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Saturday, December 10, 2011

This Journey to Wherever... about to get slathered in chimichurri. If you keep up with me on Twitter this is old news, but everyone else: I accepted a position at an International School in Buenos Aires for 2012-2014. Reactions fall into two camps: 1) Awesome! 2) WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU DO THAT? so, here goes. While a young pup Navy officer I spent great chunks of time overseas, predominantly Italy and Bahrain (which seems like an odd pairing only if you've never been a Med/Gulf Sailor,) and hearted it. I like being a stranger in a strange land. I like navigating mysterious cultural waters. I like spending twenty minutes of gesticulating to communicate the idea "I think this thing is awesome but I am not willing to pay 20 dinars for it." "Okay fine you can have it for 15." "10." "12." "Fine."

So when I started teaching in 2005 the idea of an International School really appealed, but at the time, the reputable schools wouldn't consider teachers with no experience. I hear that's not always the case these days, but at the time, it was off the table for a few years anyway. Cut to seven years later, and you'd be right to wonder what took so long. I wonder that, too.

It took me about the past three years to Get Serious about making this happen. There was comfort with the known and fear of the unknown. There were two boys who captured my attention for a time but things just didn't go that way. I had to improve my math teacher fu. I had to gain and lose fifty pounds. Would that it had all not been so painful but it was all probably necessary. There were excuses but once I Got Serious I realized my excuses were really no thing. 

For instance, I was all concerned about What Would Happen with the Cat, but here is what my point of contact at my new school said when I asked if it would be reasonable for her to join me: 
YES!!!! Bring Kitty! (what is his/her name....that is very important for me to know!) I came here many years ago with 2 young German Shepherds and an old grumpy cat!  So you KNOW I understand bringing your little furry friend! 
So yeah, excuses loom large in your mind but sometimes go poof when exposed to daylight. And they are just that, excuses, i.e. not the real reason you are hesitating. I think my real reasons (mostly fear) were alleviated by meeting and talking to and reading the blogs of teachers currently working at International Schools. These are real people not that different from you and this is their life. I have to especially thank Mimi who spent lots of time patiently answering my questions at PCMI and afterward, and offered lots of good advice.

So when I finally Got Serious I was looking for three things in a placement: 1. a non English speaking country so I could become fluent in another language 2. a stable, reputable school committed to supporting and developing their faculty and 3. a major urban center, for all the reasons people like living in cities. Beyond that I wasn't even particularly concerned about what continent I would end up on.

I joined Search Associates and joyjobs. Search Associates turned out to mostly be useful for demonstrating to potential employers that I was "serious" - since I interviewed and accepted an offer quickly, and never even had to go to a job fair. Joyjobs is a source of lots of good information, and frequently updated vacancy postings, and worth the small fee in my opinion. 

In conclusion.... I'm ridiculously delighted with the way things turned out, and I can't wait to get there. This placement has lots to be excited about - the probability of teaching IB or AP, a block schedule, much smaller classes, no fire drills, no Regents nonsense...not to mention I won't have to scrape ice off my car any more. Considering that my new school hasn't hired a math teacher in five years, maybe all the delays make sense in the grand scheme. Now for a long six months of trying to learn Rioplatense Spanish and find new homes for all my stuff. (But not the cat. She's coming.)


  1. Awesome! That sounds great and I am at least slightly jealous.

  2. Congratulations! I imagine you've already read this:

  3. Congratulations!

    Thanks for this story. It's been a treat to work with you :)

  4. There were two boys I spent years trying to make lasting relationships with but things just didn't go that way. I had to improve my math teacher fu. I had to gain and lose fifty pounds. Would that it had all not been so painful but it was all probably necessary. There were excuses but once I Got Serious I realized my excuses were really no thing.

    Love this. And still uber-excited for you.

  5. Kate, I have been seriously considering doing something similar for about 10 years. My best friend has always taught in the international school system, and has as a result taught, lived, and travelled all over the world. Right now she's in Bangkok. Congratulations, and I hope you will continue f(t) from wherever you are!

  6. Wow. Congratulations. I empathize -- and just listed with iss.

  7. What I find most exciting about this next chapter in your journey is that you have the security blanket of The Intertubes to maintain your supportive social safety net to fall back on whenever you start questioning your risk-taking decisions.

    I found living and teaching overseas to be an incredible and enriching experience, but I had to do it cold turkey, without the benefit of my tribe of like-minded souls (this was back in the late Pleistocene Era, when we had to rely on carrier pigeons or pteradactyls to communicate with The Folks Back Home). Having *some* continuity and sameness while immersing yourself in something different can really help a person to maintain her bearings. It also frees a person up to truly relish the immersion in Difference.

    I cannot wait to hear about your adventures in a new land! Congratulations on making this very exciting decision!!!

    - Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)


Hi! I will have to approve this before it shows up. Cuz yo those spammers are crafty like ice is cold.