Teacher exchange – why not?

So people have asked why a teacher exchange? Well why not! It all started when a teacher from another school told me about his experiences on exchange a few years back and it got me interested so I went home and asked my husband what he thought about us doing one. His response was ‘why not’.

That was January 2014, when school started back I approached my principal and she was very supportive and said I should go for it. So with her approval, my husband’s ‘why not’ attitude and a lot of paper work, we were in. Less than a few months later we had found a match and were planning our year in Canada.

What a change! We left Sydney and it was over 30 degrees only to arrive in Calgary to a cold -35. I went from Canberra to a rural town of 8000 people. From an independent Anglican girls school to a co-ed government one. From a creative arts faculty of 11 to the only art teacher. Was it a shock? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely

What a amazing year 2015 turned out to be. My husband, our two children and I had left family and friends behind for an adventure and that became our catch phrase. Every time we got lost, or something was different or the day just wasn’t what we were expecting we would shout “adventure”.

The kids got into their new elementary school, stepping up half a grade to finish out the Canadian school year before starting a new one after summer break. This included my daughter moving from elementary to middle school and starting fresh again. They loved it, but of course had moments of missing their friends and what they were used to. Now they love telling stories and sharing photos of their adventures with their friends and both have loved the idea of pen pals.

My husband, who is in the Defence Force, had the year off. He became the stay home parent, taking the kids to school, volunteering in their classes, running the house and the resident travel agent. After many deployments and being the parent who had missed so much, this year away was a fantastic bonding time for my husband and our family.

We traveled a lot. At least three out of four weekends we were out and about, sometimes just for a hike or lunch but other times for a weekend away. Since returning my friends have said they loved watching Facebook just to see what I was doing next. We were always on the move. We spent winter break in Montana and South Dakota, spring break in the UK, summer holidays in Canada and the USA and returned home at Christmas via Europe. We discovered the joy, ease and cost effectiveness of both train and bus travel. Seeing some remarkable sights and giving our children a truly amazing experience.

Even with all the travel we made some great friends. My colleagues at school were fantastic and helped me to walk in and start teaching classes that only had three weeks of a semester to go. Write end of semester reports and then start a whole new semester all in my first month. Over lunch and the occasional dinner, we became friends and they have now become lifelong friends.

So should you do an exchange? Well if you are open, ready for a change and adaptable then yes. I truly think this was one of the best things I have done both personally and professionally. It’s a year out of your life and worth the risk of the unknown. My husband and I are already talking about the next one!

Elizabeth Chase
Exchanged to Alberta in 2015