In July 2018, my family were ready for an adventure. My wife, three daughters and I lived in Luxembourg, which was a very organised, clean and historic city. We decided to move halfway across the world to Panama.
We live in Clayton, a lush green neighbourhood fringed with rainforest. During my morning runs, I hear howler monkeys in the trees, toucans fly above and I see the large boats passing along the incredible Panama Canal. Traffic in Panama is like nowhere else I have ever lived and my 20-minute drive to school is an experience in itself. My day starts early to beat the traffic and be in school for the arrival of the children at 7.15am.
My days are varied and interesting. I am responsible for the teaching and learning that happens from kindergarten to grade 5. What this entails is working with and supporting the teachers and learning assistants to create the best possible learning opportunities for our students' needs. What this looks like is very different from team to team and from teacher to teacher. I have really enjoyed building relationships with the teachers and teams over the past six months. I enjoy seeing the different dynamics that each teams brings.
As well as attending team planning meetings, I am also in the classroom learning with and from teachers during our writers' workshop lessons. I take part in coaching cycles with grades at various points in the year, which allows me to see first-hand some of the teaching and learning that is taking place. I love this opportunity to be able to be close to the learning and to be able to learn with and from our teachers.
What it's like to teach in Panama
These coaching cycles help to keep aware that every decision that we make in our school needs to make teaching and learning better. It gives me the chance to spend time with the students and be part of the magic that happens in the classroom. Time in the classroom does make me reflect that every little decision needs to make the learning better. I sit in meetings and I think, "What would the student be saying if they were in the room?"
I am responsible for professional development in the elementary school, too. This week has been a busy one with three one-hour sessions being organised around the idea of creating authentic assessment opportunities for our students. We are thinking about how we can harness the power of technology to amplify our students' thinking and ideas and support them in becoming creators of content rather than consumers.
School finishes at 2.40pm. However, I am usually at school until around 4pm. After a quick drive home, we relax and play with the other families in our area. We live in a great area for families where the kids are playing on the streets with their bikes, scooters and roller-skates.
After dinner, I do other work that I’m proud to be a part of. A few years ago, I took a technology-infused online course named COETAIL. It really rewired my thinking about how technology can reimagine the learning in our schools. At the end of the course, I created an online global collaborative digital storytelling project named Travelling Tales.
It is nearly three years since Travelling Tales was created and at the moment there are over 120 educators, from more than 25 different countries who are creating unique stories which are based around the UN’s Global Goals. This also aligns with another of my roles of being a #teachsdg’s ambassador. As an organisation, we are committed to making teachers aware of why and how we need to get our students involved in making a difference to the planet.
Being an international school teacher has allowed me to live in countries that I never thought I would live in. It has given me experiences that I never thought I would have. It has changed me and made me more global in my thinking.
I love the opportunities that my jobs have brought me and I think that, as educators around the world, we need to unite and come together to make a difference for our students in our schools. After all, there is no Planet B.
Joel Bevans is an elementary school curriculum coordinator at the International School of Panama, Panama