Men, ever been bean dipped? There is nothing on Earth that will motivate you more to work out than a good old fashioned bean dipping. Let me explain.
I’ve got a nephew who can’t weigh 150 pounds soaking wet. He’s a sample sized lacrosse player with a single digit body fat percentage, well defined abs, and attitude to match. You know the type. Every once in a while, usually when I’m feeling particularly good about myself, he “helps” me see that there is still work to be done. How, you ask? Well, imagine, if you will, a hand with an invisible tortilla chip in it (his). Now imagine that “chip”, being placed strategically under the pectoral muscle of an unsuspecting victim (me), and then imagine that hand “scooping” (flicking) said pec (bean dip) so that it wobbles like a king-sized jello salad. A good bean dipping is done publicly so that others can enjoy the experience. Bonus points are rewarded if completed after swimming when the victim is shirtless.
I’ve had day dreams where he sprains his wrist, hyper-extends fingers, and even cries a little.
So, using bean dip for fuel, I find myself once again making a run at it. The past two weeks have been extremely rewarding. Take a look:
In addition to starting the second four week interval of P90X and spinning to my heart’s delight, spring has sprung and I was able to get out for my inaugural ride before I had to build an ark. The weather has not cooperated since, water wise, but on the bright side, I have been able to de-winterize the “gym”. No more heater, no more moving blankets, and no more layers, gloves, or hat. It’s so refreshing to just go workout!
In a moment of clarity, I have also come to realize that I am skipping what is perhaps the most important aspect of P90X for an old guy like me. In order to get the cardio I want (I am planning an extended bike trip later this spring), I only use the P90X program for strength training. On the other days, my spin/bike days, I do the ab routines and a super modified version of the stretching. So, it’s not that I’m not getting any flexibility work, it’s just that I know I could benefit from more.
Case in point. Earlier this year some friends of mine, (very young friends of mine!) brought up the sit to stand challenge as a way to test longevity. If you are not familiar with it take a peek at the video below.
So, on top of being almost 6’7”, a recovered knee surgery patient, and as flexible as sheet-rock, I decided to give it a try. It wasn’t even the fact that I hat to cheat to do it that bothered me, it was the simple fact that sitting cross legged with no shoes on forced the outsides of my feet into the floor with such force I was convinced they would leave impressions.
New Goal: Flexibility training must be added to the routine.
With the new goal comes the new dilemma. How do I NOT make being in the garage the center of my universe and still cover all my bases? Maybe I can figure out a way to get paid to workout. This stuff is important to me, but it’s not everything to me.
I saw in a post yesterday Art that you died eight years ago. How is that even possible? It reminds me of something I heard once, that just like a needle on a record player takes less time to complete a lap with each successive spin, so too does the amount of time a year seems to take as we age. I would further argue that not all events in our lives are even on the same record- I mean c’mon, when has a week of work taken the same amount of time as a week of vacation? On top of that, something strange happens when someone we are close to is suddenly gone. It’s like that particular record has no speed control at all. When I think of you Art I can’t help but feel like you were just here, and at the exact same time eight years doesn’t seem to cover how long you’ve been gone, and all the while my own record keeps spinning. I think the point is, I miss you.
The truth is, I’ve been sitting on this. I’ve wanted to write to you(about you) for a long time, weeks even. It just never felt like I’d be able to capture the essence of Art. Then, a couple of days ago, I was sitting at a red light when I looked to my left and saw an image of the baseball logo you designed. It was like a slug to the gut. The last time I saw that logo was the last time I saw you, only a few weeks before your death. You couldn’t even speak at that time-the brain cancer had taken that from you. You gave me a patch with that same Minneapolis Millers logo. The one you reclaimed, redesigned, and proudly had placed on your boy’s team uniforms. As I pulled through the intersection, a powerful wave of loss swept over me. I knew at that moment, warts and all, this one had to be written.
