Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #32: David Walters (A director at an international school in Bangkok)

September 24, 2014


Every so often International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed David Walters:

6239_unnamedTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

My name is David and I have been working abroad since 2005. I am originally from an area just South of London. I came to Thailand straight from University and never really looked back. I started my career teaching PE and then went on to teach Year 5, all at my first school in Bangkok. I then changed to my second school, also in Bangkok, where I worked for 5 years in Key stage 1 and 2 positions. Whilst working at my second school I opened a Kindergarten with a colleague, which has now been going for four years. I love both travelling and teaching, so teaching abroad couldn’t be more perfect for me.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

A lot of luck was involved with my first job in, not only  international teaching, but in teaching itself. I had just been rejected from what at the time, I thought, was my dream job . It was a fast track management position at a well known leisure centre chain in the London. I was just out of University and it was a dream opportunity. Having made it down to the last 8 candidates from 400 odd, I fell at the final hurdle. It was a time when jobs in the UK were hard to come by, so I sought experience abroad. I luckily landed a PE teaching job in Thailand. After about a month of teaching I fell in love with the kids, the culture, the freedom and the teaching. I still wasn’t a fully qualified teacher at that point and after two years I returned to study in the UK to become fully qualified and pursue a full time career as a Primary and Early Years teacher. I consider myself lucky on three counts:

1) not getting that first job

2) finding teaching

3) starting my career teaching in Thailand.

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.

06DavePhonicsAlthough I was lucky to get into the international school setting and teaching to start with, being that I wasn’t qualified, the school that I worked at didn’t exactly set high standards. The first school, Heathfield International School, was not very good at all and I didn’t spend long there. When I joined I didn’t have much experience an like I said I wasn’t qualified at the time, so it was at least a good stepping stone. The second school, Rasami International, was better but still had a lot of problems. The first two years that I worked there were fantastic, the third good but after that it was all downhill. To begin with I was surrounded by really good teachers and a very supportive Head but the school was badly run and the good teachers began to leave. When the Head left I knew it was time to go and at that point the school that I had opened myself was more or less established.

I set up my own school with a close colleague of mine. He was one of the teachers I met at Rasami. We decided to open a school because we both had dreams and ideas of how a school should be run. Both of us think alike and have always fostered ideas and teaching philosophies that break the norms of how we are taught to teach. I am somewhat of a rebel in this sense, often going against suggested practices for teaching. The freedom to teach the way I want to teach makes everyday amazing. What could be more fun than doing the job you love however you want to do it?

Even though I have had ups and downs in the schools where I have worked, I would definitely recommend working abroad to anyone. Even through the downs I have enjoyed every moment of my working life and not many people can say that. I never look at my job as work. I don’t think of that 6am alarm call as the start of a boring day but rather one of excitement and discovery. If I could, I would go back and do it all again, but I wouldn’t change a thing. The things I have seen, the people I have met, both good and bad, have made me a better, stronger, more rounded person. The fact that I could open the school of my dreams at such an early age, is a testament to the opportunities available when working abroad.

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

The list of cultural differences between Thais and Westerners is never-ending. With so many talking points, from floods through to coups, the ways in which we think is so much more different and this becomes apparent the longer that you stay here. We all think our culture has it right and that the others are doing something wrong, but given that they think that about us as well, one of us has to be wrong. Nevertheless you have to accept the differences and move on but even after living here for 9 years and being fluent in Thai, I still don’t understand a lot of what Thais do and every day I find my jaw dropping to new lows. Sometimes it’s frustrating (most of the time) but sometimes it can be the cause of laughter too.

In my first Year of teaching here I made a grave error that to my good fortune the Thai “victim” saw the funny side of. The Thai staff greet each other with what is called a “Wai”. To do this you put your hands together in prayer form and rest the fingers either below the chin, nose or on the forehead. The higher up the Wai, the more respectful it is. This is because Thais believe that the top of the body is the most revered part and the feet or bottom is the least. One day after changing for swimming an elder Thai teacher walked past and gave a Wai. At that exact moment I had a shoe in hand and being slightly startled I raised my shoe to my head and gave what was probably the first and last “Shoe Wai”. This is actually quite a big insult but the Thai teacher found my embarrassment more amusing than the insult of the action.

