In this installment of our Meet the Teacher series, we asked BASIS International School Nanjing drama teacher Bethany Mason about her experience in education, as well as tips for other teachers considering a career abroad. Originally from the U.K., this is her first year with BASIS International Schools.
What made you decide to go into education?
I was never going to be a teacher, my Mum was a teacher, my uncle, my cousin, and everyone else told me to stay away, but some destinies can’t be fought! I first realized that I loved teaching when I was in my third year at university. I was mentoring some of the first years with their performance projects and started running performance workshops and I had no idea how rewarding it would be to nurture artists’ talents. I got a job as a teaching assistant in a local secondary school in Scarborough (North Yorkshire in the U.K.) and quickly applied for my teaching training positions at the University of Plymouth.
When did you first realize you had a passion for drama and theater?
My love of drama first came on a cold, rainy October evening. Imagine if you will, a six-year-old me sat in the audience of a Church of England primary school watching a version of Oliver. The lights came up and the actors started to perform and it was like someone had literally turned on all my sense! Whallop! The lights, the songs, the stage, the set, the acting; all I wanted to do was get up there and perform. I remember saying to myself “I want to do that.” So I just followed every path that had drama and performing arts in it which has guided and driven me forward throughout my life.
What influenced your decision to teach abroad?
I was influenced to move abroad because I am not an adventurer and I desperately wanted to be! I have moved around England but have always been so envious of people who take big leaps and even though I didn’t consider myself adventurous, I have always been bold. It helps when you ring your husband and casually ask if he’d like to move to China and he responds by saying, “Yeah sure, when do we leave?” I have two amazing and gorgeous little boys and I knew that BASIS International Schools would offer them the most incredible academic opportunities as well as the cultural exposure of moving to China. I wanted all of us to stop living in our little bubble and experience the world.
What do you enjoy most about teaching internationally?
My favourite part of teaching internationally, so far, has been exposing learners to some of my favourite plays and books which they haven’t heard of; Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, and the Never Touch a Dragon series and turning them into Christmas plays. I’m loving working with new age groups and seeing the development of language in such a short timescale is wonderful. Children are children, it doesn’t matter where you are, they love the high energy, creative lessons, and here I have the resources and time to make every lesson outstanding.
When you came to China, what did you find pleasantly surprising that you didn’t expect?
My first thought when we got to China was “Yesssss, we can get pizza!” After a long flight with a fussy 3 and 6 year-old, getting them food was my only priority and our wonderful school had a welcome party to sort us out with everything we needed. I get shocked by the space and the quiet. We will often go out to the big parks in the day and I thought it’d be heaving with people but it’s just not. I love the area we are in and the fact that my family use bikes to get around everywhere makes me so happy. The summer is deliciously long and the air conditioning is even better!
I didn’t expect to find everything I needed. I packed the most ridiculous amount of deodorant and hair products, being told it’d be tricky to find and everything is in our local shopping mall, or you can get on the glorious website Taobao.
What advice would you give teachers who are considering teaching abroad?
My advice to you if you were thinking about moving abroad would be to be bold! There are things you’ll love and things you don’t; just like at home but taking that step to be brave and give something new a try is commendable. Living among a completely different culture is one of the most incredible honours I’ve ever had. Working with such talented and creative young minds is worth every butterfly. Do you research, ignore people who want to give you their ‘opinion.’ Enjoy the opportunities life puts in your path. It is complete possible, people move abroad and do it with children too. BASIS International Schools hold your hand the entire way so you’re not actually doing it alone.