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!
Another 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
I’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.
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.
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