A monolingual female american teacher's first overseas experience in an American school in Brazil
Wallis, Marion Alice
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This study attempts to understand the nature of the cultural and linguistic experiences that affected a single, monolingual, female teacher during her first overseas experience in an American school in Brazil. A descriptive, qualitative, case study methodology utilized extensive observations, video-taping, and interviews with the teacher, her colleagues, students, and parents to explore how those experiences affected her perceptions and actions towards her colleagues, students, and parents, and how she made sense of these experiences. At the time of this study, there were an estimated 1,000 international schools worldwide, and just over half of these were autonomous institutions sponsored by a variety of interests and corporations. The Escola Americana de Campinas fits into this group. As a worldwide average, the U.S. student population in international schools today is about 30 percent of the total enrolment, and the majority of overseas-hire native English speaking teachers are female, white, middle class and monolingual; many are not adequately prepared for the challenges of teaching children who have different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The study of one such teacher describes the cultural and linguistic discomfort she experienced in her daily life, and with her colleagues and parents. Although she was pedagogically competent, she was not open to changing her teaching practices to more effectively teach students with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. However, as this teacher learned to speak some Portuguese she became empathetic to some of the linguistic needs of her multi-lingual and multi-cultural students. This case study suggests that this teacher's personal and professional reasons to live and work overseas did not enable her to anticipate and to face the challenges she experienced. She did not have the training or experience to work with a diverse group of students, and the school did not provide adequate support to help her adjustment. This study offers implications and practical suggestions for recruitment agenc1es, administrators, teachers, and pre-service institutions faced with such situations.
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