Our friendship started innocently enough. Two dads with two pairs of kids the same age and gender, attending the same school, and involved in all the same activities. At first, you were just a face growing in familiarity at the occasional conference or open house night. Later you evolved into “that one dad” that always sat near us during band concerts and plays. Eventually, you grew to become an actual friend.
If somebody asked me what made you so unique in my eyes I would say that you were one of those rare individuals who was independent of the good opinion of others- a concept that couldn’t be more foreign to me. Sure, you were kind, and loyal, and funny, and a million other things, I had other friends like that, but you had a clarity about you. You knew what you liked and simply did that. For a guy like myself, still trying to figure it out, there couldn’t be anything more alluring.
Look, this was never meant to be a eulogy, just an acknowledgement that your life mattered to me a great deal and that even now I’m affected by you. I can hardly remember what I had for breakfast today, but I’ll never forget the look on your face when you dunked the ping pong ball on your first and last ever beer pong shot.(The look on everybody else’s faces were pretty priceless too when you gently laid your paddle down, said the word “fun”as if you’d rather be knitting, and left the room to go down in history as the only player ever to have never missed a shot!)
I raise my glass to you today on the anniversary of your death and repeat, in your own immortal words, “Every Beer’s a Sandwich!”
After a month of recovery from a back strain and limited indoor exercise due to the arctic blast that was February, I finally was able to get back in the garage gym. I know enough about my body to know that if I had picked up where I left off in January I’d find myself right back on the injury wagon. So, I decided to do one super light weight cycle through the P90 routines as sort of a lead in. Then, two weeks ago, my daughter and I hit it again.
The first week was brutal! We both agreed it was as if we had never worked out all before this. I can’t believe how fast it all goes away! Thankfully, I’m equally amazed by how fast it all comes back!
I should note that there are a couple of workouts that aren’t on here because I forgot my watch in the house(garage not attached!). I would also add, we were buried in snow on multiple occasions. If 30 minutes of shoveling doesn’t count as a cardio workout, then we need to discuss what a cardio workout is!
This entry is merely to knock the rust off. It’s almost four in the afternoon so the idea of hopping on a scale would only be made more depressing by all the delicious food I’ve consumed. I promise a full, detailed, and accurate report late next week. Stay tuned.
This one’s radioactive! (Please remember the magnifying glass is already pointed at me so…) Question: When I reflect on my life before I felt it was important to check the news cycle every few minutes was I happier? Answer: Hell yes! The steady stream of “information” is not critical to my happiness. So why have I been acting like it is?
If junk food is defined as “food” that is high in calories but low in nutritional content then the term is a perfect match here. When I am truly honest about where most of my mental capital has been spent over the course of the last few years, I have to admit it has been wasted on the equivalent of mental junk food. If only I were talking about watching cartoons all the time, or videos of peoples falling down. No, I’ve been much more sinister. I’ve been justifying my beliefs. I’ve been finding evidence to prove I’m right. Mostly, I’ve been looking for ways to prove people I love and care for are wrong. It’s eaten away at me, and it has to stop!
The purpose of this blog is simple( “Better, Stronger, Faster” ): Documentation of “a commitment I have made to myself to become a better version of me. When I say that, I don’t just mean in some figurative or nebulous way. I mean it in every way possible. I mean it about myself physically and mentally, professionally and privately. I intend to be a better friend, and better with my family. I mean it in both qualitative, and quantitative ways. If there is a way to improve me, I’m doing it.”
I think I’ve been very true to this mission…to a point. However, the elephant in my living room lies in the line, “I intend to be a better friend, and better with family.” In this, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have failed worse.
The Sneetches- By Dr. Suess
“Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches Had bellies with stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches Had none upon thars. Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all. But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the Beaches.” With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort “We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!” And whenever they met some, when they were out walking, They’d hike right on past them without even talking.”
Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s nobody better at loving people in my echo chamber. It’s the Sneetches with “no stars upon thars” that I’m struggling with. Sadly, I think pretty much the whole US, whether they admit it or not, has joined me in this failure. Remember that line Mom used to say all the time? “It’s more important to be kind than to be right!”-me either.
