Travel Oops: Oh Yeah…I’m a Yank

from: Herbert Hoover Library, National Archives and Records Administration

from: Herbert Hoover Library, National Archives and Records Administration

During my first parent teacher conferences at Le Fevre High School, I met with the parents of my one British student, Jessica. They had just moved to Adelaide, and, like me, they were adjusting to the Australian school system. So we discussed our observations about the differences in education.

For some reason, they seemed to forget with whom they were talking and shared an interesting insight with me. “Well, I don’t know what to think many days. Australia is getting closer and closer to a new America,” Mrs. Ford confessed while shaking her head. I believe she actually wrung her hands, too.

The observation didn’t seem quite charitable toward the US nor Australia.

Football pro bowl

Despite that mild statement, which one would generally expect from a British subject, I never encountered any outright US bashing. Always, I felt welcome and accepted in Oz.

In the beginning, I was aware of being a “Yank,” and Australians have some definite opinions on Yank tendencies as well as our activities. For the most part, Aussies strongly dislike American football, which they have dubbed, “Gridiron.”

“Ah yeah, a bunch of pussies out there with all that armor. They think they’re these bloody gladiators, but then take all those breaks,” said my colleague and friend Brad. “Sooks!” he calls American NFL players.

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Travel Teacher Oops — “I came to hear The Outsiders, Miss.”

© sashafatcat

A bowl of grits © sashafatcat

If an American from the South had heard my bogus southern accent, that person probably would have thrown a bowl of grits in my direction or doused me with sweet tea. My Australian year 8’s, however, didn’t particularly detect the lack of authenticity.

They actually seemed somewhat engaged as I read them The Outsiders, so I drawled out the dialogue and got my y’alls polished up real good.

Painting by Roelant Savery

Painting by Roelant Savery

It’s not every day that you experience a victory in education. In fact, a VE day can be pretty elusive, like looking for a rare bird or any endangered species. When I was an exchange teacher in Australia, finding success was like searching for the dodo. Non-existent.

I felt like such an incompetent teacher, and every time I talked to my Australian counterpart, Dash, who was teaching my American classes, his updates deflated my spirits even more.

“Ah, yeah! Steph, we had a breakthrough today in Senior English; Madelynn* read a poem, revealing the abuse and torment she experienced as a child,” he e-mailed me one day. “It was the first time she’d told anyone. The event was so cathartic that we all had a good cry.”

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