My journey as an expat teacher: Cameroon, Nepal, St Helena

Alison Laycock

Alison Laycock, an accredited Mindfulness and Compassion teacher and Founder of ‘Being the Best You Can Be’ combines her 20+ years of teaching with her Mindfulness experience. Having taught languages across the Education sector abroad and in the UK, Alison is now working with school communities offering helpful and practical Mindfulness and Compassion tips and techniques for teachers, students and school staff. Please visit the website to find out more.

Follow @alisonlaycock23

Website: www.beingthebestyoucanbe.org Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

My dream of teaching abroad in some capacity started at the age of 17, if not earlier, as I sat in an assembly watching images of school pupils in Africa and seeing how little they had. The speaker showed children talking about how much they wanted to go to school, teachers talking about doing their best and enjoying teaching the children, but knowing that they hadn’t had sufficient training to be able to help their pupils more.

At this stage, I only had some ideas about wanting to teach, however the pull of teaching abroad was even then greater than the idea of becoming a teacher in the UK.

That dream took 20 years to come to fruition when, in 2011, I started my experience abroad with a two month volunteering placement with Projects Abroad PRO in Nepal. This experience saw me working at a Primary school training the teachers in Bungamati, Kathmandu Valley. During my time, I was also able to train teachers at a Secondary school in Kathmandu and a Nursery school in Bungamati. I lived with a local family during my two months, and loved my experience so much it encouraged me to apply to VSO on my return.

From January 2012 to January 2014, I was a VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) volunteer in Cameroon [picture top] and then Nepal, each for a year, where I worked with schools and communities. My work involved encouraging girls into education while also training the teachers and headteachers. Both of these experiences were very enjoyable. I do strongly believe that every UK-trained teacher should undertake similar experiences volunteering abroad, especially as it shows you how lucky we are in the UK to receive the training we do and to have such resources at our fingertips.

We held a evening of dances and plays in Dargala, Cameroon, each with their own message.

In a lot of developing countries, being a teacher is not respected as much as it is in the UK, and therefore teachers have to take on extra jobs to support themselves and their families, thus often making them tired and unprepared in the classroom. They are often teaching others when they only have the basic Primary qualifications themselves. It was a privilege to live and work within these schools and communities. As a language teacher, it was especially a treat to be able to learn their languages.

While training in these countries, I have to confess to missing the classroom and teaching students. When you are observing and training another teacher, it is easy to see areas of improvement; I missed being the teacher and putting these changes into place. The teachers and headteachers were very receptive towards any advice offered, and the headteachers especially worked very hard to implement positive changes.

In Cameroon and Nepal, the teachers and headteachers worked very hard for very little pay - in Nepal especially, to be a headteacher often meant you were the only one who accepted to do the work. Unfortunately they didn’t earn much more each month than other teachers, despite the extra responsibilities they had.

Headteacher trainings in Bhairahawa, Nepal.

Once my two years of volunteering was finished, I decided to return to non-UK teaching in some capacity in order to put my experience to use in the classroom, but also to include teacher training in that mix. The idea of still being able to help other teachers and positively be involved in the education system in another country appealed greatly.

In moving to St Helena with my work as advisory French teacher, I have been lucky to be able to put all my wishes into practice. My role involves teaching in the only Secondary school on the island, as well as in the three Primary schools, where I also train teachers to be able to teach primary French. In addition to this, I also teach adults in French classes, and we have recently introduced Spanish classes. As St Helena is developing towards being able to welcome more tourists with its new airport, another important and welcome part of my role is also training tourism staff in French and Spanish, so they will be able to respond to customer needs in those languages.

Being able to continue my role here as advisory French teacher for another year, once my initial two-year contract ends this August, means I can continue to expand the role and increase the number of language learners on the island. My journey as a teacher / trainer abroad will no doubt continue after this placement, when I will be looking to take up a post as a deputy head.

I would definitely recommend teaching abroad to any teacher who decides they still love teaching but maybe need a change in their daily life. Get out there, as you will no doubt realise how privileged we are in the UK with the training and resources we receive. All teachers should have time teaching without electricity, computers and often even doors or roofs on the classrooms and schools, and see how they manage to develop their teaching and care of the students.

Do you teach outside your home country? Share your experiences below.

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"