And She Went On to Become the “Most Famous Teacher in Doha”

 “Has anyone been to America lately? Any Americans in here?” Maz Jobrani asks the audience of nearly 3,000 during the Doha Comedy Festival.  A few people cheer.  I may have cheered the loudest.

“What’s your name?” He asks and it takes a few seconds to realize he is asking ME!

“Nancy!” I shout and he and everyone in the hall hears me!

“Do you live here? How long have you been here?”

Now I do – 4 weeks!”

“So, what are you doing here?”

“I’m a teacher!” The crowd starts to cheer.

“Teacher?”  a few people scream and it appears as if I have fans!  Maz is A-Maz-ed, “I’ve never seen so many people applaud for a teacher.  Nancy!  You’re famous!  You’ve only been here a week and you have fans?” more applauding and I’m in stitches.

“Nancy, what are people going to think when you go back to the US?”

  • Yes, it is hot
  • No, it is not dangerous
  • Yes, I can go anywhere freely
  • No, I do not need to cover my head
  • Yes, it is recommended that you dress modestly
  • No, it is not hard to find things to do
  • Yes, I think I’m going to like it here!


We arrived as the sun was setting, sending a final blast of hot air, comparable only to the air hitting your face as you open a broiling hot oven, over Hamad International Airport.

Our arrival was anything but glamorous.  We stumbled off the plane, down a flight of stairs, onto a crowded bus, past Disney-like lines at customs and confusion at baggage claim with 12 pieces of luggage.  Finally, we were welcomed with open arms by a lead teacher and the director of my new school.   I was sweaty, maybe a bit overwhelmed and full of excitement.  By the time we left the airport it was dark out and just as hot as when we left the plane.


I haven’t had a lot of free time over the last 2 months.  I have a lot of work to do being in a new school, in a new country with a new MYP curriculum.  I have met a lot of great new neighbors and co-workers and I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know them better.  For an introvert such as myself, it has been tough being so social, but I am so grateful to the people who pull me out of my shell and invite me into their lives!

Stressors: 

  • Getting my license so I can drive is quite a chore.  All sorts of extra steps have now put a delay of over 2 months!  I then hired a driver and he quit after 2 weeks because the drive is so early and so long! I’m now taking Über and begging for rides from co-workers!
  • To get a nanny or not?  It’s the thing to do here but I’m not so comfortable hiring someone for cheap to do all my housework and watch my kids. So far we’ve gone with a part-time helper pay her very well. 

Stress-relief:

  • Our amazing club house where we go swimming in the evenings is surrounded by palm trees, a playground and a restaurant!

 

  • Brunch like I’ve never experienced before!  Spice Market with KBell, Jen S., and our “Trophy Husbands” turned out to be the best 4 hours I’ve ever spent in a restaurant!

 

  • Eid Celebrations at Katara Cultural Village:  Shows, gifts for the kids and fireworks!
  • My apartment is spacious and comfortable, which is necessary after a long day.  And help with cleaning the place is a text message away!
  • My next door neighbor is like an angel – she has helped with so many adjustments and she has little kids too!  So she gets it!
  • LadyZ is in PreK and she loves it!  The school is truly a gem!


I’m going to let pictures speak for themselves for a while – who knows when I’ll have enough time to write!  Besides, I’m a newbie, so I don’t know what I’m saying yet anyhow.  Just know that I’m so glad I have this opportunity!


PS: To the audience at the Doha Comedy Festival 2017, thanks for making me feel welcome in this beautiful city! Maz, let’s talk again real soon!

 

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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

LIEBSTER AWARD!!!

