Years in education: 16-20
Elementary School Teacher
Q: What do you have in common with your students?
A: I was born and raised in Australia. As a child, my family moved quite a few times and I ended up going to eight different schools between Kindergarten and Year 12. As a painfully shy child, this was challenging but gave me a great many gifts too.
As an adult I continued to travel a lot and have lived and taught on three different continents. I married a wonderful Canadian man and have since settled in Canada.
Even though I come from an English speaking country, I sometimes feel like an outsider. After ten years, not a week goes by where I don’t think, Do they completely understand me? Or, Wait, is that an Australian or English expression, is it global or Canadian.. I can only imagine how much more intense those questions and feelings would be, if my first language was completely different.
When I meet another Aussie, I often feel like I just ‘get’ them and they often ‘get’ me. There are fewer misunderstandings and moments where I feel I have to further explain myself. They often have a sense of where I come from and what a special place in my heart my homeland has for me. I feel like I can’t really talk too much about Australia to other because it's not a shared experience, it’s in the past and it's almost too painful at times. I don’t want to be sad I want to try and live in the moment and make the most of where I am, but Australia has a chunk of my heart!
I have just finished teaching for almost ten years in schools where there is a high migrant population. I feel deeply for these families and can relate, at some level, to being different and the struggle to get settled in a country. It is so difficult to establish yourself, set down roots, find your people and communicate well. I think having this shared experience does connect us at a deeper level and gives me a greater sense of empathy, understanding and connection with my students.
I feel I must clarify that even though I miss my home and feel different at times, I don’t regret traveling at all! I actually think it has greatly enriched my life and my perspective. I find the world such an amazing and inspiring place. And the more that I experience the more that I realize we really aren’t that different from each other. We really are all just human beings, learning together.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: I think it is important that students and teachers have things in common. It helps to build relationships when you find common interests. And, when you really get to know your students, there is always common ground. My most common connectors are sports, books and shared experiences like being a migrant.
Canada is a ‘mosiac’ of cultures and has a very diverse population. Fortunately, I've connected with a variety of different people in my community who have supported who I am and understood where I was coming from. They acknowledged and valued me and my experiences.
All schools that I’ve worked at in Canada have actively worked to include all in their community and celebrate the diversity of cultures and experiences. I hope I’ve provided some support to my students in this way too. Even simple things, like when I see a student experience snow for the first time, I get it and I remember the awe I felt in my first snow moment!
My TED-Ed Innovation project ‘Sprout’ has really has built on my experiences of living and working around the globe. Sprout is an online space where students pitch any and all of their possible TED-Ed talk ideas and give each other feedback. My goal is to connect students around the world and have them communicate and build stronger ideas, in collaboration with each other. There’s a lot we can learn from each other and I hope I can facilitate this happening, a little more often. When we celebrate differences and encourage connections and dialogue, I think it has the potential to make our world a more accepting and peaceful place.
Megan is a 2017 TED-Ed Innovative Educator and is the Founder of Sprout. To learn more about how Sprout is growing ideas and connecting students around the world, follow Megan on Twitter @lowesclass and visit sproutideas.net.
Humanizing the gaps separating teachers and students.