Exchange Teaching: A Year You Will Never Forget

Carol Wilkins

The Canadian Education Exchange Foundation (ceef), under a mandate from the Ministry of Education, arranges and facilitates international and inter-provincial exchanges for Ontario and British Columbia teachers and students. This not-for-profit foundation is dedicated to fostering global perspectives by providing opportunities for elementary and secondary school educators and students to live, work or attend school in another country CEEF believes that exchanges increase vision, nurture respect, tolerance and appreciation of diversity, and create world partnerships, one person at a time.

While our teachers are away, some write wonderful letters back to us. They deserve to be shared. I hope you enjoy these excerpts and will be inspired to consider a teaching exchange at some point in your own career.

Sylvain Milhomme

A teacher at Gledhill Junior Public School, Toronto, currently on exchange in Switzerland

Sylvain had little or no interest in a European placement and was initially reluctant to even consider it. The following message, written on a postcard that shows a beautiful mountain path near Grindewald, told us how he was enjoying the experience.

“This is what I do a lot here, mountain hiking. I try to go most weekends. I absolutely love it here! Fm having the time of my life. I cant believe I ever hesitated about accepting Switzerlandfor an exchange. Its all going so well its almost too good to be true. School is great, students and colleagues are fantastic. I really dont feel overwhelmed by the workload and the teaching practices here. The staff is very supportive and giving. A great bunch. I’ve also met some really nice people and Tm developing some goodfiiendships. Only one problem — will I want to come back?”

Diane Wade
Upper Canada

Letters from Australia’s Northern Territory (Down Under)

From January to December 2000, Diane Wade, a teacher (now retired) at Morewood Public School, was on exchange at the Katherine School of the Air in Australia’s Northern Territory Along with superior teaching credentials, this school demands that educators be able to drive a standard four-wheel-drive heavy vehicle, change a tire and be comfortable with flying in light planes. Diane wrote long, detailed and reflective letters with pictures.

“My husband Dave and I arrived January 14, 2000, to temperatures in the low 30s. We landed in Darwin and walked along the water, eventually the Tacific, and marvelled at its size as it took us 17 hours flying 1000 km/hr to cross it. We stayed in Darwin a couple of days before travelling by bus to Katherine, N. T. Katherine is what I would call the subtropics and is surrounded by all the natural beauty you could imagine. It is truly a beautiful place this time of the year. Everything is a lush green and all the trees seem to have lovely fragrant flowers. The temperature hovers between 28C and 35c, but it is not a problem as everything is air-conditioned. Actually, to walk out in the heat during the day envelops one in a cuddly type of warmth.

School of the Air is unusual because of the lack of bodies in your classroom. They are all out there though, and we talk with them by phone and by radio transmitter. Each teacher has a cluster of students, across age groups, from the same area. We talk to the group ‘on air weekly and visit with them when we go on patrol. There are also two peer teachers assigned to each year level. The peer teachers have lessons with their year levels for half an hour on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

My peer level is Transition, which is senior kindergarten. I talk with them at 11:30. Today we will make a story map of The Three Little Tigs. It is all very exciting.
Tve just returned from my first overnight patrol, and Tm so excited that I must tell all. On Monday my partner and I loaded school work, games, art supplies, story books, developmental records, swags and overnight bags in a School of the Air, N.T. government 4W drive vehicle and drove 110 km to my first student.

We were welcomed by Bradley, a delighful four-year-old, as well as his Mom, who acted as his home tutor. In his classroom, Bradley enthusiastically demonstrated his favourite computer programs. Later we read a story, planted some beans in a glass jar to observe, set up a recording chart and painted a picture. Bradleys picture of Jack was right on queue, with a head, two arms and two legs. He was beginning to show interest in printed words and copied his name car fully onto his painting. Meanwhile, my partner consulted with his Mom and ticked off developmental milestones on Bradleys developmental continuum.

When we arrived to visit Dean, he was busy helping his dad grade a fence line. Deans mother tutors him at home, so while we waited, she helped us determine progress on the reading, writing and spelling developmental continuums. It also gave us time to admire the flowers, shrubs and 183 palm trees they had planted.
Father and son arrived home reporting that they had levelled out and prepared 15 km of fence line. Dean immediately showered and was ready for school. Ever the slave driver, I was determined to test spelling, reading and math on my visit so that I could identify any problem areas and match needs to materials I would send him. Dean was a real trooper, and over the evening and next day, he did everything I asked fhim.

Tomorrow I will begin to write up reports for each child we visited on patrol, noting progress and making recommendations.”

Carolyn Free Donald
Kawartha Pine Ridge

Waterford County Republic of Ireland

Carolyn Free Donald, a teacher at Havelock Belmont Public School, participated in the 1999-2000 pilot exchange with the Republic of Ireland. She was situated in Waterford County and explored and experienced Ireland with gusto. She is hoping for another exchange in the coming year.

“We have had a brilliant time exploring our home village of Dunmore East — the castle, ruins, abbeys, churches and villages of the surrounding area. I am enjoying Johns lovely home and the support of his many friends, teaching colleagues and family members who have made us feel so welcome.

I am teaching III and IV pupils at Passage East National School.

I teach language arts to the I and II class while Phil has my students for Irish, and I teach science and music to the V and VI class while Ann teaches religion to my pupils.
My son Michael is doing well in fifth class atWaterpark College. He is playing on the schools rugby team and is a member of the debating team. My family and I are loving every minute of our time here — and everything is dfferentfrom Canada —from the newspapers, television shows, radio, groceries and shops to driving on the If hand side cf the road to the expressions people use!

I buy at the local fish auction each week, walk the beach on my way home from school and visit with thatchers, oysterfishermen and greyhound dog owners who live and work in Wateford County.

I enthusiastically encourage Canadian and Irish teachers to take part in this program. Its fantastic!

We at CEEF love the letters and probably live somewhat vicariously through them. If you would enjoy a unique year cf adventure, both professionally and personally, call the Canadian Education Exchange Foundation (CEEF) at 705-739-7596 or visit our website at www.cef.ca for more information.

Canadian teachers exchanging with colleagues overseas through the CEEF maintain all the provisions of their current collective agreements, including salary and benfits. There is a direct exchange of homes and teaching positions.

Time to Volunteer Overseas?

The August/September 2001 issue of the Canadian bimonthly magazine Outpost — The Travellers Journal www.outpostmagazine.com has lots of suggestions for those who wish to volunteer abroad. Here are some of the resources it suggests.

Action Without Borders
More than 5,000 volunteer opportunities are posted on the site. Search by country, area of focus or by personal skill.

Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Services
CCIVS is a coordinating body for 140 member organizations. Publications, including the Volunteer’s Handbook, can be ordered online.

Energize Inc — This international training, consulting and publishing firm specializes in volunteerism. The site offers everything from a bookstore to a job bank.

International Volunteer Programs Association
www.volunteerinternational .org. Alliance of non-profit, non-governmental organizations based in the Americas. Search by country, region, type of work and project duration. Receive bi-monthly e-mail updates.

The International Year of Volunteers
This site contains a searchable database of thousands of volunteer opportunities, as well as an online magazine.

Service Leader
Resources for everything from preparing for an overseas assignment to what costs incurred while volunteering might be tax-deductible.

Volunteer Canada

Volunteer Opportunities Exchange
A website for Canadians who want to volunteer in Canada and abroad.