DSC_0058What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

After being my own boss for some time now, it is very difficult to know what I would look for if I was to find a new school. It might happen one day and if everything went badly and I found myself having to look for jobs again I would definitely look at working in Japan or Taiwan. I have visited many places in Asia and several places from other parts of the world and these are the only two countries I really felt at home from the moment I arrived. It helps that Japanese food is my favourite.

I have obviously set up my school the way that I think a school should run and finding another one that matches my vision would be difficult, but I would hope that the way the world is changing it won’t be too long before schools around the world follow suit. I would definitely like to see a school bend the rules a little and put the focus back onto the children. Schools that give time to the teachers to develop new teaching ideas and games rather than pushing teachers to mark books or fill in paper work can achieve wonderful things with the children. I would also like to see a school caring about the environment. I love following scientific trends and it is important to me that a school looks after and is part of the community in which it is situated. Schools have a responsibility to teach children how to look after the world, how to recycle and how to keep fit and eat healthily. I would look for a school with a social conscious and a moral compass.

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

The opportunity of a lifetime.

Thanks David!  You can check our more about David at his blog.

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 get a coupon code to receive 1 year free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in the Thailand like David?  Currently, we have 44 international schools listed in Bangkok on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

• Bangkok Patana School (17 comments)

• KIS International School (Bangkok) (40 comments)

NIST International School (29 comments)

Thai-Chinese Int’l School Bangkok (16 comments)

Wells International School (Thailand) (18 comments)

continue reading

Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #31: Lauren Kohlhoff (A teacher at the American School of Madrid)

April 2, 2014


Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Lauren Kohlhoff:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

989362_10151961808925686_1496660034_oHi there! My name is Lauren Kohlhoff and I currently teach Drama and Grade 7 World Geography at the American School of Madrid. I’m originally from the Atlanta area – a southern girl born and raised! After earning my degree in Early Childhood Education, I relocated to Northern Virginia where I taught third grade in the Prince William County district for three years. During that time I got married to my then boyfriend of eight years. It wasn’t long before we were itching for a new adventure.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

If I’m being honest, becoming a teacher in the international community was a complete fluke. My husband had received a job offer in Barcelona in the spring of 2008. I knew nothing about international schools or how to get my proverbial “foot in the door”.  So, I committed an afternoon to surfing the net and literally googled “american schools in Barcelona” just to see what my options were. The first hit was the American School of Barcelona. Bingo! I clicked the link, browsed the site, drafted a cover letter, and submitted a resume despite the fact there were no posted positions. Within days the director at the time contacted me, one thing led to another, and I had a grade 6 Humanities job faster than we could say, “Well, it looks like we’re moving to Spain!” I had contacted the right school at the right time; it was all about timing. It’s been six years and we haven’t looked back.

10152146_10151961815280686_736214447_oWhich international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

The American School of Barcelona is alive with energy. The school is small by comparison to other international schools, which allows the faculty, students, and families to foster a community that in many ways feels more like a family. I have truly never worked in a school where there is such passion for kids and their well-being beyond just academics and the walls of a classroom.

Having just recently moved to Madrid, I am still discovering what makes ASM a special place to work. There is certainly a greater sense of calm, which is something that stands out in a country like Spain! The campus is beautiful and features two new facilities dedicated to sports, sciences, and the performing arts. I am impressed with the number of programs that are on offer for our students, especially when it comes to performance and music. We have a very talented team of teachers who work tirelessly to guide our students to do amazing things!

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

If there’s one thing I have come to love about the Spanish culture, it’s the laid-back “mañana” attitude towards, well, everything. Really, it’s a wonder anything ever gets done around here! But this love and appreciation did not come easily or swiftly that first year. I mean, it took nearly a month before we had internet! Businesses close early and open late, and you can forget running errands on Sundays. It took us the entire first year to adjust our expectations and learn to simply stop swimming against the current. We weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. We slowed our pace and eventually came to embrace the “mañana” outlook on life ourselves. Mealtimes are perhaps the embodiment of Spanish culture. Sharing a meal with others is an event that can last hours; there’s no such thing as “fast food”. Even long after the table has been cleared, conversations will continue to flow and the wine will too. This is known as the “sobremesa” and what I think is most special about dining the Spanish way – enjoying your company is just as important as enjoying your meal.

