Tag Archives: teaching internationally

Continued Transitions

Every week I think about writing a new blog post and every week I get so overwhelmed with all my new experiences, I can’t decide which one to write about, so I don’t write at all. I’m reasonably relaxed now, a week into my Winter Holiday break from school, and decided to put words onto digital paper.

I’m excited with my choice to live and work in India, but the transition stages of culture shock seem to be taking longer to process through, as compared to when I moved to Istanbul in 2013. In Turkey, I remember feeling invigorated to be living in a new-to-me Muslim country and experiencing life in a historically rich, city with new tastes, languages, sights and sounds. As I reflect, there were many things that were familiar to me already.

Turkey is a European country and I’ve traveled to Europe many times. Istanbul has four seasons, just like in Texas. I had been a tourist in Istanbul two years prior to moving there. Western fashion brands are common. Surprisingly, there were Victoria’s Secret billboards up on the main roads. There was a clean and modern metro to get you around from place to place. The city of Istanbul has city services in place, such as trash removal and recycling. Metro and bus cards were easily topped up. I could always find a relatively clean public toilet if I needed one. Although Turkish foods were new to me, fruits and vegetables were the sizes and shapes that I knew and had used in the USA. There were so many dogs and cats on the streets and these animals were common to me. I knew at least something about several of the great civilizations in historical Turkey: Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans. Islam is different from Christianity but because Islam, Judaism and Christianity all recognize Abraham as their first prophet, they have a lot in common.

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In contrast, there is very little here in Chennai that seems familiar to my western understanding of the world. It is both bewildering and exciting. My local, Indian friends have said there are 3 seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest. It is tropical here and I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a tropical environment before. The trees, plants and flowers are so different. There are some fruits and vegetables that I know, but there are many more that I don’t know and have never even seen pictures of. And the foods here are prepared with an understanding of the medicinal effects of each food and spice. I had never traveled to India before moving here to live. Chennai, with a population of approximately 10 million, has limited city planning. There are very few city services available in the way that I’m used to. There is public transportation that the locals use but I don’t (yet) feel comfortable using the buses and trains by myself. There are many new forms of transportation to me including tuktuks, or autoricks, and so many, many motorbikes. The rules of the road are completely different to me and I can’t begin to imagine driving here. There are dogs and cats that live on the street, but also cows, donkeys and goats, monkeys, tropical birds, bats, lizards and strange insects. In north India there are also camels and elephants roaming on the street. Tigers, half-horse-half-cow sort of animal called a blue bull nilgai and so many more exotic-to-me animals live in this country. The beautiful clothes that most women wear are certainly not western. Cotton and silk are the preferred fabrics. In most cases, the recipes for cooking are completely new to me, including the spices. For many years in Dallas there were only a few Indian restaurants. The food here in Chennai is not like anything I’ve ever had or tasted in the USA. Thankfully, many Indian people have immigrated to Dallas and new, authentic Indian restaurants are now opening. Although Christians, Muslims and Buddhists live here, the Hindu religion is the most noticeable, and certainly the most different, to me. There are temples and alters on every block. Flower, fruit and oil lamp offerings are made daily and small businesses exist on the street to provide the commodities needed for these daily rituals. The smells and sounds coming from these holy places do not connect to any memory in my life experiences. There are 30 MILLION gods. Hard, manual labor exists and you see it everyday. An American friend said, “Although I’ve worked all my life, as an American, I’ve never really worked a day in my life.” And, for good or for bad, the ugly is not hidden away.

After living here for two months, I consciously passed through a new phase of transition when I received my bank debit card, figured out how to order groceries online and figured out how to take a tuktuk to/from school everyday. These three things caused my transition to blossom into positive possibilities.

After living here for four months, I recognized the amazing difference it made to befriend Indian people as they held the secrets to understanding this new way of life. Within these friendships, I could ask questions without offending. They see that I am truly curious and am eager to learn. I am so grateful for these people that have shown up in my life as they are making all the difference in my transition.

