Teachers We Love You, Now Please Go Away
Nothing opens up ones worldview like international travel. When teachers have this opportunity it can have far-reaching impact. Personal perceptions change, cultural awareness is heightened, and the ability to respond to a variety of cultures is vastly improved. Teachers return from travel with knowledge, insights, and understandings that are invaluable in increasingly diverse classrooms. They can better understand behaviors and interactions among students, and often they interact more easily with parents from other cultures.
The travel experience obviously will impact classroom lessons and curriculum. Ask any teacher who brings this perspective into the classroom - he/she will surely say that students are more engaged in the lessons when they hear first hand accounts of travel to the place they are studying. And teachers can share their experiences with other colleagues and the wider community - leading to support for travel by other teachers and by students. Planning a professional development session around a staff member's travel experience isn't difficult and allows additional staff to bring new perspectives back to their classrooms.
But you may ask, how can teachers afford to travel in this current economic climate? Salaries and budget cuts have made it difficult. Some schools and districts have set aside funds for teacher travel. However, there are also many fully funded opportunities out there for teacher travel. Groups such as American Councils for International Education, Earthwatch Institute, Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program, Fund for Teachers, Toyota International Teachers Program and World View, among others, all annually fund teacher travel abroad. Many of these programs have deadlines in the fall/winter for summer travel, so now is the time to start researching potential programs.