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: Iâ€™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 Mensaâ€™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 Princeâ€™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 anotherâ€™s countries as part of an exchange. When I returned from my travels (which included Edinburgh, where my father had once lived â€“ 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 CafÃ© 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 cityâ€™s shopping mall that was just around the corner from my youth hostel. People kept staring at me, and I couldnâ€™t figure out whyâ€¦ 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, Iâ€™d be approached by a guy only to find out he had seen this ad, which made me appear like I was â€œready to goâ€ 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 peopleâ€™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 Marshallâ€™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 thenâ€¦ the opportunities are limitless.
TT: Thanks so much, Jenny! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?
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