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

10152851_10151961811710686_564378207_nThis is a tough question to answer because I’ve been in such a unique situation. My destination was chosen and I was fortunate enough to land a job there. If there’s anything I’ve learned about job hunting over the last six years, however, it’s that geography weighs heavily on my happiness and well-being. The destination must speak to me and resonate in a way that fulfills me beyond the school’s campus. Yes, job satisfaction is very important, but it’s only part of the experience. International teaching is also about exploring who you are, learning your limits, and discovering what you never knew about yourself. So much of this happens off campus, and it would be tough to be in a place that stymies that personal growth. For me, Spain is perfect and I’m not sure that I’ll ever need to look anywhere else. I have spoken to a number of colleagues over the years who were not happy in their former placements because the location wasn’t right for them. If I had a dime for every conversation about this topic that included the phrase, “The school was great, but…”, I would no longer need tutoring hours!

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

Lifelong learning at its finest!

Thanks Lauren!  You can check our more about Lauren at her blog.

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 get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in the Spain like Lauren?  Currently, we have 26 international schools listed in Spain on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

• American School of Barcelona (119 Comments)

• Benjamin Franklin Int’l School (49 Comments)

Sotogrande International School (6 Comments)

American School Madrid (27 Comments)

American School Valencia (21 Comments)

continue reading

Highlighted Articles

The Teacher on 2 Wheels is Still Making Her Way Home

March 30, 2014


I’m 18,000 kilometers from where I started, traveled through 24 different countries, visited 35 different schools, taken 167 hot showers, 32 cold, and gone 7 nights without any.  I’ve stayed in 103 hotels, been hosted by 90 different people and camped for 25 nights.  I’ve drank 213 coffees, been rained on 16 days, but had 154 days of sunshine and faced 56 days of grueling head wind, and changed 6 flat tires.  With all of those statistics accumulated, I still have another 14,000 kilometers to go before I reach my hometown of Eugene, Oregon next October.

P1070005For those of you who don’t cycle, just reading those statistics must seem like a painfully long journey, but for me, the time has flown by and my legs are almost just as fresh as the first day I started, if not a tad stronger.  I write a blog post almost every three days, but in reality with everything that I experience, I could do a daily post.  Regardless of the country, I find that traveling by bike I’m constantly exposed to the world.  I don’t have much intimacy on the road meaning I’m susceptible to my surroundings and traveling as a solo female, I believe I draw more attention to myself.  People feel compelled to go out of their way to interact with me and take care of me, and I welcome their kindness with open arms.

I was an open-minded person before I started pedaling home, but now I become even more so, erasing all my prejudices.  I’ve encountered incredible hospitality on the road wherever I am and never doubt once the sincerity global of human kindness.  I start pedaling in the morning and the only thing I have planned is to pedal 100 kilometers, and sometimes that doesn’t even happen.  I can never predict what my day will be like, who I will meet, and where I will end up staying.  Of course I try to plan my accommodations in advance, but even then I can encounter surprises.

I’m on my journey alone, yet never once have I felt lonely.  In SE Asia, I would stop for my mid-morning snack at a café with a few locals, and before I had my coffee in front of me there was a swarm of people around, mystified by my presence.  Communication can be one of my greatest challenges, but through hand gestures, pictures, and Google Translator, I almost always find a way to express myself.  I thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of traveling through SE Asia from November through January.  It is a very easy to explore on bike.  Although the road conditions weren’t always optimal, I had food stops almost every 5 kilometers, basic and cheap accommodation was plentiful, and the weather, although hot and humid, P1050610made for packing little gear, so I was able to lighten my load on my bike.  As in Europe, distances from town to town were short and I never felt too isolated.  That all changed when I arrived in New Zealand in February.  All of a sudden I found myself in vast and remote wilderness with limited services.  I had to prepare my daily routes, even 2 or 3 days out, carefully in order to ensure I had enough food.  Although I had seen plenty of beautiful places along my route, New Zealand was by far the most breathtaking country for scenery because 95% of my day was spent alongside the most gorgeous and pristine nature.  From crystal clear lakes and ocean, snow-capped mountains peaks, lush rain forests, and arid mountain passes, I never stopped ohhing and awwwing at the landscape.  The terrain was by far the most difficult with constant elevation change, but it was also in New Zealand where I encountered the most tour cyclist to talk with along the way.  On any given day I ran into 5 to 10 cyclists on the road!

