Posts Tagged With: teaching

First Days of School

The first day of school is always nerve-wracking, but it never really occurred to me that teachers might be feeling some anxiety as well. Now I know the truth: teachers are just as nervous (if not more) than the students!

Before and After:

Schools in Egypt were scheduled to start on Sunday September 1st of this year, but the curfew has wreaked havoc with daily life in Egypt. The start date was eventually pushed back to Saturday September 14th, and we all prayed that school would start. The extra time to plan, decorate, and panic was much-appreciated, but two weeks of sitting around in a school without students gets old fast.

Because we lost two weeks we need to catch up in any way we can, and one way was to start a day early and have a six-day work week. Not everything was working perfectly, though. Curfew may have been extended to midnight, but it didn’t end until 6 am. 6 am, though early, is not early enough for all students and staff to be at school by 7:45 am. So, to compensate for the first week we started late and cut a few minutes out of each period daily. This caused no end of confusion in hallways as some classes are showing up early while others are late. But we muddled through.

The administration realized that the curfew may never be lifted so a new plan was implemented: keep the old schedule, just push everything back an hour. More confusion, and drama as kids are kept until 3:30 pm.

Finally, the curfew was pushed to 5 am, allowing kids and staff to get to school by 7:45. A day of sleepy faces and we were all right on track. Just in time for After-School activities to start. These are mandatory and mean that everyone stays at school until 4. Joy.

I teach 5th grade, which has a total enrollment of 9 students. That’s right, NINE kids in the whole of the 5th grade. It’s awesome. In less than a day I’d memorized my students names and gotten to know their personalities. They get a lot of individualized attention, and grading nine papers is no big deal. My students are a bit of a challenge, being at an awkward age, but we’ll learn together. I’ve also heard some stories about their antics last year and they’ll definitely keep me on my toes.

After School:

On Mondays I teach drama to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders. They have so much energy! Thankfully I have an ‘assistant’ in the form of a reluctant middle school teacher: Mr. Luke. Mr. Luke’s activity (debate club) was canceled and his choices of activities to join were: drama, girl’s soccer, or preschool water fun. So drama it is, with my group of 6 students, all under the age of 8.

On Wednesdays I wanted to do drama for older students, but not enough kids signed up. So, I’ll be doing the yearbook, instead. Hopefully that will go well.

Categories: Egypt, Life Abroad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to my Egyptian adventure

It’s official, I have moved to Cairo, Egypt. My next adventure has begun. Though not without a few bumps along the way.

It started in late June when I received an email from the director of the International School of Egypt asking for a Skype interview. I had to backtrack and lookup who was emailing me and from where. In the process of leaving my last job at Disney English I had signed up for a number of programs that aid teachers in finding international jobs and ended up emailing every school with a position and an email address that I could find. When ISE contacted me, I had to look back and remember just what I had signed up for.

The interview went swimmingly, and a few days later I was offered a position as a 5th grade teacher in Cairo. Calling my mother to let her know that I would no longer be spending a few years on her couch, attending graduate school was a tough conversation, but overall she was incredibly supportive. She posted this on her Facebook page:

Anybody else get a call from their daughter today saying that instead of coming home from Beijing for good, she just may be here for ten days before taking a job. In Cairo. Like, as in Egypt. No one? Just me? Thought as much…

People’s responses upon learning I was moving to Cairo, especially when things started to heat up, were varied and often funny. From my fellow expats in China I got mostly surprise and congratulations, though my dear friend Tom, upon hearing that I was moving to Egypt, said “Really? Why? Aren’t you afraid?”

My favorite response that I’ve heard is this one: “Wow, KIRO! Will she be working as an intern? Will she be on television?” KIRO is the local television station in Seattle, where my family lives, and both my mom and brother heard this response when describing my good fortune. Hilarious.

As my time at Disney English drew to a close I did my best to tour Beijing and see things I’d previously missed, including the Temple of Heaven, an acrobatics show, and 798, the art district.

Finally it was time to fly to Seattle and spend some quality time with my family before moving to Egypt. The  13 days I was in Seattle flew by in a flurry of shopping, laughter, and misadventures. There was so much to do, and quite a bit was left undone. I spent a lot of time with my family, but alas I did not get the chance to visit with many friends. They’ll just have to come visit me!

My last night in town my brothers, parents, and I went out to dinner and spent a few glorious hours reminiscing about our childhoods and our collective family memories. I haven’t laughed so hard or enjoyed myself that much in a long time. I will surely miss my family with an ache that cannot be measured.

My flights to Egypt were rather uneventful, though it took 22 hours. Seattle to Chicago, Chicago to Amman, Jordan, and finally Amman to Cairo. In the Chicago airport I had a little trouble finding the connection to Royal Jordanian airlines, so I stopped to ask. In my tiredness (I hadn’t slept much the night before) I mistakenly asked for directions to Air Jordan, “No wait, that’s a shoe. I need to get to Royal Jordanian airways.” The woman smiled and pointed me in the right direction.

In Amman I met up with a few other teachers on their way to Cairo. Guy and Lindsey would be working with me at ISE as the music and middle school language arts teachers, respectively. The few other foreigners would be teaching at the American International School of Cairo.  We almost missed our flight to Cairo because we misunderstood the final boarding calls. We were all sitting in the airport checking in online and dawdling on the Internet when a Royal Jordanian crew member came over and let us know that we were about to miss our flight. We all made it to the mostly empty flight, though.

