I have a secret…

Promise not to tell? Cross your heart?

In my last post, I said that running and I tolerate each other. That’s not entirely true. We’re actually beginning to like each other.

I’m enjoying it more because I’m starting to feel successful. I just got back from running/walking 3 miles at a pace of 10:37 which is about 2 minutes faster per mile than I was a month ago. (PS If you want to start running, I highly recommend the Cool Running Couch to 5k program. Google it. You can get free podcasts and everything.)

It’s also easier now that I’m past the “this is extremely painful” part of running. Any activity is way more fun when you don’t feel like your insides are trying to claw their way out.

That’s it. But remember, you promised not to tell.

Just do it.

So I have been intending to post about my New Year’s resolutions since, well, New Year’s eve. A friend’s blog post on the same topic helped jumpstart my motivation. I’ve found that there is a general theme to my resolutions, thus the title of the post. Here goes nothing…

1. Well, obviously I need to blog more. My last post was in October, for goodness sake! So I’m going to shoot for twice a month. 🙂 I often think of things to post about but then forget or run out of time. Considering it took me 2 and a half weeks to write this post, I’m not off to a fantastic start.

2. Which leads us to prioritizing my time. I need to rethink my priorities and make sure that I’m not doing too many things. This might require reevaluating my membership on certain committees. In large part, it’s going to require learning to say no and figuring out how to pick and choose from all the things I WANT to do. That being said, there are many new things I want to learn, which more or less make up the remainder of my resolutions.

3. I want to learn to sing (and not make people’s ears bleed). I’ve always thought that singing is one of the most beautiful forms of art. When you listen to someone who can REALLY sing, it just sort of captivates you. I’ve been lucky enough to know many phenomenal singers, and although I’d be ecstatic to sound like that, I’m hoping for sounding slightly better than the wounded cat next door.

4. I want to learn more about my faith. In college I had (and took advantage of) many opportunities to learn more about what it meant to be Catholic. Since then, it’s obviously been up to me, and I haven’t done a fantastic job. Living with my (absolutely wonderful) Protestant roommates has made me realize how much I have forgotten or how many things I have a hard time explaining. I’ve got some great recommendations for some Scott Hahn books (thanks to my friend Carolyn) and I have learned a few things already. 1 Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” That’s not to say I intend to go beating others over the head with what I’ve learned, but that if I’m asked a question, I want to have an answer or know where to start looking.

5. I want to and I want to spend more time reading. This one has been no problem. I’ve read Around the World in 80 Days and Room and I highly recommend them both. My wonderful Kindle has helped in this endeavor and I will never not be a Kindle owner again. (Not using double negatives is not on my list of resolutions.

6. I want to be a “runner.” Well, that’s not entirely true. I’d like to from tolerating running to liking it a little bit. I’m registered for a short race in April, and that is helping make running more enjoyable.

7. I want to REALLY speak Spanish. I can certainly get by, but there are frequently times where I don’t participate in a conversation because whatever I would say is more complicated than I care to explain. I just need to jump in more and let it go when I can’t get my point across or an attempted joke fall flat. I’m hoping to find a place where I can take some Spanish classes, which shouldn’t be terribly difficult given my location.

If you have a burning desire to send a care package… (List)

Every so often, I get a little tiny homesick and these are the things I miss (other than people of course):

1. Propel powder packets. Sounds odd, but I miss them like crazy.

2. Peanut butter

3. Microwave popcorn

In case you want to send a package, or any mail for that matter, here is my address in Spain:

Calle de Eduardo Benot, 4

Esc. 2 3A

Madrid, Espana 28008

And if you send a care package, you’ll get at least a postcard in return. Perhaps a Spanish care package if I can figure out how to mail things/what I would send.

Everything I know about teaching abroad…

I’ve had a couple teacher friends from the states ask me about teaching abroad, so here is what I know about teaching abroad. If any of my fellow expat friends want to add, please post a comment or something.

