A profession that inspires you to climb the highest peak in a continent; to dive into the depths of the ocean and swim along with the whale sharks; a workplace that lets you collaborate with people from all over the world; a classroom that exposes you to multiple languages and cultures; a cafeteria that has cuisine from across the world! This is the life of an international educator and I am blessed to be one.
My story of never leaving school took me on a journey of self-actualization where I learnt more than I taught. I would summarise my story in five takeaways which you can relate if you are teaching in an international school if not, you might start thinking about it! So let me try to inspire you…
LIFE IS A HOLIDAY
When you travel to new countries you experience a new environment; you get to taste new cuisine; indulge in local fashion; explore new markets; speak new languages; learn new etiquettes and discover new places. Life of an international educator is very much like this. It feels like a holiday always! To list a few, conquering Mt Kilimanjaro, the roof of Africa, diving with the dolphins and swimming with the whale sharks and feeding the Pandas are some achievements that don’t necessarily strengthen your CV but surely strengthen your soul.Experiences that you would have on a holiday becomes your lifestyle. An international teacher’s social media page is a true reflection of the adventures they have had. We have never left school and continue to enjoy our school days.
THIRD CULTURE PARENTS
There is so much literature on third culture kids(TCKs) that we can now relate to them very easily. But what is it like to be a parent to a third culture kid? I would like to coin a new term TCP(third culture parent). International teachers who are also parents can relate to the fact that it is different to raise kids outside their home countries or comfort zones. In a new country where no one speaks your language or your child’s favourite snack is not available, a complex skill-set is required to raise your child in a foreign place! But surprisingly it is one the best part of parenting too, to be a TCP. For example, my son speaks five languages, as many of the TCKs, in China where usually people complain of language barriers, I have my own personal translator who can have a basic conversation of how to buy something, how to order food in a restaurant and even how to bargain. Problem solved, I move with my 15-year-old personal translator everywhere.
This is a Sanskrit phrase which means the whole world is one big family! This is so true for any international school in the world! From Bhutan to India to Uganda to Tanzania to China, I have met a diverse range of people who speak different languages, eat different foods, think differently, have different beliefs and yet understand each other and break all silos created since generations to teach a diverse international community. The amazing people I met and the different languages I heard made me more respectful towards other people’s cultures and at the same time made me appreciate my own roots. It made me realize that the whole world is not only a big family but also a big home, I have homes in so many countries, I got to live, work and make lifetime friends with people from Japan to Jordan, from Mongolia to Malta, from Armenia to Argentina, hence I have a home everywhere. All international schools around the world celebrate diversity and plurality, for example, the International day celebrated in every international school is a true picture of how diverse and united we are at the same time, under a common objective of making the world a better place through education.
RELATIONSHIPS FOR LIFE
Rewind to my time in Uganda, my first day into the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Mathematics class. A bit nervous and anxious I was very prepared to face any math questions that might arise from a curious mind in the audience. I had gone over the lesson plan at least three times and got all resources in place. After explaining the objective of the lesson I opened up the floor for questions related to the topic and then came a question completely unrelated to the topic, a student asked me “ Ms? Are you qualified to teach us?” I froze for a moment and all my preparation for the “math” class went out of the window! Fast forward to now, the questions asked today are also very similar: “How did you learn in school?” “Why did you decide to teach?” and the list goes on…The takeaway for me, it is not just about the first impression it is about the relationships that you build as you teach. The most beautiful relationship of a learner and a mentor, student and a teacher, where one learns from the other only by forming a strong bond of knowing each other’s purpose. The ever inquiring mind of a young learner knows no boundaries, international schools across the world give the opportunity to the learners to be inquisitive inquirers who go on to achieve amazing feats on their own. And thanks to technology I am able to celebrate their achievements as they mature in age, experience and relationships. In this process of teaching and learning a beautiful relationship is established for a lifetime.
WE ARE THE CHANGE
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you want to see in this world”. This resonates with me every time I move from one country to another, one school to another and one home to another. International school teachers will agree with me that we love the change, we get tired of staying at one place for too long and that change is always for the better is now our personal mantra! The joy of shedding off all your inhibitions and learning new skills with every new attempt is an elixir for life, I personally wouldn’t trade my profession and lifestyle for anything out there. Nothing can be more satisfying than the ability to realise your potential by deconstructing, to reconstruct yourself every two to three years! In this process of metamorphosis, we also manage to transform students’ lives, as international educators bring along with them the change of perspective and ideas! We are ushering a change by teaching the skills and values and knowledge required to survive the future which is changing this very moment hence adapting to change is the most important skill to learn as well as to teach.
My decision to never leave school has paid off and I am so proud to be an international educator, I look forward to the next opportunity out there, maybe one close to you!