We left Jordan just as the sun was disappearing over the horizon so my first view of Cairo was a little disappointing, just lights in the darkness below the plane. The heat hit me in a wave as I exited the plane and I said to myself “Welcome to the desert.”

We rode a bus to the terminal and before we could pick up our luggage the three of us teachers for ISE had to buy tourist visas for $15 each. Due to some confusion in finding the bank we were a little late to the baggage carousel and there were no luggage carts available. Not a big problem for me, having learned my lesson flying from Beijing to Seattle. While heavy, I could still move my entire luggage myself if necessary. Not so with my companions, whose baggage reached epic proportions. I began to worry that I hadn’t brought enough with me. Oh well, too late to do anything about it now.

After a brief stop for inspection (backpacks only) we made it out to the kiss and cry area of the airport and were met with signs with our names on them. The head of school was there, along with her husband, the art teacher, and their daughter, the 3rd grade teacher, another weary traveler, the middle school social studies teacher, who had arrived a few hours earlier, and an Egyptian logistics expert, Margaret. We piled our luggage into the school bus and journeyed to our apartment building.

On the bus ride Luke, the middle school social studies teacher, and I discovered we had both served in the Peace Corps. Myself in Mongolia, he more recently in Indonesia. It also turns out that on his post-service travels he had toured Mongolia and met a friend of mine who still lives in the city. *Cue music: It’s a small world after all…

First impressions of Egypt:

  • Heat
  • Friendly, helpful people
  • Construction everywhere
  • Curfew (7 PM to 6 AM)
  • Huge apartment
  • Dust
Categories: Egypt, Life Abroad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Change is in the air

It’s often amazing to me how quickly life can change. It has happened to me quite a lot in life, so it shouldn’t surprise me any more; but Fate has a way of turning my life in the oddest directions.

As a child of an international banker and a homemaker I started living overseas at the age of four doing time in Hong Kong, Prague, Warsaw, and Madrid all before I turned 13. This makes me a third culture kid of the first order.

We moved back to the States when I was 13, and I hoped my globe-trotting would continue. Alas it was not to be, and I could no longer follow my father around the world. So upon graduating Central Washington University I took up the challenge and joined the United States Peace Corps. I was posted to Mongolia and spent two years living in the small town of Moron, in Khuvsgul Aimag. (For more, see That time I lived in Mongolia…)

Those two years were some of the most difficult times I may ever encounter in my life. I lived in a yurt (a felt tent) that had no running water and was heated with a wood-burning stove. I did have electricity, and oddly enough, 24 internet service. Such is the oddity and duality of life in Mongolia. During my service I met other world-travelers like myself, along with numerous tourists, adventurers  and welcoming locals. I also dealt with crippling diarrhea, sand storms, drunken Mongolians (who are a lot like zombies, lurching around in the dark in search of more vodka and sex), having to haul my own water and chop my own firewood, and a teaching job where I struggled to make a difference. Though it was incredibly difficult, I wouldn’t trade my tenure in Mongolia for anything. I would do it all over again for the things that I learned about myself, about the world, and about what I am capable of.

That aside, after my service ended in the summer of 2011 I was a bit rudderless. Ready to be home, find a job, do what normal people do, I suppose. I wasn’t sure anymore that global living was really what I thought it was. In Mongolia I learned the harsh truth that living overseas with your family is VASTLY different from living abroad alone. (Thanks again Mom and Dad for everything you did to make my childhood awesome and livable!)

After bumming around and working a few babysitting and nannying jobs for 9 months in Seattle, I had had enough. I went online and began trolling the web for job listings. I started my search on Tuesday night, by Wednesday morning I had a Skype interview scheduled with Disney English. A week later I was asked to pack up my life and move to Beijing, China to teach English for the next 14 months. I was so excited!

I am now nearing the end of my contract with DE, and again, I wouldn’t trade my experiences here for anything. I’ve learned so much, and gotten the chance to do some pretty amazing things here in Beijing. (For more check out previous entries Bungee Jumping in BeijingVacation: Shaolin and Xi’An, and Bungee Jumping in Beijing, Again.) But now the time has come for something new. In January I started looking for positions in international schools around the world without much luck. I had resigned myself to another year or so bumming around on my Mom’s couch looking for temporary work before applying to graduate schools for the fall of 2014.

When the unexpected happened. I received an email from a school headmaster asking for a Skype interview. I had to backtrack and figure out just who this head of school was. In the 6 months since January I have sent my resume and qualifications to just about every school on the planet with an email address. Turns out an international school in Egypt is looking for a 5th grade teacher and they’d like yours truly to teach all twelve students!

EGYPT! I’m moving to EGYPT! In about 50 days, no less! A week ago I was despairing at staying in my mother’s attic and job hunting all of the schools in the Seattle area. Now I have just 10 days to see friends and family in Seattle before I’m due in Cairo to begin my life as a 5th grade teacher.

Have I mentioned that I’m THRILLED?!?!?!

Fate had me on the edge of my seat staring into an abyss of menial babysitting jobs for at least a year, and now… Now, I’m starting a job in a new school in a new country with a slew of adventures yet to be discovered. Fate sure is one fickle bitch!

Categories: Life Abroad, Peace Corps | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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