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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?