Our ten years teaching overseas have been wonderful and enriching. My wife and I have had the pleasure to met warm, interesting people, visit exciting, exotic locales and enjoy our years in Turkey, Poland and the Bahamas.
While our experiences have been overwhelmingly positive, one negative aspect regularly surfaces that pertains to a mistake foreign-hire teachers frequently make, and often without even realizing they are making it. This mistake can make such a strong impact on host country nationals that your tenure may depend on how you approach this sensitive topic.
As a teacher with extensive experience in Canadian classrooms, I am always motivated to share my knowledge and practices with local-hire teachers in my new host-country school. In many cases these teachers are receptive to my alternative teaching suggestions and methodologies. For the most part, local teachers are thrilled to learn from their foreign colleagues.
The owners or directors of the schools, however, did not always share the same enthusiasm. More than once I heard the concern stated that foreign hires may be overstepping their roles when they begin suggesting changes to local school practices, curriculum, discipline and methodology.
Local educators and owners of local schools are sensitive to foreign criticism of their educational system. Most of these people graduated from the very school system the foreign hire has determined is inadequate and in need of major overhaul. While a foreigner’s observations reflect their pride in the North American system, other countries are equally proud of their local educational systems.
A common topic of discussion among foreign staff was, for example, How the Turkish educational system could/should be improved. Finding considerable consensus among themselves, the foreign staff would lobby to make the local school more “North American”. Their progressive and endless suggestions were often received by those in authority with a polite smile, and then discretely buried, almost immediately.
It’s easy to understand the disregard for our wonderful suggestions. As a one-time Canadian school administrator, I knew that if a few Turkish teachers on my Canadian staff suggested we utilize Turkish discipline techniques and a more rote learning style curriculum, I would be insulted. Just who do they think they are?
Suffice it to say, foreign teachers are hired to teach. They are not hired to restructure or reorganize the local educational community or be critical of local practices and curriculum. Foreign hires are temporary guest teachers who will soon move on to another adventure.
In the meantime, try not to offend your host country by attempting to change it drastically during your two-year contract! An international teacher is a good-will ambassador, not an educational revolutionary!