I was once a traveling teacher. For ten months out of the year in the States, I answered to the name "Ms. Walker." Standing in front of my overcrowded classroom of middle school students in Washington Heights, Spanish Harlem, then Crown Heights Brooklyn, I was that teacher who taught Shakespeare and shared the poems of Sylvia Plath, Amiri Baraka, Joy Harjo and Edgar Allen Poe with seventh graders. I was the teacher who stayed after school to direct plays I had written specifically for my students; the one who arranged field trips to the Museum of Natural History to conduct Sci-Fi Creative Writing labs. I was the teacher who took her students to Washington Square Park, to simply splash around in the fountain and relax on the lawn with a good book.
I was also that teacher who had been called every inventive (or not so inventive) name in the book. A teacher who had broken up fights between gang members, had erasers and books thrown at her, and had conducted conferences with parents still coming down off of their crack highs.
Teaching is not a profession for the faint of heart. The Kings and Queens of mini-countries, at times in varying stages of revolt, teachers, are prone to burnout. The burnout usually doesn't result from the art of teaching itself, but the task of management and politics, dealing with administration and parents.
My solution for burnout was simple. I got out.
Throughout the world, there are students, eager for a chance to learn. Instead of teaching summer school in New York, I opted to teach while traveling, in turn, I became a traveling teacher.
I met other traveling teachers, who were out to re-set during the summer while volunteering to teach classes in this school or that, this orphanage or that. There is a great big network of traveling teachers, some who have made the choice to re-set for the summer, a semester, a year, and sometimes two.
Here are some organizations that can help alleviate your teacher burn-out while allowing you to continue doing great things for children around the world.
- The Institute for International Cooperation and Development- With programs ranging from six months to a year, you can take a break, do some good and see the world. IICD, sends teachers to Africa and South America. This is a paid position.
- Cosmic Volunteers- sends teachers to Africa, Southern Asia and South East Asia to work in schools and orphanages, with contracts ranging from two weeks to six months.
- I-to-I -teachers can work in Asia, South America and Africa on contracts ranging from a few weeks to a year.
- Global Volunteer Network- places teachers in Africa, South America and South Asia for a few weeks to a few months.
- The Peace Corps- sends teachers to Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia on a two year contract (plus a few months to train). Peace Corps Volunteers receive a stipend for their work.
- The Jet Program- sends teachers to Japan on one year teaching contracts. This is a paid position.
- Council of International Schools- is an international teacher recruitment agency that helps teachers find paid full-term positions in schools abroad.
*Note: a TOEFL certificate or a CELTA certificate are not necessary depending on your resume and where you want to go. I have had three international teaching placements and have never taken one of these courses. My Master's Degree in English plus my NYC Teaching Certification were more than enough to qualify me to teach abroad.
** It is extremely rare to run into the discipline problems teachers in the United States deal with.
"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Mohatma Gandhi