Columbia, Kazakhstan, Germany, Finland, Montenegro, Denmark, Italy, and Spain. What a geography lesson. I get to hear these kind of conversations all the time from my students and now they were able to share it with someone who had the power to do something about it! It was hard to contain my excitement!
The State Superintendent took notes as he listened to these students. All the students agreed that school in America was WAY EASIER than what they were used to. In fact, many were worried that they will be behind academically when they return home. Alex from Italy said that in his country he was required to take every branch of science and here you can only choose one or two in High School. Anastasia from Montenegro wondered why Americans only get to learn a foreign language in high school or middle school. That is too late! She started learning languages in school in kindergarten. She can speak 4 languages and that is not unusual for Europeans. The Spaniards complained of school lunch. They get a 2 hour break to return to their homes and eat lunch before going back. Renato from Brazil was surprised that athletes miss so much school for traveling to play sports. Shouldn't school be more focused on academics?  All the students agreed that teachers here are more like friends and they liked that. They also loved the "school spirit" that exists here and the whole social aspect of dances and "prom."  We Americans may not take our studies too seriously but we do have fun!

 Students also participated in a mock trial in 3 Debates:  Should schools provide cell phones for their students. (motion failed)  Should students be required to register their phones with the schools (failed)  Should students face a "3 strikes and you're out" consequence if they violate school cell phone usage rules? (motion passed)  We have some future lawyers and politicians in this group!

 After, I took my little group on a tour of Temple Square. We went to the top of the Church Office Building for a nice view of the entire Salt Lake Valley.  Our very nice tour guide impressed the students with his knowledge of 3 languages. The students each got a copy of the "Thirteen Articles of Faith" in their native language which are basically 13 paragraphs that outline the beliefs of the LDS church.  Spontaneously they gathered in a circle, and much to the delight of all of us in the room, took turns going around and reading the articles out loud in Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Swedish. I must say it was powerful.
 View of the State Capitol from the 26th floor of the Church office Building.
 Oh it was nice to be back in my home territory! (where apparently I know everybody:) We walked around City Creek Mall and had a totally American dinner at Johnny Rockets before our 2 hour drive home.  What a great day with these fun kids!

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