Interview Invitations

If you could move anywhere, where would you go?  Would you want the change of seasons?  Do you love the heat year round? Can you handle only a month or two of summer?  If you could move anywhere and not have to worry about the weather, where would that be?

This past weekend we had “Blizzard-like Conditions” here in New York and along the mid-eastern sea-board.  A “Coastal Flood Watch” was in effect and Mayor Deblasio issued a travel advisory.  “Stay home and off the roads!” I’m pretty traumatized after Sandy.  Any flood warning gets me packing an emergency-go-bag.  We didn’t just lose a house – we lost our car, too!  A one-year-old Toyota 4Runner that we bought after Hurricane Irene drowned our Sonata.  “This will keep us safe in a flood,” we thought!  Luckily, when Sandy hit, we weren’t home.  Our car was. When we got to it 5 days later, the cup-holders and coin catchers were still filled with sea water.

“Congratulations!  You have been invited to interview with Qatar Schools in Atlanta, GA.”

“I am indeed only looking for real, experienced educators – which is why I think you could be a good fit…if you have time, I would like to arrange a Skype interview with you this week?”

“Thank you for your continued interest in a teaching position with Abu Dhabi schools. We are pleased to provide you with the venue for your upcoming interview in New York”

Aside from Abu Dhabi and Qatar, I also submitted an inquiry to a school in China.  The recruiter got back to me quickly and stated I was more than qualified and could I set up a Skype Interview?  China?  While the salary and benefits pale in comparison to Qatar and Abu Dhabi, how amazing would it be to spend a year in China? In less than two weeks, I will have interviewed with three different countries with three different benefits packages.  I know I’m getting ahead of myself, but which would/should I choose? All offer an exciting change.  I’m over the moon at the prospects!  But let’s knock me back down to earth and remember these are just interviews, not offers.

My Supervising AP wrote me a letter of recommendation and without going into specifics, I told him it was for a few amazing teacher opportunities coming up this summer.  “It’s a long-shot, but I need to get a fresh perspective.”  A completely true statement.  Teaching in the same school for 13 years is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s like when you outlive everyone.  My mentors are gone.  My teaching buddies are gone or on their way out.  We all say we’ll keep in touch, but we never really do.

The blessing is that I have had the privilege of teaching some of the most amazing students in all of New York. Although the students change every two years, I am confident that my classes will (mostly) be a pleasure to teach.  No lie.  My kids are absolutely awesome!  We serve a large population of newcomers from every region of the world.  Whether it’s Bangladesh, Ecuador, Dominican Republic or Yemen, the students come with respect for teachers and respect for their own education.  It is a respect I don’t easily find in American students.  While my American students are a pleasure as well, they have a bit of a lack of appreciation for free education.

Next blessing is tenure.  That’s not an easy thing to give up.  And seniority in my building – It’s the type of job security most people dream of.  If I could afford to live in New York on this salary, I wouldn’t consider ever leaving!

The “blizzard” was the second snow of the winter season and quite a significant pile-up.  Baby Z demanded to go outside after breakfast on Saturday, so we bundled her up in layers of clothing, snow suit, boots, hat, gloves, scarf and a smile.  5 minutes later she was in tears, begging to come inside!  “Not as fun as Elsa made it seem, huh?”

Being snowed in for the weekend really forced me to relax and enjoy being home.  Hubby went out to shovel twice.  I brewed coffee and fixed breakfast.  Baby Z delighted in a dollar-store-find of “slime putty” and play doh for her Frozen figurines.  Baby D tugged on my leg, bothered his sister, and napped frequently.  We all got in a nap at some point!  How sad that Monday came so quickly! I think my little Elsa and I will miss the snow.  Looking at it, anyway.



The Beginning of a Huge Pile of Paperwork

I just enjoyed a 3-day weekend thanks to the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday.  Two years ago we went down to DC to see the new monument and tribute in the capitol.  I loved the quotes chosen that epitomize who he is and what he stands for.

This time around, however, I headed out with the babies to Riverhead, Long Island for a fun weekend with cousins.  My sisters and I have two children each.  6 kids, 3 moms and pure madness!  Initially, I sauntered into our hotel room at Hyatt Place, impressed by the size and comfy appearance of the beds.  I briefly sank into one bed and pictured a weekend of relaxation and peace.  Then all the kids walked in!  My Baby Z is 3 and Baby D is 1.  Gab and Belle are 9 and 7, Sof is 5, Allie is just turned 1 and not-born-yet-niece Olivia was no trouble at all!

