A Christmas party where reading
homework was used for a "snowball fight"!
7th Grade Generalist (all the subjects)
(Profiled: February 2014)
What are the challenges and rewards of
teaching and living in another
A former Grove City grad works for the same district and recommended
applying for an open position. I also attended the PERC Job Fair
and learned there about all the benefits!
I had three requirements for my first job out of college:
1) It had to pay enough for me to pay off my school loans within 3 years.
2) It had to be in a rough place where there was a need for quality
also loving teacher.
3) It had to be in a country or state where people from college or my
would look at me and say, "You work WHERE??!?"
St. Michael, Alaska, and the Bering Strait School District meet all three
of those requirements, so I accepted the position!
My relationships with my colleagues and my relationships with my students
have unquestionably been the most gratifying aspects. Since St. Michael is
a tiny village in bush Alaska (450 people total, and accessible only by
bush plane), I can't just hop over to a nearby restaurant to meet people
or unwind after a rough day - there are no restaurants, and I already know
everyone! Our teaching community is really tight-knit because of that,
which has been my saving grace. And I love my students dearly; they're the
reason I'm here!
The biggest challenge has been balancing a work life with a social life.
Since there aren't any outside forms of entertainment in St. Michael - no
stores, no fast food, no restaurants, no coffee shops, nothing - it's easy
to stay in my classroom until 10, 11, or 12 every night, trying to keep
ahead of all the planning, grading, prepping, and office work that goes
along with being the teacher. I want to do my best for my kids, which
means I have to plan a set time and tell myself, "This is when you're
going home, finished or not." Accepting the fact that I can't always get
everything done was (and still is) really hard.
My professors did an excellent job in giving me the tools and training I
needed to prepare engaging, informative lessons with a variety of
activities, and to take care of the paperwork aspect - making a syllabus,
planning for the year, etc. I also attended a lot of the KDP workshops and
learned about things like newsletters for parents, classroom discipline,
and other necessary aspects of being a teacher that aren't traditionally
taught in the classroom. Everything that I learned at GCC was one less
skill set I had to learn in the hectic chaos that being a new teacher is,
and I'm grateful for the thoroughness with which my professors and
advisors trained me.
I would advise current pre-service teachers to take as many notes as they
can in class, about whatever they can, and keep them organized! I can't
tell you how many times I've thought, "Shoot, I know that we talked about
this in Blackburn's class, and I remember writing it down... now where did
I put that notebook?? Is it still back home?" The work that you're doing
now is your prep work for the future - and the more prepared you are now,
the better you'll be when you get out here.
I would recommend holding out for that position you REALLY want. Don't
accept a job just because it's a job, even for the sake of getting
experience - that's a good way to be miserable. Wait for a job that you
KNOW you're going to love and be motivated to work your hardest for,
because it's incredibly hard to motivate yourself to keep on top of
everything if you don't love what you're doing.
St. Michael isn't technically an international school, but it qualifies as
another culture - none of my students are white. They are all Yup'ik
Eskimo, Inupiaq Eskimo, or Athabascan.
In my opinion, the most challenging part of teaching in another culture is
recognizing which aspects of your students' behavior is a direct result of
that culture, and trying to appreciate and affirm it, even if you may
disagree with it. I have a strong personal sense of rightness, e.g.
there's a right way to speak, and a right way to write, and a right way to
treat other people. In some cases my beliefs are cultural, and in others I
believe they're more universally transcendent. It's hard to argue against,
culture, though," especially since I
don't fully understand or recognize the culture yet. That challenge is
actually part of the reward, though - getting to interact with a new
culture and try to understand it can be frustrating, but ultimately
rewarding as different aspects of it begin to piece together into a
coherent whole. Another rewarding part of it is the opportunity to try new
experiences - new foods (whale blubber, seal meat, Eskimo ice cream,
moose, caribou, salmonberries), a new language, new skills (making my own
skin & fur hat, making a traditional Yup'ik kuspuk), and the opportunity
to see people interacting with each other in a new way (village basketball
tournaments, Eskimo dancing, a Yup'ik funeral). Every time we interact
with another person there's an opportunity to grow, learn, and become a
better person; when that other person has a completely different worldview
than I do, my opportunities to gain wisdom, love, and grace increase
exponentially, as do my opportunities to wrestle with the big questions in
to Alumni Profiles