Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Mat and Katie, a family who is teaching on an exchange program. Tell us about yourself, Mat!
Mat: I have been teaching for 12 years. I have swapped a busy role as a History teacher and Head of Year at Gillingham School, Dorset, England for a post as a Social Studies teacher at Gladstone School, Vancouver as part of an academic exchange organized through the Commonwealth Teacher Exchange, or CYEC. This exchange endorsed by some Commonwealth Governments including the UK, Canada and Australia aims at sharing ideas and experience of education between nations. Although the organizing agencies have changed over the years it is believed to be the oldest professional exchange programme in the world!
TT: Amazing! Tell us more about how this exchange has enabled your teaching and traveling abroad.
M: Part of the pleasure of this exchange is that I have been able to experience many adventures with my family who have accompanied me. Vancouver is a wonderful city to be in, but as a highlight so far the opportunity to learn to Ski has been one that we have taken up as a family. Just 20 minutes from my home for the year in East Vancouver is Mount Seymour and as a family we have been skiing regularly. We have found both the experience and the beauty of the scenery amazing!
TT: Love it. How did you find out about this teaching exchange?
M: This type of exchange is not well publicized, however I found out about it through the CYEC website. Even then I had to be a little bit determined to make it happen. Fortunately friends helped me to find a wonderful exchange partner at Gladstone School.
Exchanges are usually undertaken by single people, but please don’t be put off if you want to travel with a family. Your determination will mean that you will make memories that will live with you forever.
TT: What is the salary like in this teacher exchange?
M: This type of exchange sees you keeping your salary. I am paid as I would be if I was working in the UK (less some of my management allowance TLRs, though in most cases no deductions will be made). I was responsible for meeting the flight costs of both myself and my family.
TT: Good to know. How has this teaching traveling exchange enhanced you as a teacher?
M: The teaching experience has been very valuable to me. In England I work in a school which has predominantly white, middle class pupils. In East Vancouver the ethnic mix is vibrant and many students come from difficult backgrounds. The value that these students place on education and the wonderful warm atmosphere that they create has melted my heart. The experience has also reinforced that teaching is about building relationships, mutual respect and above all, enjoyment.
It has been pleasant working in the Canadian system. Teachers have more control over their profession here. I do think that the UK is a brilliant place to develop teaching ideas, however the inspection system (OFSTED) is restricting innovation to a large extent through creating a climate of fear. This experience has reminded me that it is the students that really matter.
TT: Beautiful. How has this travel developed you as a person?
M: This experience has given me so much confidence and self belief. The younger generation throughout the world get so much criticism. This experience has helped me to fully appreciate how unfair this is. Teaching abroad forces you to be resourceful and open to new ideas; after 12 years of teaching what a wonderful thing!
TT: What advice do you have for other teachers looking to travel?
M: Anyone who has a desire to travel and teach should go for it. There will be dozens of reasons not to follow your dreams and it is not always easy. If like me you have a family then naturally you will agonize over whether you are doing the right thing. If, however, you do your homework, prepare well and are determined then you can have the time of your life.
TT: Thanks so much, Mat! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?