I picked this hotel because there is an indoor pool, next door to the aquarium and near the shopping outlets.  I guess the thing I forgot about going to the pool is how tired you feel after swimming for longer than 15 minutes (We swam for a good hour actually).  I also forgot how hard it is to get in a nap without hubby around!  Last, I realized what FOMO means – “Fear Of Missing Out.”  NO ONE was getting any sleep when there were so many fun things to do!

The great thing about having kids is that everything is made new.  I take them to museums and events quite often because I just love to see their faces light up.  I love how excited they get over seemingly insignificant things!  Long Island Aquarium had a touch tank going and you would think we were the size of plankton with the way Baby Z reacted to the tiny crab and starfish at her finger tips!  “Mommy, let’s get out of here!” She cried when it was her turn to touch the crab.

I don’t know if I’m doing this parenting thing right by going out so much.  We have very few days of just sitting around the house.  I’ve heard you’re supposed to “let them be bored.”  But all I get out of staying home is more messes to clean up after and more requests to watch movies and youtube videos.  So we go out A LOT.

In the midst of all our weekend fun, I get an email from the recruiter saying “Congratulations!  You have been invited to interview in New York!”  YES! “Please upload pdf files of the following documents within the next 24 hours in order to schedule your interview.”

24 hours?!?  I’m 90 miles from home!  I quickly dial Souley, who is fortunately home.  With only one car and chilly weather, he wasn’t going anywhere this weekend.  He scanned and compiled the email within an hour.  We needed to send copies of my resume, medical form and passport.  Then wait some more for the date and location…

So I have to give props to my husband, Souley, who is so supportive of this whole process.  There are so many documents to fill out, scan, mail, copy, notarize, and eventually, authenticate.  He keeps it all together for me.  I may be a teacher with many years of experience with paperwork, but it has NOT made me like it more.  In fact, before becoming a teacher, I was a secretary for a few years.  I didn’t enjoy standing by the copy machine or running all around the exec offices for signatures.  Thankfully, I landed a job with a great boss, who after 3 months of working as her assistant said, “You shouldn’t be a secretary.  You should go to college.  You’re smarter than this.”  I firmly believe she wasn’t just trying to get me to move on but rather encourage me to reach my full potential.  I started at LIU the following September.

Our last night out East, it snowed significantly. Actually,  I don’t know if it even reached an inch, but it made for a pretty view.  Baby Z begged to play in the snow, but it was definitely below zero out there.  We headed home Monday afternoon and I see an email from Teachaway with an interview date.  “February 2, 2016”  Only two weeks away!

Things to do:

  • Get reference letters from my AP’s
  • Finish putting together my teaching portfolio
  • Fill out the Introductory Statement
  • Take passport photos for the visa





The Application Process

Is just speaking English enough to teach English? No.

After completing my profile, I started scanning jobs.  Most of them called for a TESOL/TEFL license.  Although I’ve worked with ESL students for over 12 years, I don’t have an ESL teaching license.  I teach middle school English Language Arts.  So I switched my search to TESOL programs.  I was about to drop $6,800 USD (that we don’t have) on a course through  Columbia University, when I got an email to set up a pre-screen phone interview.  It was for a Licensed English teacher position in Abu Dhabi.  That was quick!

“Hi Nancy, is this a good time to talk?” the recruiter sounded doubtful, with good reason, considering all the background noise.

“Yes of course!” I replied as I scooted my way past nearly 300 of my colleagues at Woodhaven Manor.  Actually, I was in the middle of a Union Dinner!

I rushed out to the lobby and realized I was still going to be surrounded by dozens of teachers.  I began to describe in detail why I would be a great candidate for teaching abroad.  It went extremely well…and I did get the feeling that  it was more a formality than a real assessment of my abilities.  But I was onto round two!  I was beaming as I returned to dinner and imagined a tax-free salary, accommodations provided and a bonus at the end of the contract.

