Ouroboros

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The ouroboros has several meanings interwoven into it. Foremost is the symbolism of the serpent biting, devouring, or eating its own tail. This symbolizes the cyclic Nature of the Universe: creation out of destruction, Life out of Death. The ouroboros eats its own tail to sustain its life, in an eternal cycle of renewal.

Now I am not in the habit of eating my own tail, but having been around the world and back, I do feel a spiritual sense of renewal and growth from my experiences.  I was not on a year-long holiday, but rather I dug deep inside of myself as a teacher, a father, and a husband and came back to Portland Oregon and Mary Rieke Elementary, full circle, a changed person.  How exactly is still to be written, but my Fulbright teaching experience was life changing.

I feel it is time to close my blog for good, but I would like to share a few final photos looking at my life from the past year…

My exchange partner and I, Mr Robert Pearce, meeting for the first time in Washington, DC.

My exchange partner and I, Mr Robert Pearce, meeting for the first time in Washington, DC.  This was taken back in July of 2012.  As the Fulbright Foundation and the Institute for International Education are both located in Washington all participants for the 2012-2013 exchange year met up for meetings and social gatherings.  I was nervous and excited at the same time, but in hindsight I should have paid more attention in the meetings surrounding culture shock.  I had no idea what I was in for.

I took this photo close to midnight whilst walking around DC on my first night.  Having never been here before I was moved by many of the monuments, especially the words of Abraham Lincoln.

I took this photo close to midnight whilst walking around DC on my first night there. Having never been here before I was moved by many of the monuments, especially the words of Abraham Lincoln.  Deep within myself I felt a sense of purpose as both a teacher and a citizen of the USA.  It was a prideful moment.

My kids watching the Olympics our first full day in England.  They look tired and a bit worried.  They had no idea what they were in for and I am so proud of them for doing so well spiritually, socially, and academically.

My kids watching the Olympics our first full day in England back in August 2012. They look tired and a bit worried. They had no idea what they were in for and I am so proud of them for doing so well spiritually, socially, and academically.

These are the American teachers teaching in the UK with family members in Northern Ireland.  Not all made it to this final gathering, but these people, us Fulbrighters, stayed connected throughout the year as best as we could.  We called, visited, and wrote to each other all year long whenever we needed to reach out to someone who understood what we were all going through.  I hope that I can remain in contact with many of them.  Time will tell.

These are the American teachers, some with family, who taught in the UK. We are  in Northern Ireland back in June of 2013 for our end of the year meeting. Not all the US teachers made it to this final gathering, but these people, us Fulbrighters, did stay connected throughout the year as best as we could. We called, visited, and wrote to each other all year long whenever we needed to reach out to someone who understood what we were all going through. I hope that I can remain in contact with many of them. Time will tell. I met some really wonderful people who I am indebted to for their friendship.
Receiving our certificates!  Satya from the British Councel is standing far left, and Maggie from IIE is kneeling far left.  These two women were lifelines for all of us and I own them a debt of gratitude for all their help throughout the year.  Unfortunately none of us received any college credit towards our degrees, but a certificate from the US State Department saying that we completed the program still looks good professionally.

Receiving our certificates! Satya, from the British Councel is standing far left, and Maggie from IIE, is kneeling far left. These two women were lifelines for all of us and I own them a debt of gratitude for all their help throughout the year. Unfortunately none of us received any college credit towards our degrees, but a certificate from the US State Department saying that we completed the program still looks good professionally.

So coming full circle these are photos of my new classroom for the 2013-2014 school year.  I have 31 students and I am teaching 3rd grade (Year 4).  About half boys and half girls. I will miss the Smartboard I had in England.  But back in America I do have a desk to work at which is nice.  We also have PE, Music, and a Dance teacher.  Teaching PE and Music was really difficult and I am glad I now send my students to professionals instead of an amateur like me trying to teach those subjects!

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It is the largest class I have ever taught and the noise level they create is by far my biggest challenge.  But so far they have shown me that they are bright, capable, and willing to do their best.  When students are that flexible I feel that I can teach them anything they want to learn.

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As I stated before the Fulbright Teacher Exchange side of the Fulbright program has been discontinued.  A few countries will participate for another year, but the UK side has been eliminated.  It is a disappointing ending to my experience, but I am and will forever be a Fulbright alumnus.  I plan on participating with the program however I can, as well as staying in touch as best I can with the wonderful teachers I met both overseas as well as from America.  The experience itself was never easy but I would not change a thing.

Looking back on my year it seems part fairy tale, part dream. Our photos, souvenirs, and memories keep the experience fresh in our minds. I also hope that my children will grow up to be better citizens and more globally aware due to the experiences that they took part in.  All of us, Rebecca, Annika, Zachary, and I were given an opportunity of a lifetime and we will never forget our year living abroad in England, 2012-2013.

So with that I close this blog.  Thanks to everyone who followed along and enjoyed the ride.

Jeff Sturges

Portland Oregon, October 2013

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3 thoughts on “Ouroboros

  1. Yes you are right, you are a different person, a different dad and a different teacher. I wish we had the internet in 68-69 when I exchanged to the UK. I am glad for the year in UK, I learned much and hopefully became a better teacher. Saddened however that the program comes to an end!

  2. You did a wonderful job on your blog, Jeff. We vicariously got to be a part of your experience.

  3. And thank you, Jeff, for sharing it all with us. I enjoyed it very much, the differences between the two cultures and how much you felt you changed and grew in the experience. I am confident that your family will benefit from it too now and later.

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