By the time she graduated from her Bachelor of Education program, Carmela Baylosis had already begun her search for teaching opportunities in international schools overseas. Having already taught ESL in South Korea and Japan before, then, teaching in a Southeast Asian region was not her first choice.
However, as she continued browsing through a myriad of different international job websites, Baylosis found one particular school system—the Canadian International School—was affiliated with her local Toronto District School Board. Spots were open for a teaching position in Hoe Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
“The opportunity just fell into my lap,” Baylosis says. “Being a new grad and being trained in the Ontario curriculum, this piqued my interest.”
So, Baylosis applied online and went through a Skype interview with the school's administration. Within a few weeks, she was offered a position to become a homeroom teacher with the Canadian International School System (CIS) educating via the Ontario curriculum a class of Vietnamese sixth graders.
“Just imagine what a local TDSB class would look like, but in a different country,” Baylosis describes, noting all of her teaching was actually done in English. “There is a big ESL initiative here too, so I was able to incorporate my experience from teaching ESL from South Korea and Japan.”
Arriving in Vietnam late July of this year, Baylosis says, for her, the opportunity has already proven to be the experience she was looking for both professionally and personally.
“I wanted an experience that would help me apply what I knew from my education studies and challenge me in a way where I could grow and develop.”
In a lot of ways, it was even the perfect experience, she shares, as, while she was originally trained with the Ontario curriculum, she still uses and applies it today, despite being in a completely different country overseas. The people and culture, Baylosis says she's already fallen in love with, and has settled in in what now feels like home.
That being said, such a teaching environment does come with its own host of challenges.
“I think the biggest difficulty is taking certain aspects of the Canadian curriculum and figuring out how to teach it in a non-Canadian setting with non-Canadian students,” Baylosis says. “For example, the social studies elementary curriculum is heavy on Canadian content. At this point, I am trying to find a way of exposing such information to the students here, but also connect it to their local culture and make sure I can offer opportunities where students feel included, represented and reflected; so they are able to branch out and learn about other cultures they may not have been made aware of.”
Just over three weeks into her placement now, Baylosis notes focusing merely on the Canadian content does no good in the classroom, as it does not adequately reach all of her students, nor reflects their cultural backgrounds, ethnicities and knowledge of the world. “How can I make Canadian content relevant and connect it to the local lifestyle here, and also bring in the different background of the specific students?” is a question she often asks herself.
For her, it is really about giving her 19 students the opportunities to explore and find ways to share with the rest of the class.
Nevertheless, when asked if such a formidable experience could simultaneously be worthwhile as well, Baylosis responds with a “definitely” without skipping a beat. For her, the aspects of travel and uprooting herself from the familiar have forced her to learn far more about herself and the world than she would have had she stayed in the same city—let alone country.
“Travelling opens you up and changes the way you think about yourself, the world, your relationships, and the cultural exchanges you engage with,” she adds. “It’s worth it. Whatever experience you have—good, or bad—it changes you for the better. You definitely learn. It can be scary and daunting at first and I have had my moments, but I do believe in the end, it helps you grow and understand yourself and others around you in a better way.
“I know others may be overwhelmed with the idea of having to leave your friends and family and everything you know behind, but I have always viewed it as an exciting challenge and adventure,” Baylosis reflects, on this particular chapter in her life. “This opportunity will take you outside your comfort zone and will help you go beyond what you know. You can open up to new discoveries.”
Baylosis says ever since she taught ESL a couple years ago, she has found learning about herself, “as an individual in a totally different country to be addicting.” She does not mind being in another country as long as she feels comfortable and safe and has a good support system.
“The Faculty of Education, Vietnam and the CIS offered exactly that,” she says.