Tag Archives: love

The invitation

1 in 101.

These last few weeks have been difficult. Many Americans who reside in this land we call the United States of America, don’t feel very united. My own heart and mind have been sad and confused. The USA feels unnatural to me; almost foreign. Some things are recognizable but many other things aren’t. Just when I thought I couldn’t bear to listen to one more disturbing news report, or read one more Facebook post about this nation and our government, I got a wonderful invitation that ended up being a perfect gift as I leave this country to live in another.

We met at work in 2016. Although he was originally from Mexico, he’d been living in Texas for more than a decade with a green card. He’d made his life here. His sons were born here, his career was here and his dreams of the future were here. As we grew to know each other better, I questioned this soft-spoken man about why he’d never gained his citizenship. I explained that his vote was needed. All the votes are needed to accurately represent the people of this country.

Over the next two years, with the help of our company and others, he hired an attorney and began this long process. There were meetings to attend, paperwork that had to be completed and so much WAITING. Every now and then I’d ask where he was in the process, and he’d respond that more time was needed. As time went by, and more changes were made with regard to immigrants, I was nervous that it might not materialize. I quit asking about it months ago.

I resigned from work in early June to spend time with family and friends on the west coast. I returned to Texas with only two weeks to sell my car, spend time with friends and finalize my international move. With a To-Do list a mile long, I received a text: “I have my ceremony for my naturalization of citizenship this July 19!!!!” and the text message included big, smiling emojis and a USA flag. I immediately responded to his text and quickly, within a few comments, I replied, “I would love to come.”

And so I did.

I’ve never been to a naturalization ceremony and was thrilled to be spending it with my friend and his sister. The room was filled, standing room only. Everyone was dressed so nice, many wearing the Stars and Stripes on their selected attire. Many others chose the simple colors of Red, White or Blue. Excitement was in the air. It was thrilling! Cameras were clicking non-stop.

After clearing security, he was separated from us, and was escorted into a large room with the other 100 qualified applicants. After waiting 45 minutes, the family and friends of each of the applicants, were released to take our seats in the same large room. Lucky us! We were seated across the aisle from him and were able to take photos from this vantage point.

The décor of the room, the videos, the songs and the speeches squeezed our hearts. After spending a month in beautiful California, my heart swelled at the physical beauty of this nation. Surrounded by a hundred eager faces, the visual images of our National Parks and the encouraging quotes of historical figures began to thaw my icy feelings about this country. One by one, each of the 35 country names were called out, and those from that country stood up.

Australia

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Brazil

China

Burma (Myanmar)

Colombia

Cuba

Dominican Republic

Ecuador

El Salvador

Ghana

Honduras

India

Iraq

Ireland

Kenya

Liberia

Malaysia

Mexico

Nepal

Nicaragua

Nigeria

Philippines

Republic of South Korea

Russia

South Africa

Sweden

Syria

Taiwan

Thailand

Togo

Trinidad and Tobago

Uganda

United Kingdom

Vietnam

The joy of these 101 was contagious and it spread throughout the room as their names were called. There was clapping, yelling, tears and awe. The presenter mentioned that some of the 101 had been through much to get to this point, and as we all stood together, we were honored for them to join us as American citizens.

It was an amazing ceremony that left me changed. I am thankful to be an American. I did nothing to deserve it, but was simply born here and given rights and privileges that so many do not have. I feel a responsibility to teach and encourage others to dream of what is possible inside a broken world. When I arrive in my new “home” country, I will strive to be an ambassador of the United States of America, and set an example of love and truth. It will be my goal to develop empathy in my new students.

How many immigrants do you have as friends?

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School’s out for the summer

The crescendo has been building for a couple of weeks.

I typically give my very best ideas away to my students, and usually this makes me happy. They gratefully consume my ideas all year long, digest them, rework them, and pour out the results (which are fabulous!) but now it’s summer and I’m ready to blow up my raft and go float in the pool. I’ve just completed my eleventh year as a full-time middle and high school art teacher at a college preparatory school in the Dallas metroplex. Over the last few weeks, I’ve immersed myself into throngs of contemporary art fairs for the reason of finding inspiring ideas, not only to try for myself, but to tweak into becoming classroom projects. This is primarily how I develop my art curriculum. I go out and experience art in the world around me.