How to get started I got into teaching overseas through family, so I haven’t actually gone about getting a job overseas the “normal” way. I know a lot of people who have, and here is what I know about their experience. There are various teacher recruiting agencies whose purpose is to help international/American schools find teachers. The two I’ve heard the most about are ISS (which I believe stands from International School Services) and Search Associates. They both have great websites: ISS: http://www.iss.edu and Search Associates: http://www.searchassociates.com . Both organizations offer job fairs, and from what I hear, the earlier the job fair, the better chances you have of getting a job. When my aunt first started to work abroad, she got her job at a fair in Iowa. I’ve also heard of a fair in New York. The job fair that I have heard the most about in the one in Bangkok, Thailand every January. This is a very big fair with schools from pretty much everywhere. Two teacher friends of mine got hired there last year to open a new school in China. They are the entire teaching staff aside from a language teacher. Talk about adventure! From what I’ve heard, you don’t go to these fairs with a particular place in mind that you’d like to teach, because odds are pretty good that you won’t go there.

What to look for in a school Make sure they are accredited by someone. Look for a school with a lot of American/British/Australian staff. Schools with a lot of staff members from the host country are perfectly good too, but it will be an entirely different experience from what I hear. Most schools will ask that you sign a 2 year contract.Ask about the standards they use. (From my experience, many schools use American Education Reaches Overseas standards…) And in general, if the school seems shady, it probably is. I know many people who have worked all over the world, so if you get to the point where you are thinking about specific schools, then send me a message and I’ll find out what I can.

Living and teaching abroad Living overseas is pretty awesome, all though it certainly isn’t all sunshine and giggles. Some of the pros: it’s easy and fun to travel to far away places. You end up getting to know people from everywhere who invite you to come stay with them wherever they are from. You get to actually live in a different place, which is WAY different than going on a holiday there. For real, living in foreign countries is the only way to travel. And really, you can go pretty much anywhere. You can move around every few years and that’s normal. You get to meet families and kids from about a million different places. You have a great chance to practice new languages. Major pro: the schools have way, way better funding which means great materials and better ratios. Cons: you are really stinkin’ far away from home and it generally can cost an arm and a leg to get there. You can’t get everything you are used to having, and sometimes that can make a tough day worse. Things don’t work the way they are “supposed” to. (They way in which they are supposed? ;-)) For example, our oven has been broken for a few weeks even though we have asked the doorman multiple times to have someone fix it. Also a con: moving. There is nothing fun about it. All that sorting and packing and hauling and unpacking. Blech. Also, when you are gone, it turns out everyones life back home continues on. You miss important events in close friends’ lives. You lose contact with more people. Obviously, you’ll stay in touch with the people who are truly important to you, but even that takes more effort than it does if you live at home.

Also, from what I can tell, there are a three different overseas “circuits.” Maybe someone who has been doing this longer than I have might have a different opinion. One is the European circuit. Europe is an easy place to get to and an easy place to live. Because Europe is an easier place to live, more people want to go there, and therefore the pay/benefits are less. Then you have the South American circuit. From what I hear, it is VERY hard to get paid well in South America. I don’t know very many people who have taught in South America.Then there’s the everywhere else circuit. A big part of that one is Asia, particularly China, Thailand, Japan, Korea. It seems to me that everyone I know has worked or wants to work in Asia at least for a while. I also know people who have taught in Moscow, Kuwait, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Zambia, and South Africa among other places. It seems to me that these “more exotic” places offer better pay and benefits. If I were to stay international, I think I’d go with these kind of schools.

In the end, I say give it a shot. Two years goes by pretty quickly. At some points you’ll hate it, and at others you’ll think that you can never teach in the states again. Teaching overseas is frequently called the best kept secret in teaching. But you won’t know unless you try. And heck, if it doesn’t kill you, it’ll only make you stronger. 🙂

Madrid-The Beginning

Just thought I’d share a little bit about my experience in Madrid so far. I’m beginning to feel settled, which is REALLY nice. I’ve been in moving limbo since early June when I began to pack things up in Tunis, so it’s nice to have everything unpacked and put away. Here are some pictures of the apartment that I share with 2 other staff members from school. If you’ve ever been in an IKEA store, the furniture will look very familiar. (The apartment was furnished by the landlord.)

my room

My Room

This is my cozy room. It has just enough space for a yoga mat, as you can see. 🙂

my view

The view from my room

I have an awesome view of one of the hills in a big park. It’s really nice to have a green space to look at instead of an apartment. And the park is an awesome place to walk around; it has great views of Madrid.

