In the famed words of Johnny Cash, "What have I become?" A self proclaimed Pole? An enlightened self? A clueless traveler? An indulgent American?
I'd anticipated that I'd have many more "ah hah" moments to come my way after having taught abroad for 2 months. I'm unsure if it was my notion that I thought I had to come back with all these tangible golden nuggets of wisdom, or the fact that it's what my friends, family, and colleagues are expecting, but in reflecting on my experience in Poland I think I have far more lessons learned as opposed to being viewed as the wise and enlightened Stacey.
To those individuals with the intentions, plans, or desire to travel my first word of advice is -do it. I understand family, financial, and work obligations are the first things to come to the forefront of your mind, but if you genuinely aspire to travel it's essential to be proactive about it. You'd be surprised the opportunities and solutions you'll stumble upon if you just do a little research.
I may be biased in my recommendation, but WorldTeach offered me an affordable way to travel, do service work, and juggle my responsibilities as a newbie educator.
I was also afforded the opportunity to not only witness the selfless efforts of my hometown as they supported me in my endeavor to teach abroad, but I had the chance to break free of my little comfort bubble I had created back home too.
From bouts' of homesickness, becoming a master of improv due to unexpected schedule changes,to even some minor weight gain (much credit to Polish potatoes and Nalesniki) I worked and sometimes trudged through the things I encountered while in Poland. It wasn't painful nor disastrous, but it did challenge me to maintain my focus, be mindful of the lifestyle I chose to embrace in Poland, and keep a solution oriented approach when it came to teaching.
Now, in trying to answer the infamous question of, "Why Poland?" I'm flooded with a wealth of words to describe my positive experiences in this hidden gem of a country. However, as effective or maybe ineffective key words such as, "hospitable, humble, persistent, and considerate" may be in enticing more individuals to volunteer in Poland, I feel it necessary to mention the things I'd improve on to make my (and maybe your future transition) transition to Polish culture and instruction of Polish students much smoother.
In thinking about the resources I intended to utilize during instruction, I think I would've been better off with a baseline teacher bank of resources (children's books, nursery rhymes, playlist of U.S songs to teach, ESL vocab lists, a unit plan) However, I lucked out in the sense that my years spent in extracurriculars and organizations from a young age to now a college grad helped me improvise and mold my bundle of resources while teaching abroad.
Had it not been my years spent in Girl Scouts as a tween, I don't think I could've gracefully maneuvered through teaching an arts and crafts class on a whim while camping with my students. My participation in spirit chants as a cheerleader in high school proved to be the perfect remedy for antsy primary school children who were just as eager to get up and dance. Involvement with UTB as a newfound counseling student grounded me in keeping empathy and genuineness as priority in my interactions with a foreign culture. The training TFA had also provided me yet again highlighted the importance of student investment. My time at IDEA public schools engrained the need for rigorous work regardless of a student's classification, and I can honestly say that belief followed me in my travels to Poland. And in looking at my newest (and oldest) affiliation with an organization, is the community I now have as a teacher working for the school system I was once educated through. In working with my Polish students I've pulled my personal encounters with some of the most caring teachers during my time as a student in SBCISD to model that same message of success to my students as my teachers once did for me.
So who am or what am I? I am an English teacher. I am a student. I am a traveler. I am curious. I am ambitious. But even more so, I know there are many more lessons to be learned in my teaching, travels, and experiences to come.