One of the most wonderful, healing things about teaching is that, at the beginning of each year, you get to start a clean slate. It’s brand new. Each new school year is about creating and giving away your best ideas for a specific amount of time. At the end of a year, it’s over and you put the slate away. If there are projects that didn’t turn out so well, you never have to do them again. Years ago, I remember singing at the top of my lungs, Alice Cooper’sSchool’s Out, at the end of May:

No more pencils,

No more books,

No more teacher’s dirty looks.

Admittedly, I’ve probably given my share of dirty looks this year (I assure you I’ve also given truckloads of smiles and hugs too) but now, it’s time to rest. I get to start over with a clean slate full of new possibilities next August. It is a wonderfully refreshing concept. Each day we wake up we should be grateful because, like teaching, we get to start over. We get the opportunity to turn over a new leaf. To listen more. To love more. To forgive more. We can take a walk down a new path and try new approaches to life. Each day we wake up we are given the possibility to be more courageous and more mindful of the earth and others.

I’ve always hoped to make a difference in someone’s life; this adds purpose to my life. I want to have an impact on others to show them their potential and express how much they matter. Teaching allows me to do that. If I can see evidence that I’ve influenced even one child to dream and reach for the stars, I feel that the year has been successful. This year there are many students I feel that way about and I feel grateful and blessed. Still, I am ready to float on my raft.

This summer, when I get off the raft, I will be working on several ebooks for publication. One will be about art careers and one will be about integrating global history and culture into art curriculum. I want to inspire students, artists, art educators, parents, homeschool teachers, administrators and even school districts. Sadly, from my experience I’ve learned that much of the public, including students and parents, do not know about the importance of an art education in the 21st century. In general people don’t understand how lucrative and satisfying a career in the arts can be.

Two years ago, I was invited to become a member of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Teacher Advisory Board. I gratefully accepted the position and have been honored to share this board membership with a few other teachers who strive to inspire. We have assisted the Nasher Education Department in many ways including the expansion of new activities and workshops for the public, as well as curriculum development and printed material. Through the continued dialogue at our monthly meetings I have expressed the need specifically for art career education. Together we have researched this and I have presented the collected material to administrators, faculty and parents. After learning more through my presentation, everyone is excited and hopeful about college and career prospects for students of all ages. I want to make this research available to more people who can use it and create possibilities for their own lives or the lives of others.

As this school year comes to a close, I want to share an excellent video produced by the Exxon Mobile Corporation. As you watch it, I hope teachers you learned from will come to mind. I want to encourage you to write them an email. Search for them on facebook. Actually go buy a stamp and send them a card. Tell them how important they have been to you. I promise; it will make their day.

(Thank you Mrs. Majors, Mrs. Cuniff, Gloria Ball, Mrs. Simpson, Judith d’Agostino, Dr. Dianne Strickland, Jackie Snyders, Cynthia Bylander, Jeff Johnston, Dr. David Quick, Tanya Synar and all my fellow colleagues. You all poured into me and I really appreciate it and love you for it.)

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Same as it ever was (Part 3 of 3)

Once in a lifetime.

Reminiscing about David Byrne and the Talking Heads brings back a torrential downpour of pleasant memories. These musical-memories connect significantly to a transition time in my life: graduating from college, getting married and moving out of state. In the mid-1980’s, my then-husband and I moved from Missouri to Texas to begin a new life. Recently graduated from college, we were psyched to land our first jobs and start down our career path, which for me meant beginning the climb up the corporate ladder. My imaginative dreams were centered on my new marriage, my new job, buying our first new car, buying our first home and eventually becoming parents. My mind couldn’t fully wrap around all these new, upcoming changes, but I was excited and hopeful about my future.

None of these dreams turned out exactly the way I thought they would. I could have never predicted the end results of my hopes and expectations. More than once I awoke, seemingly from a deep sleep, and thought, as Bryne’s lyrics read, “My God! What have I done?” There’s no way that we can fully predict what our lives will be, even with all the research we do and all the well wishes and prayers from friends and family. But life is wonderfully mysterious and I wouldn’t trade in any of my experiences, both the good ones and the bad ones, for they’ve brought me to where I am today. Life is full of transitions and I find that I am still excited and hopeful about my future as I seriously consider moving overseas.

