Back in 2012, I had the life-changing opportunity to teach Tibetan refugees living in India.
Before leaving Canada, I knew very little about Tibet or Tibetan culture. Teaching in a Tibetan school definitely took a little while to get used to!
For example, the classroom didn’t have desks - instead, the students sat on the floor around low tables. The most advanced classroom technology they had was a chalkboard. Although it was an adjustment, I quickly adapted to the Tibetan education system.
Teaching abroad is a great experience - but only a minority of teachers teach abroad for their whole careers. While most teachers expect that moving to a foreign country will be a shock and a challenge to begin with, what they often fail to realize is that coming back home can be just as difficult. This sense of reverse culture shock can be even more overwhelming when faced with constant new technologies and changes in teaching methods in your home country.
Teachers abroad, thinking about making the transition back home? Below are some tips that can help you to readjust to teaching in your home country.
Take advantage of as many professional development opportunities as possible.
Best practices in education are always changing. You might not have kept up with your home country’s teaching trends while you were away. That’s OK! Most school districts offer professional development workshops after school that are offered to teachers for free. The right professional development can make all the difference in helping you get back up to speed on the latest teaching standards.
Get your classroom technology skills up to date.
If you taught abroad in a school that embraced technology, this won’t be an issue. If you worked in a school like mine, however, you might find yourself feeling lost with all the new technology trends out there. Spend some time online looking up the latest educational apps and tools - EdSurge, for example, has a handy database of classroom tech product reviews. Ask your colleagues for advice on what works for them in the classroom and to give you a demo of their favorite classroom tech tools.
From experience, I know how great it feels to trade in the chalk for the iPad!
Brush up on classroom management strategies.
Students abroad likely have a few different behaviors and tendencies compared to students in your own country. As a teacher, you know that classroom management is a delicate balancing act, so you may need to readjust your strategies to meet the needs of students back home.
Share your experience.
This tip may be the most important of all. Your experience abroad likely changed you, both as a person and a teacher. Find ways to share what you learned about new cultures and life experiences with your students and colleagues.
When I returned, I made sure to share my newfound knowledge on Indian and Tibetan culture with my students. I also decorated my classroom with cultural artifacts from my time abroad. Students loved to find out the story behind these objects and enjoyed learning about a culture different from their own.
Just like you adjusted to your life abroad, you will readjust to teaching at home. It may feel a little strange at first, but remember, you’re returning with a wealth of new knowledge and experience that will make you an even stronger educator than when you left.
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