My First Blogging Award!!!
We moved around quite a bit when I was younger.  My Dad is a proud Ex-Marine, which meant I was constantly the new kid on the playground.  I can recall a number of times when I would timidly make a friend on the swings, then get introduced to her friends hanging out on the monkey bars and by the end of recess, I’d have a whole new group of friends playing tag!
Well, I’ve met a few friends on the blogging playground and I have to say a great big thank you to Delta, who keeps a heart-warming blog at Rev2point0 – Thanks for the nomination! Delta’s blog embodies the spirit of living life to the fullest!  I don’t mean sky-diving or climbing Everest.  I mean all those little moments that add up to a life well-lived.  The Mommy moments, the growing closer to your spouse and enjoying adventures with friends – all of these that we look back on and can say “I did it all!” (Cue One Republic Song).
I started this blog to document my attempt to secure a new job abroad and new adventures.  It has become a great reflection on my life and has connected to so many people who wonder, “What if we just picked up and moved?”
So the rules for the Liebster Award are as follows
Liebster-Award-Rules
11 Questions I must answer from Delta:
1. What is your favorite (non-blog) website?
Yelp.com…although I mostly use the App!  I’ve been a Yelper for about 6 years and I was even a Yelp Elite for a while!  This meant free events, shows, tastings, and drinks! No time for that nowadays!
2. If you could time travel to any decade in the 20th century, what would it be?
Bring me back to the 90’s!  Love the music, love the clothes, love how carefree I was to be a teen!
3. If you were to invite five famous (in any sense) people to your home for dinner, who would they be?
Although I would be a nervous wreck organizing the house and making dinner, I’d like to invite the Obamas and Jane Goodall.  What would we eat?  Would Malia be bored?  Will Michelle ask if I grew the herbs in my backyard?  Does Jane even eat meat?  I think it would be an amazing dinner!
4. What would you serve them?
Crap, that’s what I want to know!  As much as I love cooking and making delicious meals, I can’t handle the pressure of feeding a high-profile party!  My go-to catering is A Taberna in Island Park, NY.  Delicious food from Portugal!  They have amazing Paella, Grilled Veggies and Roast Lamb…I’m sure there’s a pasta dish of some sort for any possible vegetarians!
5. If you were marooned on a desert island and could only bring three books, what would they be?
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  I think they’d keep me very occupied and provide enough inspiration to survive.
6. If you could be a character in any book you’ve read, what character would you choose and why?
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery.  Growing up, a friend and I pretended to be Anne and Diana when we played.  She was always Anne because she dreamt of romance and travel.  I was always Diana for my long hair and willingness to go along with her ideas. But I’ve always really wanted to be Anne: Adventurous, romantic, headstrong and driven!
7.  Do you read on an e-reader or do you read physical books?
My favorite reads have all been physical books.  For books that I just need to get through I use an e-reader.
8. If you could move to any part of the world, where would you choose and why?
I want to retire in Costa Rica.  I love the “Pura Vida” life, the weather, nature, food and ocean.  But Spain would be cool too.  And I think I’m meant to live in France at some point. But right now, I’m moving to Abu Dhabi in The Middle East!
9. What is your favorite time of day?
Nap time.  I love sleep!  But there’s something so special about a nap in the middle of the afternoon…it’s the best sleep and I haven’t had it in at least 3.5 years! (Before kids!)
10.  What is one thing that can turn a bad day around?.
Good coffee, lunch with a friend (especially if it’s sushi) or a hug from my husband and children.
11.  What inspires you to write?
Everything!  I jot down everything that is seemingly significant.  I keep notes that I’ll probably never get a chance to look back on.  My “notes” app on the iPhone is crammed with lists and ideas.  I read an abbreviated version of The Diary of Anne Frank in 4th grade and have kept a diary ever since.  Some years I write more than others.  But I always want to be writing!  It’s more than a hobby.
11 Random Facts About Myself
  1. I did not consider applying to teach in Abu Dhabi until I was certain there are sushi restaurants there.
  2. I hope to someday teach students in the US while I’m abroad – virtual classroom style.
  3. I started drinking coffee when I was 29… It started with one cup very few days and has increased to at least two cups per day. I cannot quit any time.
  4. One of my many summer jobs, while in college, was washing hair at a boutique hair salon in the Hamptons. Many of the Hamptonite ladies complimented me on my English.
  5. After high school, I immediately enrolled in Katherine Gibbs…”finishing school” for girls. I thought I wanted to be a secretary. I learned to type, shorthand, and how to style my hair like Rachel, in Friends.
  6. I run a community farmers market via Farmigo.com which allows my family to get farm fresh food at a huge discount. It’s just a little bit of extra work every Monday when the farms deliver the food and I distribute to the community members.  Totally worth it!
  7. I currently Love the comedic style of Trevor Noah!
  8. My top 5 Pandora stations are Alicia Keys, Sara Bareilles, Adele, Disney Sing-alongs and Frozen.
  9. I have a three-year-old daughter who completely amazes me every single day.
  10. Her little brother is 20 months younger than she is and the sweetest little thing ever.  Except when he’s trying to jump off the kitchen counter.
  11. I loved the TV series, Lost, for many reasons.  Including the fact that it was filmed in Hawaii and I love everything about Hawaii.
And the Nominees Are…
Top 11 Blogs I currently follow that have less than 200 followers:
1) Teaching Abroad – American Teacher in Qatar
2) Tanai Bernard
3) The Stories of Dubai
4) Karla’s Not Lost
5) Nurse on Fire
6) Dreaming in Arabic
7) Black Girl in Abu Dhabi
8) Adventures in the World
9) My Cipher Keeps Moving Like a Rolling Stone
10) NYC Educator
11) Finding Out Who Started It
For those who have been nominated, here are the questions I’d like you to answer:
1) If you could give someone $1,000,000, who would you give it to and why?
2) If you won an exotic, all expense paid trip, who would you bring with you?
3) What are the top 3 most beautiful places you have ever visited?
4) What tip would you give someone who is just starting their blog?
5) If travel were something everyone did as a rite of passage growing up, where would you recommend they go? (one country only please)
6) What is your favorite dish?
7) Have you ever hesitated posting something on your blog, but did it anyway?  What was it? Link it here:
8)  If you could move anywhere in the world, where would it be? What would you do there?
9)  What is your favorite non-blog website?  Post a Link!
10) When you’re in trouble, who do you call?
11) Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
That’s all Folks!  This was fun, but a lot of work!  I hope you take a moment to discover a few new blogs out there, especially Rev2point0!  Remind your friends and family that there’s a lot more on the web than Youtube, Facebook and Instagram!

