Bill, a certified teacher from Bellingham, Washington, began his Teach Away placement at iDiscoveri Education in Gurgaon, South Delhi, India, about 3 weeks ago. Instead of teaching, he is developing a Science Curriculum for the institute. We caught up with him to learn how he’s enjoying his Teach Away experience so far, and to see whether he has any advice for others who are interested in teaching in India or Asia.
What interested you in teaching abroad?
I worked in China two years ago and I caught the travel bug. I like to experience new places and cultures. I also like to try new and different foods. I’m working for a company that makes educational curricula instead of working as a certified teacher as I’m used to, but the new challenge is interesting.
Why did you decide on India specifically?
The position in India seemed to be a good match for me. India can be a very challenging place to live, but there are many great things here too if you can be patient and let your Indian experience unfold.
Did you have any concerns before you left? What were they? How have those concerns since been mitigated?
My biggest concerns were whether I’d be able to handle the demands of the job and adjust to living and working in India. Once my answers were yes to both of those questions, I accepted the position and moved to India. I also read a couple books about living in India and Delhi. That definitely helped ease the transition — less surprises.
My concerns were mostly involved with wrapping up details of one life in the States and beginning fresh on the Indian subcontinent. It just takes lots of time, attention to detail, and lots of patience. Anyone can make the transition if you are willing to experience some culture shock and be patient with your new way of doing things. The culture shock is what makes these experiences so rich. Never a dull moment.
Describe your workplace and what a typical workday looks like.
Because I’m not currently teaching but designing curriculum, I cannot speak to what a typical day at a school looks like, but I have visited two schools in Delhi. I found the classes to be very teacher-directed. I think Indian schools could benefit from a professional exchange with other teachers from around the world. Every teacher who works overseas has an opportunity to make a small ripple in a very large pond. Sometimes, combined ripples become waves of change.
What have you learned about life in India from your teaching experience? What do you like the most?
The spirit of the local people and what it means to be Indian is the best and I’m enjoying learning about this. I could take a lifetime to fully understand the nuances, but even after three weeks in India, I am already learning that it is a big, diverse, and amazing country with a very rich and storied history. I will probably just scratch the surface while I am here, but it will be a scratch/itch I will always cherish.
What have you noticed about the education system in India?
The students are very respectful of teachers and adults in India. Because of this, classrooms can seem a bit formal — this means students standing to ask and answer questions at times, students clapping when a classmate gives a correct answer, etc. It’s quite different than the middle school I taught at in the States.
What is your favourite meal that you’ve had?
My favorite meal so far has been chicken masala prepared by my personal cook and housekeeper. Hey, life is good…a western salary in India goes a long way!
What’s your neighbourhood like?
I looked at 10 apartments and then decided to commute to work by metro train. It was important to me to live in a professional community with like-minded people, but with a local twist. I also wanted a rich cultural experience with lots to do nearby. I found all that in South Delhi. It means that I commute one hour each way, door to door, each day, 30 minutes of which is on metro train (modern subway).
Do you have any tips for teachers who are looking to apply to teach in India?
My tip is do lots of reading and research before you take the plunge in the deep end of the pool. Talk to lots of people. Try to do some traveling that’s unusual or off the beaten path before you head off to be sure you have the physical and mental toughness to acclimatize to new or challenging places. Then when you find a place that you love, and it feels right, go for it, and don’t look back.
Where would you like to go next?
I may return to China sometime. My Mandarin started to show some real progress!