One of the most exciting things about teaching in international schools is the possibility of teaching anywhere in the world.

Every year around this time (recruiting season begins in November and continues all the way through the following spring) international teachers around the world are excitedly taking about potential job opportunities in different countries and continents. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we’re unhappy where we are, it just means that we enjoy the adventure of a new culture, new customs, and a new lifestyle. Even if we’re not moving, we delight (literally, there are squeals of glee) in the discussion of new paths to follow and new adventures to experience – because undoubtedly someone we know will be moving to somewhere exciting come the following August.

And, this year, it just so happens to be me and my husband, Alex. Just before our semester holidays began, Alex and I accepted positions at Yokohama International School in Japan. We could not be more excited about our upcoming move!


For one thing, we’ve had the privilege of actually visiting the school during both a normal school day and a professional development day. Many international school moves are done sight unseen. When we moved to Kuala Lumpur in 2005 we had never been to Malaysia – actually, when we went to the job fair we were planning on moving to Dubai.

It may sound scary, but we can go into a recruiting season believing we’ll be living on one continent and end up on the other side of the world. So being able to visit YIS and actually see the school in action, meet the teachers, talk to the students, visit actual teacher apartments, and stroll the streets of our new “home” before we move there is incredibly lucky. And, of course it doesn’t hurt that we have so many wonderful friends currently working at the school that have helped us understand what life is really like in Japan (thank you Brian, Christine, Genki, Sunita, Brian, Frank, Leanne, and Colin!

Yokohama StreetAnother thing (actually this is probably the most important thing to us) that we are super excited about is being able to work at the same school. Although we absolutely love living in Bangkok, it can be frustrating to work at two different schools – our schools are on completely opposite sides of the city (making my commute over an hour each way), our work schedules are different, our summers are slightly off, and we’re amazingly lucky to have most (but not all) of the same holidays. Plus, it’s just nice to work at the same school as your spouse.

Of course there are all the other things that we were looking for in our next school (whenever that time might come), the things I consider my “checklist” of requirements. Sometimes we get lucky to have one or two, but this time around, we have hit the jackpot and gotten all of them:

  • Size: under 800 students total (PK-12)
  • Location: major or capitol city with direct flights to New York, school in (short) walking distance to accommodation – both in a city setting, preferably in Asia
  • Curriculum: International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (and PYP and DP, though we won’t be working in those programs)
  • Platform: Mac, with plans to go 1:1 in the next year or so
  • Salary: enough to live comfortably, travel and save

GionI’m sure my checklist will change shortly after arriving at YIS (as a group, I can definitely say international teachers are susceptible to the “grass is always greener” syndrome because our lives are so flexible), but for right now I can’t quite believe how lucky we are to have so many of our criteria met.

Even with all this excitement, it will be hard to leave Bangkok. I absolutely love this city and this country (and most days, this weather). Southeast Asia has to be one of the easiest places in the world to live, and I know we won’t be able to replicate our lifestyle here in a developed country (especially one as crowded and expensive as Japan).

Of course the worst part will be leaving ISB and my absolutely amazing and wonderful colleagues: Tara, Jeff, Dennis, Chad, Rob and Ida (my ISB21 Team) – honestly, I could not ask for a better group of people to work with. They will be absolutely impossible to replace. Period.

And, then, of course, there’s Chrissy. It’s hard to believe we only met for the first time two years ago (and online only about a year before that). Since then, she has become a superstar colleague, and an even better friend. It’s not going to be the same without being able to stroll down the hall into her classroom for a chat, or to brainstorm exciting projects and ideas, or to get some of her always excellent advice or support, or just share a late lunch in the cafeteria.

Peaceful Kyoto

And, really, that’s only the ISB colleagues that are actively blogging. The teachers I have worked with here have been a constant source of professional growth, every day. I feel lucky to have been part of such a phenomenal staff and to have learned so much from so many of them over the last three years.

I have been fortunate to make many friends in the various schools I’ve worked in and it’s always – always – hard to leave. This time will be no exception. My only consolation is that I know we will cross paths again and again (as we do amazingly frequently in the international circuit), and of course, we have our many ways to stay connected online.