I’ve been in Australia during the month of March, and have another 4 weeks of travel in this vast country, including a tour around Tasmania.  I’ve been well accompanied for this portion of my trip, including a visit from my parents, meeting up with former colleagues and clients I had from working as a ride leader for a bike touring company in Europe.  Their hospitality during the past month and the familiar faces have been a refreshing change.

When I visit schools, a lot of kids ask me which has been my favorite place so far on my travels, a question that is virtually impossible to answer.  There are three main highlights to tour cycling for me: the scenery, the people, and the food.  Each of these categories corresponds to a different country preference, but overall I think SE Asia, as a continent, is my first choice, again because of the contrast in their every day life routines, compared to what I’m used to.  Naturally I’ve come up with a list of places that I could see myself living after this trip, from all the different places I’ve discovered on my route. After visiting all the schools along my route, I can’t help but welcome the idea to try living and working in a different location.  Barcelona has been home to me for 10 years now and although it is a very special place for me, I am too curious about the other places I have seen to return, at least any time soon.

P1040923I’ve had a handful of school visits that have made hopping on my bike afterwards difficult.  I’ve felt so inspired and motivated after some of my visits, fascinated by the school’s curriculum and pedagogy that I was ready to stay and start teaching again.  The school visits have given me the opportunity to continue interacting with children during my year away from the classroom and exposed me to different teaching methods, both an added benefit to my trip.  At the start of my trip I talked to larger audiences of students, however, now I prefer to work with a few grade levels and tie my experience and travels into a unit of study.  For me, it is more challenging and interesting to link my real world experience to the conceptual framework of a unit and for students it makes my visit more meaningful.  However, I never fail to have a question and answer session because they always have so many wonderings.  In SE Asia, I came across a lot of school holidays, which made for fewer visits, but I did manage to contact a few local schools as well in China and Laos.  Now that I’m in English-speaking countries, I visit a lot of public schools and a few private schools.  Once I reach the United States, I look forward to hopefully visiting some bilingual schools to take advantage of my Spanish and talk with the Latino population.

If all goes as planned, I arrive to San Francisco at the end of April and although Oregon is north, I will pedal south down the coast and then into the interior.  Starting with the Grand Canyon, I intend to make my way north through the various national parks, cross the Canadian border and reach Banff.  From there I will head west to Vancouver, and finally travel south to Oregon, a loop that includes roughly 12,000 kilometers. I’m a bit apprehensive about traveling in such remote wilderness areas in North America, but as I have learned on this trip so far, it is better to trust others and give them the benefit of the doubt. So far I haven’t ever felt like I was in danger or encountered any threats.

After the last article was published in the International School Community Member Spotlight, I had several teachers contact me about visiting their schools and even a few hosted me.  Please do look at my website and if I’m going to be pedaling through your area, or the area of a colleague, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.

continue reading

Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #30: Kathleen Ralf (A teacher at Frankfurt International School & Wiesbaden)

March 2, 2014


Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Kathleen Ralf:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

IMG_0401My name is Kathleen Ralf and I work at Frankfurt International School & Wiesbaden as a Humanities and English Teacher.

I was born and raised in the Seattle area.  After I received my degree I moved east to the wild desert side of Washington State.  I taught English and History in a public school in Wenatchee, Washington for 12 years before deciding to make my move overseas.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

One day on my way to work I thought to myself… “Is this all there is?  Am I just going to keep driving the same road, teaching the same old stuff to the same community, for the rest of my life?!!!”  This realization really troubled me.  So I started applying directly to schools that were linked to the website of the Association of German International Schools.  My husband’s family is in Germany, his mother tongue is German, so it made sense that this would be the place to go.

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 started my international career at the International School of Stuttgart.   The school was in its first years of major transition.  They had a head of school that was dynamic and excited about the changes ahead.  I started that year in a cohort of about 12 new to Stuttgart teachers.  The community of teachers in Stuttgart is wonderful and supportive.   Class trips were definitely a highlight to the school year.   These were the moments when I really saw the best in my students and in my colleagues.  Dragging 60 students through the crowded streets of Salzburg is a life skill.

I am in my first year at Frankfurt International School & Wiesbaden.  This school is one of the oldest International Schools in Europe and has a great academic and athletic reputation.  The school is much bigger than Stuttgart, but I find this exciting.  The kids are from a greater mix of countries and teachers come here stay.   There are so many projects and activities for kids and teachers to involve themselves in here.  My favorite so far has been in caring for our adopted Roman watchtowers.

