TEACH­ING OVER­SEAS

Ex­pe­ri­enced in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tor Tom Spurl­ing is cur­rently a HSC and IB English teacher at the Aus­tralian In­ter­na­tional School Hong Kong.

The Australian Education Reporter - - TEACHING INTERNATIONALLY - TOM SPURL­ING

SINCE my Gap year when I worked in an Ox­ford board­ing school, I al­ways wanted to com­bine my love of travel with teach­ing. My first teach­ing job af­ter univer­sity was in Japan as part of a govern­ment scheme known as JET (Japan Ex­change Teach­ing) where na­tive English speak­ers acted as a kind of cul­tural am­bas­sador for bored sec­ondary school stu­dents.

My gig in­cluded host­ing a ra­dio show, coach­ing basketball and act­ing as the res­i­dent high-en­ergy, English-speak­ing clown. Need­less to say, it was a lot of fun, but I wasn’t ex­actly break­ing ped­a­gog­i­cal bound­aries.

It would be a decade into my teach­ing career un­til I fi­nally com­mit­ted to work­ing in an in­ter­na­tional school with my young fam­ily in tow.

I had a Masters in In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy but not much on-the-ground ex­pe­ri­ence. I wasn’t too fussed where we went - who­ever took me would do - but Hong Kong was on my wife’s short­list, so when I found a position at the Aus­tralian In­ter­na­tional School Hong Kong, I jumped.

The next three years were per­haps my most pro­fes­sion­ally en­joy­able thus far and as a fam­ily we rel­ished the in­ti­macy and ad­ven­ture of liv­ing to­gether in an­other coun­try.

I taught di­verse, mul­ti­lin­gual, en­gaged co­horts. I had ac­cess to in­cred­i­ble PD and ex­tracur­ric­u­lar op­por­tu­ni­ties in­clud­ing IB con­fer­ences abroad, surf trips to Sri Lanka and vol­ley­ball tours to Shang­hai.

My own chil­dren flour­ished in this new global environment and my pro­fes­sional and per­sonal friend­ships were in­ten­si­fied by the great big thrill of it all.

The day-to-day of teach­ing in an in­ter­na­tional school is pretty sim­i­lar to a reg­u­lar Aus­tralian school, but there are some key dif­fer­ences.

First, the sup­port staff is mostly lo­cal, which means you need to de­velop ef­fec­tive strate­gies for deal­ing with non-english speak­ing col­leagues – in my case learn­ing some Can­tonese – and ap­pre­ci­ate that there may be a dis­crep­ancy in val­ues, not to men­tion pay pack­ets.

Sec­ond, the teach­ing staff is from all over the world, and the stu­dents are very global in their out­look. They will not be im­pressed by your pre­vi­ous travel ex­pe­ri­ence in Bali, nor any per­ceived lack of cul­tural sen­si­tiv­ity or cos­mopoli­tan out­look. Work­ing in this environment lends it­self to rich crit­i­cal dis­cus­sions, es­pe­cially as an English teacher, and ac­knowl­edg­ing the ex­cep­tional as­pect of your stu­dents’ world­view can make a won­der­ful learn­ing tool for young peo­ple who gen­er­ally have an atyp­i­cal child­hood.

Last, the par­ent body is of­ten very close, as an ex­pa­tri­ate com­mu­nity can have an al­most ‘small town’ level of fa­mil­iar­ity. In an Aus­tralian in­ter­na­tional school, we are united partly by our na­tion­al­ity and shared ex­pa­tri­ate jour­ney, cre­at­ing a bond and col­lec­tive iden­tity that can be dif­fi­cult to repli­cate in a non-in­ter­na­tional school environment.

In short, just go for it. Teach­ing in an in­ter­na­tional school is any­thing but dull.

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