So, it’s with a teary-eyed smile that I will begin my last semester at ISB next week. Just a few more months in the tropics and we’ll be off on another adventure…

On that note, does anyone have any advice about learning Japanese? This time I’m determined to do a better job of learning the language.

By the way, if you’re not yet receiving the feed for this new blog URL, please update your subscription to this feed.

33 thoughts on “A New Adventure Begins (soon)

  1. Kim – best of luck in your upcoming move! I think it’s fantastic that you’re able to meet most of your wishes, and I’d also love to live in Japan. My brother has been living in Japan for the past few years (Tokyo), and also spent a year near Kyoto. His photos speak volumes for the experiences he’s had:

    I’m sure you’ll miss Bangkok; I love that city as well. However, a taste of Japan may be a nice contrast to the ‘exciting’ (shall we say?) life that is offered to those of us living in developing nations. (Jakarta for me for 7 years and now Manila as you know)

    I’m sure anyone that follows your blog or knows you in person is excited to see the many challenges you may encounter, and the positive changes you’re sure to create. Did I miss something or did you not yet specify what exactly your position will be? ;)

    All the best to you and Alex for a successful transition. I’ll be sure to follow this new feed. Cheers.

    1. Thanks Brandon!

      We are so excited about Japan! It such an interesting place. How is it possible that you and your brother are both such phenomenal photographers? His pictures are fantastic!

      I didn’t mention our positions – I’ll be MYP Tech & Facilitation and Alex will be ESL & English.

    1. I think the site probably hadn’t loaded completely for some reason because it’s a white background with dark gray text. Here’s hoping it will fully load on your next visit :)

  2. Congratulations! I’m sure you’ll love YIS.

    As for Japanese, if you’re a visual learner like me, start out by teaching yourself the hiragana and katakana written characters first. That actually doesn’t take long. Once you are able to read menus and signs, you’ll be able to pick up more vocabulary quickly. Japanese isn’t tonal like Thai, and it’s always spelled exactly how it sounds (unlike English.)

    It takes forever to master, but you’ll have the basics down quickly.

    Such an exciting time of year, recruiting season!

    1. Thanks Warren!

      I’ve got my Kana flashcards in front of me right now. If I can just get the written characters down before we move, I think I’ll be in pretty good share. Thankfully Alex is a superstar with languages so I know I can always count on him.

      Congratulations right back to you! I know you’re going to love Amsterdam! I visited that school when I did my MYP Trainer workshop, it seems like a wonderful place to work.

  3. Kim, I can not believe the time went so fast! I hope you have a wonderful lasy semester. I hope you have an easy move and a great new year at the new job!

    1. Time flies, doesn’t it! It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Bangkok for almost 3 years and southeast Asia for almost 5. I think it’s time to get back to seasons for a change :)

  4. I attended a weekend workshop at YIS about two years ago. The school impressed me as did the city. (Seemed kind of expensive though.) And you’ll be joining the great team of Brian, Genki, and Christine. Congratulations!

    1. Cost of living will definitely be a shock to the system after 5 years in southeast Asia… But, this will be the first time that both Alex and I are working at the same school, so having that combined salary should help. Yokohama is a great city, but sadly Brian is moving on this year too (though I’m super excited about working with Genki and Christine!).

  5. Kim, congratulations to you and Alex. YIS is actually on The List (it’s even laminated!) for my wife and I. I loved living in Japan, both in Tokyo and in Kyushu. And Yokohama was always a great place to go out for the day (or night).

    If you want to learn the language, my advice is to watch lots of television (honestly!) and to start reading some Elementary School level manga (after you’ve learned your hiragana and katakana, of course)…

    1. @Clint,

      Thanks! Wow, laminated! You are even more organized then me! Where did you work in Tokyo? Alex bought me Kana flashcards for Christmas, so I’m working on one letter a day. Hopefully by the time August rolls around I’ll at least be able to read the letters!

    1. @Maggie,

      Loved your post! There’s so much to consider when moving – especially when it can be between continents… I’m sure I’ll be going through my share of Bangkok withdrawal next year myself.

  6. You are indeed very fortunate ~ as are the schools who have you work with their students!! Good luck in your latest ventures. Love your new self-hosted blog too. Fab Kim!

