Elisabeth Moore Reflects on Living and Working Abroad

[Editor’s Note] Elisabeth Moore, Class of 2008, began teaching at Istanbul International Community School in Istanbul, Turkey in September 2014. She teaches grade 8-10 MYP Music and 11-12 HL and SL Music. Before venturing to Turkey, Elisabeth served as the first Music Teacher at the new Sturgis West campus 2012-2014. I recently contacted Elisabeth and invited her to reflect on how Sturgis prepared her for international work and how her experiences overseas have influenced her world view.

By Elisabeth Moore

Sturgis Singers 2008

Sturgis Singers 2008

Sturgis Roots

When I was in 10th grade, I decided I wanted to be a choir teacher because music inspired and healed me and I wanted to share that with others; I was 15 years old at the time.

VCM Graduating Class of 2012

VCM Graduating Class of 2012

I chose to attend VanderCook College of Music (VCM) in Chicago, IL, a small school in an exponentially larger city. I did not anticipate the struggles I had with homesickness and depression but I learned to deal with those uncomfortable feelings and thrive in an unbelievably culturally rich city. My final goal was always to move abroad: in high school I was motivated by the stories of my teachers and their international experiences. I wanted that for myself and through hard work, the support of others, and dedication to music I made that happen.

Elisabeth Moore with Combined Choirs Winter Concert 2012

Elisabeth Moore with Combined Choirs
Winter Concert 2012

Sturgis is very much a community, and I think that is what attributes to its success. There is a history of outstanding past and present faculty at Sturgis who are creative, honest, and inspiring of which I felt the effects personally; the motto of the Sturgis Class of 2008  was “Shared Misery,” reflecting how overwhelmed we felt with an abundant work load, social responsibility, and our individual interests outside of school. I believe from what I have seen and heard from colleagues of mine who have had amazing international experiences, Sturgis aligns with the International teaching standard of excellence.

From the vantage point of a teacher, I saw how helpful and supportive Sturgis administration was, particularly how they encouraged innovation in teaching and new ideas of engagement in the classroom. My creativity and desire to collaborate was driven and supported in my first two years of teaching, a skill I will carry for the rest of my life.

Istanbul International Community School – Istanbul, Turkey

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul

I moved to Istanbul on August 8, 2014 where my past Sturgis Principal and new IICS Principal, Chris Andre, met me at the Ataturk International Airport.

My First Turkish Breakfast

My First Turkish Breakfast

IICS did an amazing job of integrating me and my other 12 incoming colleagues into the city; they brought us to the main tourist attractions like the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, as well as a Bosphorous tour, and gave us a basic feel for the city before we started work. I was prepared with my first Turkish words, “merhaba” (hello), “pardon” (excuse me), “lutfen” (please), and “cay” (tea).

IICS is an International Community Private School, with a student population of about 600 Pre-K to 12th Grade students. My students come from all over the world, many having moved around the world their entire lives.

Marmara Campus in August when the sunflowers are in bloom

Marmara Campus in August when the sunflowers are in bloom

There are 2 campuses, Hisar is located in the city for lower primary students and Marmara is located in Hadimkoy or about an hour from the city center by bus; I work at the Marmara campus (which houses primary and secondary students), commuting about 3 hours a day to and from school.

The biggest shock for me was that I felt like I was a first year teacher again, with different resources and equipment, a new curriculum, and a new student population to teach. I was very nervous; I was in a new city, and I was teaching new students. Little did I know, I would be accepted warmly into this community as a colleague and a teacher.

Class sizes are similar to those at Sturgis, with no classes being larger than 20. I feel these are ideal numbers for classrooms, which has been amended in the arts by operating on the semester instead of the trimester system to allow students to choose 2 out of 4 offered arts classes. This is a proposal I wrote in my first year at IICS to empower students to choose their arts classes and make the classes smaller; this idea was something I took directly from the Sturgis arts schedule. I hope next year to establish a Choir class in the 9th in 10th grades.

Internationally, I am seeing how important technology is and how it is really innovating education. In my school, I am learning how to effectively use social media (particularly Google+) in a school with a 1 to 1 computer ratio. There is a strong importance of computer literacy today and a rapid push to use it more in the classroom. This provides a different creative challenge for the teacher, which I have been so excited to experiment with. My students will tell you this is very ironic seeing as I regularly tell them to delete their Facebook accounts, but I believe cataloguing your hard work is an important skill to learn and social media makes that more accessible to people.

I think that we need to encourage students to keep taking Art, Theater, Dance, Film, and Music because these are the outlets they need to learn about expression, collaboration, and performance. At the very least, being involved in an art activity outside of school like taking lessons or being part of an ensemble creates balance in a dense curriculum.

Cross Cultural Experiences

Kadikoy, Istanbul

Kadikoy, Istanbul

Travelling has become a new passion of mine and something I have really enjoyed over the past year. Here is a list of all of the places I have been in the past year in chronological order:

  • Istanbul, Turkey
  • Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Amsterdam, Holland
  • Athens, Greece
  • Lake Bled, Slovenia
  • Dubai and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Munich, Germany
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Sintra, Portugal
Elisabeth Moore - Museumplein, Amsterdam

Elisabeth Moore – Museumplein, Amsterdam

In my travels, I have been asked or involved in discussions along the lines of, “Why do you travel?” I have asked total strangers to draw maps of the world; I have gotten lost in cities I didn’t know; most importantly, I took time to be present wherever I was without judging myself too heavily for being an amateur at travel.

The Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The biggest lesson I have learned from my travels abroad this past year is that people around the world are generally great, good, loving individuals that take pride in their heritage and culture and care about the wellness of those around them; I did not realize how ignorant I really was until I lived in that ignorance and let myself learn from it instead of being paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake. I have great faith in people despite the unrest we feel.

Living in a world where you see so much turbulence happening, on the individual level I believe that we should have faith in each other. I recently watched a documentary called, “Batkid” a story of a 5-year-old Leukemia survivor who wanted to be Batman for a day. The city of San Francisco came together to give this child a day he won’t forget; the city surrounded him with joy, dancing, and cheers that gave him the determination to save the day. People are coming together around the world to protest and stand up for what they believe in. Unfortunately, we do not see the positive side of what community can do in our media. I believe that we as a people are no longer going to stand by and remain silent; I think that people want their voices heard.

Words of Advice and Encouragement for Students Interested in Working Abroad

Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

My life has changed a lot since I moved to Turkey; living on Cape Cod there were lots of opportunities to connect with members of the community, make friends, and perform. Not speaking the language has been the hardest challenge for me moving to a new country because it becomes difficult and intimidating to engage in the culture fully. My first words of advice for anyone looking to embark on this kind of adventure would be to learn the language and study the culture before arriving. The more you know, the more you’ll grow.

I spend a lot of my time feeling like I have no idea what is going on and for a long time it really upset me but now I have become more comfortable with the words, “I don’t understand.” I find that once you can admit this to yourself, you’re ready to really learn. Take risks, feel uncomfortable.

As a performer, it is hard for me to find a musical outlet that satisfies me. I have been to choir rehearsals, I have seen (occasionally disappointing) live performances, I have been the lead singer of a band, and often I find I am dissatisfied because it is not what I was accustomed to. Every place is different and has its quirks and charms, you can’t expect every place to be identical to where you came from; find the hidden gems and discover new things. Adapt to what is available.

touristThe best advice I have for someone looking to move abroad is: find a way to do it. Its not an easy experience, particularly for your first time, its not exactly comfortable, as you have to adapt to everything around you, but it is incredibly rewarding and inspiring to open yourself up to being vulnerable in a new place.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

%d bloggers like this: