Those teachers lucky enough to have landed an exchange position for 2019 gathered together in September at the Teacher Exchange Conference to swap notes and get advice on living and teaching overseas.
This year IEU is sending 16 NSW/ACT Branch teachers to Canada. There are no UK or USA exchanges. Two IEU WA members are also heading to Canada.
Destinations include Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick, and subjects being taught by high school teachers include PE, Science, Industrial Technology and English, with eight positions for primary teachers.
During the conference, teachers learned about teaching in Canada, dealing with the weather, tax and other logistical issues and they swap details with their fellow exchangees.
No stranger to exchange, Canadian Colin Tinga was on hand to give some useful advice on what to expect in Canada.
From British Columbia, Tinga is on his second exchange to Australia at the same school and with the same teacher. He swapped his PE role with Mark Steele at Central Coast Grammar School in 20143, and again this year.
Tinga said the first time he came on exchange he sat back a little, learning the ropes about how the department was run, how assessments were carried out and how scheduling was approached.
This time round Tinga said he felt more confident to get involved, as he is head of the athletics department in Canada. He’s been contributing ideas about how to approach excursions and events and structure assessments.
“The whole exchange process is professional development as soon as you apply. How you approach the kids and interact with them is the same in both countries, but how the learning experience is structured, how it is assessed, that is new experience,” he said.
And Mark Steele, Colin’s exchange partner, concurs!
‘If you had an opportunity to repeat one of your life's best experiences, would you? For sure, so for me that was exactly the case of my second exchange to Canada.
I had been home for four years from my previous exchange in 2013. Constant memories of my time away on Vancouver Island (Comox Valley) would occupy my thoughts, particularly the mental list I made myself of the things I would do if I ever returned. I had to go back.
"So the logistics began. First the discussions with my wife, sort the family, permission form my Headmaster and support from some key work school colleagues - they were all green lights.
It’s a year ahead plan and there is rarely a perfect time to go. A second exchange is not uncommon, but one with the exact same school and family is. The advantages are many.
"Professionally, it was nowhere near as daunting as the first time. I can clearly remember my first steps into my new school in Canada. I knew no one, no one knew me, I had no knowledge of the school’s policies/processes and I was surrounded by all these students not in uniform! I was totally out of my comfort zone.
Initially you have some stumbles, but you soon find your feet. However, the second time around I was off and running pretty much from the start. With more certainty comes more confidence.
It was pretty much different compared to my first time around. The staff knew me, I knew them and so did many of the students. My now Year 12 students were once my Year 8 students. Quite a few of my new students mentioned to me that I taught their older brother/sister.
They were all positive mentions that helped support my teaching confidence away from home. As a consequence, I did more things like being the sole teacher/manager on a two day/night stay over in Vancouver with the Track and Field team during the Provincial competition.
I also travelled away on a number of occasions with the two various soccer teams I coached. In a subject specific manner, I was able to make a contribution to the implementation of the classroom content that has now made its way into the British Columbia PEH curriculum. It is also interesting to see how schools in other countries deal with the same issues we do, but with a different systems and philosophies.
"Exchange travel opportunities abound. Being in BC gives you the opportunity to travel to destinations that perhaps you would not when you live in Australia.
"America is so close. Fly to New York and shop on 5th Avenue, Spring break in Cuba, Trek Yosemite, listen to some Blues in Memphis or Christmas in Vale. In Canada, travel is also quite diverse. The Canadian mother nature will light up your senses. The salmon run in the local rivers, bald headed eagles soaring overhead of your PE class, deer in the street, a bear in the forest, Orcas in the bay, skiing through the trees at the local resort, a walk through that great Canadian forest – so much to do.
"I am working through my list. Unfortunately at the same time, I am creating a new one."
Anyone interested in applying for exchange in 2020 should contact Exchange Coordinator Helen Gregory: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications are now being accepted.