Dear Mr. Mrs. Ms. Dr. Nancy O…

I guess when you’re sending out hundreds of offer letters, you don’t have time to figure out who’s a he, she, post-grad, or other….but who cares?  I’m going to Abu Dhabi!!!

My hand has been wrapped around my phone so much over the last month that I think I’ve developed arthritis!  I keep checking, refreshing, and texting my interview buddies – just waiting for an offer.  Finally, it came today!

12:30 pm There is a buzz on the google+ and facebook groups – people getting offers after weeks of uncertainty!  I’m not really the type of teacher to have my phone out all the time, but this afternoon I had to keep checking.  

2:20 pm My email came and I could not hold it in!!!

2:21 I start skipping around the classroom and telling the kids I won a trip to Abu Dhabi!  Really, not the finest teaching moment, but there are just some things you cannot control-Utter Delight being one of them! They cheer for me and they groan when they realize it’s in the summer and not next week.  I forgive them and continue jumping for joy!

2:30 Students are dismissed so I text my husband in all caps.  Hubby knew this was coming and is just as thrilled as I am!

My sisters, however, remind me of the reality that is living oceans apart.

2:35 I text my sisters, Lisa and Nat, “I’m Moving to Abu Dhabi!”

2:40 Lisa’s reaction is a series of crying emoticons.

2:45 Natalie’s reaction is”But we’ll never see you…” followed by a shocked-face emoticon.

2:50 Lisa texts, “My babies will be 4 and 6 when you get back.”

I have to retract something I wrote earlier about being deserted…I wrote that I live miles away from friends and family and hardly ever see them.  This is still true, but in perspective, I see them a whole lot more often than I’m going to be over the next few years.  Baby Z just had her 1st sleepover with her cousins and loved it!  Last week, when I needed to visit the doctor, my friend Maria was able to watch the kids for a few hours.  When Baby Z gets sick, Grandma Gigi makes the drive over at 6 am to take care of her so I can still go to work. Grandma Ellen cannot go more than a few weeks without seeing us and the kids. My work BFF, the other Nancy O., occasionally crosses the bridge from New Jersey just to have lunch with me!  None of this will be possible when we’re on separate continents!

