Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Jill Dobbe, a mother who is running a school in Honduras.
Jill, tell us about your background and how you got into teaching and school administration overseas with your family.
Jill: When I first began teaching overseas I took along my husband and two children. My husband and I were both teachers at the time and were both excited and interested in teaching overseas.
Our first experience abroad ended up to be Guam, which we had barely ever heard of before. We ended up packing up our things, including our children (a one and two year old), and from there, began a decade worth of teaching overseas in four countries: Guam, Singapore, Ghana, and Mexico.
Our children grew up overseas, completing all of their elementary years in different American and international overseas schools.
We hopped around a lot usually staying 2-3 years in one school. However, we did teach in Accra, Ghana, for five years and it was one of the best times for our family. I guess we wanted to see as much of the world and the different cultures as we could while we were abroad.
We actually never knew how long it would all last and after 10 years of life overseas we did move back to Wisconsin, USA, for seven years. During that time, my husband and I taught in the Wisconsin public schools, while earning our Masters’ in Educational Leadership with the intent of going back overseas again one day, but as administrators.
TT: Fascinating! I had a wonderful time teaching in Ghana, too. Where in the world are you working now?
J: Since earning our Masters’, we have worked in Egypt, India, and presently Honduras, as school administrators.
Our children have also since completed college and our daughter will be returning to Honduras with us and will begin her overseas teaching career as a high school Biology/Health teacher at the American School of Tegucigalpa.
It will be exciting for us to have her as a colleague after all of her years as a student abroad. Our daughter has actually gone full circle!
In addition, this past year I wrote and published my first memoir on teaching and traveling overseas entitled, HERE WE ARE & THERE WE GO: Teaching and Traveling With Kids in Tow. After living and working in seven different countries I felt that I had a lot of good stories to tell others who were teaching overseas or thinking about it, especially those who wanted to take their kids along. I wanted to let them know that it can be done and it is truly amazing at how much one can learn through children’s eyes!
My book details stories of almost losing my children in the Plaka in Athens, Greece, my husband and son having guns pointed directly at them outside the presidential palace in Accra, Ghana, but also the happy times as we went on safari in South Africa, visited the night zoo in Singapore, and went diving in the Red Sea in Egypt.
TT: Wow! What impacted you the most while teaching overseas?
J: For me the most exciting parts of all of our travels was learning about and experiencing the different cultures we lived with.
The Chamorros of Guam was our first real experience living among another culture.
We learned all about the Chinese culture and their beliefs and superstitions in Singapore.
In Ghana we made everlasting friendships with our fellow Ghanaian teachers and travelled all over Ghana immersing ourselves in the Ghanaian way of life.
In Egypt, where we lived in the Middle East for the first time, we learned to respect the ways of the Muslim culture while we worked at a school that was predominately Muslim.
Also, as a result of becoming “citizens of the world,” our children learned to respect diversity and enjoyed friends from all parts of the world.
Today, with Facebook, they still continue to connect with their friends that they knew in elementary school in Ghana!
TT: Love it! How has all your traveling influenced your teaching?
J: During our seven year stint in Wisconsin between teaching abroad and becoming overseas administrators, I made sure that I brought back what I learned from all the cultures that I lived with in order to teach my students, school, and community about what I learned.
As a result, with the encouragement of the school and my colleagues, I developed and organized a school and community-wide multicultural fair that was held in the local community hall. During the day, classes were transformed into various “countries” and students visited the “countries” carrying their handmade passports.
In the evening the whole town came together and celebrated different cultures with international foods, crafts, regalia, and entertainment. It was an exciting opportunity for me to teach my students, the parents, and the community about the world around them.
TT: What are some of your most memorable moments during all your world travels?
J: In my memoir, I have written about many of our experiences that occurred while we lived abroad.
We experienced so many unique travel adventures that I have a hard time pinpointing which ones were the “best.”
I can say however, that they ran the gamut of feelings and emotions resulting in adventures that were scary, sad, downright crazy, and even quite hilarious at times (my memoir tells it all), especially the time my husband forced himself to eat a fat, white, squiggly grub, in order not to offend the villagers who offered it to him.
TT: Yikes! That’s dedication to cross-cultural understanding. So, what advice do you have for teachers who dream of travel, or travelers who dream of teaching?
J: Teachers who work overseas today have it so much easier than when my husband and I first went abroad.
I am giving my age away, but when we first went overseas there were no cell phones, no iPods, and no computers with internet access. There was just good old overseas snail mail and landlines with long distance service (that is, if the electricity was on and your phone was working).
Today with Skype and Facebook the world has become so much smaller and new teachers can keep in close contact with their families at home. Being far away isn’t so scary anymore!
That is just one of the reasons that I always encourage teachers to try the overseas life and teaching abroad, even if it is for just one contract.
The experiences that you will have, the people you will meet, and the things that you will learn will last a lifetime and you will never regret it.
My advice is to DO IT!
TT: Thanks so much, Jill!
Stay tuned to her publisher, Orange Hat Publishing, about the release of Jill’s book.
Readers, what questions do you have for this world-traveling teacher and school administrator?