Teaching Traveling: How does one get their start as a teacher, traveler, AND author? Let’s learn from a woman who has accomplished that trifecta, Jenny Grant Rankin, PhD! Jenny, tell us a bit about your background.
Jenny: I’m from Laguna Beach, CA. I still live here, but I travel to England once per year to teach the PostDoc Masterclass at University of Cambridge.
I also volunteer as assistant coordinator of Orange County Mensa’s Gifted Youth Program.
I taught junior high school English for 7 years, then became a teacher on special assignment, then assistant principal, then district administrator, then Chief Education & Research Officer for Illuminate Education.
Now I spend most of my time writing books for educators. My latest book is called First Aid for Teacher Burnout: How You Can Find Peace and Success.
TT: Congratulations on your book! Tell us more about your travels.
J: I love to travel (30 countries so far), lived a year abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, and completed my administrative services credential (required of school and district administrators in California) in Chang Mai, Thailand. Each was a memorable, amazing experience.
The year in Edinburgh was likely my most memorable, as it took place when I was 23 and my eyes had just open to the wonder of travel. I had just graduated from college and lived in a youth hostel on Prince’s Street with other travelers from around the world. Six of us shared a tiny room that barely accommodated our bunk beds, and we learned so much from each other.
TT: Nice! How did you find this travel opportunity?
J: I backpacked around Europe immediately after graduating, inspired by an ex-boyfriend who had done the same thing. While traveling I learned of BUNAC, an organization through which college students and recent grads could work in one another’s countries as part of an exchange. When I returned from my travels (which included Edinburgh, where my father had once lived – a place I fell in love with as soon as I saw it), I knew I had to go back. I saved money for a few months and applied for a work permit through BUNAC.
TT: How did you find the money to fund your travels?
J: I had saved money since I was young (I always worked and was never much of a spender on commercial stuff). I saved more through a simple temp job.
Once I got to Scotland I immediately got work. I taught aerobics classes (something I had done in the states since I was 17) in the morning, tended bar (something I had never done) at night, and spent the rest of my time having adventures and laughs.
TT: I love the idea of funding travel by teaching exercise! Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly funny.
J: Oh, gosh, this one is embarrassing but too funny not to tell. My roommates and I were at the Café Royal (where the movie Chariots of Fire was filmed, just downstairs from our youth hostel). A film crew arrived to film a public service ad, but a young female actress had not shown up.
They asked me if I would be in the commercial, explaining it was to help young people. It would be aired in schools and would encourage young people to practice safe sex.
All I had to do was be filmed: (1) talking to a young man at the bar for a very brief moment, (2) walk into the bathroom, and (3) use the dispenser in the bathroom to acquire a condom. I filmed the commercial and pat myself on the back for helping young people.
About a month later, I walked into the city’s shopping mall that was just around the corner from my youth hostel. People kept staring at me, and I couldn’t figure out why… until I saw the wall of TVs (stacked on top of one another to function as a single, massive screen). The commercial was airing in the mall, I suppose since young people frequented that location. Even weeks later, I’d be approached by a guy only to find out he had seen this ad, which made me appear like I was “ready to go” after a seconds-long conversation at a bar. Yikes!
TT: Hah! Amazing! How have your travels impacted you in your current career, and how have your travels impacted you as a person?
J: Wow. Traveling opens our eyes. It gives us a fuller, deeper, wider sense of the world and our place in it. It breeds not only tolerance, but appreciation for people’s differences. These are things we want to pass on to future generations. These are things from which every teacher can benefit. I know I have benefited from it.
TT: Indeed. What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
J: In my latest book (First Aid for Teacher Burnout: How You Can Find Peace and Success) there is a chapter on tedium. Tedium is something teachers often experience after they have been teaching for a while. If left unchecked, tedium breeds burnout, causing teachers to either quit or to lose their joy for the job. This chapter has a range of suggestions for fighting tedium. Lillie Marshall’s great site, Teaching Traveling, is recommended in that chapter. So are a range of other opportunities teachers can pursue to get out of their usual classrooms and broaden their horizons.
I would recommend teachers learn about the many opportunities out there and feel free to start small. For example, a teacher might start by simply presenting at a conference across the state, then a teachers fellowship across the country, and then… the opportunities are limitless.
TT: Thanks so much, Jenny! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?
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