A lucky group of 14 IEU members got the lowdown on life overseas at the recent IEU/Department of Education teacher exchange conference.
The conference is designed to arm outgoing exchange teachers with all the information they need to know about the logistics of travelling and teaching in another country, and covers issues such as taxation, visas, health, pedagogy and union membership.
It also gives exchange teachers a chance to network with each other. Many exchange teachers participate in group activities while they are overseas.
Travel with small children
PE teacher Jessica Ferris from Xavier Catholic College, Skennars Head, writes about her plans for her year in Collingwood, Ontario.
"2020 brings with it an exciting new adventure for the Ferris family. In a little over three months, a small mountain of paperwork, a few bags to pack and a house to clean, I will exchange to Collingwood Ontario with my family – my husband and three children aged one, three, and five," she said
"Yes, you have read this correctly, we are taking three small children across the globe. I mean who doesn’t want to take three children to a place where temperatures plummet to minus 30 degrees Celsius and it takes over 25 hours to get there. Where do I sign up?
"Thinking about applying for this exchange, my husband and I discussed how life changing this experience would be not only for us but for our children. This chapter in their lives will bring a vast array of new, daunting, challenging and fulfilling adventures and will enable them to immerse themselves in a culture and country that is different to our own.
"We envisage the sheer joy on their faces as they see, touch and slip over in the snow for the first time and create their own Olaf (the snowman in the movie Frozen).
"Helen Gregory from the IEU and my principal at Xavier Catholic College Michael Vella backed our decision to apply 100%.
"Although the majority of our winter afternoons will be spent shredding the ski hill close by and eating poutine for dinner, school hours are the time where I will gain invaluable learning experiences that will enrich my teaching and expand my knowledge of another country’s educational system.
"This year exchange is an opportunity for ongoing professional development with the knowledge gained throughout the year strengthening my pedagogical practices. I will share experiences, maybe even a bagel and a Tim Hortons coffee, with others and hope to develop long lasting friendships.
"Our bags are packed with Tim Tams, Caramello Koalas, Fantails and footy jerseys and we are excited for the journey that lies ahead."
Learning in a new context
English and RE teacher Wendy Storok is also full of anticipation.
"To say I’m excited for this opportunity to complete a teacher exchange to Canada is an understatement. As a passionate educator and an avid traveller, I have always dreamt of working abroad and finally, this dream has come true," she said
"I have been assigned to Ajax High School, Ontario to teach English to grades 9-12 for 12 months and I will reside near the beautiful Lake Ontario in the city of Oshawa, well known for its rich culture in sports, the arts and wildlife.
"I anticipate that this exchange program will be a wonderful opportunity for me to learn in a new context, adapt to new cultural expectations, deepen my teaching skills and intercultural experiences. I look forward to immersing myself into all aspects of the Canadian lifestyle and the privilege of having a direct experience in the history of the Indigenous cultures of Canada.
"As much as I will miss my students and peers at St John Paul College in Coffs Harbour, I also feel pleased that they too will reap the cultural benefits of this exchange. Canadian English teacher Tara Moore will step into my position and bring valuable and enriching experiences to my school community. Tara is a highly accomplished teacher who will be an asset to St John Paul College and the wider school community."
Dream becomes reality
Glenn Corben, Religious Education Coordinator at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School Orange is turning a long held dream into reality, heading to Bracebridge, Ontario.
"My wife had been trying to convince me to do a teaching exchange for over a decade. I usually said ‘maybe when the kids are older’ or ‘wait until I settle I at my new school’ – the time just never seemed to be right," he said.
"I realised that the time was never going to be perfect – there would always be something. So finally I said ‘yes’ and we submitted our application.
"Our journey has already begun even though we have not yet left the country. The whole family is so excited at the prospect of doing this together. The kids are asking questions about Canada, looking at maps, finding out about sports they might be able to play and talking about snow.
"I am excited about a new environment to work in and a new curriculum to explore. I am reflecting on the practices and programs we implement at our school and thinking about what I want to share in Canada and what I want to find out more about.
"We are looking forward to exploring the country but also building relationships with the people we meet over there. We really just can’t wait."
Nicole Lenihan of St Michael’s Primary School Nowra, can’t wait to swap teaching ideas gained from her exchange.
"I’m going on exchange to Calgary, Alberta next year with my partner Paul and I’ll be teaching Kindergarten at two Catholic primary schools. Kindergarten students only attend school for half a day in Alberta, so I will teach at one school for the morning session and my other school in the afternoon session," Nicole said.
"I’m really looking forward to the experience of teaching in Canada and collaborating with Canadian teachers. I’m hoping the experience will enrich my own teaching skills and inspire me to bring forth new ideas and strategies for the future. I can’t wait to share my experiences with family, friends, colleagues and students when I return in 2021."
Apply for 2021, contact Helen Gregory, firstname.lastname@example.org