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

DSCN0102Recently I had some time to kill with my 6th graders.  We had finished up a unit, and I really didn’t want to start the next thing on a Friday before a holiday.  One of my students jumped up and said, “Let’s play hangman!”  Ok, I thought.  I went up to the white board and drew the gallows and began placing the short lines below for my word.    The Europeans in the crowd started yelling at me.  “Mrs. Ralf!  That is not how you play Hangman!”

I stepped back and let them take over.  You see in Western Europe you don’t make a gallows.  You just draw the lines for the letters of your word.  With each guess, you then draw the gallows and eventually hang your man.  I asked the question why, but the 6th graders had no answers.  I figured that German and Dutch words could be quite long; therefore they need more chances for guessing.  Or are these cultures just much more peaceful?  No one wants his or her hangman to die.

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI made my most recent move to Frankfurt from Stuttgart because of workload.   I had 6 preps in Stuttgart and at one point traveled to 3 different rooms.  My office was nowhere near any of the rooms in which I taught.   It was a harried race for 4 years.  I loved my colleagues and students, but I loved my health, family, and sanity more.

When looking for a new school, I ask a lot of questions.  How many preps will I have?  How many classes a day?  What is the meeting/collaboration schedule like?  Do you meet with teams/departments after school or within the school day?  What are the expectations on teachers for duties beyond the classroom? (i.e. covering classes, hallway duty, clubs, etc.) When do most teachers go home after work? Not when are contracted hours, find out about the work culture of the school.  Do teachers bust out the minute the bell rings?  Or do they hang around to plan, collaborate, and work with students?  What is the change-over rate of the teachers?  Does the school value hiring families?

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

Rejuvenating, Creative, Innovative, Culturally Rich

Thanks Kathleen!  You can check our more about Kathleen at her blog.

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 get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in the Germany like Kathleen?  Currently, we have 39 international schools listed in Germany on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

• Berlin Brandenburg International School (11 Comments)

• Berlin British School (13 Comments)

Galileo Gymnasium (Germany) (11 Comments)

John F. Kennedy School Berlin (11 Comments)

Bonn International School (17 Comments)

International School Braunschweig (Wolfsburg) (19 Comments)

Dresden International School (15 Comments)

International School of Dusseldorf (22 Comments)

• Franconian International School (Erlangen) (13 Comments)

• Strothoff International School (27 Comments)

• Bavarian International School (30 Comments)

• International School Hamburg (14 Comments)

• International School of Stuttgart (24 Comments)

continue reading

Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #29: Melissa Pritchard (A teacher who has most recently taught at Benjamin Franklin International School)

November 1, 2013


Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Melissa Pritchard:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

1368634_10152010004753623_331690204_nI was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon in the Pacific Northwest.  I am one of five siblings and therefore always had an active childhood being outside, playing sports, and being social.  It has definitely influenced the adult I am today.  My parents decided to send us to a public school with a Spanish immersion program when we were young, and so from 1st to 12th grade, I did half my day in Spanish and also went to an IB diploma high school.

Learning a different language influenced my idea to travel abroad in college, and studied in both England and Spain during my Junior year.  I loved my experience so much I wanted to go back overseas, but also grow professionally.  I had studied art and design at Alfred University in New York, and wanted to continue with this.  I was awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship and was able to continue studying art and design in Barcelona.  My one year scholarship, turned into living abroad in Barcelona for 10 years.  I like to say that the novelty of living abroad never wore off.  There is so much to do and see living in Barcelona.  I started road cycling, running more competitively, and doing all sorts of outdoor activities in this beautiful and sunny region of Spain.  I also learned Catalan, and enjoyed being immersed in the culture.

I miss my family, but visit often and I still love Oregon.  It is an outdoor mecca, despite the rainy weather and we have a lot of great hiking, biking, and skiing.  I wanted to get out of Oregon as soon as I could and went to Western, New York for college, and never really returned to Oregon, except to do my Master’s in bilingual education at Oregon State University in 2007.