Pictures of the living room, dining room, and kitchen.

It's IKEA-tastic!


It's a little kitchen, but hey...

From our roof, we have a great view of the Palace. It’s lit up beautifully at night. Pictures will have to come later…

Overall, moving to Madrid has been relatively pain free. I was afraid I was going to have troubles getting into the country, what with not having the proper documents and all, but I didn’t have a single person question me once the whole journey here. I was picked up at the airport and found a great apartment later that day. I spent the first week settling in and enjoying Madrid. After that, it was down to work. I set up my classroom and before I knew it, there were 17 little ones ready to learn. They’re all really great kids, and they say some pretty hilarious stuff. I miss my kiddos from last year, but this is a good group as well. Since then, time has just flown by. I feel like I’m getting my routines down.

It’s not home, but it’s still pretty cool.

Oh, and here is the plant that lived:

The Harry Potter of Plants

What kind of flower is this anyway?

Things I have learned in the last 2 years (List)

1. Trying new things is good. If I hadn’t tried new things I wouldn’t know that I like peaches, broccoli, cauliflower, or curry. Oh yeah, and I wouldn’t have moved to Tunisia and Spain. I still don’t like change all that much, but I’m getting better. After all, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.

2. If it doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger It’s cliche, but it’s true. I’ve had a lot of good times over the past couple of years, but there have been things that just plain sucked. I came out on the other side and I was just fine. And sure enough, i was stronger and I had done things I didn’t know I could do.

3. You can learn something from everyone. Especially the people who drive you crazy. I have a really hard time not letting people get to me. I decided I need to take what I learn what I can from those people and then move on. These people can teach you something, even if that something is how not to live your life. If I let myself get annoyed, I will always be annoyed. It’s hard for me to just let things go, but I’m finding I’m happier when I do.

4. I am not nearly as good at being an “older sister” type person as my older sister is. I was lucky enough to live with my youngest cousin for a year. It was super fantastic, but I didn’t realize how much patience I needed to live with a teenager. It’s hard to be the older one who knows better. 🙂 My sister did a pretty dang good job of being that person. And don’t get me wrong, my cousin is an absolutely awesome kid, but she’s not as easy to boss around as the kindergartners. 🙂

5. I don’t need everything. For two years, I lived in a place with no fast food. No Starbucks, no McDonalds, no nothing. I know what you’re thinking: how did I survive, right? Well, maybe you’re not thinking that exactly… Anyway, I learned that as much as I like those things, I don’t NEED them. It wasn’t so much fun in the beginning, but I got used to it. Now, I have 3 Starbucks within a quarter mile of my apartment, so I’m trying to practice moderation…

6. I know some pretty amazing people. Again, it sounds cliche, but I have wonderful friends and family. They support me and love me, even though I’m ridiculous sometimes. I am glad that facebook and skype have kept me in contact with them. They have helped me process a lot of things and in general, they are talented, smart people.

7. I thrive on happiness. To be frank, I think it’s dumb to not be happy. And it seems to me that there are people who are dying to be unhappy about something all the time. You give ’em a scoop of ice cream and they’re annoyed that it’s the wrong flavor. To those people, I say: that’s fine, I’ll eat your ice cream. Of course, you don’t have to be happy ALL the time, but as it goes in one of my favorite songs “People should smile more.”

8. You can’t make everyone happy. And that’s ok. This one is related to number 7. Sometimes, people just aren’t happy. So I do what I need to do, and then I call it a day. I definitely like to make people happy if I can, but I’m not going to kill myself trying to make the Grinch like Christmas.

List-Why Teaching Rocks

I love lists. I want to make a book of lists, with the first list being the lists that are in the list book. So occasionally, I will be making a list as a blog entry and I’ll edit these every so often when I have things to add to the list.

