by Sharday Mosurinjohn, July 2012
When Megan Bond started teaching, she wasn’t sure if she would do it for very long. “In my third year teaching, I thought to myself: ‘I am so lucky that this is what I should be doing,’” Bond reflects. “I didn’t plan it. I just fell into it.” After finishing her BA in History and Sociology at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Bond was wondering what to do next. “I looked at my life and saw how much time I’d spent working with kids, so that helped to shape my choice.” Bond spent two and a half years volunteering with children with special needs during her undergraduate degree through the S.M.I.L.E. Program (which stands for Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience). She also worked as a camp counselor in New Hampshire for a summer, and volunteered in a number of classrooms to help out teachers. Despite all this, Bond hadn’t thought about teaching till the last year of undergrad.
Jumping into the professional world wasn’t just a matter of settling into a new job, either, it also became an exploration of living in a different country and learning to navigate a different way of life. Bond’s first job after graduating from Queens’ Bachelor of Education was in London, England teaching kindergarten in the state school system. “It was hard!” she exclaims, “I was working in a low socioeconomic status area, which faced a lot of challenges. It was a place that was full of extremes, but it was great living in Europe, being in an exciting city, and working with other teachers from other cultures and background and experiences.” After this time, she took a year off teaching, traveled to New Zealand, and then back to Queen’s to attend the Teachers' Overseas Recruiting Fair (TORF). Eventually, Bond found a job through a networking website that was advertised there (tieonline.com), for herself and her teaching partner at an international school in Mongolia. Originally hired as grade two classroom teacher for one year, Bond ended up staying for three.
What kept her there? “The first year abroad for anyone is a huge change, so there’s the experience of going through a settling in period, redefining yourself in a new context, asking questions like ‘do I belong,’ and ‘who am I in this place,’” elaborates Bond. And after these ups and downs, she says, Mongolia “deserved a second year.” Throughout the next year, the new teacher spent more time learning more about Mongolia and exposing herself to more of the social spaces outside of the international school community. “The second year was about finding where the beauty is.” By the end of that year, Bond and her teaching partner had split up and this shift inspired her to challenge herself to have her own experience in Mongolia, immerse herself in local city life, and, she says, “prove to myself that I was capable and strong enough and brave enough to do it on my own.”
No small part of the decision to stay was Bond’s love of working with her students. “The kids responded positively to me, they were enthusiastic and curious. It was interesting that because of the Americanization of the media, they were more aware of me culturally than I was of them, initially.” In addition to teaching standard classroom courses, Bond drew on her dance history (nine years of tap and jazz) to develop a dance class. “It was such a creative outlet to choreograph and the kids loved it. I said ‘let’s all just be new learners,’ and researched all kinds of dance styles to try out. One of the best parts was that I found the kids who had the hardest time in the classroom looked forward to dance the most.”
A sense of holistic wellness and being open to “the unintended curriculum” is important to Bond. To balance her studies, she does photography, writing (under the aptly titled blog Tales of a VagaBond), cycling, knitting, painting (“in Mongolia, furniture is highly decorated with bright orange paint, and I’d like to experiment with that on a small scale”), and running. In fact, after having met a couple in Asia who were running a marathon in every continent, Bond adopted this goal as her own. She completed her second marathon just a few weeks ago in Ottawa and her very first while she was still in Asia.
All of these hobbies, along with a love of learning about culture, language, and place, are things that Bond takes with her and modifies based on her environment. “Had I known I was going to stay so long originally, I would have learned more Mongolian,” she laughs. “What I’ve got now is what you’d call ‘taxi Mongolian’ or ‘market Mongolian.’” Nonetheless, Bond learned a great deal about the country, where she appreciated a more active lifestyle, an emphasis on giving back to the place from which you come, and a less consumeristic and materialistic value system. Although coming to understand these different ways of being in the world resulted in what Bond describes as “a pretty intense reverse culture shock” when she returned from Mongolia, they also deepened her appreciation of Canada and have made her much more thoughtful, self-aware, and reflexive in her daily life back at home.
It’s this concept of cultural dissonance that also brought Bond back to Queen’s for a Master’s of Education. Her work now is guided by the desire to help students and teachers, who will be increasingly likely to seek employment overseas as jobs become scarcer in Canada, understand their transitional experiences. “I’m interested in migration, whether that’s about seeking refuge, seeking a different life, or if it’s necessitated by professional reasons, and how to help people foster a greater sense of well being during these times.”
Staying busy with school, creative projects, and physical activity is just what the avid traveler needs during her own period of adjustment back to Canada. “It felt like it was time to reconnect with family and friends,” recalls Bond. “And I got to this point where, professionally, I needed to feed my brain.” The grad student initially intended to pursue the thesis option with her new degree, but realized that it was truer to herself to do a project option that required more courses, but no formal research. “It might take the form of a workshop of some kind. I’ll see as it develops.” One thing that’s for sure is that Bond is excited to return to teaching. “I know that there’s so much more I can do as a teacher. And teaching overseas combines all of my loves,” she explains. “I have a great curiosity about the world and I’ve always wanted to travel.” Plus, the position is “so rewarding.” “Teachers wield a lot of power. It’s a gift to have that kind of influence. I am privileged.”