And You May Find Yourself Living In A Shotgun Shack

And You May Find Yourself In Another Part Of The World

And You May Find Yourself Behind The Wheel Of A Large Automobile

And You May Find Yourself In A Beautiful House, With A Beautiful Wife

And You May Ask Yourself-Well…How Did I Get Here?

This rendition of The Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime”, is recorded by Robert Luis:

When I went to Europe for the first time in 2006 I remember thinking, “I belong here. This feels like home. Surely I was born here and my parents adopted me into the USA and just have never told me!” How did I get here (USA)? “This is not my beautiful house,” as the song goes. But my mother assures me that I wasn’t adopted and that I am truly American! I often feel like a foreigner in my own country. I long to live a slower, more observant, less cluttered lifestyle. Every minute of every day is a “once in a lifetime” possibility. The next time I ask myself, “My God! What have I done?” I want to honestly and peacefully answer the question in a way that shows love, bravery, courage and trust.

Part 3 of 3: SA (Search Associates)

This article concludes with my research about the international educational recruitment company, Search Associates (SA). In my previous two posts I explained what I have found out about UNI (University of Northern Iowa) and ISS (International Schools Services).  SA has been in existence for more than 21 years. Not only have they helped teachers find positions in international schools around the world, they also place administrators and interns. Their current website boasts that in 2011 they set a record by helping 2,198 candidates secure positions abroad.

SA works with more than 600 schools, compared to ISS who works with about 150 schools. SA feels confident they are the best educational recruitment company because of the personal attention they give to both candidates and schools. For instance, once I completed my online application and SA had received recommendations from my administrators, my file was considered “active” and I was assigned a Senior Associate who will personally assist me throughout the entire search process. I was given her email and phone number so that I can reach her at all times. Additionally, because my file is active, I receive a daily log of SA represented schools that are currently seeking teachers and administrators. Since my file became active in March 2012, I’ve been tracking how many art positions have been posted. I’m delighted to report that there have been 23 art teaching positions listed to date, and this is really late in the hiring season! Keep in mind that most positions for the 2012-13 school year have already been placed.

Although my file is considered active, my online profile will not be made known to seeking schools until I pay my membership dues. Once I pay $200, I will have access to SA for three years and interested schools can review my credentials. I will have access to job openings, salaries and benefits and I will be able to contact schools directly through the database upon notification of an opening in one of my listed preferences. Interested schools will be able to email me directly, set up interviews or ask for additional information. The first SA educational recruitment fair is free and each additional fair is $50, although all job fairs are by invitation only. Both candidates and schools that are fully registered may request invitations. In comparison, ISS charges $290 for all fairs in a season. Search Associates offers 13 annual job fairs worldwide between November and June. These fairs allow candidates and schools to have face-to-face interviews to determine if there is a mutual interest and a good “fit” between the school and candidate. In addition, Search Associates keeps their fairs small in order to provide maximum support for candidates and schools.

There are many more educational recruitment companies, but I’ve limited my search to these three: UNI, ISS and SA. In my last post I described the wonderful resource, International Schools Review (ISR) which allows open dialogue, through a forum, on a host of subjects centered around teaching internationally. On this website you will find many opinions about the differences of these companies. Some people prefer one company over another for a host of reasons. Many international educators never attend a fair at all. After paying their application fee, they contact the seeking schools directly and are accustomed to interviewing over Skype.

In the ISR article called, “How Do International Educators See Their Careers?” Bill says, “I left as soon as I got my BEd and never looked back. Best decision I could have ever made. I was looking to explore the world, learn about new cultures and languages, work in schools that value teachers and provide a stimulating work environment. Next year, will be my 4th international school and my 12th year overseas. Sometimes I think about going back for a couple of years but I really do enjoy this life too much to do so.”

Is teaching internationally a once in a lifetime opportunity? I think it may be. I’d be interested in what once in a lifetime opportunities you’ve been given.

Thanks for reading!

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