Jamilah in the middle of her entire class of students in Beijing, China on “picture” day.

Jamilah in the middle of her entire class of students in Beijing, China on “picture” day.

Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Jamilah! Tell us about yourself.

Jamilah: My name is Jamilah Pitts. I am currently teaching English Literature Teacher in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I have been teaching (traditionally) for almost four years. I am from Columbus, Ohio but have lived in Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C, Boston, Massachusetts and now the Dominican Republic!

I have had the absolute privilege to travel to and explore Beijing, China (where I taught for a summer), Amman, Jordan, Cape Town, South Africa, Cuba, Jamaica, Nassau, Bahamas, Europe, and the Dominican Republic.

Jamilah in the colonial zone of the Dominican Republic.

Jamilah in the colonial zone of the Dominican Republic.

TT: Wow! Tell us more about your travels!

J: My first overseas teaching opportunity was with teachoverseas.org, a faith-based organization that recruits volunteers at any age to teach in Asia. My particular program took me to Beijing, China for a summer. This was my first major trip out of the country and while I could not have chosen a more culturally different place and experience, I fell in love with traveling and learning about people during this trip. It still stands out in my mind as one of the most amazing places I have experienced.

Currently, I am teaching in an international school that heavily recruits teachers who are native English speakers and hold teaching licenses and/or degrees. I learned about this particular school through a website that allows school personnel to post information about their school vacancies. The following organizations do the same: Joyjobs, International School Services (ISS), and Search Associates (all of the organizations include a registration fee).

Capetown, South Africa in a village town. Although Jamilah did not teach in South Africa (at least not yet!), she had the opportunity to work on a project while in Cape Town that involved local children. Even amidst poverty and conditions that many, Jamilah included, would find unimaginable, the children exuded such joy.

Capetown, South Africa in a village town. Although Jamilah did not teach in South Africa (at least not yet!), she had the opportunity to work on a project while in Cape Town that involved local children. Even amidst poverty and conditions that many, Jamilah included, would find unimaginable, the children exuded such joy.

TT: Great resources. How did you find the money to fund your travel?

J: I had to fundraise for the trip to China and because it was faith-based, I was able to raise funds through other faith-based organizations, sponsors, donations, and my university because I was a student during this time.

Once hired, international schools will often assist or reimburse teachers for moving expenses. I would strongly recommend international schools for teachers who are seeking long-term teaching opportunities abroad. These schools often pay (relatively) well, are quite helpful, and ensure that your transition is a smooth one.

Jamilah leading students in an Elizabethan Age style dance while students studied “Romeo and Juliet.” Great unit of study, great kids.

Jamilah leading students in an Elizabethan Age style dance while students studied “Romeo and Juliet.” Great unit of study, great kids.

TT: Excellent advice. Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.

J: Wow. This is a huge question because traveling and interacting with others has greatly widened my perspective of the world and all people. I had a teacher friend who said to me that teaching is a deeply humanistic practice because who you are directly impacts who you are as a teacher and ultimately how you teach. As a teacher of a largely “thinking subject” I often encourage my students to consider the ways that their lives and experiences have framed the lenses through which they see and encounter the world. When they are analyzing a character or a historical event it is essential that they understand where and how that opinion is grounded.

So, traveling and teaching has taught me to also be mindful of that practice. Traveling has made me aware of my own biases and privileges, and it has allowed me to be sensitive and compassionate to my students as they consider the world through books and texts. It has made my work even more humbling, especially as I enter my students’ world as an outsider.

Most importantly, this allows me to be a learner alongside my students as they teach me about their culture, opinions, and even the ways that my experiences have shaped the ways that I teach them.

Havanna, Cuba. Given the easing of tensions between the U.S and Cuba, Jamilah was finally able to have a bite of the “forbidden fruit”. It will be interesting to see how Cuba changes over the years.

Havanna, Cuba. Given the easing of tensions between the U.S and Cuba, Jamilah was finally able to have a bite of the “forbidden fruit”. It will be interesting to see how Cuba changes over the years.

TT: Well said. How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?

J: I have been able to tap more into my role as a social activist. The more that you see the world and experience people, the softer your heart should become. I see my work as a duty and a call to be more rooted in humanitarian efforts. Traveling and seeing others suffer and experiencing social injustices not only begins to heighten your awareness of the similar conditions that might exist in your own society, but it also places within you the understanding that there is a common thread that connects all human beings. You become aware of this notion of a “universal language” and an interconnectedness between people everywhere.

I have began to accept and step more into my role as an ambassador, particularly as a woman of color (especially given the small percentage of people of color who are able to travel), and I am increasingly aware of the ways that barriers and ignorance, particularly those that led to and perpetuate the “isms’ in the world, are combatted and destroyed through human interaction. And then to have a platform like teaching where I am able to do this on a daily basis through the exchange with my students. It is powerful. It is powerful to know that teaching and travelling and meeting people can truly, truly change lives.

Jamilah's lovely, lovely students in the Dominican Republic. After studying the Harlem Renaissance, students performed original autobiographical poems while dressed as their Harlem Renaissance contributor. Jamilah is in the center.

Jamilah’s lovely, lovely students in the Dominican Republic. After studying the Harlem Renaissance, students performed original autobiographical poems while dressed as their Harlem Renaissance contributor. Jamilah is in the center.

TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?

J: Hmmm. Where do I even begin? First, I am aware that I am so, so, so very privileged and because of that I am humble and grateful. Second, I do not believe that there are any limits to what I can do. I have been able to push myself in ways unimaginable. Living in countries where you are unfamiliar with the culture and do not speak the language is mind blowing.

I have learned to appreciate and depend on other people. I have accepted my role and position as a lifelong learner, especially as a teacher. And finally, I have become even more aware of the power of human beings, our actions, what we say or do not say, and how healing love, acceptance, and tolerance can be.