Are you aware of the transitions of your own life?

 

 

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I’ve arrived

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First thoughts.

There’s no way to prepare for India. Friends who have traveled or lived here, attempted to paint a picture of what I might experience. People tried to describe it with words, but there’s no way to do that with words.  Words help us describe our emotions and our thoughts, but words are inadequate to describe India. You have to experience it. I don’t have a vocabulary that easily explains a hundred different things going on at the same time, matched with how I’m feeling about those exact things all at the same time. There’s so much visual and audible stimulation in every single little city block that after two weeks of traveling along the exact same roads, back and forth, every single day, I still cannot be fully sure of ever where I am. I’m very excited by it and so glad I made the decision to come. I’m very happy. But with that said, it is so chaotic, fast – and yet also, so very slow, and in every possible way my five senses are stimulated to the point I think my head is going to explode some days.

The globalization/modernization/commercialization that has happened in Chennai in the last 4 years is unbelievable according to those who have been here longer. There are modern, technology-driven, high-rise buildings going up everywhere, yet right next door people are sleeping on the dirt and cows are freely rummaging through the trash on the street. People that are disfigured, without limbs or with strange, curious skin afflictions, are left to beg. The highways, sidewalks and train tracks that are being constructed are primarily being built by hand with very little machinery. I’m trying to digest it all. God’s nature is dramatically beautiful through the tropical plants and flowers and the powerful, mighty ocean, yet I watch fishermen, from my 4th floor balcony, come into the grassy area that meets the sandy beach and poop. Right there. How do you prepare for this? I am observing life in the raw: human beings living and making their way. Surviving. It is absolutely incredible.

What does your part of the world look like?

 

 

 

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One Down, One To Go

KellysHouseIcy adventures.

Because the weather can be so wretchedly winter in northern Iowa during the UNI fair, get a hotel that is close to the convention center, preferably within walking distance. If not within walking distance, get a hotel in Waterloo, not Cedar Falls, even though these two cities are only about 8 miles from one another. Make sure that your Waterloo hotel provides FREE shuttle service to the convention center each day. Live and learn. I did not do this. I preferred to rent my own car and stay in Cedar Falls with a fellow couchsurfer which would have been a wonderful plan had the UNI fair been in the summer and not in the winter.

On Thursday, my plane was delayed out of Chicago because it had to be de-iced. And then it was delayed some more. And some more, which meant I missed my early interview appointment with a wonderful school the evening before the fair started. But it also meant that someone else cancelled their room at a convenient hotel and I got their room when I walked in, begging for mercy, to simply park my rental car in their snow-filled lot.

I was disappointed that the interview had to be rescheduled, but totally relieved to jump into a hot shower and rinse off the stress from driving in wintery conditions. Driving and walking in sub-zero conditions made me reconsider ever living in a place that would experience winters like this. I thought of this as I interviewed over the next couple of days.

Frenzy. Anxiety. Stress. Manic emotions of UP-UP and DOWN-DOWN – all happening within a really short period of time. Really up. Really down. Over and over and over again. These recruitment fairs are not for the faint-hearted.

One of my up-ups was arriving at my message folder in the conference center, at 6:30 am on Friday, and finding yellow slips from three school administrators who wanted to interview with me. Some people arrive and find none. It is a good sign when school recruiters take the first step at the fair and reach out to you. These were in addition to the one interview that I already had scheduled that day. There were an additional three schools that I wanted to interview with and would approach at the Round Robin, in the main conference ballroom, which would begin two hours later.

I had carefully handmade “Ichiro” packets which is a trade-name of a personal PR kit. I left these kits in the schools’ message mailboxes earlier that morning and when I approached their tables in the Round Robin, they all seemed to know me and told me they loved my packet. Another up-up. In fact, one of the recruiters told me they showed my Ichiro to the UNI staff and told them they should give me a prize for having the BEST “Ichiro”. Another up-up.

