We’re in the Home Stretch
With the school year winding down, teachers at international schools, and schools everywhere, are operating on a fever pitch to get everything done in order to conclude another school year. From class trips, to school projects, to report cards and other administrative tasks, we are in the final countdown to summer break and the pace is full-steam ahead. The excitement is palpable among students and teachers alike and everyone at the school is on a mission to make the end of the school year not only fruitful and productive, but fun and festive to celebrate the successful conclusion of students completing their current grade and moving on to the next. At an international school, it’s not just saying goodbye to students who are moving up a grade or graduating, there’s the added emotion and drama of saying goodbye, to people (students, teachers and friends) who will be moving overseas to their next school or assignment.
Summer Vacation – the Ultimate Break
All the hard work and stress of the final weeks brings with it a handsome pay-off – summer vacation. Yes, the break of all breaks. Perhaps this time-honored tradition is one of the greatest perks of the teaching profession. Two whole months of rest, relaxation, and a time to reflect and enjoy family . . . it doesn’t get any better than that! Of course many teachers utilize the time for professional development, while others may even pursue a second job over the summer for additional income. For many international teachers this is a highly anticipated holiday because after almost a year of being overseas, many look forward to going home and spending time with family or taking the opportunity for extended travel and excursions.
Is this the end of Spring Breaks?
The upcoming break has got me thinking about this past year and the wonderful opportunities I’ve had, not just professionally while school is in session, but personally during the various breaks throughout the school year. The most notable and recent one for me was last month’s spring break. Ah, Spring Break . . . just the term alone conjures up certain images of American college students partying on the beach as if there were no tomorrow. Last year, in my senior year of college, I was celebrating a lot of lasts. My last homecoming week, my last final, my last class, my last spring break . . . I thought this is it – I’ll be entering the real world where I’ll have to kiss those cherished breaks good bye. But then I entered the world of international teaching where spring break is brought to a whole new level.
This is Not Your College Spring Break
In this, my first year out of college, I had three ‘spring break’ vacations already! But these are not the spring breaks of college days with senseless partying in the sun and sand, but the kind that is a real adventure filled with travel and personal growth. At first I thought as a teacher the breaks were really for the students and that teachers’ breaks would be filled with reading, reviewing curriculum materials, student reports, and catching up on work for the week ahead. Was I wrong! For teachers at international schools, spring break, more than any other, is a time for travel! Right before break students get very excited for the upcoming vacation, but it’s not just the students — teachers get just as excited for the vacation time, if NOT MORE!
I think it’s because as expats living in far flung corners of the world, everyone it seems, has made elaborate travel plans. The opportunities are incredible when you’re living overseas, so we tend to get very excited about the upcoming trips. Moreover, it’s part of the culture of international teaching to use your time off to travel and expand your horizons by seeing new countries and learning about their history and culture. This exposure only helps you as you interact and relate to your students and their families who hail from all over the world.
A Trip to Vietnam
Last month these travels took me and two of my teacher-friends to Vietnam, where we set-out on a journey that stretched the length of the country starting at the Capital of Hanoi, and traveling down the coast via overnight trains to Ho Chi Minh, where we stopped and stayed in the cities of Hoi An and Nha Trang in between.
Vietnam is a beautiful country filled with lush, tropical vegetation, a verdant countryside, beautiful beaches, busy and bustling cities, and some of the most delicious food I have ever enjoyed. I would have never imagined the immense beauty of this ancient land, based on the images and portrayals I have seen in movies and the media, nor would this have been on my list of places to visit. But thanks to living and teaching in the nearby Philippines, and to friends ready and willing to try something new, I was able to see first-hand what an amazing place Vietnam is. I found this country so compelling and beautiful that I know I want to return here and also come back to see the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos.