I am participating in a Writing 101 course on WordPress. The first assignment was yesterday…but I was still recovering from my birthday weekend so I didn’t get around to writing. So I’m doing it today. It is a stream of consciousness post because the point of this course is to get in the habit of writing every day. I’m probably not going to post all of my assignments on my blog because they most likely won’t relate to my topic of international teaching. I will try to make this post fit in with that topic!
The End of the School Year
Other than the beginning of the school year (and my current school’s obsession with celebrating Christmas), the end of the school year is one of the busiest time of year for a teacher. You are constantly trying to fit in the entire curriculum, make sure you have met all the standards, clean up, finish grades, and if you are switching schools like I am, then you need to pack everything up too.
Luckily for me, I have led a pretty transient life as a teacher. While this is my third year teaching second grade, I have never taught the same grade two years in a row. Unlike another teacher who is switching schools this year, I only have one year of stuff accumulated in my classroom…and she has six years of stuff. Luckily for her she has an assistant to help her pack it all up. I can’t imagine having as much stuff as she has, or staying in the same grade at the same school for six years. Maybe if I were in one of my dream cities: Rome, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Athens, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Johannesburg, Tokyo, or Chiang Mai I might settle in that long. Until then two to four years in a country sounds like the perfect amount of time.
From the research I have done and the people I have spoken with, it seems like most international teachers don’t stay at one school for more than five years. In many countries there are tax reasons that prohibit schools from keeping on international teachers for longer than five years. However, there are certainly teachers who stay longer than that.
What makes someone to decide to stay in a country for more than five years or choose to move on before then?
Personality: I have a theory that many elementary teachers have a certain personality that lends itself to staying in one place. Most of us like having a routine, like putting down roots, like knowing a subject/grade level intimately, and we like developing a community. That is hard to do when you stay in a place for only a short time (anything less than two years is a short time in the world of international teaching).
Place: I have already mentioned that if I were in one of my top cities I could stay so entertained that I wouldn’t want to leave! I have visited Buenos Aires for about a week total and I can totally imagine living there. I have been to Tokyo many times and felt like I was always finding something new. If the city is big enough, then one could stay entertained for a long time.
Family: I have seen teachers continue teaching at a school where they were very unhappy with their jobs because they had met someone special. If you have a loved one nearby, it can convince you to put up with a lot of unsatisfactory situations.
Passion: I am a firm believer in following one’s passion. If I can do something every week (especially if I can do it more than once a week) that I love more than anything else, it helps to make up for a lack of family or cultural activities that I might be missing out on. For me, it is salsa dancing. Thankfully it is something that I have been able to find all around the world (I never found any clubs or classes in Azerbaijan though) so I’ve been very lucky. Perhaps your passion is scuba diving or mountain climbing; there are some cities that would be a better fit than others. Go where there are things that make you happy.