And do you know what the worst part is? I let it dam my flow! I’ve come to learn that it is so much more fun to write when things are going well. I’ve also learned that I need to publish immediately, even if I’m not proud of the contents, because that’s what blogs are for. Who’s to say that posts about honest struggle carry less value to the reader or the writer than brag posts?
A quick recap: I am in the middle of a massive self-reconstruction project. (It’s massive to me, but I don’t think anyone outside the audience of this blog would have any idea that I’m doing anything out of the ordinary.) My goal is to take this Covid time-out and use it to completely change. My goal is to be a better person physically, mentally, and professionally, and in any other way that occurs to me. It occurred to me early on that this really is an opportunity like no other, like a caterpillar in the cocoon, I’m leaning into the voluntary social distancing required to stay healthy.
So, even though you, the reader, are probably only interested in parts of this post, I thought I would use it to do a general check-in on all plates I have spinning around me all at once. Yes, that’s clunky, but I’ve fallen behind. Good luck readers!
I might as well start here and get the disappointment out of the way. Unlike other posts you will find no graphs or tables here today. The injury I sustained to my back two Sundays ago has proven to be persistent. That said, I have 5 days of extremely light resistance and gentle stretching under my belt. I’m close to getting back to it, but it has taken a complete fortnight to get to this point.
I have learned that there are limitations to my garage gym. I was able to deal with humidity and melting snow from the cars, but the weather forecasted above is only a continuation of the weather we have already endured. January was jungle hot compared to February. So my new gym is literally a 6’ X 7’ landing near my basement stairs-literally the only place in the house where I can lay without stacking couches or beds. And you know what? It’s perfect! I’m absolutely prevented from undertaking anything that could further injure me. It seems I’m being instructed from above to ease my way back(pun intended).
My “Dry January” turned into “Dry Close Enough!” Yep, tripped at the finish. On a positive note this has become a bi-annual undertaking, as I take Septembers off too.(If I have successfully completed two January and one September liquor fast am I allowed to talk about it like this is a thing I do?) I think it was my frustration at not being able to work out as much as anything that was responsible for my falter.
I am also not using Fitness Pal to track my eating at this time. This was never meant to be a long term intervention, rather a mental calibration to get a feel for what portion control should feel like. As I stated in earlier blogs, I’m not out to lose weight. If anything I probably need to gain some. My ultimate goal is to maintain mass as I traipse through time.
What is really helping me most is that, as a family, we are extremely motivated to eat well right now. My current belief is that rather than restrict the amount eaten we should add fresh vegetables to every meal. A salad or a soup, when added to a meal, fills in the cracks before the naughty foods can.
This is the view from my Rosetta Stone progress plan. I have completed 4 weeks, and have one more lesson in week five. As I mentioned earlier, for me this program is best used in conjunction with Duolingo as it focuses way more on pronunciation. However, I find myself counting the seconds for each lesson to be over. In the program’s defense I usually do it after I have already completed an hour or two of Duolingo. How fair is that?
On January 3rd, when I last posted about Spanish I was at 19500 XP, so as you can see, I’ve earned almost 4000 points since then(with corrections that’s like 5000 questions!) Check out the streak of days!
I’d like to start by mentioning this very blog. This was new to me. I’m going to give myself a pat on the back here. No, this isn’t Catcher In The Rye, but I do try to put a little thought into what I produce here. Also, putting yourself out there publicly has to be worth something too. So there it is. Another 10 posts during the month of January. Not terrible.
In addition to blogging I have completed 5 online education classes for my teaching licensure to date(Digital Literacy and The Connected Classroom from Eduro, and Cultural Competency(2 parts) and Mental Illness in Children and Adolescents from EQ Learn.
For the record, this is not the only place I record my thoughts. I have a journal I have kept on and off for almost 30 years(mostly on!). I mention this because, in looking over what I have written so far, there are some pretty major omissions that I’m still not at the point I want to share publicly. My spiritual journey and future plans make up a large portion of what goes into it my hand written journal(incidentally, there is nothing better than a fountain pen and a good journal to coax out the most stubborn thinking!) Perhaps, in the future, I’ll pull back the curtain on some of this growth as well. For now you’ll just have to be satisfied with that Duolingo streak. Whoa!
