Starting GCED Solutions has been a big step for me, yet in some ways it feels like the perfect vehicle for bringing together the various strands of my global experience. I came to the field of education after a brief and unsatisfactory stint in the corporate world. I had been talked out of training to be a teacher by that oft-repeated adage that, “those who can do, those who can’t teach” (Spoiler alert: this is nonsense), so I found myself in a power suit working in London for one of the Big Four on their competitive graduate training scheme.
And I hated it.
A few years of soul searching later, and I quit that job and enrolled at the Institute of Education, University College London to retrain as a teacher. It was like a homecoming. I had found my passion, my vocation, and something that I knew I could do well. In the years following, I taught a variety of subjects including geography, geology, study skills, and citizenship in a number of different school settings in the UK, ranging from challenging inner-city high schools to exclusive private preparatory schools. I also was involved in organizing large scale community service projects including overseas service trips to Ghana.
In my head I anticipated that I would follow the traditional career path of most ambitious teachers: classroom teacher to Head of Faculty or year group, then Deputy Head, and finally Head of School. However, careers, and indeed life itself, are rarely that linear. For a start, my family expanded rather more rapidly than I intended with the arrival of my twin sons a few years after their big brother. Financially and logistically, a longer maternity break than intended became a reality with three children aged three and under. Whilst on that maternity break, my husband was offered a wonderful opportunity to take a role in Houston, Texas, for a couple of years, and as I was on a career break it seemed like a fantastic adventure to fill the time. However, that two-year role turned into a much longer project, so once my twins were in pre-school I jumped back into teaching in the US.
Teaching in the US proved an amazing experience. I taught social studies to middle school students at a large international school in Houston. Blessed with an open-minded and encouraging boss, I was given a lot of freedom to develop and create new curricula and resources, bringing in new approaches that utilized evidence-based best practice such as project-based learning modules, flipped classrooms, and blended learning. In recognition of my creativity and success, I was awarded Teacher of the Year 2017 from amongst a faculty of 60 educators.
At this point, when my career seemed to be getting back on a linear upward trajectory to ‘success’, my husband’s employer asked him to take a role in India. Despite my initial reservations about relocating at this point in my career, particularly to a location where I would be unable to work on a spousal visa, we decided that this global move was too good an opportunity to overlook. Therefore, in 2017, I relocated to Pune, India, with my family.
Whilst in India, I volunteered with an amazing nonprofit called Ashta No Kai (ANK), which works to empower women and girls living in rural communities in Maharashtra by presenting them with opportunities in education, literacy, and entrepreneurship. In the village schools that ANK supports, class sizes are frequently 70+, and learning is usually by direct instruction and rote repetition. There is little opportunity for students to practice speaking and interacting in English. The issue is compounded for girls because of the cultural challenges faced in the classroom. The program I set up targeted girls aged 12-16 years old who were pulled in small groups of 20 at a time to sessions in which they were able to practice speaking in English and interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds. This curriculum enrichment aimed to improve the girls’ confidence in listening, comprehending and speaking in English, but also to broaden their horizons, improve self-esteem and develop intercultural awareness. My role included recruiting, training, and coordinating volunteer teachers; liaising and collaborating with schools in rural communities; and planning lessons, creating resources, and teaching classes.
I also used my time in India to start a Master’s degree in Development Education and Global Learning (DEGL) with my alma mater, the world-renowned Institute of Education at UCL. My studies focused on current research and practice in development education, global learning and global citizenship, with a focus on 21st-century skills. It also provided opportunities for me to reflect critically on my own engagement and interest in these areas and how they link to broader educational debates. For example, one of my research areas looked at the policies and practices of the International Baccalaureate program in India. We returned to Houston, Texas, in late 2019 just in time for a global pandemic. The silver lining of a year of working from home meant that my final dissertation was completed in a timely manner. My research examined the inclusion of 21st century skills in government education policy, and I was awarded a master’s degree with a distinction in December 2020.
My experience in education spans two decades, three continents, and diverse educational, socio-economic, and cultural settings. The sum of all this experience has shaped my understanding of what the role of an educator really is: a facilitator who empowers students to take ownership of their learning and nurtures their intellectual curiosity and critical thinking skills. I also believe in constantly striving to be a better educator and helping others grow their skills. I am passionate about applying evidence-based pedagogies to aid students and fellow educators in mastering their learning goals.
I lead by example, communicate clearly, aspire to excellence, and put children first, and I strongly believe that we have an obligation to prepare our young people for life in a changing global world.
I hope to share this vision and the knowledge, skills, and experience that I have gained with others through Global Citizen Education Solutions.
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