TT: Beautiful. What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?

J: IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE! FOREVER!

If you have the desire, do it. I understand that there can be a number of thoughts that may prohibit people from pursuing international travel, especially when they are comfortable in their current position, but it is worth it and truly life – changing.

TT: Thanks so much, Jamilah! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?

This picture was taken in Beijing, China with a few of Jamilah's students. She had purchased a traditional Chinese dress, which her students loved! In the back are balloons students arranged alongside the note “I love you!”

This picture was taken in Beijing, China with a few of Jamilah’s students. She had purchased a traditional Chinese dress, which her students loved! In the back are balloons students arranged alongside the note “I love you!”

 

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Posted by Lillie

Lillie started TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share the infinite ways to combine education and world exploration. Lillie has been a Boston teacher since 2003, and chronicles her own travels at AroundTheWorldL.com.

17 Comments

  1. Aswini Prabhakaran July 31, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Hello Jamillah,
    It was really interesting to read your blog. I am also offered a teaching job in the Dominican Republic. I had a few questions. Can you please provide me some info.

    Reply

    1. Absolutely! I am happy to. Lillie, can you connect us?

      – Jamilah

      Reply

      1. Sure! Sending the email now.

        Reply

  2. Hello, I loved the article and I am also a woman of color that is interested in teaching abroad. I have lived outside the country before in Cuba and Japan but with my family. This would be my first time living abroad by myself. I have an offer to teach English in the Dominican Republic to early childhood. I would love any tips/advice.

    Reply

    1. Hi Tasheira,

      I am happy to share some advice with you. What is your email address?

      Reply

      1. Thanks Jamilah! I’ll email you directly so Tasheira doesn’t have to post it publicly.

        Reply

  3. Aristides Nakos October 5, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Jamilah,

    I applaud you for your success in your personal goals! What is more, your values resonate with mine!

    I think the world is our heritage and we need to take risks and thus avoid the traditional path into a career, as it can sometimes stifle the energy hidden inside of us. As Einstein said, work defines us.

    Currently, I teach math and chemistry in SF, CA, USA. I have a strong inclination to spread my wings more, as SF is not my home, but merely a wonderful pitstop. I originate from Greece, thus I have experienced the expansion of my comfort zone. It feels imperative to continue the line of work I am part of, teaching, while treat the mind-soul duality as a fire to be kindled and not a vessel to be filled (edited by me, originally quoted by Plutarch).

    Feels like teaching is my civic duty, that allows me to touch upon delicate topics directly, not merely discuss them. An international teaching career would check many boxes in my personal list of values.

    Do you know of other teachers that pursued teaching the subjects of math and sciences? I know you taught english and you mentioned some good international schools that would appreciate people that desire a longer commitment, such as a year. Might you be able to direct me to a few?

    May your fire grow stronger and its glow inspire its witnesses to be a human of few inhibitions like you!

    Thank you for your time,
    aris

    Reply

    1. Aris,
      Thank you for your kind words. Please reply with your email and I am happy to answer your questions directly.

      Regards,
      Jamilah

      Reply

      1. Aristides Nakos October 5, 2015 at 7:24 pm

        Thank you for the uber prompt reply Jamilah.

        It is aristides dot nakos at gmail dot com

        Reply

  4. This article is so inspiring! Congratulations Jamilah. I am so proud of you. 😉

    Carlita Pitts
    (Jamilah’s sister)

    Reply

  5. I am so happy for you Jamilah take care i wish you the very best. Enjoy your life.

    Reply

  6. What a great article about a great person! Keep up the great work, Jamilah! I’m looking forward to what’s in store for your future.

    Reply

  7. My heart is bubbling with joy! This was truly a great read Jamilah! You Rock. My passion for teaching and traveling has just moved up a notch. I look forward to one day teaching overseas. Love ya hun and keep shining your light!

    Reply

  8. Iam so proud of my niece Auntie from Little Rock Arkansas keep on doing what you love to do. Love you sweetie see you soon.

    Reply

  9. Wow, What a beautiful and powerful article, I’m extremely proud of Jamilah Pitts she is my eldest daughter. As a single parent it was extremely difficult being a working Mom and always being there for my children, I always taught them that education is the most important goals along with Family. Jamilah has always been “strong~ will and once she begins something she always finishes IT. ..As I reminisce back to raising my 3 children; 2 daughters and 1 son, I thank God for giving me strength and encouragement and I pass this on through my children. .. “Get a college degree because this will open doors for opportunities and go see the world “..
    Jamilah received numerous Awards & trophies, since she was 4yrs old, always wanting to be succeed, one of the Awards she received was from the City of Columbus named the: KIDSPEAK government programs, in January 8,2001, She was the “Public Safety Director ” for a day. Jamilah along with other middle school children from Columbus were able interact with “City Officials of Columbus ” learning their duties and how the City was operated . My Daughter always opened her mind to “new ideas ” and “a passion to help others” “shined brightly “..as I write these comments and speak highly of Jamilah’s achievements I’m filled with emotions and love because I know she’s a awesome Teacher, Woman, Daughter and Sister and Cousin and Friend to many. From Jamilah’s first grade of elementary school to vice president of her High school class she has always done her best and has worked extremely hard . Jamilah has always been a leader and when she wants something she goes after it with determination, passion and knowledge. I’m so proud to call her My Daughter and may she always be blessed with success and continuous passion for teaching students the values of life and encouragement throughout the World.
    Love Always!
    Gina Herbert,Mother of
    Jamilah Pitts

    Reply

  10. Lillie!
    Thank you so much for the feature. And thanks to the readers for reading!! I am more than happy to share more of my experiences or offer advice or assistance in any way that I can!

    – Jamilah

    Reply

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