Author: rowan

I grew up divided between spending the academic year in Fairbanks, Alaska and my summers in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and this division has inspired me a lot, adding greatly to my appreciation of language and culture. I have taught Spanish at UAF, English in Indonesia for a year and Thailand for two years, and I am currently living in Thailand enjoying the wealth and beauty of Thai culture as I work on my Masters in Secondary Education from UAF. My long-term goal is to work in community to build a sustainable community learning center in the Dominican Republic that would grant educational opportunities to learners who would ordinarily not have them due to race or socio-economic status. This year I am working on my Masters and learning about Permaculture to help me build towards my goal. My hobbies include hiking, exploring new places with a camera, scuba diving, drinking hot tea on a cold day, and interacting with people who inspire me in some way. My principle hobby is eating, I must admit. I love the wealth of delicious food available in Thailand but I miss bread, cheese, and wine quite often!

Rowan’s classroom of shared responsibility

Inspired by the philosophy presented by Love and Logic, I work towards creating a learning environment wherein students can explore their personal agency and feel empowered, respected, and encouraged. For me the goal is not just to create an environment that students feel comfortable learning in, but to cultivate a love of learning and an understanding of what it means to live in community with others that students will develop for the rest of their lives. By giving students personal responsibility for monitoring and reflecting on their behavior and academic achievement, teachers instill in students a confidence and deeper understanding of how their behavior affects others and themselves. Respect for self and others is so key to living a successful and contented life.


To create this kind of learning environment, I use a lot of team, or group work, I have classroom management systems in place that provide clear guidelines for expectations and ways for students to evaluate their own behavior in community, and I myself maintain a calm and open demeanor so that students feel comfortable speaking to me about issues they may have. I like the idea of class meetings as well as a place where everyone can be heard. Teaching students how to listen and speak respectfully is very important.

One of the major things I will begin doing in the future to cultivate a positive learning environment is greeting each student personally at the door. It seems so simple, yet I can see how it could go a long way to helping students to feel respected, encouraged, and personally valued.

Rowan’s Blog 5: Observation Reflection

For my observation assignment I went to Chiang Mai International School and observed a Spanish teacher as that is what I will be teaching in the future. Some classroom management practices I found effective were 1) individually greeting each student at the door as they entered her room, 2) having students stand up and answer a prompt before sitting, 3) calling randomly on students to answer questions or respond to prompts during the lesson, and 4) requiring students to put everything away and then thank her for the lesson before leaving. There were no major transitions that I observed as students did not work in pairs or groups but maintained their seating for the duration of the class and there were no interruptions. The only transitions occurred between listening and grammar-based activities. During these transitions there was some talking so the teacher used verbal reminders and raised her voice to counteract this disturbance. For the most part this observation proved to be more of a lesson of what I do not want to do rather than an example of the sort of teacher I wish to become. The lesson was grammar-based and not particularly engaging. There was no opportunity for students to communicate with each other, which to me defeats the purpose of a language class. One strategy that I will try in my classroom is having students wait outside so I can personally greet them as they come into my class. While she still took attendance, I will try to use the greeting time to take attendance and assess how each student is feeling that day so I can get an idea of the level of preparedness my students have before the lesson begins.

Rowan Blog 4: Useful Website, Blog, Video

Useful website:

As a Foreign Language teacher, I continually refer to the ACTFL website to gain information on current trends in teaching and national standards. The site also contains links to research and publications that are useful and interesting.

Helpful blog:

A blog that I recently discovered and find interesting and helpful is The Creative Language Class. It contains useful tips for teaching languages in a fun way and includes videos, activity ideas, and games.

Interesting video:

I found the video Top 10 Proven Classroom Management Tips for Teachers interesting as it tied together many of the things that we have talked about in a way that was clear, effective, and well-put together way.

Rowan’s Response to The Future of Alaska Native Education

In his article, Paul Berg begins by asserting that “Alaska continues to be wedded to the practices of the past…the philosophy of the education system appears to be a continuation of 19th century Social Darwinism — the doctrine of the superiority of Anglo/Western culture. The goal of rural education remains to acculturate the Native student to the dominant culture” and makes the point that policies that come from the outside can lead to an unhealthy dependence on that outside culture, which can lead to loss of initiative, growing frustration and anger, and eventually self-destructive behavior especially in situations when educators from the dominant culture are treated in a way that is superior to those from the village (3/15/2012). He proposes that alternatives to this cycle of dependency involve a healing and wellness journey for the community that is lead from within the community rather than imposed by outsiders. The vision for the future for Native Education proposed by elders according to this article includes 1) allowing future generations to have the independence to become their own experts as they negotiate their way between dominant and indigenous cultures, 2) allowing native people to control and take responsibility for their own school system, and 3) restricting the role of majority culture educators as expert so they take a backseat more. There is a call for a shift in education that 1) honestly confronts the past, 2) gives guidance and purpose to life, 3) uses cultural wisdom and traditions, and 4) provides a positive vision and hope for the future. Berg calls for more placed-based education models and reminds us that we need to reject ideas of Western or majority culture superiority.

