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Learning and Growing through International Teaching

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As an educator, I find it imperative and a sense of duty to the profession, to engage in constant professional development, educational growth, and personal learning. Life-long learning, after all, is what being a teacher is about. International teaching, with its built-in structure of constant professional development combined with working in a culture and society far removed from our own, opens new horizons with endless opportunities for expanding our minds.

Should you consider the path of international teaching, you will find excellent benefits packages. These usually include excellent salaries, travel stipends, and housing. The typical K-12 American School abroad often educates students who are family members of embassy employees or top business professionals. Working with these students is a productive and rewarding experience. As a teacher, your expectations of the students lie on excellence in language acquisition, academic achievement, college preparation and character development.

On a more personal level, there are the service opportunities for both teachers and their students to contribute beyond the classroom and school borders. Both you and your students travel a path of mental growth through learning to understand, support and give to underprivileged groups. Many underdeveloped countries experience enormous gaps between poverty and affluent communities. You will find that there are unlimited options and opportunities to participate in community service projects.

Society today faces many challenges; in return, students across the global spectrum face greater pressures. The entire world is challenged by complex issues including the rapid development of new technologies, changing local demographics, and the rising cost of living. As individuals, we are confronted with a need to better understand other cultures. International teaching offers you the opportunity to gain a different perspective of the world. This international experience and insight will enable you to guide students in accepting, respecting, and responding appropriately to diversity.
Moving abroad does have its challenges, therefore it is important to do sufficient homework and background study on the country, city, community and the school. When communicating with international school representatives, do not be shy - vigorously investigate what you personally need to know about the school, the teaching contract, the community, and the country you are considering. Get in touch with the teachers, parents and community members. Seek the advice of veteran teachers you meet at international job fairs. The following recruiting agencies are a few of the useful resources available to you: The University of Northern Iowa International Educator Placement Service (http://www.uni.edu/placement/overseas/), International Schools Services (http://www.iss.edu/index.asp), Association of American Schools in South America (http://www.aassa.com/index.asp) and Association of International Educators (http://www.nafsa.org/).

It was a privilege and unforgettable learning experience to spend four years teaching at Colegio Internacional de Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela. The meaning of the ¨two-way road¨ of learning and development in a culturally diverse and foreign environment, combined with the high expectations of students in the college preparatory process, has brought a new dimension to my experience and understanding of being a teacher.

With all the challenges that international teaching can bring forth, the result is an incredibly rewarding experience. Whether you teach internationally for a few years or a lifetime, you will become a better teacher with insight into other cultures and a new appreciation of the worldwide educational system.

--Ingrid Beute,
Career Counselor,
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

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