This week, the campus I teach at in South Korea is abuzz with the sounds of English. Last week, about 100 international student-teachers moved onto campus—beginning their summer study and teaching abroad adventures. When I meet these student-teachers, glimpse their experiences through their fresh, eager eyes, observe them exploring Korea for the first time, I sense changes happening already. If their international teaching experiences are anything like mine, they will never be quite the same. In talking with them and hearing about their adventures, their interpretations and understandings of themselves and their experiences, these two ideas keep coming up:
- The world is bigger than my own backyard, and
- My backyard is connected to the rest of the world.
When I think about my own international teaching experiences, they were undeniably transformative. It was a kind of metamorphosis. I had been moving along like a caterpillar—studying, learning, making connections, but perhaps a bit oblivious to the bigger picture, to what else existed beyond my own immediate surroundings. As I spent time teaching in different countries, I began to see and understand things differently, transforming like a butterfly, growing and spreading wings, feeling encouraged to continue to explore more. I sense some of this happening with these new student-teachers on campus. After this experience, I think it is likely they may step off the airplane a bit different from than the person who stepped on at the start of the summer. After experiencing this region of the world, meeting new people, having new experiences, sharing stories, and spreading their wings, it would be difficult to return home completely unchanged.
I see changes beginning in them and I reflect on how my own life has been forever changed (a 4-week volunteer teaching experience in Korea somehow turned into 16 years in Korea). An advocate of global teaching contexts, I would like to share a few resources for educators interested in exploring teaching outside of one’s home country. A few ways to find programs and information on various international teaching experiences:
- Check out any local school exchange programs (and teacher education programs).
- Fulbright—Opportunities for U.S. citizens to teach and study in various international destinations and international citizens to do so in the United States.
- Educators Abroad—Program that organizes placements for student teachers and in-service teachers in countries around the world.
- Edutopia—Information on various travel opportunities for educators.
Though the benefits of teaching outside of one’s home country can be substantial, it may also take a considerable about of time and sometimes money, both of which there never seem to be enough. If teaching abroad is not an option, there are also many other ways to develop new international perspectives, in many cases, without even leaving the home community. Look inward to see outward! Some ideas:
- Explore diversity within your own community. Seek out opportunities to volunteer with recent immigrants, refugees, or community members.
- Attend local conferences and educational meetings—meet people, hear new ideas!
- Get involved in online telecollaborations. Consider partnering up with a teacher, friend, or student in another country or region. If you don’t have an available partner, there are several websites that specialize in matching collaborating partners, iEARN or epals.com, for example.
- Use the resources available online. There are far too many to list, but here’s a couple of places to start:
- Connect with Facebook groups—Teacher’s Voices or iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) for starters. These two communities are fantastic mixes of novice and experienced educators from all over the world always willing to share ideas and resources.
- Read blogs from teachers and students around the world, or better yet, start your own!
And why should teachers have all the fun? Remember students of all ages can and will benefit from opportunities to get involved and explore their worlds. Here are a couple of great online resources to use with students:
- GlobalTrek—Information about people and schools around the world
- Mystery Skype in the Classroom—Do activities and connect with a mystery classroom somewhere in the world
- Adobe Youth Voices—Global digital storytelling
- Global Nomads Group –Fosters dialogue and global understanding between global youth
I know these examples are just scratching the surface of the resources out there. Please contribute and share some of your favorites in the comments section below!