January 30, 2023

Teaching: A World View

Perspectives: What Florida teachers have learned teaching abroad

Jason Garcia | 5/28/2019

“It was just amazing to be there. It’s everything American schools are not," says Kerryane Monahan. "They have 60, 70 students in their classes that are in a thatched-roof, cinderblock structure with no power, and all the kids are quiet and looking straight ahead, and you’re like why do we struggle?

They don’t have any technology. It’s not like they have Babbel and Rosetta Stone. I was blown away by their English.

They’re highly motivated. I think they understand education is one of the only opportunities they have, in a fundamental way, to change the way they live. Some kids live five or 10 miles away. They sleep in the school yard at night. One day we had to close school because there were too many snakes in the roof.

But less than 50% will make it to high school. They’re not learning to think. They’re not learning to be creative. They’re not learning to write. Their sole objective is to memorize a few facts and spit them out again. I think what sets us apart is our ability to develop creative and innovate students, students who do think outside the box and are willing to take risks and are willing to find solutions that seem insurmountable when you first look at them.”

Jacqueline Carrero's observation: “Students displayed genuine respect for their teachers. Students greeted their teachers in the beginning of class and sang/chanted to their teachers when the bell rang. It is part of their culture to have reverence for adults and seniors. The school campus was immaculate because students did not litter and picked up after themselves. I visited President Obama’s childhood elementary school. They have a photo of President Obama inside the school and a statue of him as a child displayed in the exterior courtyard.” — Mike Vogel

Maria Eugenia Zelaya's observation: “We teach only in our subject areas. They (teachers there) have to be class coordinators. They also have to be guidance counselors. Talking to them, they have a lot more responsibilities. They’re passionate. They care for their students. With very little resources, they do a lot.

The whole experience gave me an opportunity to open this door for my students to connect with theirs. We try to do letters — just regular pen pals. If I’m doing a lesson on fairs and festivals, their kids will try to do mini presentations on their festivals in English. And we’ll do presentations on festivals in Florida but in Spanish.”

In Brazil, Suzanne Banas visited a private school system of about a dozen schools, some in strip shopping centers, founded by teachers to focus on foreign-language training. “It was a big deal. These teachers wanted to be teachers. They don’t get paid very well. So teachers started a co-op school for foreign language. They all cared about creating a better school because the public school wasn’t good enough. You had to be a good enough teacher. Students had to want to come to the class. It was a whole different attitude of teachers. They wanted to soak up and learn things.”


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