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Many teachers like to change classrooms occasionally, but the concept of "teacher exchange" takes that to another level. Under this program, educators can actually spend time doing what they do best in another country, while a surrogate from there takes their place back home. In many instances, it can become, in every sense of the term, a classic "win-win" situation.
As with many good things, of course, there is bureaucracy involved. And those contemplating a teacher exchange should never lose sight of the fact that they will be living in another country, not just visiting there. Some of the most popular exchanges, for obvious reasons, are between countries that speak the same basic language. An exception might be the chance for a foreign language teacher to immerse himself or herself in the culture that goes with the language that he or she teaches.
It is also important to consider possible complications. If you have a critically ill parent, for example, it is probably not a good idea to be a continent away from home. Nor should a teacher exchange be seen just as a means of escape, although that's a side benefit.
Most teachers' organizations, both for public or private schools, will help set up a teacher exchange at no cost. There are also private companies that perform the same function for a fee. As with any travel-related endeavor, make sure to check out a for-pay agency to make sure it will offer constant support during your stay and not just abandon you in another country.
Having a teacher exchange plan approved is not automatic, by any means, For one thing, there must be a suitable match. A math teacher in Los Angeles may want to spend a year in Sydney, Australia, but there may not be any Australian math teachers in a position to make a reciprocal move to California.
With that in mind, it is best to plan at least a year ahead. Understand that while you may not be able to get the city of your dreams, sometimes alternative choices turn out to be blessings in disguise. Still, picking a country isn't necessarily enough. If you're a French teacher who dreams of spending a year in a quiet country village in the south of France, being transplanted to Paris might not be your cup of tea (or glass of wine).
Ask yourself some hard questions before embarking upon an exchange. Are you a flexible person, or will you be disappointed and aggravated if things "over there" aren't exactly like the surroundings of your present life. Since this is an exchange, there are two people involved, and it wouldn't be fair to the person who is enjoying life in Montreal to terminate the exchange because you're uncomfortable in Beijing. When it works, however, a teacher exchange can bring you back to your own classroom with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. Plus, you'll have a lot of new photos to show your old class.
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