Here we go again.
For the fourth time in my life, I am embarking on a new journey at a new school in a new country.
My latest venture will take me across the Atlantic to the port city of Casablanca in Morocco, where I will lead students from all over the world at George Washington Academy as an Early Childhood teacher. Full disclosure: I have never been to Africa. Nor have I ever traveled to a predominantly Muslim country. I don't speak French or Arabic, let alone Darija, the local dialect. It's fair to say that I know very little about the experience I am walking into, but I like to think of that as a good thing.
Over the last four years, I've learned the key to facing new teaching challenges and growing as an educator is to approach every opportunity with humility, positivity, and an open mind.
Are you embarking on a new adventure this year? Here's my advice on how you can best prepare for the opportunity and face this school year stronger than ever.
When you know that you know nothing, you will not assume anything. Whether we're talking about parental involvement, administrative expectations, student ability, or community support, assumptions in teaching can be dangerous. My advice? Just for the moment, pretend to be like me: a stranger in a strange land. When you assume nothing, you will be more open, more observant, and more ready to greet the year right.
Do Your Research
New school? New grade level? New students and families? Every year brings something new, no matter how experienced you are. With that in mind, you need to do your digging! Learn about your surroundings. Research the school’s resources, the community’s demographics, and the grade level’s expectations. Talk to teachers that came before you (though you shouldn't take what they say as gospel). More information is always better, but it is especially helpful in a new situation.
Prepare for All Possibilities
I could write a book (or at least a lengthy blog article!) about the many unexpected things that have happened while I was teaching abroad. I have been lost on country roads trying to find my school, thrust into athletic activities conducted in a language I did not speak, and dunked in mud during a class excursion to a traditional Thai farm. The aforementioned research makes a big impact on preparedness, but you cannot–I repeat cannot–predict everything. Be ready for the unexpected to happen. And, knowing that it will, be sure to...
Create a Safety Net
There is nothing wrong with needing help from time to time. Even the most experienced teachers do! As you are preparing for a new year and assessing the situation, take the time to consider where to get help when you need it. Look into your school’s system for coaching and assisting teachers. Be sure you know who to go to. Throw together a document on your computer or jot down the following in a notepad: who to go to with each possible issue, how to contact them, and what support they can provide. Knowing how to get the support you need is half the battle!
New adventures, large or small, are equally exciting and daunting. Arm yourself as best you can, be prepared to be unprepared, and trust yourself and your skills. You can do it!