Education is not just about the subjects we teach, it's about creating better people.
I’ve been working with kids for a long time. Actually, there were some younger kids that lived across the street when I was 11 and I started babysitting them even then. I worked at summer camp. I just always loved working with kids and then it was an opportunity to live abroad and to travel.
I was really nervous on my first day here. But it was great, very good. The kids were also a little nervous, but we got to know each other and I love working with them. Sometimes it's hard, but when you have your own class and you work with the same kids every day for five hours or more, you can see the differences that you're bringing to their lives. And you feel the importance of everything you do. It's not just teaching math, English or science. It’s about teaching them to be good people and to be kind to each other.
I loved going to school as a child. I was the typical ’teacher’s pet'. In fifth grade, my friend Rebekah and I used to clean the teacher's desk and he would give us candy. We always wanted to stay in the classroom during lunch and hang out with the teacher, that was the coolest thing. I had a favorite teacher. He was a funny guy who used to be a football player. Always kind, always joking around. Today, as a teacher, I like to see my students having fun. I like my kids to have fun, I like that they enjoy being with me. I like to play around with them after school, sometimes in class too.
When I say that I am a teacher, the fact that I teach abroad makes people think that I don’t take it seriously. Even when I say that I work in a school, I have a class that I teach science, math and English, I'm with my students all the time. Still, many people think I'm just here because I want to travel. Which is true, I want to travel, but it's not just that.
Especially with younger kids, you need to stay 'on' all the time. They want everything from us. Sometimes I teach four classes back to back and there are short breaks between them when the kids can go outside to play, but at least five or six of them run up to my desk and want to talk about everything as soon as it's break. It's very sweet, it's nice, but very tiring.
At home, in the States, teachers aren’t paid very much. Teachers are leaving the state that I’m from because they’ve been treated really poorly. They have no resources and, somehow, they are expected to buy all of the supplies for their classrooms when, in fact, what they earn is hardly enough to survive. I had a Social Studies teacher in sixth grade who worked at the store near my house the whole year, not just in the summer, because she didn’t earn enough as a teacher to get by.
Here it's different: I’m a foreign teacher in an international school. Foreign teachers are the reason why many parents choose international schools, so we are important to the school and to get these teachers, they need to pay better. It's expensive to move to an new country, so schools cover housing and pay more than a normal salary here, so it's easier for us. And the school supplies a lot. For example, we just did electricity in class and they had materials to make circuits with the kids. When I need to buy something for class, they always refund me. There are problems with administration, as anywhere, but I enjoy teaching here.
I probably wouldn’t be a teacher in the United States. I don’t know, maybe if I worked in private schools. But, even understanding the importance of public schools, which is where most students are, I wouldn’t chose to be a public school teacher in my country.
I studied in a public school, but it was a magnet school. That's a program where they put a school in a disadvantaged community and invest in lots of different opportunities for the students. And then they bus kids from all over the county to the school. The idea is that by bringing in students who want advanced classes you have enough interest to maintain those programs and it gives those same opportunities to the students in the local neighborhood who wouldn’t normally have them. So it was a higher level of education, but still, a public school. It was a great school. When I started high school, we were ranked the 59th best public school in the country. And the U.S. is a huge country, so that was really good. It's not even ranked now. My county used to be the magnet project's successful example, and now there are all kinds of problems with what's going on in North Carolina.
At the international school I work at here, all classes are in English, which is good, because they learn to speak really well. They have a very wide vocabulary and grammar is being developed over the years. There is a focus on mathematics and science in secondary. But I think primary is much more difficult than in the United States because they have nine English lessons per week, eight math classes, five science classes, and the rest of the time is divided between computer, music, art and PE. And they have Islamic studies and moral studies. It is quite difficult and parents expect a lot, even from the younger children. Some parents are always asking for more homework, even for the kids in years one and two.
I believe that in our school, the biggest problem is that they try to teach too many languages. Starting in the third year, they have to choose two languages in addition to English, which means that during the week they're speaking three different languages. And in secondary they have to take three languages in addition to English. I personally find most valuable to focus on one language and really learn to speak and understand, especially English isn't most students' first language. Some children have have a knack for learning languages and can handle this many, but I think it's too much for most students.
The most interesting part of the system is the IPC (International Primary Curriculum) where they do work and projects on various topics, such as electricity, plants, nutrition. And they love it, they have lots of fun doing it.
I hope my students will learn to speak English really well. I hope they will be caring and have a lot of empathy. This is so difficult for kids, it takes a long time to learn to empathize. I hope they will be generous and kind people.
Education is not just about the subjects we teach, it's about creating better people, a generation who will follow us. We are shaping them. We are setting an example as well. It's not just what we say but what we do. And establishing good relationships with students can make such a difference when they are happy to see you and happy to be in the classroom.