Teaching Traveling: Sometimes I encounter someone so inspiring online that I beg them to do a Teaching Traveling interview. This is what happened when I saw the ideas of Chandra, known on Instagram as @ThisRoamingTeacher.
Chandra’s posts on teaching and travel are thoughtful, helpful, and insightful, and always give me new ideas for my own middle school class.
Chandra, tell us a bit about your background.
Chandra: Hi! I am originally from the United States. I am a southern girl with a severe travel itch. During undergraduate school, I had a professor that talked about her experiences teaching abroad. That is when it clicked for me that I could use my job to see the world.
At first, I worked in various districts around the United States. Then, I took the leap into international schools. I have not lived in one city for longer than four years since I began teaching in 2001, so I truly am This Roaming Teacher.
TT: Indeed you are! Tell us about a powerful learning experience from your travels.
C: Living in Beijing made me more conscious of the environmental cost of consumerism. The factories that make the items that end up in many big box stores in North America are located in Northern China.
Living with the pollution from those factories was a life-altering experience. Days in which we could see blue skies were very, very rare. I had two air filters in my apartment. I carried a mask in my purse at all times. My school frequently had inside recess for students because the ever-present smog was too thick for outside play.
There were lots of days in which the smog was so thick you could not see street signs or buildings that were fifteen in front of you. I lived there for two years. I will never forget that experience.
TT: Absolutely. Now, how do you find your travel opportunities?
C: I am not very picky about where I go. So, I literally will use a site like Skyscanner to see what deals they are offering from my home city. Also, I like to combine learning and traveling. Language schools or cooking schools in specific locations will give me a reason to travel. I am lucky to have friends that live around the world now, so I like to visit them too.
TT: I 100% agree on those tips! So, how did you find the money to fund your travel?
C: I find teaching jobs in a location. I use that as the jumping spot for my travel. Whether the location is domestic or international, there is always something notable to see. I value traveling, so I make allowances for it in my budget.
TT: Brilliant! Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful, interesting, or funny.
C: I am a slow traveler. I like to meander through side streets. I love stumbling upon local parks to sit and people watch. I allow myself a certain amount of time to take pictures and then I just relax into the experience.
I have been really lucky to have some diverse travel experiences. I have biked through rice fields in Thailand. I barbecued with friends on dune near the Saudi Arabian border. I did the Electric Slide on the Great Wall of China. I paraded with two samba schools in Rio de Janeiro.
TT: Love it! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and how have your travels impacted you as a person?
Travel has greatly widened my perspective. I see myself more and more as a member of a global community. I have learned new languages, danced to new rhythms, savored new flavors. All of that allows me to plant seeds into the minds of my students that I hope will flower into fresh ideas.
I believe that teachers should be continuously learning. When I purposely put myself in a situation in which I am a novice, I connect to my students learning new skills in my class. My empathy for students wrestling with new concepts deepens.
TT: So perfectly explained. What advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel, or travelers dreaming of teaching?
I would say take the leap and go. My first teaching job in 2001 was outside of my home state. I knew only one person in that city. I told myself that if I was unhappy in a year, I could go back home.
There are regional job fairs that happen throughout the United States for people interested in domestic moves. For those looking for international moves, I suggest Teach Away, TieOnline, Search Associates, or International School Services.
TT: Thanks so much, Chandra! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English from Boston who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs AroundTheWorld L.com Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational art. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following @WorldLillie on social media!