I thought of a bumper sticker a number of years ago. (I’m an idea guy, but my follow through is wanting. You are welcome to run with this and make millions!)
“Is it hypocritical to exclude the intolerant?”
Deep, huh? Loving one another is supposed to be a value common to all of us. I’d even be willing to bet there isn’t a healthy religion or community in which love of your fellow human is frowned upon. To me, it’s also the hardest part of sharing a planet. But, just how can any of us take the moral high ground if we are not willing to reach out to especially those who are hardest for us to like right now. Most of us are acting as if we’re one winning argument away from converting the masses. What I think we need to remember, though, is that intolerance is the refusal to accept (or perhaps, even listen to?) others beliefs. People are probably not listening to us anyway, but they are sure as hell watching us.
You know what I realized about my bumper sticker this year. It’s not actually a question at all. It’s a command. Try to dodge this:
“Itishypocritical to exclude the intolerant.”
Ouch! If I don’t do everything in my power to include everyone, even (especially!) the people I don’t like right now, then I am behaving no better than those who I perceive to be the worst offenders. Apparently, the only capitol that needs storming is my own mental capital.
It’s going to take some time to do this. I’ll have to extend myself a little grace. I think the first thing I will do is turn off the information faucet. My hats off to the people in the media, we need you to keep us honest, but how you work in your field day after day without the barnacles of cynicism taking up permanent residence on your minds, I’ll never understand. Second, there are some zoom happy hours that need to happen immediately. Finally, I need to do internal audits of my intolerance regularly because Mom was right, I would rather be nice than right.
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!
Rest, that period of time when going forward feels a lot like a going backward…It’s extremely hard not to judge myself too harshly when my well laid plans go awry. However, I realize that even when I am at my most careful, I am not perfect, and therefore open myself up to injury. The irony of my last health and fitness post being titled “Bulletproof” is not lost on me. To think, I expounded on how I was using exercise as a means to make my body injury proof…sheesh!
This has always been my history. Even when I was lifting weights that were much heavier than I was, I could still bend over to tie my shoe the wrong way and experience the electric jolt my spine makes when it decides to go on vacation. This time around it was more like a slow leak. If I had been ice skating alone on Sunday I probably would have taken my skates at the first, low level pinch. However, as I was with friends I hadn’t seen in ages, I pushed on, hoping my back would loosen. All I can say is that it’s a good thing no one was watching when I finally took my skates off because I’m sure it looked like there were invisible magnets preventing my upper torso from getting anywhere near my lower torso. I pretty much had to kick my skates off.
The other day, I was flipping through the news when I came across an article on this guy, Ed Whitlock. Ed was able to, at the age of 74, run a marathon in under three hours. I HAVE to cling to the memory of Ed, and athletes like him, during weeks like this. There will be setbacks! As long as I can continue to take the long view I’m all set. At the risk of sounding like I’m just making excuses for progress not made during my lifetime to date, I have always adhered to the idea that life is not a sprint. I didn’t play professional sports or go to the olympics, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to develop type 2 diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, or morbid obesity by embracing a sedentary lifestyle, eating in a way I know to be counter to my long-term goals, or by GIVING UP!
I have a poster hanging in my garage that I use to help motivate me for this long-term view of health. The photo is taken from a book entitled, Growing Old Is Not For Sissies: Portraits of Senior Athletes– by Etta Clark. The grizzled man in the photo almost looks photo shopped. His craggy, weathered head sits upon the chiseled body of a man who has known deprivation, work, and drive. Were it not for the Rocky Balboa’s sweatpants, one would be tempted to search for evidence of a seam at the neckline.
I choose to believe that both Ed and this guy looked upon fitness with an eye for the long run. In the clip above Ed states, “Everyone has to find their own recipe for success…you never know…you always have to be kind of tweaking things and trying to figure out what is best. You never really know if you’ve got the best recipe for success. All you can do is keep trying to find it.” Would it be ok if I take tweaking to mean rest this week?
