On being asked to share my experience and reflect on my time as a student in the Teach and Learn program, I have tried to consider what I might offer that is of value to those reading this blog.
Like many of the other students in the program, I think I was much less concerned with getting a further qualification than I was with having a particular experience. As I had been teaching in a New Zealand secondary school for almost 10 years on top of my nearly 10 years of teaching throughout East Asia, I felt that I was already an experienced international educator. I still feel I have more to learn but the experience I was looking for in the Teach and Learn program was more than just that of teacher as student. Essentially, I wanted to try to understand the Spanish Curriculum and the nature of social studies and history education in Spain. But, to be honest, I also hoped to gain a better understanding of what was happening in the Spanish Education system as Spain continued the struggle through austerity and the various threats to her social and political fabric.
The fact that I had the opportunity to do all this while at the same time being able to help a local Spanish school and also study to get a Master in International Education was, to me, truly serendipitous and amazingly good fortune. So, it was with a number of diverse goals that I started my studies, my placement, and my understanding of the unique context of my experience.
I thought I appreciated the required workload and I knew that my Spanish was totally deficient, but most significantly my wife and I intended to bring our four-year-old daughter along for the adventure. While the workload was twice what I expected and my Spanish was nowhere near adequate to make things easy, I was eventually able to become familiar with the Spanish Curriculum, its aims and outcomes for social studies and history, and to offer my skills and support to the dedicated and enthusiastic teachers at Gredos San Diego Buitrago. I witnessed the struggles of people making ends meet, of students hoping to enter the workforce or university studies and of teachers committed to the success of their students on a daily basis. I experienced the rolling stoppages of transport, the industrial action of the public-school teachers’ union (eg. 14 November) and the reforms of José Ignacio Wert and Mariano Rajoy. At the same time, I was able to establish lasting friendships with my colleagues as well as the parents of my daughter’s classmates.
Ultimately, I received my Master’s degree. However, on returning to my teaching position in New Zealand I couldn’t escape the feeling that the more I learned the less I knew. While I found the courses at The Instituto Franklin both challenging and rewarding, I felt my understanding of my original goals somehow insufficient. I craved more knowledge. Again, a serendipitous opportunity presented itself when Canterbury University here in Christchurch began offering a Doctor in Education program for practicing teachers. I submitted my transcripts from the Universidad de Alcalá along with my thesis as evidence of my abilities and my thinking and I was accepted into the program.
As I work towards my Doctoral thesis on critical global citizenship I’ll take the liberty to offer this advice for those contemplating further qualifications and overseas studies: consider the experience you’re entering into. Go for it, but do it for the right reasons. Keep in mind the bigger picture and always remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Alumni Instituto Franklin, MA International Education 2012-2013