Then there’s my best friend, Denise and my goddaughter, Jelisa, and a family that has intertwined with mine over the last 28 years.  Throughout this past summer, we would meet at the pool or beach and Denise, who is SuperMom, brings all the things I forget (paper towels, sunblock, lunch).  D says, “It sounds exciting, but we will miss you.”  Jelisa’s reaction, “But I’m supposed to be their babysitter!”

Isn’t this what I wanted?  Yes.  It is going to be amazing for us.  Is it going to be hard?  Yes.  I did not “win a trip” to Abu Dhabi.  I got a new job.  It’s going to be work.  Fortunately, it is the type of work I love and a challenge that will fortify my career.  Will I miss New York?  Yes.  The people here are amazing.  We’re family.  We will visit.  We will be back.

In order to teach in NYC, sometimes you have to go away for a little while.  Get some perspective.  See what it’s like on the other side of the world.  For anyone who has worked at the same place for many years, you start to feel like it’s the same old thing and you’re running on repeat.  My students deserve better.  So I’m going to come back renewed and better than ever.

There are, however, plenty of incentives to stay.  But I can’t even think of those when I haven’t even been there yet.  Like I told them at the interview, we’ll have to see how it goes.

PS – It may seem that I’ve left out Mom, Dad and My Little Brother, but their reactions deserve a whole post all to themselves.  Coming soon!

*feature photo inspired by the post American Teacher in Qatar at www.phillygirl77.wordpress.com

Arthur

When you were in college, did you have that one professor who pushed you to want to change the world?  Make a difference?  Make the future brighter?

For me, this was Dr. Arthur Conigan,*  professor of English Education.  At first, his teaching seemed absolutely quacky.   He’d ask us to sit in a circle each and every class, so no chance of catching a nap in the back of the room. Billy would catch my eye as if to say “What are we in, kindergarten or graduate school?”  Janice would whisper, “Is this guy for real?” And Tiffany would mumble, “Maybe we’re going to play duck-duck-goose?”  The entire feel of the class was different than any other. But aren’t all the best classes?

Arthur had us free-write at the beginning of every class and then reflect on our thinking. We were to call him Arthur and not Dr. Conigan. We did A LOT of group work, projects, and collaborative presentations.  Papers were always to be reflections instead of essays citing and regurgitating notes. There was never any “down-time” and I don’t remember any lengthy lectures.  We did most of the talking.  He asked numerous open ended questions.  At any given moment he’d turn to me and ask, “Well, what do you think about that, Nancy?” so paying attention was a must. He’d plan trips for us all the way uptown Manhattan, knowing most of us worked in Queens!  We examined photography at New York Historical Society and Film and dance at Lincoln Center and wrote more reflections. It felt like so much work on our part!

His quirkiness became a cause for stress at times because we didn’t get why he kept showing us all these things and never telling us what to do with them. “We are creatures of habit. We are uncomfortable moving away from ‘normal'” he’d chime after too many sighs and sideway glances. After two semesters with Arthur, I decided to switch out of his program and into a “normal” class.

I sat in a seat in the back of the room the first day of my thesis class. I planned on grading papers if the class moved to slow. But as I listened to this newly appointed professor (whose name I sincerely can’t remember for the life of me) ramble on and on, I finally got what Arthur was doing.

Which type of teacher would I become?  Which teacher would I emulate when it was my time to stand in front of a classroom? Which class would foster true learning and which would allow students to tune-out?

I darted to the program offices immediately after to speak with Arthur and ask to be placed back into his classroom. I might have even teared up a little to enhance my request. But he said “No.”  He gave me a few resources to help me get through the course and sent me on my way.

