Nov. 13, 2018
TAB in the USA: Q&A with August Murphy
Each year, dozens of students participate in Teaching Across Borders as part of the Bachelor of Education program. During their 10 weeks abroad, TAB students experience the host culture through activities organized by the partner institutions and volunteer in schools up to 12 hours a week.
While the experiences vary by country, students often take language courses, participate in local holiday celebrations, and experience field trips and cultural outings, all while learning about another education system firsthand.
Currently TAB partners with institutions in Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United States and Vietnam.
In this Q & A and the accompanying podcasts, August Murphy shares her expectations and experiences of Oxford, Mississippi, 'Ole Miss' and southern hospitality.
What do you hope to gain personally and professionally from this experience?
I try to look for things that will push me outside of my comfort zone, because that is how you grow. I know for sure that this experience will take me outside of my comfort zone at times, and that is a good thing! On a personal level, I am hoping to gain a better understanding of the points of view and values of other people whom I do not necessarily see eye to eye with. It’s no secret that the US is in turmoil right now (politically, racially, socio-economically), and I think that it’s easy to judge from all the way up here in Canada. I am looking forward to being there in the middle of it, and to talking with people to try to better understand where they are coming from. I think that might be a challenge for me to keep an open mind sometimes, but you only get better with practice. On a lighter note, I have always wanted to experience the quintessential “college experience”, complete with football games, tailgate, marching bands, sororities, and school spirit! I think Ole Miss is the place to do it. I am also hoping to return to Canada and finally be able to hear the elusive “Canadian accent”!
Professionally, I hope that I will come out of this experience a better and more well-rounded teacher. I am really excited to see what teachers and students are doing in Mississippi classrooms, and I hope that I will be able to bring some of that back with me.
What do you hope people in your host country will gain from your involvement in TAB?
I hope that I can serve as a positive ambassador for Canada while I am in Mississippi. I also hope that I am able to expose my students there to new ideas. It’s an old cliché that music is a universal language. As corny as that sounds, it is true to some extent. I hope that my passion for music comes through in my teaching, and that through that passion, I will be able to find common ground with all of my students, no matter where we all come from.
How did you prepare personally and professionally for this experience?
A few years ago I moved to New York City by myself, and lived there for four months, so I feel prepared to be away from home. Since there won’t be a language barrier for me, I have been focusing my preparation efforts on researching the history and context of Mississippi. This state (and many others) suffers challenges of socio-economic disparity, racism, segregation, and political discord. I feel that it is my responsibility as a teacher to understand these issues as best I can, as they directly impact the school system and my future students. It’s also on my to-do list to review the Canadian political system. I’m a little afraid that someone down there will ask me about it, and I won’t be able to describe as well as I probably should!
Why did you choose the United States for your TAB placement?
In comparison with all of the other amazing countries that I could have picked for my TAB experience, Mississippi seems to be a strange choice at first. When I tell people where I am going, a lot of them look confused, like “why would you go there”? I couldn’t be more excited about it! I have this incredible chance to immerse myself in a parallel education system to that of Canada, and I know that I will learn a lot there. All of the challenges faced by society show up in schools. I have the chance to experience firsthand how teachers are dealing with these challenges that show up in their classrooms; how they bring together students of different races, socio-economic status, values and beliefs, and teach them all with dignity and equity. As a new teacher next year, I will likely end up teaching in Northeast Calgary, where similar challenges can be found. I believe that this TAB experience will help to set me up for success in my teaching career, and I can’t wait to get started!