The Travelling Teacher
A geography teacher and deputy head at North Cestrian Grammar School in Cheshire is showing everyone how it is done by turning his spare time into material for his lessons.
Matthew Bell has a passion for travelling that he has put to good use in the classroom and is also inspiring his students to follow in his footsteps.
During the six-week-long summer holidays, Matthew travels to different countries to broaden his mind so that he can, in turn, broaden the minds of his students.
When he left university, Matthew went into banking but felt that it wasn’t for him. He realised that he wanted to teach geography, so that’s what he did. But instead of using “secondary resources”, like the internet or textbooks, Matthew thought the best way to do it was by turning his passion into a learning curve, seeing and experiencing things that he could then teach his students about first hand.
So far, Matthew has been to 55 countries, with the aim of paying a visit to every one on the planet. Not wanting to limit the trips to photographs and videos that would just find their way to the bottom of a cupboard or drawer, never to be seen again, he decided to document them through different forms of writing.
Starting during a trip to Europe, Matthew kept a travel journal of his experiences there. From then on, he became the author of a children’s story based on his time in China, an essay on his happenings in Australia, a poem anthology on his travels to New Zealand, and – just to mix it up a little – a graphic novel using his travel photos of Malaysia.
By going out to learn and experience these places for himself, he doesn’t have to rely on textbooks to teach in his classes. He can simply bring out the pictures and videos he has taken, and his own writings about the things he experienced and share them with his class, making the lessons more engaging for everyone.
Matthew and his students over the years have even organised some educational holidays as part of their class. As long as the destination is part of their syllabus, the students are able to organise the trips with freedom. Matthew oversees the project and final details (and makes the necessary calls, and so on) but the students can enjoy a free rein with everything else.
The students even draft the letters to their parents explaining how the trip will be useful for them and relevant to the class! This aspect of Matthew’s travel began with a class trip to the Netherlands 12 years ago, and has since taken a class to Dubai and a trip to India is planned for next month.
“What I really wanted to do was take three or four weeks to get out and see things,” he explained. “If students see me maximising my opportunities, they will want to do the same… I immersed myself and challenge them now to do the same.”