Whenever Janice or Billy walked into my classroom and saw the desks arranged in a circle, they’d smile and say “Conigan?” For years I recreated the projects he showed us – personal timeline, portrait of a reader, photography analysis.  I took my students on a minimum of two trips per year. I held class outdoors whenever possible and encouraged students to write reflections on their books instead of summaries. I adopted into practice as many activities as I could and adjusted them to my liking.

Somewhere between years 5-7,  I stopped.  I got bogged down by new curriculum after new curriculum, scripted lessons, test-prep materials, timed-prototypes of the reader’s and writer’s workshop, tests, tests, and more tests.  I did less aesthetic learning and more test prep.  More scripts.  Less trips.  Not to mention, I bought a house, got in over my head, took a part-time job at Starbucks and collapsed in exhaustion at the end of every single day.  Two things became very clear:

  1. Teaching is beyond full-time work.  The time we spend in the classroom is only a quarter of what we do as educators.  It’s another quarter of prep time to keep our lessons engaging.  Then another quarter grading and assessing what the students are learning so we can make adjustments.
  2. Teachers need to be life-long-learners, which is the last quarter of our teaching life.  We need to keep learning and not lose sight of what it’s like to be a student.  Professional development only goes so far, especially when it’s designed by test prep companies and (cringe) administrators who have forgotten the reality of being in the classroom.  We need to know more than just the latest teaching buzzwords.  If the learning speaks to our interests and passions, it will transfer to what we are teaching in the classroom.

It took a lot of work to get over that slump, but the pay-off was amazing.  My classroom is everything I dreamed it could be.  The work continues, however.  Fortunately, New York City has so many museums, parks and educational institutes that constantly invite teachers to come in and see what they have to offer.  This year alone, I’ve been to The Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial and Columbia University, Teachers College, for teacher professional development.  What does this mean for my classroom?  Trips!  Guest Speakers!  And new stories to read and write about!

While visiting Queens College for the 3rd time in the past three months to obtain yet another document to send to the UAE, I was tempted to poke my head into Arthur’s office.  I wanted to know what he thought of teaching abroad.  His career was centered on assisting new teachers succeed in urban public schools.  I wonder if he’d appreciate hearing from one of those teachers who made it past the first years and perhaps have some insights as to what to do during these middle years.  There must be a reason teachers qualify for sabbatical after 14 years.  There must be a reason why I feel like I should immerse myself into somethingnew at this point in my career.

 

*Name Changed for Privacy

“Unfortunately…”

Rejection is never easy and you’ve got to believe that there’s another path you’re meant to be on.  Still, it’s not easy hearing “No.”

I was a mere 18 years old when I was fired from my first “real”job as a secretary at Bonnette Associates*.  The office was located on quaint, tree-lined Seventh Street in Garden City, NY. As one of four secretaries, my job duties included typing letters, making photocopies and getting Paul’s coffee.  I was also expected to get Ms. Cauffer’s husband coffee when he visited the office.  Fitting in also meant playing “cheerleader” at their annual golf events and dressing up as a bear for their winter costume party.  So, when Ms. Cauffer said, “I don’t think you’re a right fit for this company,” the day she fired me, she couldn’t have been more correct.  This didn’t make it any easier to accept.  I actually loved the other secretaries and associates I worked with.  I loved going to lunch at the Newport Grill or Orchid.  I loved that we had a snack room with pretzels and mustard.  I was 18.  So for the next few hours, after cleaning out my desk, I cried to my sister as she worked a shift folding shirts at the Gap, in Roosevelt Field.  And then I booked a trip to Florida to visit family and get some perspective.

As tough as it was to deal with this rejection, if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have ended up finding a job with Bell Labs and working with 3 amazing women in the advertising department.  Each of them had gone to college and landed a job they loved.  While I was once again a secretary, the company atmosphere was a lot different.  My boss, Cathy, VP of Advertising, did not expect me to fetch her coffee.  When we had clients come in for meetings, I was introduced as the Media and Promotions Assistant rather than secretary # 4.  I was invited to review promotional products and my opinion actually mattered!  Sorry to the artist whose song “Peaches” didn’t make it into our commercial!

