For teacher, a learning experience

Lancaster Country Day’s Sam Schindler returns from Bangladesh with new perspective on education
Staff Writer


Sam Schindler works with his students in Bangladesh.

Sam Schindler stepped into the classroom as he’s done on countless occasions.

This time, the room wasn’t filled with American students.

These students addressed him as “Mr. Sam, Sir.”

And they didn’t hold technological equipment in their hands.

The Lancaster Country Day School teacher recently spent two weeks teaching English at a school in Bangladesh. Carter Academy was started by Ghulam M. Suhrawardi, a native of Bangladesh who moved to America and later built the school in the remote village where he grew up.

Schindler, 38, first connected with Carter Academy through the nongovernmental organization Creative Learning, which has a branch called School to School. Its aim is to connect schools in America with schools in Islamic countries.

Schindler, who has two master’s degrees from Jewish Theological Seminary, has taught world civilizations and geopolitics at LCDS for the past three years. This spring, he initiated virtual communication between his students and students at Carter Academy.

Both groups made videos of their lives. The Americans asked questions about Islamic culture; the Bangladeshis, about American culture. The correspondence lasted about two months.

Then, from June 24 to July 6, Schindler’s virtual connection became interpersonal, as he traveled to the school located a few hours outside Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka.

To his American eyes, the school seemed plain and the surrounding village impoverished. After some time, he realized his initial thought, “Wow, these people are really poverty stricken,” wasn’t accurate in the context of Bangladeshi culture.

“You aren’t poor if you have three meals a day and a roof over your head,” Schindler said. “To them, it’s enough. They have enough to survive.”

The sixth- to 10th-grade students previously had learned English to varying degrees. Schindler focused on teaching them conversational English.

He introduced the students to American idioms. For example, he said, he taught them the phrase “buy some time” and then heard a student use it in a classroom setting. It was “a great triumph,” Schindler said.

The teachers at the school were eager to learn Schindler’s teaching methods — and he was unexpectedly affected by theirs. In contrast to the technology-based education he is used to, Schindler had to use a chalkboard and eraser.

“I’ve been ambivalent about the technology,” he said. “Where does real education lie?”

After his two weeks at Carter Academy, Schindler gained “a new perspective on what it is to teach kids,” he said.

“I was reminded of what is enjoyable about teaching without all of the electronic stuff.

“Education anywhere can be based on one basic principle: Develop a relationship with your students,” Schindler said.

He plans to continue communication via video correspondence in the upcoming school year.

“In the background always will be this experience,” Schindler said.