Face Time: Christopher Fletcher — Lisbon teacher brings many cultural experiences to his virtual classroom

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Grenada from 2006 to 2008, Christopher Fletcher from Lisbon taught computer science to students at the Roman Catholic school in Chantimelle. Photo submitted

Born in Brunswick, Christopher Fletcher was only three months old when his parents left to sail around the world. This first experience was the first of many international adventures for Fletcher, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Grenada and later became an ordained monk in Thailand. After traveling and teaching around the world, Fletcher returned to Maine in 2020, settling in Lisbon. He currently teaches high school social studies for Maine Connections Academy, an online public school.

Name: Christopher Fletcher

Age: 40

Lives: Lisbon

What’s it like to travel the world by boat? Sailing is an exciting sport and ocean cruising is a wonderful way of life. I was lucky enough to be born into a family of sailors, and when I was 10 months old my parents and I embarked on a 2.5 year cruise in a Westsail 32′ named Christopher Robin, which took us carried from Maine, on the East Coast, through the Caribbean, and through the Panama Canal, to the Marquesas Islands, and further across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia, to the Cook Islands, and to in American Samoa. The trip certainly left a lasting and indelible mark on my further development. Since then I have also taken part in several exciting Marion-Bermuda and Halifax sea races, a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, a breathtaking cruise from Scotland to Norway and eastward cruises along Maine’s rugged coastline.

What kind of skills do you need for this? Sailing requires acute situational awareness and continuous decision-making skills. It also requires autonomy, because you are completely alone on the water. Finally, strong teamwork and clear communication skills are also essential.

What is one of your most memorable stories of your time traveling abroad? A particularly beautiful experience that comes to mind is to celebrate a multinational and multicultural Mass on Easter Sunday in Marrakech, Morocco. Nestled in the heart of the Gueliz district, along wide French-era streets, is the Church of the Holy Martyrs. Its location right in front of an equally magnificent mosque is often seen by local Marrakechis as a symbol of inter-religious tolerance in modern Morocco, a theme highlighted in this particular mass. The service was held in five different languages, the Ugandan choir made me cry, and during the Eucharist liturgy, where all members of the congregation are invited to exchange a sign of peace with their neighbors to signify a family in Christ, it seemed to me that every time I shared handshakes and a nod of the head saying “Peace be with you”, I received the same response in an entirely different language. What a moving example of universal communion !

You served in Grenada as a Peace Corps volunteer. What did you do while you were there? I began Peace Corps training on July 25, 2006. The intensive seven-week training program included an orientation to Caribbean culture, familiarity with government and ministry operations, familiarity with educational systems, acquisition of technical skills and training in Grenadian dialect and customs. During this period, all interns lived in local hostels in order to be immersed in the local culture. After being sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in September 2006, I was assigned to St. Patrick’s Parish as a Community Development Specialist and attached to the Grenada Rural Enterprise Project, a poverty alleviation initiative. I helped G-REP set up a community computer center at the Roman Catholic school in Chantimelle, then started working there as a senior computer instructor.

Christopher Fletcher meditates at Dhammakaya Temple in Thailand. Photo submitted

Can you describe an average day for you while living as an ordained monk in Thailand? Being a monk is a simple life, but not an easy life. I briefly ordained at Dhammakaya Temple, located about an hour north of Bangkok, which, with over 1,000 monks, is the largest temple in the country and one of the largest in the world. Thailand is a Buddhist society, and it was amazing to be on this side of the fabric, so to speak, because the sangha (the monastic community) occupy the upper echelon of society; indeed, even the king prostrates himself before a monk.

A typical day would involve waking up at 4am to roll up my bamboo sleeping mat and neatly fold the overhanging mosquito net. Then morning chanting and meditation for an hour. Then we would take our begging bowls and go barefoot on a 4 kilometer bindabat (alms ride) to nearby villages, rain or shine. Then a group breakfast, followed by chores, then an hour of guided meditation, followed by study time. Before noon, all the monks gather to eat a light lunch, which is the last solid food they are allowed to consume until sunrise the next morning. Around 1:00 p.m. we could take part in classes in Buddhist teachings, and most afternoons were devoted to a number of activities that required our attention. Around 6 p.m. we would begin a one or two hour session of chanting, meditation, and prayer followed by daily confessions (which included a general apology to any bugs we might have accidentally killed), and eventually retreat to 8 or 9 p.m. Each day was full, long and rewarding.

After all your travels, you became a teacher. Why? Much of my teens and 20s was spent in youth programs, starting as a sailing instructor at the Orr’s Bailey Yacht Club in Harpswell during high school summers. After graduating from Hampshire College, I was initially interested in pursuing a career in community economic development, but time and again have gone on to find success working with young people through experiential education , from teaching basic seamanship and life skills with the World Ocean School, to teaching farming and organic fruit and vegetable production at the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute. But it wasn’t until I started teaching high school social studies at my alma mater in Sainte-Croix that it all really clicked, and I realized that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Since then, my career has led me to teaching opportunities at a wide variety of public, private and international schools around the world.

I find it exciting to work in a rapidly changing industry that adapts to the ever-changing social and economic landscape. Despite the familiar challenges most educators face, I also know deep down that the thrill of student “aha” moments surpasses any other professional reward. Seeing students take ownership of their work and learning and acknowledging the pivotal role I played in this transformation means everything to me. In short, I want to communicate that the greatest honor of my life continues every day when the development of young people is entrusted to me by their families. This trust and this expectation is what motivates me to give my best every day, because anything less would be more than just a disservice, it would actually be an injustice. As Henry Adams summarizes: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never say where his influence ends.

What has been your experience teaching for a virtual charter school? It’s very different from a traditional school environment, but as I finished my second year here, I found that I came to prefer it! At our school, staff and students have a large degree of control over how they want their typical day to go. Although there are several scheduled events each week, the rest of each school day is free to schedule as I see fit. I have much more time to provide structured support to students in need to build their skills, to check in frequently with each of my advisors, or to dive into an overwhelming amount of student performance data to craft more personalized and responsive. This schedule flexibility also applies to families and greatly benefits my students, some of whom have jobs or internships, run their own businesses, or are elite athletes. They can fully engage in these activities without missing school or falling behind in their studies. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, we truly put our students in control of their education, from more accommodations for different learning styles, to the ability to access our public school education from anywhere in the world. . How cool is that?

Christopher Fletcher pictured with economics students at the English Modern School in Doha, Qatar. Photo submitted

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