Through my international teaching experience in Manaia, New Zealand, I have learned much about myself. The first thing that I noticed is that I have a distinct culture. In Canada, I don’t think of myself as White with a Scottish/French/Irish Ancestry. I don’t really think of myself as upper-middle class and I don’t think of myself of having a primarily Eurocentric perspective of the world. When I arrived in Manaia, however, these things became much more obvious to me. I felt very self conscious about it. I was the minority for the first time in my life. Fortunately, my Eurocentric perspective was easily shifted and I discovered that I am much more adaptable than I thought I was, and much more open to foreign and spiritual beliefs and practices.
This has also made me very aware of how cultural backgrounds can influence the philosophy of the school and the content that is taught at the school. I have also learned that what is acceptable in one area, can be taboo, or at least against the rules in another area. For example, it is the norm to wear shoes in the classroom in Canada, but it is considered disrespectful in a Maori immersion school. This experience has also encouraged me to use international literature in my future English classroom. I have realized how our schools nurture a Eurocentric perspective in our students and I think that perspective has to be broadened in an increasingly global world.
~Vanessa, 2013 BEd Graduate, travelled to Manaia
The international teaching experience has taught me many things about myself, both personally and professionally. I have learned that I need to focus more on my own life and stop worrying about what others are doing with theirs!!! It goes back to the old saying “what other people think of me is none of my business”. Also, I have gained a more open mind towards other cultures, more so than ever before. Taking part in the Indigenous programme started me on the path towards this, but living and working among the Maoir people of New Zealand has help me even more!! The pride the teachers instill in the students is amazing to see, and I hope to be able to do the same with my students, no matter what their back ground may be. If we could all feel that pride in ourselves and have that supportive net work of people around us, the world would be a much better place. I believe this wholeheartedly!
~Lesa MacIsaac, 2013 BEd Graduate, travelled to Manaia
Anytime someone is fortunate enough to be able to travel, they evolve; due to in large part to the transformational influence a new culture, and the unique experiences they offer, has on humanity. I am not the same Jason that arrived here in Opunake, NZ six short weeks ago. I believe my teaching experience over the past number of weeks has brought out the best in me and all that I have to offer –and this has undoubtedly made me a better teacher.
Throughout past practice teaching experiences, most of my attention was placed on the lessons, pedagogy, and the material I was to cover with my students. Being in a system that requires students to take more responsibility for their own learning (and positions the teacher as guide throughout that journey) allowed for me more time to cultivate my relationships with the staff and students at the school. This concept was often visited and explored throughout many of my classes at UPEI; as is a primary focus for the educators and staff at Opunake High School.
My time at OHS has taught me how far I’m willing to step outside of myself in order to be the best teacher I can be for my students. I’ve realized that I have so much more to learn about what it is to be a teacher; and that this is only the beginning of my journey. I am more confident that because of the stellar training I received at UPEI, combined with some of the most amazing practice teaching experiences a PST could ever wish for, I am more than aptly prepared for anything the future holds.
As my travels carry me to new and unfamiliar places, I will build upon what I have learned here in Opunake so that I may continue to help in the strengthening of educational systems around the world. What better gift could I give to my students?
~Jason Cook – 2013 BEd Graduate, travelled to Opunake