At our 6 month review, Cathy brought me into her office to go over my work.  She complimented my organization, my initiative and my intelligence.  Her words have stuck with me all this time.  “Go to college.  You’re too smart for this.”

I enrolled in a writing program at LIU 3 months later and the rest is education history!

So, when I received the email from the recruiter for Qatar schools saying, “Unfortunately, the school has decided to move forward with another candidate…” my heart ached and my head swirled and my eyes burned.  I didn’t find the need to flat out sob, but that was due to having my husband and babies around to make me feel better.

I jumped on the computer as soon as I had a moment to start applying to other jobs abroad. I found a few schools looking for teachers directly and sent out my resume and registered with a few more sites to keep my options flowing.

Less than 24 hours after that email, I got a few text messages from fellow candidates I met in the New York City interview for Abu Dhabi.  “I got an email!” “I’m moving forward!” “Contracts will be sent out within the next few weeks!”  I updated my email screen a dozen times until my email came.  I took a deep breath, read the words and sighed in relief.  I’m on to the next round with Abu Dhabi!  I have no contract, so this is not set in stone, but it’s a very good sign!

Rejection just means there’s another path you’re meant to be on!

*Company names have been changed for privacy

 

 

 

 

 

Stability vs. Adventure

“You’ve been at the same school for 13 years…why would you want to leave to teach in Abu Dhabi?”

I’ve heard this question before.  Phrased differently, however.

  • “Why do you want to teacher here?”
  • “Why did you choose to apply for a job in this country?”
  • “Why this country, at this time?”

But my interviewers phrased in such away that gave me pause…why leave after 13 years?

As I was walking into work today, I fell in step with a colleague who I really hadn’t spoken to in a long time.  He teaches gym on the 1st floor and I’m on the 2nd so, we never really see each other.  I asked him, “How long have you been teaching here?”

“19 years. In this building.  I started here and never left.”

“Wow, me too…”

“That’s what makes this building great.  The number of people who stayed.”

I think I teared up.  Fortunately we reached the time clock, moved our cards and I hurried off to my room after mumbling “Have a great day!”  I glanced twice as I hurried past  the room of a teacher who just retired in December after 50 years! He’d been there when the school opened! My two buddies who I got my Master’s Degree with at Queens College – still here.  Am I looking at this all wrong?  The building is by no means perfect, but the staff, at this point, is full of very talented teachers.  It’s seen a few crazies, but it seems like this year we might have only one (out of 170 or so).  And I’ve already mentioned how great my students are!  Am I crazy to leave?  Am I crazy to stay?

Waiting for a decision really gets your mind running in a thousand different directions.  Stay? Go? Transfer? Childcare leave of absence? Sabbatical? Change professions? Become a trainer? Get a PhD? Get an extension license? Try teaching a different grade? Stay in the US but go to VA or NC or FL?  Become a professor?

So I figured what has me willing to leave.  Aside from not owning a house nor any means of buying one, I don’t have the quality of life for my family that I think they deserve. Great neighborhood lined with picket fences, but awful schools.  Work hours and commutes that are so long that we can’t eat dinner together as a family or enjoy an evening stroll afterwards.  The kids can’t play outside on their own because stray bullets plague the area.  Watching the Suzie Orman show and wondering how people get $375,000 in retirement funds, and $75,000 in liquid assets.

Maybe this opportunity is what my grandfather sought when he uprooted his family from Ecuador and came to Queens, New York.  He sought a better quality of life for his family, which consisted at the time of a wife with two sons from a previous marriage and four of his own children.  Party of 8 in a one-bedroom apartment in Jackson Heights!  Despite a language barrier and limited job options for foreigners, he and my grandmother worked their way into owning a home and supporting the kids, grandchildren, great grandchildren…His yellow house in Woodside, Queens, became a haven for us all at some point in time.  He was so proud of his home, his garden, his little piece of paradise in the concrete jungle. He made the leap and ensured a better future for us all.

