The Irony, the Dilemma, and the Betrayal

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Living in another country and sharing your culture
The Lucky Country

So I’ve not yet arrived home in Oz and I’m pissed off, in a major way. Making the decision to return home to Australia was one of the most difficult I’ve had to make in my life. I didn’t want to leave the US, but  I made the decision to because I was tired of struggling and being paid way less than I was worth. I decided to make a stand for myself, my dreams, and my family. I wasn’t spending my days working my passion, and I needed to make a change to do so.

So I thought, I know, I’ll go home and teach, even if it’s only casual, so I can earn almost triple what I am here. I can take this money and the extra free time to grow our travel blog and related start ups to do what I really love. I was excited. I turned to the Internet to start applying for jobs and soon found out that I’m not allowed to teach in Australia.

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? My life right now would fit perfectly into the third verse of this classic Alanis Morrisette song.

It’s partly my own fault. You see, all those years ago, when I went to Uni, teachers only had to complete a 3 year degree. The fourth year was optional. And in the fourth year, you had to do a whole 10 weeks, unpaid, in the classroom. Now, to someone who lives life for the moment (aha silly me), I saw this as being absurd. I could go out and teach now and get paid for the experience instead? Not only that I could  jump on a plane now, teach in London and travel the world? I knew I would get paid less being a three year teacher but crap I wanted to live, and there is no price you can put on that. Besides, wouldn’t teaching on the other side of the planet compensate for the lack of the fourth year?

Apparently not. And I’m screwed. Two years ago they changed rules. You must now have a four year degree. If you remained in the teaching system, however, you’re okay. But I didn’t. I chose to instead teach around the world. 5 countries, 13 years. The last time I taught in NSW was 2002. That meant I had been out of the system for 5 years. And this means my status is now a NEW TEACHER. And new teachers need 4 year degrees.

I wrote a letter to explain my situation and all I had done in my teaching career.

“‘I’m afraid we can’t make exceptions to the rule,” they replied.

As a teacher of the English language, you must understand there are always exceptions to every rule. That’s what makes it flow.

I may not have done my fourth year of University study, but I was ballsy enough as a  graduate to take my first step into the classroom, in the worst area of East London,

Teaching in Thailand
My Thai students

where I had chairs thrown at my head, and taught a class full of Bangladeshi non-English speaking children and war torn Somalian refugees. For 2 years I taught in the notoriously difficult Hackney area, adapted, and learned a lot about another educational system and culture.

I took my white skinned, blond haired, blue eyed self to stand in front of every class in a Thai all boy high school to teach English. I had anything up to 4o students in my class, some that could hold a conversation and others that couldn’t even say hello. We laughed together and we learned and we culminated it in a 2 night English speaking camp, with games and activities that I created.

I taught Irish minority students in Dublin, learned how to adapt to teach those whose culture was unlike any you would ever meet.

And then, in America, I learned an incredible amount about teaching. With a huge focus on academics, I learned how to apply some of  the best reading strategies effectively in the classroom. I learned all about standardized testing and how it is not the best way to evaluate our children. I sat on my School Improvement Team Committee and created plans and programs to implement in order make the school  a better learning environment for children. And I created my own daily news cultural broadcast show on my greatest love and passion, Australia. I had the guts each morning to appear on TV in front of the whole school and sing Aussie songs, recite poetry, and laugh like a kookaburra just to spark a flame of curiosity and love for the world around the students and introduce them to an amazingly exotic land.

And then there’s Australia. A country who has the highest of educational standards, recognized around the world. A country who I find is the easiest to teach in, and also the best. A country who really caters to the individual and prepares them to live a well rounded, happy life. But how would anyone teaching in Australia, ever know this if they never stepped outside their own nation’s door? How would they ever be able to take a great idea, or strategy, or technique that they learned from another country and apply it to their own educational system to make it better? Apparently a fourth year of Univesity will do that better for you than the blood and guts on the foreign streets.

