The First Day
I came to Austria with only a suitcase full of clothes and a backpack full of books. I had come here to teach English at two gymnasiums, one in Amstetten and one in Melk. I can still remember my first day at work—waking long before I intended after a fretful night of sleep, sheepishly asking a local for directions to the school and, during the lesson breaks, pacing nervously around the staff room while I mechanically sipped coffee.
Now, five years later, I still get a bit nervous the night before teaching a new class, I sometimes have to ask a farmer (albeit with improved German) where to find a school and sipping anything besides coffee during a lesson break would be sacrilege.
One thing that has changed since I first stepped into an Austrian classroom is my cultural perspective. Someone once told me that the best window into a society is found in the classroom. In my experience, this metaphor has been proven time and again. One of the greatest aspects of teaching in a foreign country is the rich, cross-cultural dialogue that it opens up for the teacher.
Part of the experience teaching abroad is discovering new things and learning about new cultures. Use the classroom to your advantage in this respect and begin to look at your lessons as an open textbook for your learning. As the Roman philosopher Seneca once said: while we teach, we learn. This adage holds especially true for the teacher who finds himself or herself abroad.