Perhaps you find yourself in a teaching position that you have held for many years. You take comfort in the routine of it, you know exactly how each day is going to unfold, but still… Or, perhaps Covid has forced you to your own kitchen table. You find yourself “teaching”, through no fault of your own, an ever less enthusiastic group of two dimensional beings, and you catch yourself thinking, “there has got to be another way!” Whatever the reason, rather than rearranging the flatware, it may be time to flip the whole table and try teaching in a foreign land.
How exactly does one secure a teaching position in a different country?
Disclaimer: I certainly don’t know everything. I’m merely passing on my own experience. I would invite those with different experiences to comment on this post and add their insights. (I’m in the middle of a hunt right now, and am not opposed to learning a thing or two!) Also, be forewarned that Covid has changed the game, at least temporarily. Not only have things moved almost exclusively to a virtual universe, but the economic uncertainty out there right now has forced schools to be very careful about their hiring practices. Even so, let’s jump in, shall we?
Step 1: Are you qualified?
Let’s start by making the distinction that this mission of this post is to help those interested in regular education positions as opposed to those looking to teach English. Why the distinction? Because many reputable “regular” schools will require that a prospective teacher have at least two years experience in the classroom before they will even consider a candidate’s application. Many schools that teach English don’t. In fact, teaching English is one way many inexperienced folks find themselves positions abroad.
To give you an idea of what a typical school might be looking for here is an excerpt from a job posting of a reputable school in China:
Step 2: How to search.
As the number of international schools out there continues to grow, and there are way more than you probably think there are, you are going to need a way to winnow your choices down. According to Relocate Global,
“There are 9,605 English-medium international schools worldwide, and the numbers are expected to grow at a strong rate over the next ten years.
According to the 2018 Global Report on the International Schools Market from ISC Research, the numbers have increased by 6.3 per cent over the past year, with a compound annual growth rate of nearly six per cent over the last five years.”
It is possible to select an area of the world you want to go, find a school in that area, and apply online directly. I’m sure there are people with drool worthy applications that this works for, but for the rest of us non “superheroes” there are services that can assist with the process in a mighty way.
Entry Level Services
The most basic, and least expensive of these services serve as “marketplaces” where job openings from many schools are compiled in a single location. TIE (The International Educator) is a great example of one such service. At $39 a year it is hard to beat in price. In addition to job listings, subscribers also get access to some basic information about each position, including some basic benefits information and job description details. For another $29 a year you can get notifications sent directly to your inbox. Here is a look at a sample page to give you an idea of the information you can glean from their site:
Another great resource is the Global Recruitment Collaborative. Like TIE, GRC is a marketplace for schools. However, it is also a marketplace for teachers, and is completely free. As their website states, “The Global Recruitment Collaborative (GRC) emerged from a very simple premise – Create a database of high caliber educators, field tested at some of the best international schools in the world, with a passion for learning in an international context.”i
Another marketplace site similar to TIE, that I have actually tried, is Teacher Horizons. This is a newer company, so I’m less familiar with it. This is another free site, so you can’t be disappointed when you get what you pay for. It is founded by teachers who state, “Teacher Horizons is free for teachers and we are committed to keeping it free. We strongly believe that talented teachers should not have to pay to find good international teaching jobs or go to expensive teacher recruitment fairs.”
Here’s a sample image I took of the filter page. If you were looking for an art position you would see something like this:
As you can see there are 92 jobs all around the world that match this description. Clicking on any of the “opportunities” gives you access to a limited amount of information about each school, but does provide you with links to their websites so that you can do more digging.
More Extensive Services
Another great resource is the Global Recruitment Collaborative. Like TIE, GRC is a marketplace for schools. However, it is also a marketplace for teachers, and is completely free. As their website states, “The Global Recruitment Collaborative (GRC) emerged from a very simple premise – Create a database of high caliber educators, field tested at some of the best international schools in the world, with a passion for learning in an international context.”