I found this interesting, according to Healthline, “In addition to heavy lifting, any activity that puts excessive strain on the muscles and ligaments in the lower back can cause an injury. Sports such as football and golf can lead to back spasms because they demand that the back turn suddenly and repeatedly.” The one thing that I did both Sunday and the day that I last experienced back joy was shoveling. Turning the back repeatedly sounds a lot like moving snow. Maybe I’ll have my wife film me so I can analyze my form. It never hurts during the snow flurry, only when I attempt to do something immediately after. Wouldn’t shoveling warm up the back?
So, without any more stalling, I proudly present my abhorrent data for week 4.
I’m not going to lie. I thought this would be much worse. I’ve crept up a bit here this last week, but I think when you look at this next chart you will understand why.
If you look closely you will see that after Sunday’s skating fun, I have done nothing to jeopardize the hard work Dr. Bob puts in to get my back into alignment. I was given some mild stretching exercises and a lower back strengthening move to practice. That was the extent of my physical work this week. On a positive note, I’m feeling like I can probably get back to it in the morning.
I don’t know the secret to avoiding all setbacks. I seem to find new and unique ways to injure myself on a weekly basis. For the record, I’m being very careful to warm-up before any resistance training, I lift light weights or use my own body weight when possible, and I cool down. I also try to stretch or do some light yoga here and there too. the bottom line is that injuries are going to hit. Successful individuals taking the long view of fitness “tweak” themselves back to health and get back to it. If you need me tomorrow I’ll be in the garage.
Clark, Etta. Growing Old Is Not for Sissies: Portraits of Senior Athletes. Pomegranate Calendars & Books, 1993.
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!
We all age, but there are ways to age gracefully. To be “bulletproof” is to work to improve your health in ways that will offer you protection from illness and injury, while at the same time extending your ability to do the things you love.
Am I a little ready for a beer? I’m not even waiting until tomorrow to publish this week’s results. I think I can be excused under the circumstances. How many times is there an insurrection in the halls of congress during a pandemic the week before a new president is inaugurated?
I titled this week bulletproof precisely because that is so exactly what I am not! Oh sure, vanity plays a role in my motivation to carry on this experiment, but if I’m honest, it pales in comparison to my desire to eliminate as much weakness from my system as is possible. I don’t necessarily mean I need to be strong, I mean I need system wide protection. I am starting to have quite a collection of what I call, “nicks and dings.” I like to tell others that the engine is running fine, it’s the tires that continue to need fixing. Take a look:
Inguinal hernia repair both right(2020) and left(2008)
Torn cartilage micro-fracture repair left knee(2014)(no walking 3 months, crutches 3 months)
Torn right bicep repair(2015)
Torn right rotator cuff repair(2015)(no use of arm for months)
CIV(Chronic Venous Insufficiency) repair-complete with leg ulcers(2018-19)repair
Chronic back issues(in my view chronic back weakness)-(2008-2018)
When taking in that list it would be fair to assume I probably look a bit like Frankenstein and played professional hockey with no equipment. I don’t and I didn’t. What I find interesting is that it wasn’t until I was 42, in 2008, that I ever had any problems whatsoever.
Here’s the thing, I was indoctrinated into extreme exercise at age 6. That’s when I started competitive swimming. Five nights of two hour practices followed by meets on weekends, year round. By the time I “retired” to play basketball in high school I was doing two-a-days with weight training and light swimming in the mornings, and full on practice in the afternoons. I have never been able to let that go. Make no mistake I’m no athlete, but I am athletic.
My wife likes to joke that everyone should lay down on the floor every day and get back up to a standing position because you don’t ever want to lose that. We say the same thing about stairs. If you buy a house without stairs then you run the risk of losing the ability to climb and descend them. I know this from experience. I have already lost running. With the cartilage injury and repair I could risk running, but why? I’ve replaced my love of running with the lower impact joys of cycling, skating, and swimming. My attempt at making myself bulletproof is just another version of getting up off the floor.
