NICS Welcomes Student Teachers
June 02, 2011 | Featured
By Whitney Hale
Each year, senior college Education majors must complete teaching hours in the classroom in order to fulfill the requirements for their degree. Most accomplish this near their college or university, but for some, this is an opportunity to gain a more global perspective of education. This is where NICS steps in and offers these students the opportunity to teach in a school overseas.
Missy Parks, a Placement Coordinator for NICS, places several student teachers in NICS classrooms around the world each year. She guides student teacher candidates through online applications, gathering references, obtaining visas, and housing searches while working with school Administrators and Cooperating Teachers in the schools to make certain that the school can complete evaluations and specific university criteria. Missy is passionate about the benefits of NICS working with student teachers because she has witnessed the positive effects. She says of the student teachers, “They have new fresh ideas to bring to the schools and having an extra ‘teacher’ in the classroom has been a real plus for the students in the school…Being a student teacher is a challenge for anyone (even in the states), but these student teachers are given a chance to make an impact in the lives of many children in a classroom in a foreign country and culture.” Student teachers with NICS have the opportunity to gain multicultural perspective, experience Christian community, and receive valuable training for their futures.
Through their experiences in international schools, NICS student teachers gain valuable multicultural perspective. These teachers are able to experience amazing places, travel the world, and learn extensively about a culture and people different from their own, but they also learn to face challenges and grow spiritually reliant upon God in a deeper way. For many of the student teachers, challenges can include culture shock, language barriers, culture differences, making friends in a new place, and the universal challenges of learning to teach. Caitlyn Thompson grew up in Longwood, Florida, and attended Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. Last fall, Caitlyn spent 14 weeks student teaching in Indonesia at Bandung Alliance International School (BAIS). Caitlyn recalls:
I completely [fell] in love with the school, the staff, and the country…I climbed an active volcano, snorkeled in a coral reef, and explored a ninth century Hindu temple while fulfilling the requirements for graduation. I clearly felt God’s provision for me the entire time I was in Indonesia. I learned that God really will sustain and equip you when you are in the middle of His will…God abundantly supplied the strength and fortitude that I needed, and allowed me to enjoy some incredible experiences…One of the challenges I discovered was the diversity in my classroom! I had 10 students who represented 5 different nationalities and languages, and I was using Western curricula. Many ideas and concepts that we just assume most students know were completely foreign to them! One time, during a daily afternoon rain, I mentioned that it was ‘raining cats and dogs.’ One of my students looked at me with a puzzled look on his face and said, ‘There are puppies coming down?’ I often found myself taking time during the lesson to explain things that I had naïvely assumed my students would know.
Rachel Carpenter is another NICS student teacher who spent a semester teaching in Yongson International School in Seoul, South Korea. Although she faced many challenges and adjustments, she recalls the lessons that she learned:
I really enjoyed my student teaching in Seoul and I think I learned a lot as a teacher and person. One of the best things someone told me while there was that students won't remember how great your lesson plans were, they'll remember that you loved them. I try to remember this as I'm planning and teaching…I feel like God used my experience in Korea to confirm that I am supposed to be teaching ESL [now]. I think travelling to foreign countries and doing hard things in general expands my view of God. He is big enough to handle bigger things than my life even when it seems complicated to me.
Because NICS teachers and their families face great challenges and difficulty being in a foreign place, there is a unique Christian community that forms naturally. Teachers and staff members become a family united as they work together in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the students and families that they work with. Ashley Christensen student taught at International Community School in Singapore speaks of how she experienced this community in numerous ways:
I learned that there are good, Christian communities that go out of their way to love people. I've never really experienced a community like that. Here, I did. When I got to Singapore, I was feeling lonely, but the teachers at the school were so welcoming and kind; I felt welcomed into the community right away. I really enjoyed being a part of a community that was so welcoming of strangers. The other day, I got stuck in Malaysia (long story), and four of the teachers changed their schedules and took the time and effort to come get me. I would really like to be a part of this kind of loving community wherever I end up next year.
Spiritually, I have learned to totally rely on Christ and to trust in His good and perfect plan. Through the many ups and downs I've been through here, I know that God is with me and that He has a plan for my future. I know I don't need to worry about my future or about where I'm going to get a job, because He knows and my life is in His hands. I have been encouraged by story after story about how God was faithful in these teachers' lives. I have enjoyed hearing the stories of my fellow teachers of what good experiences God has given to them. It is encouraging to know that I am not alone in some of my struggles. I have become good friends with many of the teachers here. That is just one of the prayers God answered: that I make a friend here. He has taken me out of my comfort zone a few times, and tested my faith a few times, and I have grown spiritually so much being here. I am very thankful for this entire experience.
This type of Christian “family” is able to support each other while away from families and friends at home and is able to provide spiritual encouragement. Because the struggles and rewards of an international experience is so unique, NICS teachers are bonded together in a special way.
Training for the Future
Student teachers receive excellent professional training and experience for their careers in the classroom through their teaching mentors. Missy says of the students she works with, “They learn from the mentoring teachers how to teach in a very loving Christian environment, recognizing the differences, the similarities, and the uniqueness of every child of God they come in contact with…”
Caitlyn was placed in Tamara Dillak’s 3rd grade classroom and began teaching one or two subjects each week until she was teaching all day every day. She also completed lesson plans and graded papers--fully experiencing the challenges of being a teacher. Caitlyn says, “I was very nervous during my first week or two, when I was not only working to become familiar with the curriculum and my students, but also a new country, culture, and language! Tamara was an incredible resource, and was so supportive and encouraging!”
Ashley also speaks highly of her mentor teacher, Mandy Chaplin, “Professionally I learned to have confidence in myself and my teaching. My cooperating teacher was such a blessing in my life! I appreciate all she did; she was encouraging and she gave me good advice and she was always willing to help in any way she could. For most of my full time teaching, she left me totally in charge with the students; this increased my confidence and gave me a real taste of what teaching is like.”
Many of the student teachers continue on to become excellent teachers at NICS schools. Therefore, Missy refers to the program as a “feeder pool” for NICS’ teacher population. Caitlyn’s story is a prime example:
Though I had been away from the US for 14 weeks, I found it incredibly difficult to leave Indonesia in April. The teachers and staff at the school completely welcomed me and accepted me, involving me in EVERYTHING from my very first day. I never felt like a visitor or a guest; they made me feel like a valuable addition to the school. It was for these reasons that I decided to pursue teaching at BAIS full time! I can’t wait to return to the school this fall as the second grade teacher…I knew that I was interested in teaching overseas, but I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was God’s calling for my life, or my own desire to travel and experience new things. I had no idea if I could even make it at an international school! Student teaching in Bandung allowed me to answer all the questions I had without my having to make a long term commitment. I now have complete confidence that I’m following God’s will for my life and not just my own plans when I return to Indonesia in July.
Student teaching is an excellent way to seriously consider teaching overseas. Students are able to spend a few months as a teacher while learning extensively about the character of NICS schools, the nature of being a missionary, and the benefits of Christian community. These student teachers also gain valuable professional training and have the opportunity to apply for teaching positions.
*Student teachers typically begin the placement process one year before they arrive at the school. For more information about student teaching, please contact Missy Parks at 662-892-4300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.