After teaching internationally for almost nine years, social-sciences instructor Mary Fish joined the Marlborough faculty in February as a substitute teacher for Mike Rindge’s AP World and AP U.S. History classes.
Fish said that her strong desire to travel has inspired her to teach internationally. When she first became a teacher, a career abroad was an economically sound, yet still satisfying solution to her longing to explore the world. Her first traveling-and-teaching adventure was not too far from her hometown of Regina, Canada, where she grew up on a farm; she moved north to Saskatchewan and taught ninth-grade English and social studies in a Native American community. The town had high unemployment, little industry, high crime rates, and a small English-speaking population, so Fish said that the area felt like another country.
After two years there, she moved to Kuwait, where she taught the same subjects to seventh graders at an international school for a year. One of the challenges Fish faced in Kuwait was balancing the multiple philosophies of the school. Its mission statement expressed the goal of blending Western education with Islamic morals and beliefs. In practice, however, Fish said that the two objectives didn’t mesh well. Fish struggled to fulfill her hired job as a Western educator while she navigated the many constricting unwritten rules, such as not discussing religion, Jews, Israel or drinking, topics which are difficult to avoid in social studies. Part of the reason Fish left after the one year was because she did not feel like she was offering a true Western education; the school, in effect, she said, would not let her.
Fish said that she was pleasantly surprised with the freedom women had in Kuwait. Women can drive, for example, and the law allows them to decide whether or not to cover themselves. Women earned the right to vote in Kuwait in 2005 while Fish was in the country; before it was reinstated during Fish’s stay, women’s suffrage had previously been granted and then taken away.
Still, Fish said that she sometimes faced challenges as a woman. She needed a police report for an issue concerning her car. She recalled that two different police stations gave her a hard time. When her male, Arab colleague asked on her behalf, on the other hand, the police did not hesitate to help. Fish also said, however, that people in Kuwait probably gave her more leeway as a Western woman than an Arab woman would have enjoyed.
Fish’s next stop was Japan, where she taught middle-school English for seven-and-a-half years. When asked if she speaks Japanese, she said that her “taxicab Japanese” is excellent and that her “restaurant Japanese” is decent, but other than that, no, she does not speak Japanese. The international school at which she taught demanded that those on campus speak English in order to create an inclusive environment for students who did not speak Japanese.
Many years into Fish’s time in Japan, her significant other received a job offer in Los Angeles. Together, they decided it was time to move. In Los Angeles, Fish said that her experience has been positive in terms of the friendliness of Californians.
Fast Facts about Fish:
Favorite color: blue
Favorite ice-cream flavor: pralines and cream
Favorite book/genre: The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck, non-fiction
Siblings: one younger sister and two younger brothers