If you look at the literature that is out there the best way to make yourself bulletproof is to maintain a healthy weight by eating in a healthy manner(I did not use the word DIET-that’s a 4 letter word!), to exercise in ways that maintains and improves strength, flexibility, and cardio-vascular health, to limit your intake of naughty stuff(you don’t need me to tell you what that naughty stuff is!), to sleep, to laugh, to have good friends, and to find joy in what you do. There are probably others, but you get the gist. Knowing this, here’s my progress for week 3:
As I write this I’m chuckling to myself because my right knee hurts-not the bad one. I’ve taken to wearing a compression sleeve when I workout or skate. Just another ding. Maybe in 10 days when I crack that first beer, I’ll put it up and relax, but not today.
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Have you ever wanted to teach abroad? Maybe you’re feeling you’re in a rut. In this post I will relate how my family found itself in Korea for eight wonderful years.
A number of years ago, after having taught urban middle schoolers for eleven years and emotionally behaviorally disordered elementary students for five, I felt mentally and emotionally drained, like there was no more ink in the pen. About this time a new teacher at my school sat down next to me at a staff meeting. She proceeded to pull out what could only be described as a tome, the book was thicker than the yellow pages. Something compelled me to ask what it was. She slid it in front of me and proceeded to explain that it was a school catalog put out by International School Services, an organization that recruited teachers for 100’s of international schools all over the world.
As I flipped through the pages I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The pages were packed with contact information, benefit estimations, curriculum delineations-basically almost everything you would need to know in order to decide whether or not a school would be a good fit for you, or not. It was as if invisible tumblers aligned and something clicked into place inside me. I knew instantly that this was exactly what was missing from my own teaching experience! This was the fresh challenge I craved!
Over the ensuing weeks my wife Jo, and I, discussed the matter further, and agreed it was something we should pursue. However, like all crazy ideas it seemed to wilt in the bright light of reality. Were we really ready to pick up, leave everything behind, and drag our two children (10 and 13) to some foreign land? And then, something extraordinary happened. We went to see the Pixar movie “Up.” In it, there is a montage at the beginning where Carl and Ellie agree that they are going to pursue their childhood dream and travel to Paradise Falls in South America. They begin to save their money, and the coins begin to pile up in the glass jar, only for life to step in and require them for everything from car and home repairs, to doctor bills, and the like.
(This was not unlike the dream Jo and I had had to join the Peace Corps early in our marriage, only to be told we didn’t have the skills they needed at the time, and then, later, to be told we couldn’t bring our children.) I remember walking out of the theater, and both of us, without prompting turning to each other and in unison saying, “We have to teach abroad!”
The next day, On December 28th, 2009 we entered Spyhouse Coffee armed with computers. After two casual cups of coffee and some obligatory small talk, I opened my computer and logged into the only site I knew recruited teachers, ISS. The reason I remember the date was because we learned the minute we connected to the site that December 28th was the absolute last day the organization was accepting teachers.
We spent the next few hours firing off emails, some to buy more time, some to beg for letters of reference, some seeking advice. When all was said and done we were granted a two week extension, signed up for and attended a job fair in Boston a few short weeks later, and found ourselves having to make the difficult decision of choosing between placements in Moscow, Manilla, and Seoul. We had stumbled upon Seoul Foreign School’s website earlier when doing a preliminary search for school’s with orchestra programs that we knew would challenge our daughter. However, when it came down to it, it was my brother’s last minute text, “Six months of winter or eight, go with Seoul!” that ultimately swung the pendulum in favor of Korea.
Never, not for even a second, have we ever regretted our decision. Oh sure, there were plenty of frustrations, but the positive impact living abroad had on our family was immediate and permanent. From the moment we walked into our new apartment and my son Christopher plopped down on the couch, looked up at us and said, “I can get used to this!” to this very day. I’m convinced that getting out of our comfort zones is how we learn best. Nothing gets you out of your comfort zone like living in a different country.