For the last seven years, I was teaching at The Benjamin Franklin International School (BFIS) in Barcelona.  I taught elementary art, second and fifth grade.1381001_10152010004763623_1816178198_n

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

I was studying contemporary jewelry design in Barcelona and doing private English classes in Barcelona.  I was interested in more stable work and noticed a lot of American English speaking kids on my bus ride to university in the morning.  I went and explored where they all were going one morning and stumbled across the school.  I started subbing there in all classrooms until a part time art position opened.  After working there for two years teaching art, I decided teaching was really for me and I went back to get my Master’s in bilingual education, but returned after completing my studies to be a homeroom elementary teacher.

I’ve really only worked at one international school and that was BFIS.  I have grown a lot professionally there and enjoyed collaborating with different grade level teams.  You have a lot of freedom to try out different teaching approaches at BFIS and colleagues are supportive and excited to collaborate.  The school is relatively small so the community is close and supportive.  In fact for a lot of the sport competitions I did, students and teachers came to support and cheer me on.  There is a great mix of ex-pat’s and locals and a diverse population.

Recently on my bike trip, I’ve seen a dozen different schools and I love seeing the way they work, their curriculum, and approach to learning.  It has been a unique experience to be a guest speaker and visitor at different international schools around the world.

Where are you currently teaching?

1387928_10152010004758623_1594569286_nGreat question.  I had reached a point in Barcelona where I was itching for a bit of change, and there were still some things I wanted to do out there in the world.

On August 23, I embarked on a bike journey to follow my dreams of cycling around the world.  I’m pedaling from Barcelona, Spain (my current home), to Oregon (my native home), on bike—the loong way.  I will pass through 4 continents, about 20 countries, and cycle approximately 30,000 kilometers during the next year.

My project, The Loong Way Home combines my passion to cycle, travel, and teach.  I believe there are a lot of other ways to contribute positively to a community without attaching a monetary value. Rather than raise money for a charity, I have decided to work and talk with students as I go cycling around the world as the “Teacher on 2 Wheels”.  This will be the first year that I don’t have my own classroom since I started teaching and the thought is daunting.  As much as I want to carry out my adventure, teaching fulfills me and it’s part of my identity.  Therefore, my adventure wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include some element of teaching.

During my trip, I will be posting my biking statistics, sharing data from my trip, and travel experiences.  Part of my website, www.theloongwayhome.com will be dedicated to documenting these school visits and interacting with the children using data I collect along my route and the bike as a topic of conversation.  My hope is that this section of my website can be used by teachers in their classroom in different subject areas to make more meaningful connections with learning in our everyday life.

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

On my bike, traveling alone as a female tour cyclist, I feel like I have cultural encounters every day. For instance, most people wouldn’t dare cycle on a toll road, right?  In developed countries, cyclists aren’t even allowed on these roads.  I tried to avoid them when I entered Albania, thinking they worked the same way as in other European countries.  I tried to avoid them at first and looked for an alternate route. However, their road system is so poorly developed that it isn’t worth taking a less main highway because they aren’t cared for in the least.  As I found myself merging onto the highway in Albania, there was a caution sign there for drivers to watch out for walkers, horse-drawn carriages, and of course cyclists, and although it had the toll road symbol, there weren’t any booths, nor were there painted road markers, and I saw everything from chickens and sheep, to donkeys, fishermen, and horse-drawn buggies.  Yet you look at the map of Albania, and it looks like an autobahn in Germany, it intimidates cyclists!1278343_10152010004768623_664840940_n

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

I feel like I’m at a point in my career where I am really excited to try a new teaching approach.  I’ve been doing a lot of research and incorporating inquiry-based learning into my teaching, and it will be important for me to seek out a school with this similar approach, whether or not it be an IB school with a PYP program.  Location is also key for me as I am such an active outdoorsy person.  I love being able to leave my front doorstep and access all sorts of running trails, paths, and city parks and quiet streets in Barcelona.  I need to be close to the mountains for hiking and winter sports, but also enjoy having sunny weather, regardless if it’s cold. I prefer smaller schools, but I’m open-minded about this as well.  I could go back to Barcelona, it feels like home, but, now more than ever, I realize there are so many different schools out there and places to explore, that I am open to the idea of changing location.

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

The novelty never wears off!

Thanks Melissa!

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 get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in Spain like Melissa?  Currently, we have 26 international schools listed in Spain on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

• American School of Barcelona (110 Comments)

• Benjamin Franklin Int’l School (49 Comments)

American School Madrid (20 Comments)

Sotogrande International School (6 Comments)

American School Valencia (21 Comments)

El Plantio International School Valencia (4 Comments)

continue reading