Teaching Traveling: Interested in free group travel with students or with other teachers? Learn today from highly experienced teacher-traveler, Gail Ingram! Gail, tell us a bit about your background.
Gail: I have been a high school history teacher for the past 32 years in Cheraw, South Carolina. I’m 55 years old and I have been traveling since I was born in Tokyo, Japan. I have led more than 20 group tours since 1989 and I have been fortunate to have many personal and teacher-related travel experiences. Even though I can see the light at the end of tunnel for my teaching career, I don’t have any plans to stop traveling. I hope I can travel until the end of my days.
TT: Nice! Tell us more about your travels.
G: For my annual spring break tour, I took a group of 30 students and adults on a 12-day tour of England and Scotland. It is always interesting to travel with students and my adult travelers always enjoy being part of a student tour. A good time was certainly had by all! We had the opportunity to see London get ready for the Summer Olympic Games in splendid springtime weather. Too bad the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee did not have the same luck with the weather. We also had some unique travel experiences like having our own private ceilidh one evening in Scotland. One of my students was selected by the master of ceremonies to be part of the presentation of the haggis. Imagine everyone’s surprise and delight when we saw him dressed in a kilt bringing in the haggis on a huge silver platter. We also had the opportunity to hike along a short stretch of Hadrian’s Wall just a day after a snowstorm. The cold and the wind did very little to dampen my students’ enthusiasm about being able to hike in the beautiful Scottish countryside. In fact, I had to threaten some of my students with life and limb to avoid being pummeled by their snowballs. When summer vacation is finally here, I’m looking forward to doing a 12-day walking tour of Ireland next month. I will be joined by five friends and we will be part of a group of 30-35 adults on a Go-Ahead tour.
TT: How do you find your travel opportunities?
G: After I organized my first tour on my own for a small group of students and adults way back in 1989, I spent the next five years recovering from that trip. Actually, my two children were very young and I just needed them to get a bit older before I organized another student tour. I came across an EF Tours catalog in the teachers’ lounge in the fall of 1993 and the rest is history. I have never thought about using another tour company and I’m now using EF’s adult travel division, Go-Ahead Tours, to organize summer tours with just adults.
G: For my spring break tour, I was able to travel for free since I was the group leader and for my upcoming summer walking tour, I was able to pay for my trip with the global points I had accumulated through being an EF group leader and a contributor to EF Educational Tours’ travel blog, The Equator.
TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
G: I was selected to participate in a six-week Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad program in India during the summer of 2006. One memorable moment (out of so many on that particular trip) came when we were the guests of the Government Industrial Training Institute for Women in Amritsar in the Indian state of Punjab. We had no idea about the reception and celebration the students, teachers, parents, and staff members prepared for us. In fact, we all felt severely underdressed. We left most of our belongings in New Delhi and packed only a small bag for our trip to Amritsar. Had we known about what we would be experiencing that day, I’m sure we would all have worn our very best because that school gave us their very best. As visiting teachers from America, we were treated like royalty. As the designated group leader, I felt like the Queen of England. I was even asked to go down a line of student athletes to personally shake each girl’s hand. When we first arrived, we were asked to plant trees in our honor. All of the classrooms were set up with an array of displays and student work samples and we were invited to taste various foods prepared by the students. The assembly program featured Punjabi folk dances and music, along with presentations by the students and teachers. At one point during the program, the students came forward and dragged all of the American teachers out in the middle of the floor to dance. We all tried to imitate the hand movements that looked like we were screwing in a light bulb. I was so proud to be a teacher that day.
TT: Wonderful. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher?
G: Travel is the best professional development for teachers. My travels have been responsible for keeping me energized and inspired for more than three decades of teaching. As a result of my travels, I have become a better and certainly more interesting teacher.
TT: Awesome! How have your travels impacted you as a person?
G: My travels have allowed me to find peace and happiness living in a small town and staying married to the same wonderful man for the past 32 years. Whenever I return home from a trip, I think, “home is best,” and whenever I get ready for another trip, I can’t wait to hit the road again. Thanks to all of my travels, I have found a sense of contentment in my life.
TT: Beautifully put! What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel or travelers dreaming of teaching?
G: My advice to other teachers is to stop dreaming and start researching the many available travel opportunities that are just for teachers (and many of them are free or require only a nominal fee). You should look into the U.S. Department of Education’s International and Foreign Language Education (IFLE) office for these travel opportunities. For example, check out the Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad program. I was able to travel to Thailand, Vietnam, and India through this program. If you teach in the social sciences or humanities, you may be eligible to apply for a four-to-six week travel program in a country outside of Western Europe. If you are interested in traveling to South Korea, the Korea Foundation sponsors a summer workshop for social studies teachers. This outstanding travel opportunity was one of my favorites. As a history/social studies teacher, I have been able to apply for and be accepted in a variety of study and travel programs. My advice to travelers who are dreaming of teaching is to contact your state department of education to see about the different ways to earn your teaching certification. You may have to jump through a lot of hoops, but you will not regret it. Teaching is not the easiest profession, but it will change your life and you will have the chance to change the lives of others. (Allow me to be a cheerleader for my chosen field—History/Social Studies teachers are the best! This is the dream job in teaching!)
TT: Thanks so much, Gail! Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this experienced teacher-traveler?