    1. Thanks Judy! We really could not be more excited! And the self-hosting is fantastic! I didn’t really understand all the potential of WordPress until I started messing around. I’m sure it will end up being more time/labor intensive managing it myself, but I’m looking forward to the learning.

  7. Your blog interested me because I recently graduated with a bachalor’s degree in Early Childhood and elementary education and it has been a struggle finding a job in the US due to the economy. The suggestion has been to go abroad. I have looked into a few sites, but haven’t really found anything that looks legit. How did you go about getting an international job? How did it work out that you and your husband can travel together? What about if you have a family? Any suggestions would be great.

  8. So jealous! I do love where I’m working now, but the lifestyle of moving around and seeing the world, experiencing different cultures by actually living there… it all sounds so wonderfully bohemian! (I think I must have hobo genes.) Alas, life’s circumstances wouldn’t really lend themselves to me pursuing such a lifestyle at the moment, so I shall live it out vicariously by reading about yours!

    Enjoy Japan, it should be wonderful. And congrats on the new blog. A change is as good as a holiday huh?


    1. Chris, you know wherever I’m working, I’ll be ready to snatch you up should you ever decide to move overseas! And, of course, you’re always welcome to come for a visit!

  9. I teach ESOL in South Carolina and like you I started a new adventure, but in the digital world. I am taking a class called Digital Writing in the Classroom and we were asked to join four bloggs. Following yours will give me the chance to learn not just about the Japanese culture (I love traveling) but learn also about technology. What a perfect match!

    1. Maria,

      Excellent! I’ll be learning quite a bit about Japanese culture myself (most likely by making mistakes and looking like an idiot, but that’s all part of the adventure, right?) Thanks so much for reading!

    1. Thanks Kathleen, I really appreciate the updated linking! I think the experience of living overseas, where often daily experiences don’t really make “sense” in the way that I would understand them, also helps make international teachers more flexible in their professional life too (though of course that’s not true for everyone).

  10. We have always wanted to live in Japan. It is such an interesting place and the culture is so different from Asia.
    My wishes go with you and I hope we meet again.
    My husband and I are moving to Accra, Ghana after 17 (yes, 17) years at JIS. We are also super excited but sad to leaving this wonderful country and amazing school.
    In my thoughts,

    1. Rhona,

      You are always welcome for a visit in Japan! Ghana is so lucky to have you and Geoff! I’m sure that’s going to be such an exciting adventure! It is a strange feeling to be leaving, isn’t it? Especially for you, after 17 years at JIS! Wonderful and exciting, but also sad and scary at the same time… Looking forward to hearing your adventures from Accra!

  11. Hello Kim,

    Situation: 3 schools I serve were awarded a grant which provided students many book sets for small reading groups or lit. circles. The teachers and grant writers want the kids to communicate, collaborate, and connect about the books they read on a blog.

    Problem: Because the collaboration is between 3 schools, should there be one main blog with everyone’s comments and one manager to control it or should each teacher have their own blog to manage and control? Should there be both?

    1. Jana,

      Well, the decision would certainly be up to you, but I think you probably want to consider a few things:

      1. What is the ultimate purpose of the connection? If they are talking about the books they’re reading, is a blog really the best format? Do you need to form small groups based on books, or host forum discussions where multiple people can reply to comments by other students? I’ve used a Ning for a similar purpose because of the ability to host forum discussions and smaller groups. I found it more flexible than a blog.

      2. Who is going to be managing this online portal? Do all teachers need to be administrators? How are decisions going to be made?

      3. Do you want the discussions to be public or private?

      Best of luck!

  12. Congratulations Kim!

    I know that ISB will miss you, but I also know that you are a true educational leader who has build capacity at the school and they will be so much richer for having had you at the school, long after your departure.

    Best of luck in Japan… the journey and the adventure continues!
    .-= David Truss´s last blog ..Warning! We Filter Websites at School =-.

    1. Thanks David!

      And I will certainly miss ISB! Once you get started with this whole international teaching thing it’s pretty hard to stop. Can’t wait to see where your next adventure will be once you’re ready to leave China ;)

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