Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Teaching in North Carolina, an International Teacher's Perspective

I think I was born with the ‘travel gene.’ Being from England, I love holidaying in warmer (and less rainy!) climates, but more than that, I enjoy seeing the day to day lives of different communities and immersing myself in new cultures. Being a teacher opens doors to experience these things, as well as developing new teaching practices, through teaching abroad. Two years ago, VIF Global Education offered me a teaching placement in North Carolina and I am currently teaching 2nd grade at Carolina Forest International Elementary School in Onslow County.

I’ll admit, I thought teaching here would be an easy transition from teaching in England. After all, I’d visited America before, spoke the same language, was an experienced teacher… how different could it be? It turns out, that first year of being a foreign teacher in North Carolina was one of the most rewarding yet challenging years of my teaching career so far.

To start with, the education system in NC compared with back home is totally different; more testing, the age to grade correlation, the standards and longer school days. I was used to writing one long report for each child at the end of the school year, so report cards every 9 weeks were a new concept. The amount of acronyms sometimes made it feel like I spoke a foreign language, and I’d never had to eat lunch with my class before (in England you get a lunch break). Turning up at school on day one, the biggest surprise for me was resources- how much teachers spend on resourcing their classroom, the concept of asking parents for donations and children bringing in their own supplies. This was all new to me, so arriving to an empty classroom was definitely daunting.

Thankfully, I was welcomed into Carolina Forest by a supportive principal, generous parents and colleagues that have become friends for life. Here I feel part of a team and I have been overwhelmed at times by people’s kindness. The school is a global community, teaching children to become globally aware, so as well as teaching staff and children about my culture, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about others including, obviously, American. I’ve experienced many things for the first time; spelling bees, pep rallies, teacher of the month awards, tornado drills, early release days, Thanksgiving, the pledge of allegiance each morning, the rules of football, biscuits and sweet tea, teacher appreciation week. Most of these are every day norms for NC folk, but the first time I saw an American school bus I got way too excited!

I may have come to North Carolina knowing that I would be teaching children, but what I didn’t realize was just how much they would teach me. Every day has brought about something new. In class, we have incorporated global learning into all areas of the curriculum, whether it be comparing dollars to pounds in math or writing letters to the Queen. My class’s English accents are now better than mine! I hope they have found it as fun an experience as I have.

Although teaching abroad is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is definitely an experience I would recommend. Being a ‘foreign teacher’ in North Carolina has had its challenges for sure, but these challenges have been outweighed heavily by the positives. When I return back to the UK this summer, I will be taking with me an abundance of new knowledge and brilliant memories I will never forget.

Ms. Francesca Buckland is a second grade teacher in Onslow County. She has been teaching for 7 years and holds a degree in Applied Language Studies.  Ms. Buckland has always had a passion for travel, language and experiencing new cultures. She has worked in schools in Thailand, Australia and Fiji.  

1 comment:

  1. Francesca has brought so much passion and knowledge to me in the 2 years I have known her. Having an international teacher in our school is the easiest way to get out of our bubble.