Some people shy away from new experiences while others embrace the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone. On February 5, I addressed the challenges associated with teaching abroad at the Colorado Council International Reading Association (CCIRA) 4 day Literacy Conference at the Marriott Tech Center in Denver. My audience consisted of a cross section of educators who were contemplating a diversion in their career path.
To give my audience a taste of life as an expat, I shared an assortment of pictures. My Indian experience made me keenly aware of the ramifications of culture shock. If one is contemplating an assignment in a Third World country, it is definitely a point that cannot be ignored. Essential to one’s success is the ability to be flexible and the desire to adapt. I learned early on that having a rigid mindset would be counterproductive.
My journey was different from most international educators. Due to my particular circumstances, I could not rely on US government opportunities or international organizations for job placement. These institutions had application deadlines and usually placed participants in a variety of locations. Since my husband had accepted a job that was located in Bangalore, I was limited to one Indian city and I needed a position as soon as possible.
In order to find a teaching position, I had to be proactive. I did extensive online research and consulted with people who lived in the area. My email inquiries resulted in numerous onsite interviews. The interview process was frustrating at times. Being an American, I was not accustomed to being asked private questions. I never anticipated being put on the spot about my medical history or how I raised my children.
I was fortunate to find a position where I was able to combine my American teaching expertise (MA in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in educating culturally and linguistically diverse students from the University of Colorado-Boulder) with the international school’s Cambridge curriculum. The primary co-driectors encouraged me to introduce the primary staff to second language learning theories, literature circles, graphic organizers, Ruth Culham’s 6 +1 Traits of Writing, and an assortment of other literacy and educational concepts. My book, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life discusses my interactions with my Indian colleagues and the lessons that I learned. I was the only American primary teacher.
Interspersed among my recollections about my expat and teaching experiences, I offered words of advice. While teaching abroad is an amazing and once in a lifetime experience, many issues need to be addressed in advance and precautions need to be taken while living as an expat. Some of my tips included links to important websites while others were based on my firsthand experience or suggestions from colleagues and/or supervisors. It was my desire to share my background knowledge with the hope that participants would be better prepared if they chose to accept the challenge of teaching abroad.
If you are contemplating a teaching position abroad don’t hesitate to contact me. There are many things to consider before you sign the contract.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.