The Round Robin was the most hectic thing I’ve ever been through. Vague memories of being in college, before there were computers, waiting in long lines to schedule for classes, getting to the front, finally, and finding that the class you really needed just filled and you would have to start over and re-arrange your entire schedule. This was a very similar situation. It is very important (I can’t stress this enough) to REALLY prioritize the schools you would want to work for. Know this in advance of approaching this large, crowded room. If a map of the ballroom is provided, know where those schools are, have them circled in advance on the map. When the doors open, practically run for the schools’ tables who left you yellow slips. After that high-tail it to your prioritized schools. There is NO TIME to stand there and figure out what schools you might like to work at. All this needs to be done in advance. As you approach a table, notice the length of the line. If it is long, a quick decision has to be made: is it better to stand in this line or let that school go, and move on to the next priority school? Quick decisions have to be made constantly and mental exhaustion caused me to leave the room entirely to regroup for a few minutes. It all happens very, very fast. The decision I arrived at, in those few, precious moments of quiet, was to let the remaining, bottom priority schools go. Don’t even approach them. I couldn’t take it; my nerves were frazzled. What I had was a total of five interviews scheduled and that was enough.

All of my interviews went really well, but there were two in particular that were spectacular! One of those schools scheduled a second interview for the following day and I was encouraged. The five schools I interviewed with represented these countries: India, Taiwan, Turkey, Vietnam and Venezuela. Before I went to bed on Friday night I talked with my mother, my daughter and several friends about many thoughts running through my head. The decision I made, as I fell to sleep, however, was focused on one school in particular. If I was not offered a contract to that school, then I would likely turn down offers made from the other schools, because there are other schools that I am interested in talking to next week at the SA/Cambridge Fair in Boston. When I walked to the conference center on Saturday morning, and approached my message mailbox, I found two yellow slips from other schools requesting another interview.

In the end, the one school I was most interested in offered the contract to my one competitor, two schools told me that they wanted to continue their search in Cambridge and I chose to let the other schools go in anticipation for Cambridge. So, I didn’t get a job – -yet.  My heart is good and I’m encouraged. I checked out of the hotel, drove to my sweet couchsurfers’ home in Cedar Falls, went out for pizza and beer. She and her roommate and boyfriend are wonderful. She gave me her lovely bed. I slept so well. I awoke to the sun shining, birds singing and an email from a school who wants to interview next week at SEARCH Associates in Cambridge. The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.

The search continues.

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Should I stay or should I go? (Part 1 of 3)

Explore your options.

I loved The Clash. In the early 1980’s, their sound and energy penetrated the rebellious age of punk all over my college campus. Not only did the British punk movement influence me to chop off my hair and dye it pink, I also got my ear double pierced, grew a “tail” that reached to the middle of my back and attempted to get a pink flamingo tattoo on my tummy. (As it turned out, the tattoo store was closed and I never got the nerve up again to go back. Thank heavens!) The Clash’s screaming, jumping and body slaming dance moves resinated with the questions I was asking myself about my life’s decisions. Their lyrics summed up many of my college experiences: Should I stay in my relationship or should I go? Should I continue waitressing or should I go? Should I stay with my roommate or should I go? Should I do an “all-nighter” in the art department or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go now?

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go there will be trouble

And if I stay it will be double

So come on and let me know

Should I stay or should I go?

This rendition is by Sergio Lourenco:

I also wore a button on my backpack that said, “I Want It All.” Although the button is long gone, the philosophy stays with me. My life has been filled with blessing upon blessing. I am rich with experiences and I am grateful, but I want more. Not more, in terms of money or possessions, more in terms of living true, loving more and experiencing adventure. I want to know more people, from all different backgrounds and cultures. I want to fall in love with the entire world. I want to feel spiritually and physically alive through once-in-a-lifetime adventures and service. I want to be more authentic, sharing my gifts with the world.

