International Educator | Author | Community Facilitator
I was raised in the UK, in a proud working-class family, where education never played an important part. I decided after college that I would fund myself through university, as I had a joy and passion for learning. Following this, I traveled and held down several unfulfilling jobs. The only highlight was teaching English in Japan. So, I returned to the UK to train to be a primary school teacher. However, following the training I quickly realized that teaching, in my home country, was highly stressful, pressured, and often didn’t afford the time to have the children as the main focus. As I had taught abroad before, the move to teach in an international school was a very logical move for me. This was twelve years ago and at that stage, I couldn’t quite imagine the opportunities I would experience as a teacher abroad would far outweigh what I could dream of at home.
In addition to traveling extensively, I also self-funded and completed a Master's in my field, I had the luxury of raising my daughter in her early years, and I set up my own business. After organizing parent community groups in Vietnam, there was a natural progression to support children in their first experiences in a learning environment. Being self-employed, spreading the vital message of play as a learning pedagogy and the importance of interactions between carers and their children, was highly fulfilling and rewarding. Giving back to my community was important, and I used a proportion of the money earned to support children who were victims of agent orange, holding a Christmas party for both them and their nurses.
I returned to full-time teaching in Taiwan when my daughter turned four years old. This was a huge shock to my system, I found I never had time to breathe. Juggling working full-time and raising a young child was by no means a walk in the park. However, as I began to better handle the workload and commitments of being back in an international school, Covid 19 hit the world. The world slowed down a little, as did I.
Without the ability to travel, I directed my energy back into something I considered worthwhile. I began to write again, starting with smaller publications then regularly writing for the Times Educational Supplement. Having my voice heard became addictive and so rewarding. I created my website and began to blog. I then thought about how I could help the teaching community. I set up a Facebook group, ‘New to International School Teachers’ as I wanted to support those who were having similar experiences as I once had in the UK but were scared to make the move internationally. Through this group, I identified that there was the need to support these teachers in a more in-depth way. Therefore, I wrote and self-published my own book on becoming an international teacher.
More recently, I have become involved in the education community further. I sought out podcasts to share my ideas on as a guest. In school, I led training on pedagogy and wellbeing for young children. I stepped up and presented my work in educational conferences and webinars. When I joined Twitter, I came across #WomenEd, an organization that inspires and supports teachers on their leadership journey. I have read a great deal on gender inequality, particularly in education. With two friends, I set up #WomenEd Taiwan, which has been well received by both local and expat teachers. We have met together as a strong force, supporting, and empowering one another, both face-to-face and via Zoom. These experiences have been humbling, therapeutic and empowering. I’m very excited to see where this will go.
What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?
Honestly, being too humble, naturally introverted and a little shy. I have always been that person to empower others, especially the children I teach. But, until quite recently, I found it difficult to step into the limelight and spread my ideas and vision. However, in this past year, I have experienced a huge personal change. Having others’ review and applaud my work, connect with me, and support me, has changed my mindset. I have begun to believe in myself and become the role model I want my daughter to see. My strength continues to build, and I now am unafraid to challenge, promote my ideas and, best of all, cause ‘good trouble’.
What are the books you are currently reading?
I am currently reading Vivienne Porritt and Keziah Featherstone (Eds) ‘10% Braver: Inspiring Women to Lead in Education’, Dr. Mine Conkbayir’s Early Childhood and Neuroscience: Theory, Research, and Implications for Practice and ‘A Sliver of Light’ by Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and Sarah Shourd.
What advice would you give to youth or talents locally or internationally?
When you are knowledgeable in your field, believe in yourself and share your ideas, words, and vision. Only take criticism from those who you respect. So many people are not authentic, and they rise to the top when they shouldn’t. Those who are perfectionists, humble and quiet can lose opportunities when they fear they are not good enough. Don’t be that person, you deserve it both for yourself and to empower your community.
Facebook Page/Group: New to International Schools Teachers