Trading places: Edmonds teacher writes book about year in Scottish elementary school
One of the biggest challenges for Edmonds School District second-grade teacher Jennie Warmouth while spending a year in Scotland on a Fulbright Teacher Exchange? Believe it or not, it was the language.
While they speak English in Scotland, it’s with a thick brogue, unfamiliar nouns and colloquialisms. A trunk is a “boot.” Notebooks and erasers are “jotters” and “rubbers.” Cookies are “biscuits.” Sweaters are “jumpers.” Students are “pupils.”
“I struggled initially to understand what people were saying,” said Warmouth, “but the kids spoke much more slowly and we had a solid enough rapport so I could say, ‘I can’t understand you.’ ”
Of course, Jennie’s Scottish counterpart experienced similar confusion and culture shock in the Edmonds School District, where students speak numerous languages.
It was in 2008 that Warmouth, who grew up in Edmonds, graduated from Meadowdale High School and is a second-grade teacher at Spruce Elementary School in Lynnwood, applied for the exchange program. She was paired with Heather Inglis from Edinburgh’s Roseburn Primary School, built in 1894 and looking more like a castle than a school.
In addition to their teaching assignments, Warmouth and Inglis integrated themselves into their counterparts’ social circles. “We both turned 30 that year, and we weren’t married or had kids,” said Warmouth. “I stayed in her apartment and she stayed in mine.” Inglis also spent time in Edmonds with Warmouth’s parents, Kathy and Bill Warmouth.
After the year was over, Warmouth successfully pitched the idea of a book to the Fulbright Program, which paid for her to return to Scotland in 2011 to flesh out ideas and talk some more to her cohort of students. She was accompanied by a photographer, Aya T. Sato. Back home, writer Gabriel Ayerza helped her write the story in rhyme.
“I designed this book as a tool for guided perspective-taking, which provides one element of an important foundation for empathy and compassion,” she said. “It has been written as two complete, mirrored stories in one. The first half is written from the perspective of the American teacher in Scotland and the second half from the point of view of the Scottish teacher in America. It’s written in rhyme to help kids from both countries figure out the vocabulary in context.”
“I had a wonderful experience trading places with Jennie,” said Inglis. “Her book is a really fantastic reminder of all the quirky differences we have with an ocean between us. Her book is fantastically written and beautifully illustrated. I hope it brings back fond memories for all those involved. Hopefully the exchange and the book will encourage children, parents, and teachers who read it to spread their wings and travel and see the wonder in learning about new cultures and meeting fantastic people along the way.”
“Teacher Trade!” is available through amazon.com and at the Edmonds Bookshop. All author royalties go to a scholarship fund to college-bound graduating seniors in the Edmonds School District. The Edmonds Alumni Association is providing a partnership for the scholarship award.
At the book’s website (www.teacher-trade.com), Warmouth – a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington studying child psychology and the development of empathy – includes Common Core state standards for teachers, learning links for parents, and games for kids.
Warmouth said she’ll never forget her trip and how it opened her eyes to cultural differences and similarities. She’ll mostly remember the kids.
“My students began picking up on my accent on purpose because they thought it was cool. They’d say things different at home. One parent came in and said, ‘We’re having to correct our little child because she’s no longer saying ba-nah-na, she’s saying ba-naa-na.’”
— Story by Brian Soergel