Dear Sally,

“Dear Sally…”

I’m posting from a dorm room at Columbia University, my home for the next week.  Yeah, I know, Felicity was supposedly attending NYU but this has the same vibe.  I’ve got suite-mates from around the country, a really hard twin bed, and a meal plan with my student ID card.

I was selected to attend a Gilder Lehrman Seminar at Columbia University back in May…just after accepting the job in Abu Dhabi.  I remember worrying that I might not be able to attend because this is the same week teachers were told to be prepared to leave.  We would have been leaving this Thursday, in fact.  A number of teachers have received their “Golden Ticket” and are on their way!  Congrats to them!

This week I will not be put up in a 5 star hotel nor will I have to deal with 130 degree weather.  Instead, I am in a tiny dorm room around the corner from Teachers College at Columbia University with 93 degree weather.  Pretty hot for NYC!  This particular seminar focuses on the history of immigration in the US.  For one whole week, I will be attending classes, going on field trips and designing lesson plans on immigration.  Oh, did I mention, I’m living in a dorm room?

Cozy…

The professor, Mae Ngai, wrote The Lucky Ones, a book on Chinese Immigration in the late 1800’s.  The concept of migrating as a calculated move to better one’s situation resonates so much with me right now. Here are my choices:

A) International School in Washington DC

B) Gifted Program in Chapel Hill, NC

C) Middle School English position in an affluent neighborhood in McLean, VA

I feel like I cast too wide of a net, but isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when seeking a job?  I had no idea I’d have to weigh so many options.  Which do I choose?  Figuring hubby can work anywhere, we have family in each location, and each offer a fair salary for the cost of living…which do I choose?

As I walked back into class after getting the call that I’d been hired in NC, I got mixed reviews from teachers from the south.  “Aw that’s a beautiful place to live!” and “You DO NOT want to go there.”  From the one teacher that was actually from North Carolina, all she could say over and over was that, “It will be a culture shock.”

What do you think?

You may be asking, “Why not stay in New York?”  The pay and benefits surpass all other options.  That’s what my peers are asking.  “Why do you want to leave New York?”

I tell them about Abu Dhabi and explain, “We were going to leave anyway.  Might as well take advantage of all our prep work and go ahead and move.”  We may never be this prepared to move again.  It might even be now or never.  Felicity Porter could have stayed, gone to Stanford, and become a doctor.  It made sense.  Instead she foolishly followed a boy to New York.  I don’t want to be foolish, but I can’t not explore these options.

Technically, we’ve already left New York.  On June 30th we put the rest of our belongings into storage and began our family road trip.  We traveled up to New York’s Hudson Valley and down to Baltimore, MD.  We’ve enjoyed Shenandoah National Park in VA and the food scene in Georgetown, DC.  Last week we were laid back in Durham, NC until we crossed paths with a garden snake.  That may be a sign from God right there.

We are still not ready to make a decision as to where to call home. There’s only one thing that is certain:

Sometimes, in order to teach in New York City, you have to leave it for a little while.

Shenandoah National Park
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Moving Still

I love reading The Circuit by Francisco Jimenez with my students. It’s the story of a Mexican Family who cross the border (illegally) and the constant moving that comes with being migrant farm workers. The main character, Panchito, struggles to learn the language and strives to balance school and helping his family.  

When the author spoke to a group of educators decades later, he thanked his teachers for seeing him through the toughest period of his life and inspiring him to keep moving forward. Every year, since hearing Jimenez speak, I’ve read his book with my students and have been amazed with their ability to connect with someone whose life is so completely different from theirs. The themes are so strong despite the vast space between time and place – social inequalities, faith, friendships lost, the family dynamic – I am still moved to tears as Panchito recites the lines from The Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…”  The words have not changed but we are still fighting to see them hold true. 

In the pursuit of happiness, we have decided to keep moving. It’s not going to be the UAE but it will be a new place with new opportunities. It will allow me to grow as an educator and gain experience with the International Baccalaureate Programme-a curriculum that should make me more marketable to schools abroad. This new opportunity will allow for my kids to attend top rated schools and begin dual-language study – a program I would love for them to have in New York but couldn’t manage without jumping through a lot of hoops or first selling a kidney. 

The offer is on the table. I just need to sign, scan and return. Am I ready to leave New York?

The last chapter of the book is titled “Moving still” and we have all had these moments when we’ve worked so hard for everything to finally go right, only to have it go so wrong. But if this child and his family found the will to never give up then we all can follow through with our dreams.  I have to admit, I love the evidence of learning I receive in students’ tears and cries of “Nooo!” that follow the last words on the page. 

Formative assessment: ✔️check!

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