While many comments responding to this article were in accord with Berg, there were some people who were critical of his vision, calling it a step backwards. Jo MacNamara argued, “Isn’t the main purpose of a school to prepare younger people for the life ahead of them instead of the life of their ancestors?” (3/15/12 1:12 pm), while Skirtz points out that, “Even if ‘experts’ ‘back off’, the rest of the world of business and industry is not obliged to do the same…There must be guidelines to make sure these kids have the basic tools they need to be cross-cultural. Not for the purpose of assimilation into a ‘dominant’ culture, but, to give them a chance to negotiate that culture” (3/15/12 12:55 pm). In my own response, I would agree that the new vision should 1) promote inter-cultural understanding and compassion rather then continue an “us” versus “them” dichotomy, 2) address issues of educational equality and national standards, 3) involve both elders and young people in the shaping of a new system, and 4) encourage all educators to live and work in a different culture for at least a year to experience what it is like to be a minority having to operate with a new language and way of being. Cross-cultural understanding can only really happen when people value it and take the time to challenge themselves to view the world via paradigms other than their own. I particularly enjoyed Jimmy J’s observation that “The Western view point is that the individual is the strongest unity and the Native viewpoint places the strongest unit as a group (house, Clan). When one person of a Clan commits a crime the entire Clan has to pay the price” (3/16/12 5:32 am). This reminded me of the Interdependent Group Contingency Strategies from our handbook.

In my own vision for the future of Native education, I agree that changes must come from, and be lead, from within the local, Native community, but I think it is important to address the following questions:

1) How do we develop a system that incorporates indigenous knowledge systems and language but also prepares children for life outside of the village as some students may wish to leave?

2) How would the curriculum be nationally accredited and recognized to ensure equal opportunities to graduates of this system?

3) How can this new system work towards decreasing the gap between philosophies of “us” and “them” to cultivate a sense of inter-cultural respect and understanding?

I would involve young Native students in the decision making process rather than differ only to elders as I think it is important for cross-generational communication to happen so that the vision can respect the ways of the past while pointing into modern visions of the future.


Rowan’s 4 Rules

The four rules I would have posted visibly in my classroom and draw students’ attention to daily would be:

1) Treat yourself and others with respect at all times. (Rules of Respect (SAT): Space, Action, Tone)

2) Come to class prepared with homework, materials needed for the lesson, and a positive attitude.

3) Follow the three Ls (Look, Listen, Learn) when someone else is speaking.

4) Help and encourage each other to succeed.

I would call on students to work together as a community to decide on specific procedures and ways of remembering how to meet the behavioral expectations of each of these rules on the first day of class.

A website that I found helpful was an article about classroom management published by the American Psychological Association:

Here is a link to an image of my wordle:


Hello! from a teacher in Thailand

[caption id="attachment_1074" align="aligncenter" width="300"]We went to see "Kung-Fu Panda 2" and had a blast! We went to see “Kung-Fu Panda 2” and had a blast![/caption] [caption id="attachment_1075" align="aligncenter" width="300"]One of my classes in Thailand last year. One of my classes in Thailand last year.[/caption]

Hi everyone! I’m Rowan Beraza. I grew up spending the academic year in Fairbanks, Alaska and the summers visiting my father in the Dominican Republic, which granted me a culturally diverse and exciting childhood that cultivated my interest in exploring the world and learning about different cultures. I currently live in Thailand and have spent the past two years teaching in a Thai private school with class sizes of up to 50 students. It has been a rewarding experience that has taught me so much about myself, how I interact with others, and why teaching is so important to me. I am working towards a Masters in Education with a Teaching License so that I can someday encourage others to explore the world’s cultures and expand their horizons by learning a foreign language: Spanish! I’m looking forward to learning more about Classroom Management and developing a style that fits my personality and beliefs.