The Teacher: Megan Meyer

December 11, 2011

Megan shares her perspective about being a teacher where the government truly values education, “I find there is an openness and freedom in the international system that we simply don’t have anymore in the public system in the States.”

OK, just for a moment, let’s escape the reality of education in our neighborhood.  Let Megan’s story provide hope and inspiration while her beautiful photos take you to a very happy place. Thank you for sharing, Megan! …

 

where are you from?
Minnesota, originally…now living and teaching in Brussels, Belgium.

why do you teach?
At the risk of sounding like a major cliché, to connect with others and feel a part of something bigger than myself. Teaching asks that I share what I know and then continually question, learning along with my students and doing what I can to help them have the best lives possible.  I consider it a great honor and privilege that this is my job. Children are just the best kind of people. I remain gratefully in awe of the teachers who inspired me as a child and if I could give even a bit of that feeling to someone else— that’s the kind of vocation that continues to draw me in daily.

who and what do you teach?
I am a “homeroom” teacher in the first grade at the International School of Brussels.  My class is made up of 20 children ages 6 and 7 from literally all around the world. Our campus is on the outskirts of Brussels, at the edge of a huge forest.  Set on grounds of an old Belgian chateau, it is a diverse international community in a beautiful spot. With 1500 students, aged 2 ½ to 19, representing 70 nationalities, it is an exciting, challenging, stimulating place to be.

on a scale of one to ten, ten being the most important, how important are teachers to your government?
Given my situation, this is a bit of tricky question. I feel teachers are valued more highly by the international school community I currently work for than the American government, certainly. On a scale of one to ten?  In the U.S. I would say a two, in the international system I would say overall a nine.  As I don’t work for the local Belgian system, I don’t have a clear sense of what a Belgian teacher would say.

how would your school system handle it if a teacher wasn’t doing her job well?
This would depend on the circumstances of the situation.  As she must have been fully qualified in order to be hired, perhaps she is a beginning teacher struggling to learn the ropes, or other personal circumstances are affecting her job performance— hopefully the teacher would first be given support by a mentoring team along with her administrative department to enable her to succeed in her current situation if at all possible. The international system is a highly regarded and competitive one, however, and in order to meet these expectations and maintain a job, one must continually approach the work with rigor, an ever-flexible skill set, and enthusiasm.

are there certain things you are not allowed to teach?
I find there is an openness and freedom in the international system that we simply don’t have any more in the public system in the States.  For instance, the families in each class are welcomed in to teach about and celebrate their own holidays and all are held up as equally important and special. We strive to acknowledge differences and diversity as good things that make our world a rich, dynamic place.  This is a vital aspect of international education for me—the goal is acceptance and a celebration of difference.  Given the age group I teach, of course there are topics that are better addressed at home or when the students are older, but I do not feel restricted by the government or society to thoughtfully teach things I would like to teach.

how do you feel about the role of teachers in your society?
Like many expats, I feel I live in two worlds, two societies, much of the time. Who am I as an individual in two countries and cultures and how do I feel as a teacher in one place versus the other? So again, this question summons up mixed feelings.  I think good teachers are essential to the global community and should be highly regarded, respected and be held to high standards everywhere. I do wonder about one day returning to the U.S. as a teacher–how will I cope with the idea of re-entering a society where I do not feel teachers are truly respected? At the moment, “my society” feels more a global one than an American one—and I do feel more encouraged and valued as a teacher in this international setting.

do you ever regret becoming a teacher?
No, even when I’m stressed out and tired or feel overwhelmed, I am grateful to be here in this position, to be able to teach.  There are other career directions I would like to discover as well, but I have never regretted the path that got me here or the opportunity to teach.  Honestly, it feels like a gift.

would you encourage your child to become a teacher?
I would, if she or he felt led in that direction.  My mom is a teacher and I understood, even as a young child, the kind of sacrifices committed teachers make, the struggle it can be to balance one’s own life with the “job” of teaching.  I also came to understand the joy and gratification that comes with such a career path. If I am blessed with kids of my own, I hope to be like my mom; she never pushed us in any direction—she just said, “I’m here for you, I love you, I support you all the way—as long as you’re kind even when no one is looking.”

how much maternity leave do teachers get?  how many sick days?
While here, we go by the Belgian system and teachers get 15 weeks of maternity leave.  You can also choose to go for longer and get paid less.  In the States it really depends what state you live in and where you work.  *I am not sure about the exact number of sick days—it is several over the course of the year.  Again, at home it depends where you live and work.

what do you collect?
My friends joke that I always take pictures of feet and suppose it’s true.  I guess I collect pictures of where my feet have been blessed to travel.  It’s a way to document and think about the places I have been able to go…a way to remember moments, and to summon up memories of loved ones and new experiences.  Making photographs brings me a lot of joy.

you’re going out on a much needed girls night.  what will you do and what will you wear?
Grab a drink at a favorite local place, make our way to dinner somewhere laid back, and then head to one of Brussels’ great smaller concert venues.  There is a very cool, diverse music scene here and you can often see quite popular (as well as new or obscure) bands in more intimate settings than in the States or even London or Paris. Dress/leggings/boots seem to be my uniform of choice as of late. Either that or we get together and order sushi and watch movies at home in sweatpants.

what do you do when you’re not teaching?
I seem to spend a great deal of time getting into ridiculously funny and awkward language situations (French, Flemish, German and a myriad of other languages are spoken in Belgium (including quite a bit of English, mercifully). I also like to discover new restaurants with friends, wander the city with my camera, travel, skype people I love, hunt for good coffee shops and live music, go for runs to explore, read recommended books (though admittedly after favorite photo/travel/food blogs, facebook, magazines and local graffiti), and collect recipes for later, when I become a grown up.

what’s your favorite piece of jewelry?
A simple silver pendant necklace from my mom.  She and my sister and I all have the same one. When you’re far away from family, little things like that mean a lot.

what is your is your most delicious creation in the kitchen?
Ha, those who know me and my kitchen disasters would giggle at this question. I recently whipped up a batch of yummy glazed orange scones for a friend’s baby shower and they were a big hit  (but does it still count if I actually had to make said scones in someone else’s kitchen as I lacked any of the necessary kitchen ingredients and tools for grating, whisking, and uh, baking?).  I have a dream to cook creatively and fabulously, casually chatting with close friends while we dance around in my ownwell-equipped kitchen.  I’m working on that.