Teachers always seem to attract other teachers… it’s like we have an internal magnet that brings us all together in strange places.
My first stop on my ridiculous journey was Brussels, Belgium where I met C who is a teacher in Jamaica. C who looks like she is in her 20’s but is actually a decade older and who works with children and adults in order to improve their lives and livelihood in Jamaica (not the whole of Jamaica… she would be far too busy to be vacationing in Europe)
Now when most people think of Jamaica they imagine sun, sea, sand, cruise ships, coconuts and luxurious food. Which is correct if you’re on holiday in Jamaica, but the reality for the people who live there is quite different. Now, nobody is saying that the life there is the exact opposite to what we initially imagine, but it is eye opening to what SOME of the people have to go through.
Like SOME other countries the gap between the rich and poor is huge. A few people label themselves “middle class” but all that means is that they aren’t poverty stricken or ridiculously rich… they just get by from working and paying bills, making ends meet and saving a small amount each month, or in some places it means you have a degree and some sort of career. Either way the terminology is archaic and meaningless.
But what struck me most about C is that regardless of what she deals with day in and day out at work, knowing what she does, admitting that the pay isn’t the best, knowing that whilst she is away for a short period of time on holiday she will have to go back to dealing with the realities of life that her students have to deal with. These realities that I find difficult to process because even now if one of my pupils go through hardship I take it home with me and try my best to process it emotionally. It’s C’s strength of character and resilience that she has built that makes her a fantastic role model for these students. It’s this resilience that we so definitely need to be teaching our own children.
… and as C and I discuss the different teaching styles from Jamaica, UK and Australia we both get a rude awakening to the education system in South Korea and Taiwan from our dorm room friend S who is on a university semester exchange… Aye Carumba!! Anybody want to attend school from 7am-7pm and then attend an after school programme for tuition and exam practice until 11pm? Where teachers then put paper up on the windows to block the light so that people don’t know that children are still studying. (This is not representative of the whole of South Korea and Taiwan, just personal accounts)
We often complain about the hours we all work but imagine a world where teachers advertise themselves on buses and billboards promoting their pupils’ academic achievements in order to gain more pupils and further increase their income.
It really isn’t a wonder why so many students choose to do a semester exchange in Europe. It's a welcomed holiday!