So, I’m searching for the new “New York.”  A place where we can have a life outside of work.  I don’t know that we will find it overseas.  But I’m willing to step out of shadow of skyscrapers in order to feel the sun.

 

 

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“Do You Think You Might Stay Longer than 3 Years?”

I met the recruiter in the lobby of the Mariott Marquis as we both asked the front desk which conference rooms we should head to.

“Conference rooms? No we have a room for you…Room 1751.”

So we head up to the 17th floor with one other candidate and open the door to an itsy-bitsy hotel room lined with about 10 chairs, a couch and two arm chairs.

“How many people are you expecting?” I asked Irma.

“About 35 from us, but probably more from other recruiters.”

I looked around the mini-room and situated myself in a comfy armchair instead of the stiff conference room chairs.  Staring out the floor-to-ceiling windows, I could see 8th avenue…drab compared to the lights of Times Square…

A few seconds later a woman walked in looking poised and professional and headed toward me – I pointed and tilted my head and we hugged in recognition!  Right here on WordPress, I met a woman all the way from Philly, preparing to interview around the globe like me!  Check out her blog at https://phillygirl77.wordpress.com/  – She truly inspired me to really go through with this!

We were fortunate to already have tons to talk about and I think it really calmed my nerves.  We were going to “Rock these interviews!”  I looked over my resume and relaxed – momentarily.  The room began to fill with way more than 35 people, the temperature on the rise and no water in sight.  I assessed my peers.  I counted one blond hair, blue-eyed woman among a sea every shade of brown.  I counted 5 men out of about 40 women.  And I looked for fellow New Yorkers, but only got every other city on the Eastern Seaboard.

Now while I didn’t talk to EVERYONE, I definitely did my share of networking.  Nearly every person I spoke with sounded like a great candidate and a great teacher.  The experience of meeting so many wonderful people made the day even more worth it; A fellow teacher with little ones, a young girl whom I would love to have as my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, and a recent divorcee, ready to venture out on her own. As each person headed into a room to interview, I sincerely sang “Good luck!”  Their students would be lucky to have any one of us!

Irma apologized over and over for the awful room the Mariott provided, which we used as a “holding cell” until our names were called.  She got on the phone with the front desk and demanded water be brought up.  “It’s a basic human right,” she roared.  They wanted to charge us $12 per bottle!  Eventually, water was supplied.  I was not impressed at all by the Mariott’s service and hospitality, which I hope they read about on Yelp!

So I think I hopped up and skipped a little when I was called to interview.  It was via Skype or something like it.  Me, alone in a room, with a computer.  On the other end, an assistant principal of the English Department and an administrator from the program. Both were American.  I was expecting at least one Emirati, but it was a lot like interviewing for an American school.

Questions:

  • How do you differentiate instruction?
  • How do you assess your student’s learning?
  • If I were to walk into your classroom, what would I see?
  • Give an example of a lesson your taught that was successful…

I was prepared for all of these.  I was not prepared for:

  • Do you think you would stay longer than the contractual 3 years?
  • After 13 years at the same school, why do you want to teach in Abu Dhabi?
  • Do you understand that we strongly suggest that teachers come without their families to set everything up and bring their families over later?

The last few I did not expect and I don’t think I gave the best answers:

  • Uh, it really depends on how it goes…
  • I’m hoping to someday return to New York and better serve our Arabic-speaking population of students
  • I’ve spoken with my husband about our family being separated for a while and we will have to seriously consider that…

What I should’ve said was:

  • I will stay as long as it takes to get the job done!
  • I have a strong desire to work with an organization that is on the forefront of reform and to share my expertise in English
  • I am willing to do what ever it takes to do the job!

When it was all over, I felt good.  I felt like I gave my best interview and if they wanted me, they’d let me know.  If not, then I’m bound for something else!

To celebrate, Kennesha, Shina and I went to an amazing Japanese BBQ for lunch.  I’ve had BBQ before, but this was REALLY the best, save for a lack of great veggies.  I want to rave about them some more…but I’ll save it for Yelp!

Now, we wait!

 

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