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Teaching English with Peace Boat
When teaching abroad, you often end up focusing a lot on where you teach — but what if your classroom was always moving, pulling in and out of countries, constantly riding the currents of the sea? That’s what Julia experienced when she decided to work with Peace Boat, a Japanese NGO that fosters global cooperation and advocacy. If you’re looking for a unique work abroad opportunity, read about her experiences teaching English with Peace Boat!
A cruise ship is a peculiar place to imagine yourself living and working – especially if you’ve never stepped foot on any vessel larger than a local ferry. It’s certainly one of the last places I would have imagined myself when I completed the CELTA certification three years ago. I knew that ESL teaching would lead me to international travel, but I never imagined the possibility of such an expansive global adventure.
What is it like to work with Peace Boat?
After working at an eikaiwa (language school) in Tokyo for two years, I spent the summer of 2018 volunteering as an English teacher on an educational cruise ship that circumnavigated the globe – reaching corners of the earth as frigid as the Arctic Circle and as hot as a Singaporean summer. The ship is run by Peace Boat, a Japan-based NGO that works with a variety of international peace-promoting campaigns and climate change advocacy projects. I was fortunate to be selected as one of ten teachers on Peace Boat’s 98th voyage, which visited 23 countries and 25 ports in the span of three and a half months.
Teaching English with Peace Boat is one of the most unique experiences one can have as an ESL instructor. It’s a rare opportunity in which global travel is actually built into your job description. And when traveling on a ship you have the exceptional advantage of seeing the ‘nooks and crannies’ of the world that you would never see otherwise. There are sights, such as the Suez Canal or the fjords of Norway, that I never even imagined myself seeing before the voyage.
Circling the globe also put the size of the planet into perspective. At times the world felt incomprehensibly massive, but most of the time I would wake up to a new country and feel how remarkably small the earth really is. I recall being in awe while visiting the Parthenon in Athens and thinking How did I get here from Tokyo by boat?
But visiting new countries ends up being only part of a wholly enriching experience.
What are the benefits of working with Peace Boat?
Maintaining education as the cornerstone of its mission, Peace Boat invites leaders from around the world onboard to share their knowledge with the ship’s diverse group of passengers. Human rights activists, scholars, artists, and other people from an array of unique backgrounds join the voyage between ports of call to lead lectures, classes, workshops, and performances with their wealth of specialized knowledge. These guest educators are referred to as Mizuan, the Japanese word for ‘navigator,’ because they essentially navigate Peace Boat’s educational agenda by shedding light on various issues in the countries that the ship visits.
Between my classes and meals, I would slip into one of the dozens of events taking place to learn about such topics. I might rush off from an afternoon class, for example, to catch an hour talk on peacebuilding in Colombia or poverty alleviation in Sri Lanka. Another day I would pop into a lecture on the obsolescence of nuclear energy and finish my evening with a performance of indigenous music by Pacific islanders.
And as one of the teachers on the ship, I had the advantage of joining closed sessions with the guest educators in which we could ask them more pointed questions. Accordingly, I found myself dining and socializing regularly with these global leaders – some of which I still have the pleasure of keeping in contact with.
What does teaching English with Peace Boat involve?
Such global connections and experiences are substantial pieces of the Peace Boat puzzle, but there’s also much to be said for the work I did and offered the passengers myself. I wore many hats as a volunteer. These roles included teaching, event coordination, MC work, tour organization, and often the most random of jobs such as guiding passengers to immigration checkpoints in St. Petersburg. Just as a guest lecturer would hold a large-scale event, I, for example, led various events such as a ‘Beatles Night’, a powerpoint overview of California, and a talk on the history of the indigenous American population.
This kind of work, however, was supplementary to my essential role as a teacher. Again, the goal of Peace Boat is to create a global culture of peace – and English, as an international language of communication, is an essential tool to build that vision. So the ship encourages its passengers to join the onboard language school, ‘GET’ (Global English/Español Training), which teaches both global English and Spanish, so that they may further bridge communication between themselves and people from other cultures, literally, across the globe. Within this spirit of cultural exchange and global education, ESL teaching becomes immediately rewarding. Imagine the ability to witness your students directly apply the language you teach them in over 20 countries – using English to bridge communication and initiate connections with people from all corners of the globe.
But even teaching for the language school encompasses a variety of duties outside of one’s typical ESL educator position. Teachers are expected to not only teach their assigned classes, but to create customized curriculum and material for those classes based around the needs of the students and the voyage itself. An easy example would be that we teach ‘bargaining’ language while the boat is in Central America rather than Scandinavia – and we only construct that lesson if the students want to learn it.
It’s unquestionably the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I will continue to laud and support this incredible NGO, and I encourage those that are seeking a global adventure to apply as a volunteer.
If working around the world while striving towards a better future sounds like a dream come true for you, take the first step on your English teaching journey by checking out how a CELTA course can help you!
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