Above: Andrew Campbell with his education colleagues for the three-week placement
For Andrew Campbell, teacher at Major Ballachey Public School, the summer months haven’t been a break from the lifelong learning that defines the teaching profession.
Campbell was one of five teachers from across Canada who travelled to Grenada, the small island country in the Caribbean Sea, as part of Project Overseas, which provides the opportunity for teachers to share their experiences with fellow educators in developing countries.
Right: The beautiful backdrop of this unique teaching experience
“A significant difference in Grenada is that teachers can be hired with little to no post-secondary education, and often right after finishing high school,’ said Campbell. “So they’re not receiving the same levels of training and opportunities for professional development compared to teachers in Canada. We’re lucky to benefit from ongoing professional development through our school boards and teachers’ federations to continue learning and developing during our careers. For the teachers we worked with in Grenada, this will likely be the only professional development they get this year.”
Project Overseas is an initiative of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation through which educators from across the country travel to and present professional learning workshops to teachers in host countries. Topics cover everything from teaching literacy and numeracy to gender equity and developing leadership capacity. The overall goal is to work together to improve public education in the developing world, with local teaching federations identifying unique needs and developing strategies with their Canadian peers to meet specific goals.
“It’s teachers learning from teachers,” said Campbell, who spent three weeks in Grenada following a multi-day training session in Ottawa in preparation. “You’re collaborating and sharing your own experiences with your teammates, and together you’re learning a tremendous amount from the teachers in Grenada, so it’s a massive opportunity to grow professionally.”
Canadian teachers apply for the volunteer opportunity, and after a two-stage selection process, travel to a host country for a three or five-week stint. Only 16 Canadian teachers were selected this summer. It was Campbell’s second time applying, and the first time he was selected.
“On the first day, one of the local teachers turned to me and asked about my thoughts on homework,” said Campbell. “As we discussed our perspectives on it, I started to see that despite being thousands of miles apart, our experiences are actually very similar.”
What was eye-opening on the trip was seeing firsthand how innovative and resourceful educators are able to be in Grenada.
Campbell’s experience echoes Grand Erie’s Multi-Year and its Achievement indicator – monitoring, measuring and reflecting on outcomes, and increasing understanding of effective instruction and assessment.
“It’s common to think that you need more to be able to do better and to be more effective, but a big realization for me during this experience was that you can be highly effective with very little as well,” explained Campbell. “Our most useful resource is our own imagination and creativity in working with what we have.”
Campbell looks forward to exchanging summer stories with his Grade 5/6 students this fall at Major Ballachey, welcoming the opportunity to help expand students’ worlds through the sharing of his experience.