So now, years later, I’m asking the same question: Should I stay or should I go? This time, I’m talking about my job, the Dallas art scene, my home in Texas and my country. I’ve been exploring how to combine my love of teaching with my love of adventure and travel. Teaching art in an international school may be my way to do that.

Although there are many educational placement companies, I have narrowed my search down to three: UNI (University of Northern Iowa), ISS (International Schools Services) and SA (Search Associates). Although I’ve never taught internationally, I have read many others’  personal accounts through various forum blogs. I will explore each of these three recruitment companies over the next few posts. All of them, however, share a few common threads:

• Bachelors Degree or higher

• There is a registration fee which includes participation in recruitment fairs for a specific period of time. (Fees shown are for single individuals. Married teaching teams may have different pricing.)

  1. UNI = Individual/$150
  2. ISS = Individual/$185
  3. SA =  Individual/$200

• In order to register you must hold current certification as an elementary or secondary teacher

• Candidates who are single with no dependents, or married candidates who are part of a certified teaching team are most successful

• Most schools prefer to hire teachers with a minimum of two years relevant teaching experience

• Due to visa restrictions, many schools cannot hire teachers over 60 years of age

• Many schools offer contracts on-site during recruitment fairs that are held in various cities across the globe

Part 1 of 3: UNI (University of Northern Iowa)

This overseas placement service has worked with certified educators, year round, since 1976. Additionally they offer an annual recruiting fair and referral services for all levels of educators, in all subject fields. UNI does not charge placement fees to either candidates or recruiting schools. I’ve been told that there are typically around 20 art vacancies each year. I’ve also been told that, typically, there are more overall vacancies posted at the UNI Fair than there are educators to fill them. According to the forums I’ve read, most people really enjoy their experience at the UNI Fair. For many, the only complaint is the weather.

For the past several years I’ve tracked available art positions that were made known to UNI and these are some of the results:

  • The 2012 Fair had 23 openings in art in various countries such as China, Kuwait, Japan, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, UAE, Morocco, Costa Rica, Thailand, India and Venezuela.
  • The 2011 Fair had 22 art vacancies and included many countries such as China, Kuwait, Japan, Mexico and Egypt.
  • The 2010 Fair had 22 art vacancies in schools located in countries such as China, Egypt, Qatar, Guatemala, Korea, Israel, UAE, Greece and others.

The staff at UNI are friendly and helpful to work with. I’ve emailed them many times over the past few years with an assortment of questions. I recently asked why they thought their recruitment fair was unique and why they felt their recruitment company is “the best”? I wanted to know what the advantages would be of my choosing to be represented by their firm over the others? I was also curious to know if they offered incentives that other firms did not. The response I received was this:

“We are unique in the fact that we are the only university in the country that has an event like this – the other recruiting events are put on by companies. So we have a very unique advantage to be cost effective as a non-profit so a variety of different schools attend our event. We have the large schools that will be recruiting through multiple organizations but also very small schools that only come to us.”

Other teachers, who teach internationally, have told me that UNI is somewhat physically difficult get to in February, when they hold their annual recruitment fair. There’s always a chance of blizzard, making it nearly impossible to get to northern Iowa or back home again afterward. When I inquired about this, the staff at UNI agreed that chances of storms in the Midwest are possible in February. However, during the past UNI fairs, there has only been one storm that affected a large amount of people. The altered transportation schedules had more to do with conditions in Chicago and Minneapolis airports than with northern Iowa. Yet, it is cold, especially for warm blooded Texans. As I understand it, there are coat racks at every entrance for people to use as they stand in line for interviews. Brrrrrrrrr……..

So, should I stay or should I go? Teaching overseas is not for everyone but according to a forum entry I recently read, “Do your homework about schools and jump on for the ride. There is nothing more exciting.”

Would anyone be willing to share knowledge about living/teaching overseas?

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