Teaching Traveling: How can teachers travel the world for free? Meet Arlis Groves, a California teacher who has much to show us about being a superstar teacher traveler. Arlis, tell us a bit about your background.
Arlis: I’ve called Central California home most of my life, with one exception. When my oldest daughter was just a toddler, my husband took a job managing a touring band on the east coast. During that time, we lived in hotels, and the only keys on our key rings were for the company cars and vans. My B.A. is in art, so my early career choices included a photography business and working with two advertising agencies. Teaching did not call my name until I became the mom of school-aged children. The need to have a positive impact on young lives was too strong to ignore. Presently, I have 18 years of teaching behind me and am still excited by the challenges ahead. As a middle school history/social science teacher, I get the opportunity to participate in some amazingly fulfilling professional development travel adventures that inspire my lessons back home.
TT: Tell us more about your travels!
A: This past summer I spent five weeks in five different cities in China as a Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Fellow. After an orientation in New Jersey, I flew, with thirteen other teachers, from the U.S. to Beijing, China’s political capital, where we began our study of China’s cultural, political, economic, and historic character. I looked forward to more fully understanding China’s transformation into a global power and to visiting important historic and contemporary sites.
Our itinerary included lectures at universities and secondary schools and round table discussions about the successes and challenges of our respective educational systems. Our school visits revealed a contrast in educational facilities for students that mirrored the contrasts we were seeing throughout China. Some were sleek, with modern amenities, and others, usually rural schools, made do with fewer comforts and minimal technology. We found that teachers in China struggle to meet individual students’ needs and to create engaging, interactive lessons, just as teachers in the U.S. do. At Dandelion Middle School, educators serve the children of migrant workers and have created a cheerful and creative environment for their students. From Beijing we moved on to Xi’an, the home of the Terra Cotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty and the beginning of the Silk Road. A history teacher’s paradise! A home stay in Hu County was a highlight. We did not miss out on visits to important historic and contemporary sites such as The Great Wall in Mutianyu, The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, The Dazu Rock Carvings, a cruise along the Yangtze River, and more. Other major and dynamic cities we visited were Chongqing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.
TT: How did you find your travel opportunities?
A: A few years ago, a colleague received a grant to participate in Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad and traveled to India to study the culture and its educational system. That was the first time I realized that there were international study travel opportunities, and that I might be able to realize my dream of learning about and experiencing new-to-me cultures and countries. When Fulbright-Hays opened the application window next, I applied and was selected to travel to Senegal in 2010. That trip changed my life. I was hooked. I continue to research opportunities to apply for travel study programs. By now, my international experiences include Senegal, Indonesia, and China.
TT: Amazing. How do you find the money to travel?