Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #41: Jess Gosling (An international teacher working in Taiwan)

August 16, 2021


Every so often International School Community is looking to highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight blog category.  This month we interviewed Jess Gosling:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

Hi, my name is Jess Gosling and I’ve been living and working abroad for more than 10 years. I am from England, originally born in the South-East. I moved to the North of England when I started university and I consider the North-East my home. Travel has always interested me and my first overseas trip backpacking was when I was just 16, with a best friend. We took the ferry from Wales and toured Ireland staying with relatives. I didn’t think this was especially unusual at the time, but now I realise this was pretty adventurous! My next trip abroad was at 19. I saved for a year to pay for a five-month trip around South East Asia. I meticulously planned it, reading the Lonely Planet from cover to cover. Once in Thailand, I loved almost every moment. I was crushed when it came to the end of the trip. I have always been interested in other cultures, and feel most connected and alive when abroad.

However, I returned to the UK to study for a degree in History and Race and Ethnic Studies. During the degree, I spent one semester in California and travelled in Central and South America. After completing the degree, I worked again for a year to save to fund beginning my first overseas job in Japan. I knew I would need money for the first weeks and furnishing a new home. I was very keen to see what teaching would be like. I joined a programme that offered teachers with degrees the opportunity to become Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs). There was nothing ‘assisting’ in the role. In reality, I planned, created resources, and taught independently. I taught in fourteen local primary schools throughout Niigata, a city with almost no expats. This placement was fascinating, a city nestled between mountains and a beach. In the evening, after work, I’d go for a swim in the sea. At the weekends I’d drive through the surrounding mountains.

After a year in Niigata, I transferred to an area just outside Tokyo where I worked in ten primary schools. There was a fantastic expat community here and I made friends for life! The work was fun but exhausting. I knew I loved teaching, especially in the younger years. Living in Japan was eye-opening and a first taste of living outside of the UK. Working in local Primary schools was rewarding and interesting, but I felt that I didn’t know enough about my profession to do it justice. Hence, I decided to return to the UK to train to become a qualified teacher and move abroad again.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

I decided to return home to qualify to teach, through the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) route. Before beginning the PGCE, I worked as a teaching assistant within Year 2 and Reception classes in a state-maintained school, which was a brilliant experience. I was able to observe teachers closely and I learnt a lot about classroom management. I completed the PGCE and worked two further years in the UK and gained QTS. After a total of three and a half years at home, I married and moved with my teacher husband to Egypt for our first experience teaching abroad in international schools. Whilst in Egypt, I experienced the H1N1 panic (akin to the pandemic we experience now) and resulting school closures, in addition to the Arab Revolution, it certainly was a baptism of fire!

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

My first school was Cairo English School. It was a great place to work. I worked in Foundation Stage, which was the largest intake of the school, with 16 classes in Nursery and Reception! However, although it was a huge cohort, it felt like a community and the staff were close. The second school I worked at was in Vietnam, the ABC International School. This school was smaller, with approximately three classes per year group, on separate campuses for infants and juniors. One Headteacher I worked for there made it his mission to have ‘fun’ experience days for the children, which included a circus day and on Chinese New Year, dragons and performers came to the playground. He was such a lively spirit, I remember seeing him trying to outdo the children waiting for their bus by standing on one leg. It’s lovely to see management with a sense of fun and interacting with children on their level. In Taipei, I have loved working within Reception. We have developed our activities to be hands-on and experiential. We developed language through the five senses, which included bringing in animals.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

The Taiwanese take hiking very seriously. They are always fully kitted out with walking sticks, expensive sporting wear, and large hats. I usually meet them just wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, sunscreen too if I remember it. When our paths meet (literally) they are always exceptionally friendly and it’s nice to get a greeting, often with an excellent English accent! Out and about in Taipei city, this never happens.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

This is a great question and one I discuss in-depth in my book. A good management team is very important to me, representative of gender and diversity. This team should listen to their staff and take on suggestions and feedback. They should not be afraid to share their power and celebrate their staff’s strengths. Then, I would look at the school ethos and how they work in practice. I like schools that work on developing the whole child and have a family feel. Furthermore, I love when schools embrace becoming ‘eco’ schools with gardens and working within the local and wider community. Then, I would consider the environment in which I would live. At this age and stage of my life, I would like to live near other families, so my daughter can have a social life close by outside of school. These priorities are very different from when I first started teaching. Then, my focus was on location.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Exciting, interesting, mind-opening experience.

teacher

Thanks, Jess!

Jess Gosling is an international teacher who has recently authored, ‘Becoming a Successful International Teacher: A Step-by-Step Concise Guide to International Teaching’. She can be contacted via her website and regularly tweets at JessGosling2.

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  After we highlight you, you will receive one year free of premium access to our website!

Interested in comparing the schools and comments in Egypt. Check out our blog post here.

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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #40: Amber Acosta (A teacher at the American International School in Egypt)

August 28, 2019


Every so often International School Community is looking to highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight blog category.  This month we interviewed Amber Acosta:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

Hi! My name is Amber Acosta. I grew up in Connecticut, but when I am back in the United States, I call Vermont home. I have a bachelors degree in business from Fordham University and a masters degree in teaching from Sacred Heart University. I have taught grade 2 for the past 5 years at the American International School in Egypt (West Campus) and am excited to start a new position this year teaching lower elementary technology, using my certification as an Educational Media Specialist. My professional interests outside of technology are STEM education, library, and makerspaces. I recently became certified in STEM and am looking forward to using my skills this year, as well as creating a makerspace at my school. I have a husband and an 11 year old son. My husband is a teacher, too. He teaches economics and business at the same school.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

I did not really plan to teach internationally – I fell into it and ended up loving it! I taught in Egypt for one year after college before starting my masters, but did not necessarily intend to come back. However, my husband and I decided to move to Egypt (where he is originally from) in 2011. I contacted a previous administrator and found they had an opening for me at their school. The rest is history! I knew I would continue to teach internationally after that, especially after my husband joined me in teaching as well.

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

I have worked at Global Paradigm International School and American International School of Egypt (West Campus), both in Cairo. Global Paradigm was in its second year when I joined, so there was a lot of room for me to be a part of the accreditation process and really help build the foundations of the curriculum. I enjoyed the challenge! Also, we had small class sizes and I loved feeling like my students and I were a little family. At the American International School of Egypt, we have a large student body and staff. I have really benefited from meeting so many teachers from around the world and learning from them through discussion and observation. Another great thing about AIS is that we not only have professional development in our staff meetings, but also have the chance through our stipends to take classes or attend professional development anywhere we wish. I have had the chance to grow so much in my time at AIS, as well as have fun! Our Seuss-themed Literacy Week is a blast for both students and teachers. Also, it is fantastic to take my students every year to the pyramids- where else can you do that?

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

My son has grown up with both Egyptian and American cultures and we also travel internationally for many of our vacations. He has developed such a broad perspective of the world and a curiosity about different cultures. I think one of the best cultural encounters anywhere is always trying the food in a new country!

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

My husband and I would absolutely love to teach in and explore a new country in the near future, so we have been thinking about this recently. It is very important to me that the school is progressive, has opportunities for professional development, and values teacher-input into curriculum. I would also like for there to be emphasis on project-based and real-world learning. My husband and I started and currently run the school gardening program, in which students grow, pack, and sell produce, so we would love to work somewhere that we could still be involved in gardening or eco-initiatives. 

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Teaching around the world – awesome!

teacher

Thanks, Amber Acosta!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will receive one year free of premium access to our website!

Interested in comparing the schools and comments in Egypt. Check out our blog post here.

continue reading