What separates GRC from sites like TIE is that at the same time that it is “pushing schools” out to you, it is “pushing you” out to schools. In other words, you have to upload information personal to you, like your resume, your teaching experience, and your references. The idea is that schools interested in you will have the freedom to contact you whenever they feel like it. However, that’s not all GRC offers. In a typical year, they sponsor a face to face recruitment fairs, typically in Dubai. This year, due to covid, they sponsored virtual fairs. Recruitment fairs are a staple in the international teaching community. They are basically a giant cattle call where schools and teachers get together and try to match teacher skills with school needs. They are stressful, expensive, and exciting. If you can get hired without needing to attend a recruitment fair, in my opinion, do it!
What I like most about GRC is their simple website. Every morning I pour a nice steaming cup of coffee, nestle up next to the computer and check GRC first to see what’s new in the world of job openings.
You can see in the shot above, taken without any of the filters applied, that it is rather slow at this time. In fact, today is January 24th, and there are no positions listed for today(it is Sunday though!) What I like about the site is that the newest positions are always listed first, most of the schools on the list have pretty good reputations, and I can filter quickly and easily. I highly recommend using GRC even if you don’t intend to sign up for the fairs.
High End Services
There are two services that(that I know of) are considered to be the top of the line. I am familiar with one, and have many friends that have used the other. Again, there may be others, but I will only speak to what I know. These are expensive, but in my opinion, using one of these services is almost necessary-International School Services (ISS) and Search Associates.
I’ll start with Search because I know the least about it. Here is a blurb from their site to give you an idea of how different their approach is:
“We ensure that we can provide personal attention to our candidates by assigning each candidate to a specific Associate, based on their geographical location or on the job fair they wish to attend. This system allows candidates to have access to their own Associate, and their team, who will personally assist them throughout the entire job search process.”
Search has a hefty $225.00 fee for teaching candidates, but this is good for three years(or until you get a job) and there is no fee involved in registering for your first job fair. You are also assigned an “associate” to help guide you through the process. The big draw of Search, and of ISS for that matter, is that by registering through them, you are seen, in a way, as “vetted” by prospective schools. The idea is that once your personal information is uploaded and checked out, schools have been saved the hassle of having to do it themselves.
Like Search, ISS also carries a cost, albeit a lower $75.00. Also like Search, ISS represents a very large group of schools. Some schools choose to make use of both services, so don’t worry too much about limiting your options by selecting one over the other(If there is going to be pushback to this post, it will come here. Some people swear by one service over the other). Also like Search, candidates upload their personal information and are “vetted” before they are “released” to search for jobs.
ISS has made the leap to the Ifair almost seamlessly, as they had practice with these before Covid hit. The downside of all virtual fairs is that as hard as they try, in my experience they don’t/can’t replace a real face to face recruitment fair. I had an administrator friend tell me that he absolutely cannot hire someone he has not met in person. This was before Covid, so that may have changed.
You can see here that they represent a pretty hefty number of both job openings and candidates.
If you take away nothing else from this post, understand this, there are a lot of risks involved in teaching abroad. Anything you can do to diminish the risks is something you are doing to increase the odds that you have a successful adventure. Here’s a story to illustrate my point.
A friend of mine, along with his wife, accepted in a country he had never been to in Africa. They felt it was time to try teaching abroad as their two daughters had reached middle school age. After flying to Europe from the states, and then on to the capital of their host country, they then hopped a bush plane and eventually arrived at the airfield near the school they were to teach at. The pilot unloaded all of their stuff, restarted the plane, and left. There was absolutely no one there. There also wasn’t a terminal or a phone. They dragged their luggage to the shade of a tree and sat down. After a few hours a gentleman on a bike rode by and began to wave frantically. It turns out the school had the wrong date for their arrival and all worked out fine, but what if it hadn’t? Can you imagine?
Look, there are unsafe countries, schools with poor management, schools that are in it for profit only, and a myriad of other possible problems. Going through a reputable agency like Search or ISS is a great way to increase the odds of your success.
