To say that doing a teacher exchange is a magnificent experience is an understatement. Since my wife and I decided to explore this option several years ago it has been an amazing adventure into the unknown.
While teaching is both familiar and different simultaneously, it is the opportunities to explore a new country or two that makes it just wonderful.
Although I was contracted to start teaching at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, Kanata, on 31 January 2018, we flew into Los Angeles on 31 December 2017. My wife and I had previously discussed doing a west coast USA/Canadian tour.
As such, we spent time exploring Los Angeles and San Francisco, including visiting Griffith Park Planetarium, Warner Bros Studios, Venus Beach, La Brea Tar Pits, Hearst Castle, Santa Monica Beach, Yosemite National Park and the Golden Gate Bridge.
On 8 January we flew to Calgary to start the Canadian leg of our holiday, which involved stays at Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, Whistler, White Horse in the Yukon and Vancouver.
Dogs, horses, snow shoes
We walked the Johnson Canyon, Banff, in -28 Celsius, took a dog sled ride in Jasper, a horse sleigh ride at Lake Louise, a night time snowcat ride in Whistler to the top of a mountain for a fondue meal, snow shoeing and staying up to see the Aurora Borealis on Tagish Lake, Whitehorse, in -23 C temps at 2am (not to mention a perfectly clear view of the Milky Way), a foodie tour of Granville Island Markets, Vancouver, as well as many other little walks and trips around that allowed us to see as much as we could.
Since arriving in Ottawa, I have been busy adjusting my mindset to teaching in a Canadian high school, and especially teaching Grade 9 and 10 students. I’ve found this quite challenging, but also rewarding, as the kids here have been great and the support from the teaching, admin and management staff has been outstanding.
But that does not mean we haven’t been able to include some other adventures, with trips to Montreal, New York City and Niagara Falls to name some of our recent highlights, as well as trips around the Ottawa area to take in the local sights, such as the Tulip Festival at Dow’s Lake.
The Canadian League for Educator Exchange organisation conducted two days of professional development recently, that included a reception by the Australian High Commissioner Natasha Smith (pictured above), which was a highlight on the social side of things for my wife and me. We were lucky to feature prominently in the three pictures on the High Commission’s Facebook page, which we were rather chuffed about. The High Commissioner was a charming, eloquent, generous and engaging host, which really made the Australian exchange teachers and family feel at home and valued as ‘unofficial ambassadors’, in Canada. You are only on exchange for a year, so you should make the most of every opportunity that presents itself.
I have been inspired by some of the approaches taken by the English staff here and have already considered how I’ll incorporate them when I return to Australia.
I would thoroughly recommend a teacher from either country seriously considering taking on an exchange. Yes, there is a lot of paper work and toing and froing involved in organising your exchange, but all that quickly fades into the background once you arrive and take on the many wonderful experiences working and living in a foreign country has to offer you.
As the Nike ad says: Just do it!
Richard Murray is on exchange from St Mary’s Senior Campus, Maitland, NSW, to Holy Trinity Catholic High School, Kanata, Ontario