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



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






“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  – 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.


  • 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





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….