In my next post I’ll share what I’ve learned about the nuts and bolts of how to go about securing a position overseas.
In this post I will get you up to speed on how I’m doing in this, the second week of my fitness challenge.
UPDATE!: I decided that the math just wasn’t working out. How could such a drastic change in my diet and lifestyle not have more dramatic results? So I decided to weigh myself again today. This time I moved the scale a few times to make sure it was sitting flat on our stone tile floor, the result was three measures all at the same 212 pounds- a significant difference from the previous day.
There you have it. The world’s most boring graph. I don’t see the value in weighing myself everyday, hence the flatline with a drop at the end. I have to admit that I’m surprised at the relatively slow rate that I’m losing weight. Think about it, I dropped all alcohol, all sugar(not something I ate much of anyway) and most all processed food. The loss of alcohol alone should be having a much bigger impact. It is even more surprising when you add in the next piece of evidence.
As you can see on my RunGap Chart, the addition of ice skating has really upped my game. I chose to call it High Intensity Interval Training because that is how I used it. After reacquainting myself with ice skating, I used the 30-40 minutes I typically can endure skating(it is way harder than I remember!) to skate laps in groups of four at my local rink. I’m not sprinting or anything but I don’t have to either. My heart rate jumped from about a 100 to 150 and above in that short time. It’s hard to differentiate the skating from the P90X workouts above, but I always skate in the afternoon so skating is always listed as the second HIIT workout on each day.
Here’s a peek at a typical skating day as seen by a heart rate chart:
I think you can see from the chart why I choose to label it high intensity interval training, lot’s of peaks and valleys. In effect, I’m doing two workouts a day. However, the weather has not cooperated lately, it’s actually raining outside, more like a freezing rain on top of snow. I didn’t think to use the iwatch to gauge it, but in the last three days I’ve probably shoveled for a total of 2 hours. I’m usually bathed in sweat when I’m done, so there’s definitely work being done. Also, when I cycle the iwatch asks when I’m done-it can tell when my heart rate drops. It doesn’t do that when on the HIIT setting. So on January 13th’s morning P90 I forgot to turn it off, to make up for it I only counted a few minutes of the afternoon skate.
Diet, Sleep, and Miscellaneous
Last night we had burgers and fries from a local restaurant. It was an impossible burger, but I’d have to say it was my first real cheat. For two solid weeks I’ve eaten completely vegetarian, non processed, no sugar, heavily fresh fruit and vegetable meals. I have stayed beneath the 2660 calorie ceiling that My Fitness Pal has calculated for me to reach my goal. However, as I stated in an earlier post, I’m not necessarily looking to lose weight. I’d rather gain lean mass, or at my age, not lose anymore.
Sleep has been better than when I was drinking, but I still wake up. I get at least 8 hours every night now, but there is often a one or two hour gap in the very middle of the night that I have chosen to use for writing in my journal. Nobody is better at mentally regurgitating a day or a problem like I can. I have found that rather than worrying about not sleeping I’m in a better place if I accomplish something that I would otherwise need to do when I woke up. This way, if I sleep later than I normally do I’ve merely juggled when things are done rather than fallen behind.
The Home Gym
So, you are welcome to go back and read in depth about how I have set up my home gym, and also the problems I’m having with it. I think I have found some tweaks that work. I’m leaving the attic steps down completely to give the water vapor that accumulates on the windows and doors an “escape hatch.” I’ve also gotten smart about lifting the insulated moving blankets off the floor when I’m not exercising. This has kept them damp at most. Finally, I have become king of the squeegee. I have found that if I vacuum the absorbent mat, and squeegee the bare floor when the cars are out, it stays pretty darn dry. We have had very mild temperatures lately so stay tuned to see if these are truly workable solutions.