Why Every U.S. Teacher Should Visit a Foreign School
January 26, 2015
People often think of travel as a process of self-growth. But teachers in today’s culturally diverse U.S. schools should also consider how much their time spent abroad can benefit their students back in the U.S.! TIEs with Teachers’ summer program sends U.S. teachers abroad to visit foreign schools (check out our pilot program in Nepal), and here’s why:
Learn new approaches to your daily classroom challenges – Teachers around the world face similar challenges, i.e. bullying or getting kids to focus. But what’s different is our approach to these challenges! Going abroad allows teachers to observe radically different teaching methods, such as the meditation our partner school in Nepal uses to help students focus. It might just be radical enough to breakthrough to that kiddo you’ve been struggling with in your own class!
Experience a healthy dose of cultural discomfort – If you’ve never been a stranger in a strange land, you probably have no idea how your newcomer immigrant students feel when they come to school every day. Although you will never truly know what he or she is going through, you can better support your kiddos during the acculturation process having experienced it yourself!
Improve your intercultural communication skills – Every culture has its own norms for communication, i.e. topics that are appropriate, norms for eye-contact, ways of greeting people. Going abroad is a crash course on communicating with people from a different cultural background! When you return to your diverse classes in the U.S., you will be more aware of communication differences between yourself, your students, and their families – and be able to adjust your communication as necessary!
Better understand the link between culture and learning – Each culture also has it’s own norms for learning – i.e. types of classroom activities or norms for speaking up in class. Observing such differences firsthand will help you appreciate the role that culture plays in learning, and make you more reflective about how your own students’ cultural backgrounds affect the way they learn best.
Celebrate cultural diversity in your class – It’s one thing to tell your kids about cultural diversity – it’s another to SHOW them! Think of all the photos and stories you can share when you get back! TIEs with Teachers provides an excellent opportunity for educators to walk the walk and model the appreciation for diversity we often talk about in our schools. And if you spend time in the developing world, you can use your personal experiences to spark critical discussions about poverty and cultural stereotypes.
In addition to these benefits for your classes back in the U.S., you can also support foreign educators at the schools you visit by sharing your own teaching insight! So consider spending your summer break visiting a foreign school with TIEs with Teachers! We are currently crowdfunding a project to give more American teachers the opportunity to visit foreign schools, starting with a school in Nepal. It’s not just about self-growth – it will benefit your kiddos back in the U.S.!