When I got home, I immediately searched for videos and blogs related to teaching in the UAE .  Most were great tales of travel during breaks, living it up in hotels, and rants about lunatic drivers.  It all sounded thrilling!  Souley and I searched for videos featuring teacher apartments.  We focused on the ones with spacious balconies, deep bathtubs and large closets.  We tried to ignore the ones mentioning creepy, crawly creatures and roommates.

But only a few touched on actually teaching…which helped doubt settle in.  Was it that tough out there?  Would it be worth the perks?  I love teaching.  I actually love my students.  Most of them are new to this country and have a strong desire to learn and succeed.  And Admin?  It’s a love/hate relationship.  I love their support.  I love that we’ve worked together for so long.  I love when they leave me alone.  I’d hate for it to be any worse?

So, I started looking at more jobs posted on Teachaway and I submitted an application to teach in Qatar.  The benefits seem to really outweigh the obscurity.  Within a week, I had passed another phone interview.

So now it’s two weeks later and I’m waiting…checking email…checking…double checking my references and resume and adding as many documents as I can…waiting to be invited to interview for Abu Dhabi or Qatar…hoping…waiting….







It’s Never the Right Time

Does it sound completely absurd to move two very young children to The Middle East so Mommy can teach and Daddy can establish our financial future?  I’m pretty sure everyone is going to freak when they hear I’ve decided to take a job in the desert (fingers crossed – I’ve barely started the application).  Baby Z is 3 and Baby D is only 1!  What about my 13 years of tenure with the NYCDOE?  What about our family and friends who all live fairly nearby on the East Coast of the USA? What about our awesome townhouse rental one block from the beach in New York City???

Ok…so about all that.  I am already in the desert.  Or like a deserted island.  There’s no one around me for MILES.  No family.  No friends.  No friendly neighbors.  I’m surrounded by strangers that have they’re own communities and not taking in anyone new.  I’m in Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY.

I used to have a community.  Friends were a short bike ride or (who am I kidding) drive away.  Mom & siblings a short 20 minute drive.   Anyone else was a short 45 minute adventure through traffic. But then Hurricane Sandy (Super Storm Sandy) destroyed our house, 2 months before giving birth to Baby Z.  Ever since then, we’ve been looking for home and not really finding it.  I like it here, but no one really wants to come visit – the parking and traffic and potholes are enough to keep my old friends away.  My sisters make the trek, but it’s hard on them too.

So, while I dream of coming home by 3:30 and popping over a friends house, arranging playdates on the weekends, and frequent dinner parties, it rarely happens. I haven’t had friends come by since my baby shower, nearly 1 and 1/2 years ago!

Anyhow, I envisioned a life of travel and adventure and that’s not happening with our dismal salaries, two toddlers, and rent that’s way to high.  We need a change.  We need to see the world.  And this opportunity sounds pretty amazing…

How did the idea of teaching in the UAE even enter my head?  My work BFF left me this year – up and moved over the bridge to New Jersey and be a SAHM.  My name twin – Nancy O!  She stalked me for months when she started working at my school 10 years ago.  I actually would hide in the teacher’s center because I’m really shy and socially awkward – completely awful at making new friends!  But before I knew it, we were inseparable at work.  Between her TC Degree and my way-out-of-the-box thinking, we made a great team.

Anyway,  the substitute-leave-replacement teacher who took her place, crossed the street from school into the bagel store one chilly morning without a coat.

“Why don’t you have a coat?” I had to ask as she was visibly shaking from the frost.

“I’ve been in Abu Dhabi for the last three years so I don’t even own a coat!” She laughs.

I perk up. “Abu Dhabi?  You taught abroad?  What was that like?”

I’m still waiting to continue that conversation, but that day I googled it.  And I started a Teach Away profile.  And my husband was already in.  That was in October, 2015.

“I told you about jobs like this a long time ago.” he said.  And it’s true.  He had forwarded me a link to a job in Abu Dhabi 3 years ago, before we had children.  But it wasn’t the right time because we were just married and got pregnant pretty quickly after.

And before I had met him, I had been in contact with a recruiter trying to gather info, but never applying.  Back then, I didn’t want to leave my family and I wouldn’t have known what to do with the house.  I was also worried that being a single female would present a huge challenge.  So I gave up the idea without really giving it a shot.

So here we are.  Two babies and no home to sell or rent out.  Nothing really tying us down here…so if this isn’t the right time, then I don’t know when it will be.  It never is…