Finally, there are a couple of more sites that I find extremely useful for knowing what it is like to work at a school because they are written by teachers who have actually worked there. Think of them as ways to vet the schools. However, a word of warning, all entries must be taken with a grain of salt as angry teachers are the ones that seem most anxious to write. Teachers who have had wonderful experiences are often quiet. ISR offers reviews of schools and administrators from around the world. It is only a few dollars to join, and is updated often. There are also discussion boards that center around just about any topic a person might have. If a school has a bad review or two I’m likely to overlook them, however, if nobody ever gave it a good review my antennae go up.
The last site I would recommend is sort of a combo platter. International School Community offers both reviews of schools, and even has a section where teachers can post positions they know are open at their schools. It is much different than ISR in that the information provided is much more objective, but useful just the same. Again, this is teacher provided information, so some schools listings are more complete than others. Even so, here are some of the hyperlinks to useful information a prospective teacher might be interested in seeing.
There are even more pertaining to the country and city the schools in which the schools are located.
Step 3 Talk To People
The bottom line is that leaving all you know to move to a place you have never been is a huge decision. Arming yourself with the best information you can get online is still a poor replacement for having some serious discussion with someone who is currently working at the school you are interested in, or at least someone who has worked there recently. At our first job fair we met a teacher at one of the schools we were interested in interviewing for. She was actually at the job fair to find a job at a new school, but for personal reasons. We learned more from her than from any book, website, or interview.
Finding a job in another country can seem overwhelming. However, with the right sources for information you can make an informed decision. First, know what you are qualified to teach. Second, use multiple online resources to know all you can not only about your prospective school, but about the country in which it is located. Finally, talk to other people-people who know the school. Asking a prospective administrator for the email address of a teacher from the school is not a ridiculous thing to do. As most schools will expect you to sign a two year contract it’s best to know going in that you can honor that!
In this post I will explain the benefits of Eduro Learning as an online continuing education option for educators.
I’m a little mad at myself. I haven’t been taking my own advice to heart. In my “Your Own Bucket” post, I quoted Chrissy Hellyer and her idea that a blog is not something that is necessarily written for the audience. It is “To document my ongoing learning and professional development journey.” However, I’ve come to learn that it has an even greater purpose than that. I need to write! On the days that I have not published anything, I feel a sense of loss, like I have somehow let myself down, and now I know why. It’s because, for the time being(hello Covid!), this is my creative outlet, and as I’ve learned in my Connected Classrooms Course from Eduro Learning:
(I’m opening myself up to failure today in the hopes that it keeps the creativity flowing, and that it allows me to do some growing. If this is not your cup of tea, turn the channel!)
Let’s start with Coetail. A number of years ago I enrolled in the Coetail Program(The Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy). For anyone looking to enhance their ability to access technology in a way that allows you to embed it seamlessly into your curriculum, then there is probably no better place you could go than to Coetail. You are placed in a cohort of like minded individuals, you can work at your own pace, and the instruction is top notch. Even the assigned work pushes you to explore the very resources you’ll use in your classroom. To top it off you can earn college credit.
In my mind, Eduro is sort of a natural extension of that very program. To be honest, I don’t know which came first, or the exact relationship between the two, all I know is that when I found myself locked in my own home during Covid, wanting to do something to improve as a teacher, I went right back to what I know worked, Coetail(and by extension Eduro).
So far I have taken two courses through Eduro. They have followed a similar format. Each course is broken down into bite sized lessons. A lesson is then broken down further into four distinct sections. Here is a page from one course to give you an idea.
The “Watch” section is typically a short 15-25 minute video. Often it follows an interview format where one of the instructors interviews a teacher implementing whatever the topic being covered is. The videos are extremely relevant, and are a great hook.
The “Introduction” section is just that, and often reiterates a bit of what was previously viewed.
The absolute score in Eduro is the “Key Resources” section. In addition to articles supporting the thinking in each lesson, often there are links to things likeTed talks, or teacher blogs, or slide shows, or other resources that add to your understanding, and to your ability to implement the features of the lesson. For example, in the lesson above there are over 20 links to infographics, lesson plans, example units, and other useful online resources.
