At Participate Learning, we are fortunate to have a vast and supportive network of ambassador teacher alumni who maintain their connections with us long beyond their tenure as cultural exchange teachers in the United States. The impact they have on their students, schools, local communities, and the Participate Learning family is long lasting as their experiences and expertise guide the next generation of ambassador teachers as they begin their own journeys.
Some of our alumni eventually transition into roles as full-time staff members in our office, offering both their professional knowledge and firsthand experiences to their departments, which helps us in best supporting our ambassador teachers through all parts of the cultural exchange process, from their applications to onboarding to teaching. Through conversations with some of these invaluable members of our team, we have rounded up their words of wisdom as a way to inspire our current ambassador teachers as they embark on their own ambassador teacher voyages.
Knowing what you know now, what is something you wish you knew before entering your first year as an ambassador teacher? What advice would you give yourself?
Many of our alumni expressed the challenges associated with the initial transition to teaching in a foreign country. For most ambassador teachers, there is an adjustment period as they acclimate to a new school and country. It is important to just take one day at a time and understand that you are capable of anything you set your mind to. Make sure to give yourself grace, and learn from every teachable moment. You are here for a reason!
“Everyone struggles to adjust in the first few months. Allow yourself time to settle in. After that, things get better and better. Spend a lot of time listening to the people around you at your school. There is so much to learn as a teacher from another country.” —Jeff Seaby
Our staff alumni also highlighted the importance of keeping an open mind and soaking up every experience as you go along your journey. Lean on fellow ambassador teachers, local advisers, and other teachers at your school for support as you build a foundation in your new area. By the time you leave, the relationships that you built will feel like family and you will be grateful for putting in the initial effort to form a network.
“Pack lightly, but make sure to bring many materials and resources from your country that you can’t find in the U.S. Be open-minded, adaptable, willing to learn, and meet new people!” —Silvia Scorza
Did you receive any advice during your ambassador teacher journey that was impactful to you?
When beginning a job in a new culture, listening and learning from those that have experience in these settings can be particularly helpful when figuring out how to meld your own approaches with that of the host culture. Start conversations with leadership in your school, and seek out meaningful, applicable feedback so that you can be the best educator possible for yourself and for your students.
“My principal was sensitive about my needs as an international educator and helped me find people in the school that could support me in different ways. The advice that was most meaningful was honest, well-intentioned (for growth), and was accompanied by a good deal of support. The advice is only effective, however, if it is met with a desire to improve and stick it out. I think understanding teachers’ motivations and values for participation and aligning with them is necessary.” —Kevin Smith
As you begin to understand cultural differences in the United States, approach them openly and nonjudgmentally. This can be a great learning experience as you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and see the world from a new perspective. Your influence will also shape those around you, so be bold and share your culture with others in your community so that their world begins to open, too.
“During my orientation week in August of 1999, David Young addressed our group and advised us to keep this in mind, ‘It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different!’ Whether we were figuring out our new curriculum, classroom management approaches, cultural differences, or any other unfamiliar aspect of our life in the U.S., he encouraged us to avoid comparisons, to approach all of the newness with an open mind, and to embrace and enjoy the differences.” —Michelle Macumber
Are there any words of wisdom you would like to give current ambassador teachers?
You have been chosen for this opportunity because you are capable of achieving great things and teaching others more about the world outside of their local areas. As you challenge your own biases, you will also be encouraging others to do the same. Use this unique opportunity to build global competencies like empathy, curiosity, and compassion in those around you, and enjoy yourself.
“Students, parents, and coworkers will love to learn from your country, your culture, and your traditions. Enjoy the experience, learn as much as you can, be open-minded, and try new teaching styles and strategies. When you get out of your comfort zone, you find out all the things that you can do.” —Maria Raynor
The efforts that go into being an ambassador teacher are no small feat, but the rewards are so great. You will learn more about yourself and the world around you than you thought was ever possible. Embrace every opportunity that comes your way, make as many connections as you can, and remember your why behind becoming an ambassador teacher. Your work is an integral part as we work toward uniting our world!
“Enjoy the ride. This ride might bring ups and downs, but that is what allows you to grow. This experience is all about uniting our world through global learning, and the best way to do that is by sharing your culture while also getting to know and enjoy the new one.” —Rocio Evans
At Participate Learning, we are grateful for the lasting impact of our ambassador teachers on their communities in the United States. For more information on how you can create life-changing educational experiences, too, check out our web page. Are you an alumn who wants to share advice with current ambassador teachers? Tag us on Twitter @ParticipateLrng or using the hashtag #unitingourworld.