Fort Langley blacksmith Danny Cram explains Canadian history to a group of visiting Australian school teachers, who are taking part in an exchange program that has them teaching Canadian kids. Black Press Media photo

VIDEO: Australian teachers learn about B.C.’s past at historic Fort Langley

Exchange program sees Canadian and foreign teachers swap jobs

“The kids are enjoying my accent,” said Erin Stevenson.

“I think I’ve only said a few things that have set them off in gales of laughter.”

Stevenson, an elementary school teacher from Victoria, Australia, was part of a group of a dozen Australian teachers and their Canadian hosts who were taking a tour of historic Fort Langley on Sunday.

They were participants in a program that sees teachers in Canada swap jobs with their counterparts in other countries.

In Canada, as Stevenson discovered, words can mean different things than they do in Australia.

“Fortnight,” in Australia, is a measure of time, she said.

In Canada, “it’s a video game.”

“Water fountains” are called “bubblers” in Australia and polite Canadian school children ask to go to the “washroom” rather than the “toilet” their more direct down-under counterparts refer to.

Stevenson said the school system here is different in many ways, with teachers more likely to multi-task in Canada than in Australia, where art and phys ed classes are taught by “specialist” teachers.

Canadian classrooms are “a lot more play-based” she said, and students are more likely to go outdoors.

Suzi Vladimirov from Adelaide, South Australia, said she feels the countries don’t have many significant differences beyond accents and the weather.

“We have the same sense of humour,” Vladimirov said.

“Both nations [settlers] come from all over the world.”

Annette Cau ended up teaching French in her B.C. school, a task that she found daunting in an officially bilingual country where students have been taking classes for years.

“It’s quite fast-paced and the students are very bright,” Cau said.

Cau said she has enjoyed encountering Canadian cultural touchstones like “Timbits and Poutine.”

During the tour of the fort, several new phrases were added to the the teachers’ vocabularies, including “Hell’s Gate,” “Hudson’s Bay Company” and “Barkerville.”

READ ALSO: Historic Fort Langley remembers James Douglas and Louis Riel

It was all part of an orientation and welcome arranged by B.C. Exchange Teachers’ Association president Catherine Gagnon.

It began at her Aldergrove home Sunday morning with a get-together over Tim Tam chocolate biscuits, an Australian treat, and Timbits.

“They’ve [the Australian teachers] traded their jobs with Canadian teachers,” Gagnon explained.

“It’s a professional development opportunity for the teachers” where participants come back with “a lot of refreshing ideas” as a result, she added.

After the snacks, there was a videoconference to bring the participants together with the BC Teachers Federation in Vancouver, the Canadian League of Educational Exchange in Ontario and other exchange teachers in the BC interior.

Topics covered include “living with culture shock” the life of “spouses/partners/families” while on exchange, accommodation and housing agreements, tips about winter survival and travel tips.

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