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International Teachers

The Best Ways to Support New Cultural Exchange Teachers: A Helpful Guide for School Leaders

As the first semester of this school year winds down, hundreds of Participate Learning’s initial-term Ambassador Teachers—talented, experienced educators from around the globe—are adjusting to living and working in the U.S. The first year is often challenging, but with the right support from the school community, teachers can adapt and thrive in their new environment.

As educational leaders, you recognize the transformative power of cultural exchange teachers in shaping a dynamic and globally minded school community. Keep reading for practical strategies to not only welcome but fully support Ambassador Teachers, ensuring they become vital members of their school community.

Provide ongoing support

Now that we are a few months into the school year, it’s a great time to check in with your Ambassador Teacher(s) and see how they are adjusting. Provide opportunities for them to ask questions about upcoming deadlines and testing, and ensure they understand what is expected for them to complete, access, or submit.

Encourage staff members or grade-level teams to join you in checking in with Ambassador Teachers during this time, too. Do they have the resources they need? What questions do they have? Check-ins like this will go a long way in making your international teachers feel welcomed and supported! 

Since adapting to a new culture often takes months, if not years, it’s important to recognize that Ambassador Teachers will likely experience culture shock at various levels. This is a totally normal experience, but the transition is eased with the right mindset and support. Your help makes a significant impact toward easing culture shock!

Provide practical items and supplies

Since Ambassador Teachers have been in the U.S. for a few months at this point in the academic year, their classrooms are likely set up and well-used by students. Even so, it’s a great idea to see if teachers still need any resources for their classroom or home. 

Since Ambassador Teachers arrive with just their suitcases, it takes a while to establish their new homes and classrooms. Do your staff or PTA members have any items they are preparing to donate or give away within your school community? Many partner schools set up drop-off stations or invite teachers and their families to collect items in their storage spaces.

Celebrate the cultures represented at your school

Cultural exchange teachers play a pivotal role in fostering a global perspective within their school community by sharing their rich cultural heritage with both staff and students. One effective way to achieve this is through interactive presentations or workshops highlighting key aspects of their country’s customs, traditions, and celebrations. 

For instance, teachers can organize engaging sessions to demonstrate traditional art forms, share stories from their homeland, or teach students basic phrases in their native language. Creating visually captivating displays in common areas, adorned with artifacts, photographs, and maps, provides a tangible representation of their culture, sparking curiosity and promoting cultural awareness. 

Moreover, incorporating diverse elements into classroom activities and lesson plans enables Ambassador Teachers to integrate their unique perspectives into the curriculum, enriching the educational experience for all. This also allows teachers to fulfill the U.S. Department of State’s requirement for them to complete at least one cultural activity and one virtual exchange each year of program participation.

By encouraging open dialogue and inviting questions, Ambassador Teachers create a welcoming space for students and staff to actively participate in the exchange of ideas and traditions, fostering an inclusive environment that celebrates the diversity within the school community.

Supporting new cultural exchange teachers

In providing this assistance, you are not only enriching the experiences of cultural exchange teachers, but also creating a school environment that prepares students for their future careers in an interconnected world. Let’s make inclusivity a cornerstone of our schools, fostering a community where every voice is heard and every culture is celebrated. 

If you are a Participate Learning partner host administrator, you can access support resources, such as the Top 10 Ways to Welcome Your Ambassador Teacher, an overview of the Ambassador Teacher experience, and details on the support we provide, through the Participate Learning Network: Partner Administrator community of practice. There, you can also participate in discussions with other administrators in our network. 

We’d love to hear about what you have tried, what has worked, and any new ideas you have to share. Highlight your efforts on social media by using the hashtag #UnitingOurWorld—your post will then show up in our thread and inspire your fellow administrators as they support their Ambassador Teachers, too!

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