“I’m A Peach”

“What team do you play for?”

“I’m a Peach, sir.” 

“Really? Because I can’t understand why you would…..are you crying?  Are you crying? There’s no crying in baseball! There’s no crying in baseball!”

– A League of Their Own

Well. I’m a Teach-er, not a Peach, sir. And there’s plenty of crying in teaching. I remember at the end of my first year of teaching, last day of school, the tears came rolling down as I drove home.  I didn’t cry the entire year despite getting placed as a literacy teacher instead of a regularly appointed English teacher. Despite traveling to 11 different classrooms on 4 different floors across 2 separate wings of the school, instead of having my own classroom. Despite having a student (Alexandria-never forget THAT name) behave so badly that she had to be removed from the class permanently to sit with the dean. I remember my mentor calling me the “Rookie of the year” and me thinking “you’re damn right I am.”  And suddenly the tears began to pour. 

I’ve seen plenty of teachers cry throughout their first year. The feeling of “I don’t know what I’m doing” and “I don’t know what to expect” is overwhelming. It’s no wonder so many quit within the 1st few years! It takes a certain type of person to teach!  You might call this type of person “crazy.”

So I feel a bit “crazy” for putting all this effort into something that is going to be as challenging as that 1st year. Our dining room table is stacked with papers, documents, lesson plans and portfolio pieces I’ve decided didn’t make the cut. The rest of the house is in disarray because I’ve been so focused on the interviews that I have no time to put all the playdough in a secure location. Two suitcases were discarded for a small carry-on when I saw the $25 baggage fee for AA. “Mommy, can I come to work with you?” Baby Z asked before I left for JFK. “I wish, but your plane ticket is no longer free.”

I flew down to Atlanta, home of the Georgia Peaches, on Sunday and checked into the Omni Downtown (Rockford Peaches were from Illinois BTW and I didn’t see a peach anywhere in Georgia. I was so hoping to meet one, namely, on the dessert menus).  The Omni was a quick walk across Centennial Park and Atlanta’s “London Eye” to the hotel where interviews for Qatar would take place. I was looking forward to doing some sight seeing, eating southern food and sushi, and getting lots of extra sleep.  

If you’re ever in Atlanta, may I recommend the following:

1. Download and use UBER. It is very affordable  compared to UBER New York. Somehow, I did not feel comfortable on their MARTA trains at all and I ride the A Train in New York. 

2. Enjoy a ride on their cute little streetcar. And then realize you could’ve walked to all the stops within 30 minutes. Ah well, it’s only a dollar and it gets you to Dr. King’s birth home in no time at all. 

3. Go to Eight Sushi Lounge for amazing Nigri and a delightful, welcoming staff. I really wanted to eat there everyday, but I had to get something southern. 

4. I went to Gus’s World Famous for fried chicken and it was ok. I went to The Food Shoppe for shrimp and grits and they were delicious! I only need add a dash of hot sauce to enhance the experience.  The chef offered me a sample of chicken and Mac – perfection!  At Ted’s Montana Grill, the wait staff does a great job of describing each homemade dish but, I didn’t find it to be anymore tasty than a box of frozen apps from Friday’s. 

5. Do all your fun sight seeing before going on your job interview. Because after is a sea of great unknowns. 

I went into the interview feeling confident and assured. I met with the director of schools and we had a great conversation on education, life in various cities and my family!  He asked to see pictures of the kids. He seemed delighted and asked me to interview with a second person, the director of the ELL program. I was thrilled!  After an hour or so, I met my second interviewer and my confidence dropped. His questions were a lot tougher. How do you identify a student with a learning disability vs. a language barrier? How do you assess a students progress when they can’t be measured by state exams? What assessments are given to your students and what do they look like? If a student is identified with a learning disability, what recommendations do you make to their resource team and what adjustments do you make to ensure learning is taking place in your classroom?

These were questions that I had answers to, but I wasn’t articulating them as clearly as I would’ve liked. As I flipped through my portfolio I got the sense he was not incredibly impressed. And as I walked out of the room, I didn’t get a “I look forward to having you work with us” vibe. 

I thanked the recruiter and headed back to the hotel. The drab gray sky and overly chilly weather (and flurries) fit my mood perfectly.  I tried to nap but woke after only 20 minutes. Then I got a text from an amazing teacher and fellow candidate I met while waiting to interview. As it turns out, we are actually neighbors in Queens, NY!  We met for lunch and drinks and I began to feel much better. “If it’s meant for you then it will be.” 

So as I sit on this plane bound for home, I tense up, not knowing what to expect and question if I really know what I’m doing. I am grateful for the opportunity to review what 13 years of teaching looks like. I’ve defined my teaching philosophy, solidified my resume and gathered valuable artifacts that show who I am as an educator. The interviews are over and now we wait.  There’s nothing to cry over just yet. 

The Application Process

Is just speaking English enough to teach English? No.

After completing my Teachaway.com 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 teachaway.com…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…