Recruiting foreign missionary teachers for our school is a challenge that I enjoy. Who wouldn’t like talking about all the wonderful things about ECA and about what God has done and is doing?
I am convinced it is important to paint a realistic picture of what it means to serve at ECA and to make sure that perspective staff understand some of the challenges they will face: traffic is time-consuming, big cities in another culture can be tiring, learning a new language and living in a foreign culture can be tough, teaching in a school with a US and Colombian curriculum requires flexibility, and the first year of teaching is not easy, for example. But though those and other issues are not always easy to deal with, they do not cloud over the reality that investing a year or more at ECA is definitely worthwhile.
Looking for teachers
In October, I participated in several recruiting fairs and spoke with education students at over ten different colleges or universities in seven different states or provinces: IL, IA, MI, IN, NC, VA and Ontario, Canada.
I shared about the great need for Christian teachers (over 500 openings for 2019-20 in Christian international schools). Need alone is not a reason to teach overseas, but it is a compelling factor to at least consider using one’s training to have an impact in an international setting.
Why an overseas experience?
Some of the reasons for considering an overseas experience, especially in a Christian international school, that I touched on in my talks and interviews included:
- Traveling makes you a better teacher, since you experience new places, habitats, customs, foods, and ideas that enrich and stretch you, and that you can then share with your students, being their eyes and ears into new cultures and places
- Working with an international, diverse peer group enhances your perspectives and skill sets as an educator
- Practicing ESL skills regularly prepares you to work with ESL students in your future classrooms
- Being exposed to a variety of cultures, both with your students and their families, and with teammates, pushes you to be more sensitive and effective as a teacher
- Learning another language is a process that helps you to be a better teacher
- Living in a culture where you will be in the minority helps you be more sensitive to minority students you teach
- Being in a school setting that is set up to support beginning teachers means that there are infrastructures and processes in place to ensure success, both in school and in a new living situation.
This includes peer mentors, frequent meetings with supervisors, lots of observations and feedback, cultural orientation, professional input focused on topics for new teachers from assigned readings, meetings and discussions, support during emergencies or new situations, etc.
- Having a strong impact immediately on the student body, as you teach and disciple in English, without the lag time of needing to learn another language well allows you to have a fulfilling ministry right away
- Stepping out of your comfort zone forces you to grow spiritually and to trust God more
- Living in an interdependent international world teaches you about living in community
- Working with missionaries and living on a mission field gives you insights about praying for other missionaries, supporting missionaries, and helping your church community better engage in and actively support the mission movement.
But even though this time of sharing about ECA was a rich time of motivating students who are studying to be teachers to consider overseas teaching, God is the one who needs to move each one in this direction.
My enthusiasm and persuasive abilities are of no use if God does not lead and guide our future staff members to invest their lives in our students!