Teaching Traveling: Ever thought of taking a year off teaching at home to be an educator in another country? Check out this story of Lynn Janik! Lynn, tell us about your background.
Lynn: Greetings from Norway! Although I’m from Chicago, this year I’m lucky to call this fjord filled nation home thanks to a Fulbright Grant. Although this is my twelfth year of teaching, I’m logging the most miles to get to work this year! My job as a Roving Scholar is to travel to schools all over Norway and deliver workshops to students in grades 8-10 on American history, culture, education, and literature. In addition to that, I give teacher workshops on active learning and current teaching methods and practices. My school district in Riverside, IL, a suburb of Chicago, granted me a sabbatical this year. I look forward to returning next year to share my findings with students and the community.
Travel has been a major motivating factor in my life. I have found that I better understand myself, the American culture, and my role in the world when I leave the comforts and familiarity of home to explore the unknown. This is exactly what Mark Twain encourages in Innocents Abroad, when he writes: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”
We fear what we don’t understand, so I am on a life-long quest to learn, listen, and explore in the hopes that I combat ignorance and stereotypes.
My mom’s career was in the travel industry, so I grew up hearing about her adventures and craving some of my own. My first solo trip was to Spain when I was in high school and I was instantly hooked! Since then I have studied abroad in Ecuador, China, Japan, Spain and Mexico. My first teaching job was in Japan where I taught for two years in the rural village of Tsuwano with the JET Program. For now, Chicago is home, but my life continues to be enhanced by the summers and breaks I spend traveling when I’m not teaching. So far I’ve set foot on six continents and have explored 46 countries.
TT: Amazing! Tell us more about your most interesting travels.
L: Where to begin? While I am based in Oslo this year, the job allows me to visit schools all over Norway. I’ve taught in Hammerfest, which claims to be the Northermost town in the world, and was lucky enough to see the Northern lights a few times during the week I was there. In Harstad, a town in Northern Norway which is also above the Polar Circle, I experienced 22 hours of darkness during December. I drank excessive amounts of coffee to stay awake while teaching which led to a slight accidental caffeine overdose! I’ve been to cities and rural villages, and lodging has ranged from hotels to cabins. No two commutes to work have been the same — I’ve walked, taken planes, buses, trains, and ferries. My brain is constantly challenged and there is always a sense of wonder and adventure with each week’s teaching assignment.
The most fulfilling part of the job comes with meeting students and teachers throughout the country. I have been welcomed and respected in each of the 36 schools I have visited so far. One popular workshop topic is exploring stereotypes. First students write down their thoughts about different areas of Norway, and from there we move to their perceptions of the U.S. By the end of the workshop I attempt to redirect the focus to the importance of meeting people, recognizing each person as a unique individual, and recognizing how understanding at a local level is essential. I’ve been asked all sorts of questions ranging from whether or not life in the US is like the reality shows, to whether or not I like “brunost,” Norway’s brown cheese.