Digital World is the New School: A Transition Story

It is not well-known by most people, however, there is a Turkish School located in Washington State, Puget Sound Area. The school, known as ATAWA, was found to provide Turkish language classes with the integration of cultural aspects. Unlike the concept of a language school, ATAWA has the goal of educating second-generation Turkish learners with the Turkish Primary School Education as if the students were studying in their home country. The school is run by Bengu Bostanci who is a Science Teacher graduated from Gazi University in Turkey. Mrs. Bostanci is living in Greater Seattle Area almost twenty years. Being an idealistic educator, she had always been dreaming of teaching Turkish literacy skills and culture to the kids who were born with Turkish origins. For almost all parents, who live far away from their home countries, it is highly important that their kids have a chance to meet their background and they are eager to send them to ATAWA.

Being as a digital coach to ATAWA, I was curious about their realtionship with digital education and started to interview Bengu Bostanci and this was the time I figured out that digital education had only come to their life with Covid 19. Taking the ISTE Coaching Standard of “Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities“, I began my interview with a few questions:

Not surprisingly, Covid 19 has had a negative effect on ATAWA as well and the school was obliged to quit the in-person instruction. Like other Turkish Schools in the other states of the US, ATAWA decided to transform their instruction into virtual instruction. However, it wasn`t easy there was huge problems: Nobody had experience in digital education before.

Digital illiteracy caused tension among teachers and, what is more, the institution had to face with teacher loss. As a leader, the school head Bengu Bostanci was also horrified with what is happening but still needed to take an action. The first thing she did was to observe the transfromation of other school in the state. As a leader, she had the responsibility of maintaining calm and motivating the other teachers, so her first task was to revise the curriculum. Unfortunately, ATAWA had to leave their school building and due to the lockdown, all the cultural events were cancelled. Mrs. Bostanci, however, didn`t give up and she was decisive enough to take the advantage of online education. She redesigned all the course materials, and even, looked for the alternatice ways of meving cultural events into online platforms. Challenges weren` t able to be predicted, but she could see them as a piece of experience no matter what.

It was wise of her that she asked for assistance of Generation Z who are digitally literate. Those were the high schoolers or college students with Turkish backgrounds and they were volunteer helpers assigned with a teaching session. This made teachers to feel a bit more relaxed and focused on their instruction. No matter how hard the transition was, the success of online ATAWA came from not giving up their routines and having an idealistic school leader. With the huge efforts of her, as all Turkish schools routine, Turkish National Anthem was sung at every class start time and cultural elements were integrated into games. “A good leader shouldn` t be anxious. Even when, they shouldn` t show it” said Mrs. Bostanci and I could see how hard for her to be able to manage staying calm and motivating other, but in the end she did.

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