13 years of  enriching teaching experiences count for nothing in this bureaucratic land. I chose to move back to teach except I now can’t teach. I have students from around the world who still write to me and talk of the impact I made on their lives, and now I can’t do that anymore. I had administrators and teachers at my school here in the US begging me to stay, and now I have Australian educational departments telling me to go.

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

So now what do I do now? I thought about sucking it up and just taking the course to do the extra year. Online, it would take me about a year and a half and $6,000 to complete. But then I thought, Ca, just sit back and listen to the message. The road block is up. This is not what I really want to do. All that time and money I could instead put into travel, my oxygen. In reality, I could be gone from Australia in 6 months. I only wanted to teach casually for the money, although to spend time with the children and teach them about the world and the greatness that lives inside of them was an extra reward. But still my passion lies here in my blog and everything else I want to do that relates to travel, not in full time teaching. In some sense I feel so betrayed by my country, especially considering how kindly I have been treated by strange lands. Right now steam is coming out of my ears at Australia and I hate it.

I have to instead focus on what brilliance instead must be coming my way. Taking the extra year of study and paying for the job would just be me selling out. Selling out on my dream life and losing faith in what my true purpose really is.

I’ve not totally given up. One thing life and travel has taught me, is that if you can’t get in the front door, try the back, and if you can’t get in the back then try the chimney. If I find all entrances blocked, well then that means that I am on the right path with my passion and well education Australia- it’s your loss.

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19 thoughts on “The Irony, the Dilemma, and the Betrayal”

  1. Ugh, I’m so sorry. That has be frustrating. I am a teacher by trade as well, and I honestly loved doing it, but putting up with bullsh** like this is one the things that has turned me off. I just wish that all the bureaucratic ridiculousness could fall by the wayside to good old fashioned COMMON SENSE! How could anyone in their right minds not want a teacher with 10+ years of experience teaching all over the world over someone with no experience but has that extra year of schooling. We all know that time spent in a profession teaches you so much more than you can learn in a classroom, no matter what the trade.

    It’s just stupid that we are unable to just use logic because of the rules. Isn’t this one of the reasons we are all trying to go out on our own though? So we can work for ourselves and not have to play by the ridiculous rules of business and corporations. Keep plugging away though. I know that everything will work out for you two. Despite your frustrations, you seem to be looking at this in a positive light. Just know that it’s their loss. Good luck!!

    1. A kindred spirit who understands the BS that comes with teaching. I can’t even remember what I learned at Uni to begin with and how it helped me to teach. I think getting in the trenches taught me how to survive the classroom. Definitely going out on my own to create my own rules. Freedom- you know it Adam! So hard to leave it once you’ve tasted it.

  2. Oh NO! I’m so sorry, Caz…that’s awful! I know that you will make this work for you and your family, difficult as it may be at the moment.

    Just wanted to add that it’s always nice to read about how much you love America. I feel like we don’t see that very often.

    1. Thank you Kate. We sure will! It makes me sad that America always gets such a bad rap. If only people really knew just how great it is over here and how wonderful the people are. Craig and I are having severe withdrawal symptoms already and we haven’t even left. It really is another home for us and we will definitely be spending the rest of our lives with a foot on the soil here.

  3. So sorry to hear about your dilemma! I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be for you, not being able to teach in your home country. But it’s good that you’re looking at it positively as a sign that this isn’t really where you want to be headed anyway. It’s funny how life works out that way sometimes, isn’t it? And you’re right — it’s Australia’s loss.

    1. Thanks Amanda! Life sure does work in mysterious ways. Can’t wait to find out what all this means. It’s hidden under the s*** somewhere!

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about your current situation!! That’s so completely ridiculous to reject a teacher with over 10+ years experience to one more year in school. I hope you will find a better solution that is more fulfilling for you in the near future! Keep at it!