The “Action” in each lesson is typically a short assignment forcing(and I mean that in the nicest way) the student to use the new tool or idea. The misty photo above with Kim’s quote is an example of one of my actions. I used Canva to turn a photograph from one of my bike rides into a cool tweet.
Eduro has many offerings. If you are someone interested in becoming a coach, then the possibilities are almost endless. For a classroom or subject specific teacher who is content to stay where he or she is, then perhaps some of the other course offerings would be of more interest. The MastermindEd series has offerings focused on things like social justice, inclusion, sustainability, and service learning. There are courses on Women Who Lead, and you could even sign up for personal mentoring.
Eduro has been a great option for me. The self-paced format offers me the flexibility I love. In addition, the lessons are easy to navigate, they can be stopped and started at the users convenience. Also, because courses are taught by actual teachers the material, resources, and course work is all relevant and instantly accessible for your own teaching. Give Eduro a shot the next time you’re looking to up your game.
“Digital Literacy in a Connected Classroom.” Eduro Learning, edurolearning.com/course/digital-literacy-connected-classroom/fake-news-the-responsibility-to-be-digitally-literate/.
The summer after our first year teaching abroad in Korea the first question it always seemed we were asked was, “What was it like?” However, a close second was , “So, can you speak Korean?” The answer, invariably was, and remains to this day, “nope.”
I spent eight years in a country and learned cab Korean. I learned just enough to direct a cab driver to my house. Sure I learned a few others like “hello” (goodbye was harder), and “thank you”(critical!). What an embarrassment! Oh and, “one more please.” (That beer wasn’t gonna bring itself!).
In my defense, Korean is not an easy language to learn. In addition, I lived on top of a mountain with other English speaking teachers, at a school(Seoul Foreign School-Amazing!) which prided itself in not only instructing in English, but also in having a population of students that used English on the playground. Besides, in the back of my mind there was always a voice telling me that Korean was not a language that would “translate” well outside of Korea-meaning, where else was I going to use Korean except in Korea?
As part of my transformation this year I have made the commitment to rectify this situation. Admittedly, Korean seems a bit beyond my reach at this point, but that doesn’t mean that all languages have to be. What about Spanish? After all, I had a few years of Spanish in high school, there are many Spanish speakers and Spanish Speaking businesses in my own neighborhood-making it relevant, even now, and with as many Spanish speaking countries as there are the odds are not terrible that our next teaching assignment could wind up being in one of them.
Fifty-five days ago I restarted my Duolingo account. (I had dabbled in it a little earlier, but this time, as I stated earlier, I’m all about achieving.) Where my goal before was to practice each day by doing a lesson, my goal this time is to come out of Covid fluent in Spanish. Boom! There it is for the world to see!
In addition to Duolingo I also purchased a lifetime membership to Rosetta Stone. I’m not messing around! Besides, at $179 for a lifetime membership with access to unlimited languages seems like a pretty wise investment in myself.
This is NOT an Either/Or Post. It is a “why I prefer both” post.
Duolingo is obviously made by people who like video games. Perhaps the most important feature of the program is that through it’s silly, but effective forms of reinforcement, one feels absolutely compelled to meet one’s daily goal. Here are some examples from my home page:
They understand just how to play me. I once had a fitbit and had to stop using it temporarily when I caught myself out in the garage at 11:30 pm “sneaking” steps in so my wife wouldn’t know what I was up to. You see, I just had to get ahead of a friend who was competing on the app with me. You understand. Incidentally, she had to quit when she developed a foot problem trying to stay caught up with me!
Isn’t it amazing that I haven’t even mentioned how the program works? All this is just the motivation. As if learning a language isn’t motivation enough!(Read with Sarcasm). Better to let them explain the process:
Now, Rossetta Stone takes a very different approach to learning than Duolingo. Admittedly, I’ve only just begun the Rosetta program, but already it feels like its focus is unique. According to Money Magazine,
“Part of what makes the program so great at this is its teaching philosophy. Listening, reading, writing, speaking — Rosetta tries to combine all the basic elements of language learning into a cohesive, holistic program. Another reason why Rosetta excels in creating an immersive approach to language is its speech recognition technology, which has received praise for its accuracy and high degree of customizability. Learning to speak like native speakers is essential for learners to feel like they are making actual progress in their studies.”