  5. Got to love it, Caroline! The universe and all of its potholes..but ultimately there will be a tiny crack in the foundation so that you can still tiptoe in and share your amazing gifts, love of learning, and global awareness with children. Have you ever seen those ads for teachers who run EcoTours in all of these ubercool places throughout our world? Travel and teaching, plus the kids who join these groups are really commited (at least in my mind) to immersing themselves in the culture of the place they are visiting. Perhaps you should find one of those outfits and throw out a line for all to grab onto as well…so these institutionalized four walls where we try to facilitate creativity and original thinking(sometimes by standing on our heads) will not crumble on top of all those inspirational teachers out there.

    1. Hey Kelly! I’ve not heard of EcoTours but I’m going to Google it. It does sound like me and I really do think you should join me! The bloody system has done it again mate! If only they would listen to us enlightened teachers.

  6. I’m so sorry your plans didn’t work out, that’s ridiculous that they can’t make an exception given all the experience you’ve gained. But like you said, your true passions are elsewhere and teaching was something you were just going to do casually. You could probably tutor or do something else for some extra money while you’re back in Australia trying to decide on the next step. Whatever you decide, I’m sure you’ll end up finding something that works even better for you. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Ali! Sometimes you just have to listen to the Universe when its trying to give you what you want. That means great things must lie ahead. Yahoo!

  7. Are you sure? Have you looked into working in other states? It just seems so strange! I know here in Qld they have changed many rules etc and that includes teachers coming from o/s and even interstate. I know that for those teachers you will considered a new teacher for registration purposes, but as long as you teach for some amount of days and do professional development, they will then register you accordingly. In the Catholic system, they should regognise you based on your years of full time teaching experience, as long as you have teacher registration or apply for it. ?????

    1. Yeah mate! It was the Catholic system that I’ve been dealing with, and the public seem to have the same criteria. I had contact with the head of the Broken Bay who said the leadership board decided this is the policy and she’s unable to make exceptions. Absolute BS! I’m going to phone her tonight to challenge it. I think there is some wording here which might give me a chance. It’s saying longer than 5 years away from teaching and then the policy applies. But I haven’t been away from teaching just teaching in Oz. If this is the case, then the ‘Dr’ is going to look like a goose, as I clearly explained in my letter and accompanying CV and references all I had been doing in the teaching profession for the last 13 years. She also said the teaching registration board have the same policy, yet they have already given me my eligibility statement, waiving that fourth year. So I’m going to try and catch her out on that one. Hopefully the State dept will have a bit of sense- won’t hold my breath though. If the money wasn’t so great, I wouldn’t worry about it.

  8. It’s really horrible that this is the case. It seems like the “real” world is always trying to find a way to put down the experience gained traveling. You have more experience than new teachers or even teachers that have been teaching in the Aussie system for years!

    I am glad that you could wade through the bullshit and find the good in the situation! Do exactly what you want and you will get the best rewards!

    P.S. You are SO right about that American salary. I could make more money in Oz on a Working Holiday Visa!!!!

    1. Yeah the salary here is pathetic for teachers, especially considering all the great work they do and all that is expected of them. The sad thing is that the government is hitting education even more with budget cuts due to the failing economy. Makes sense hey? Want to improve your countries future, let’s slash education, and put it all into guns and ammunition instead! If only the “real”world understood just how much you learn and grow from traveling. We’d all be profitable CEO’s saving Wall Street!!!

  9. kelly carpenter

    It is most definitely our school systems loss! my first thought was what about stiener schools i think there’s one in north gossy! but thats really beside the point hey? best of luck buddy

  10. Hey Caz
    I’ve just checked with my sister who is a teacher here in WA and she says that you have to be registered with both the Education Dept and the WA College of Teaching. She’s not sure if your experience overseas will swing things your way but hey, you don’t know until you try and I know I’d be banging on the door! How ridiculous that the Depts you’ve tried already don’t consider all that O/S experience valuable enough to bend the rules. Rules Schmules!
    On the other hand – maybe the universe IS trying to tell you that there’s something better in store for you?? Good luck!

    1. Thanks Tina. My experience is so far not swaying the Catholic education system, let’s just hope the State Department sees things differently. I’m sure the Universe has something greater planned!

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