I would very strongly agree with the second part of their assessment especially. It feels like Rosetta is much more about speaking. Pronunciation is a critical part of the program. There are small dials to indicate the degree of how precise a person’s pronunciation was for each word or phrase.
In addition, I feel like the pace of Rosetta Stone ensures that there are no gaps in one’s learning. This is not always the case with Duolingo. I find I rely on the discussion thread when I miss a question because, though I’m sure I forget plenty, sometimes it feels like new learning has been added without explanation.
There are many comparisons of the two programs, and others, on youtube. The bottom line for me is that the two programs complement each other in such a way that I feel like I’m getting a great education. With almost two months under my belt I don’t seem to have lost any motivation, and that’s saying something!
Images 1-4 Duolingo, Inc. (11th October, 2018). Spanish. 5900 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 United States of America
Even my grown children, digital natives, consumers of all things digital, seem to balk at Twitter. And yet, millions (billions?) of people use it, depend on it, and love it? How come?
Admittedly, I’m on it because I’m told I have to be. The people that tell me this are people I trust, so I’m putting my suspicions on hold until I can wrap my head around what all the excitement is about.
At first glance, Twitter seems so smart. It’s so efficient! Because posts are limited by character counts a lot of information is packed into a small space. Once you have made some decision about who you want to follow, your stream will be populated by tweets from those people or organizations. That is exactly what makes it such a double edged sword as well! Some people and organizations are prolific tweeters transforming your babbling brook of information into a raging torrent of whitewater. Taking a swig of information out of the Twitter stream sometimes feels like trying to drink out of firehose,
There are ways to slow this down. Social media management tools like Hootsuite are the best way I’ve seen to separate the wheat from the chaff. Let’s face it, in a first place tie for the most difficult aspect of Twitter is not Twitter, but our own lack of self-control in perusing through it. Here’s what I mean. The photo below shows what my Twitter feed looks like:
Contrast this with how Hootsuite looks:
At first glance it may seem I’ve only complicated the view. However, on closer inspection you can see that Hootsuite actually allows me more control . I can see my own tweets, tweets I’ve been mentioned in, and also, if you look at the home stream in the photo above you will notice that it has the same information as my Twitter home stream. I have the option of not even including it on this page. Perhaps the most useful tool is what is in the 4th column and beyond. Users can customize further streams by including specific #hashtags. Since I’m taking class through Eduro, it seems like a logical conversation to follow. I also have one for inquiry, but any more than a few topics and I find myself back in the heavy current of distraction.
Another great feature of Hootsuite is that you are not limited to your Twitter here. You can organize other social accounts like Facebook and Instagram in the same way. Hootsuite becomes your one stop shop for all things socia. Not only that, but anything you can do on those sites can be done from Hootsuite, like posting. You can even post on more than one site simultaneously. Am I doing any of that? Oh heck no, but know the options are there…and it’s free.
When you are ready to dip a toe here I recommend you try some of the videos on setting up an account. This “How to use hootsuite in 13 minutes” put out by Hootsuite, was really clear and really helpful.
Why? Why bother doing this at all?
Here’s the thing. Education is a moving target right now, especially with Covid and the subsequent need for home learning. If an efficient use of time leads to a balanced life, and if a balanced life leads to contentment, then we need to find efficient ways to hit that target. Twitter puts groups of likeminded individuals into contact with each other. Your personal learning network becomes anyone who sees your tweet. The wheel you’re thinking of inventing is probably being used by someone already. In ten minutes I found three things I want to try. The bottom line is that I need to quit trying to to it all by yourself.
So, to recap, I am an elementary teacher who has spent the last decade teaching abroad in Seoul, South Korea and on Grand Cayman Island. This year, circumstances forced my family home to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Avoiding Covid, surgery, and a strong desire to get better at my job has stifled my desire, and in some ways, my ability to get a classroom job right now. That’s why I’m using this year as a time for professional growth.