So, I’ve decided that I need share what is truly awesome about my profession. These are just the things that came to mind today, but I’m sure I will add more soon.

1. Summer I have 2 months to do whatever I need to. Rockin’. Whether it be another job to make more money, taking classes, or doing absolutely nothing. I’m hoping next summer that I’ll be able to start my masters. 🙂

2. Impressionable little minds Don’t judge me. I use my powers for good, not evil. In my classroom, because I say being loving rocks, it magically is! When I model desirable behaviors, suddenly there are lots of little imitators.

3. Love Little hearts have so much love to give! They want to love you, love each other, love their family, love school, etc, etc. They are bursting at the seams with love.

4. Sponges Kids are sponges. They take on so much knowledge so quickly. I get kids who are learning their letters and sounds at the beginning of the year, and at the end, they are reading simple books. At the beginning of the year, they can count to 10 and at the end they are creating graphs and making meaningful observations about them. They are adding and subtracting numbers. I get to see the difference that I make all the time.

5. Comedy You know that show “Kids Say the Darndest Things”? ‘Nuff said.

A first rant

So, lately I’ve been hearing a lot of people trashing teachers, and there are a few things I need to say about this.

First and foremost, summer. Summer vacation is this really awesome thing during which I get to spend 2 months (not 3!) resting, relaxing, and doing whatever I want. AWESOME. Related to this, I have a decent winter and spring break. I do not however, get paid for any of this time off (nor am I requesting such a thing). Almost everyone I know who works outside of education has paid vacation time. They select when they will take this time, which is a luxury teachers don’t have, and understandably so. When my sister got married, I wanted to take time off in order to attend the wedding, but there was no such allotment in my contract. Fortunately, I had a reasonable employer who allowed this by subtracting from my sick time, but he was by no means obligated to do so. Such a thing would not have happened to someone with vacation time. Perhaps some of us are a little wistful to see summer end, but aren’t you when your vacation ends?

Related to this, is the idea that I don’t work the same number of hours per year and someone with a 9-5. In each of my 3 different schools, it has been stated in my contract that I was expected to work beyond my contracted hours. (KInd of odd, really…) I work at least 50 hours a week (and generally quite a bit more. Not complaining, just stating a fact. There are generally 39 weeks in a school year, so that is a minimum of 390 hours per year that I do not get paid for. That’s 9.75 work weeks. Considering my average summer is about 8-9 weeks, you can see that I more than make up for those summer hours. At my current job, I have worked for 2 weeks without being paid or insured.

Also, I work damn hard. I keep up with current research. I challenge 17-20 5 and 6 years olds each year to work hard, be fair, and enjoy life. I work with them at their own level, helping them to get where they need to go. It’s not an easy task to coordinate and strategize for all of this. I communicate with parents and ease worried minds. I guide them adjust when their child has unique needs, and I help them to seek assistance. I do what children, parents, principals, and governments want/need. I know that people in all jobs work hard, but I just don’t want you to forget that teachers do, too.

All of this being said, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I get to freakin’ teach kids to read, for heaven’s sake! I get to teach them how awesome it is to be kind, loving, and hardworking. I’m not saying that teachers have it any harder than anyone else. But I want you to remember that they don’t have it any easier either.


I recently read through the entire blog of a woman named Eva who had Cystic Fibrosis. She was more or less my age when she died, but her life experiences were obviously very different than mine. I’m a firm believer in learning from other people’s experiences, and she had a lot of wisdom to offer. There was one thing she said that really resonated with me. Here it is:

i believe in light

i believe in the ripple effect of positivity

some may think it silly

but in all seriousness

why believe in anything other than love?

why not believe that you have the power to change the world?

leave the collective conscious with one more voice in exclamation of joy? –eva markvoort

This person who was dying at such a young age was pushing JOY.  I think that we have to choose happiness. When you look at life, most people have an average amount of happiness and sadness, yet there is a wide range of how people deal with that. Ironically, it seems that a lot of people who have suffered more tend to be happier than those of us who have whatever we need. Eva very clearly chose to be happy and did so against adversity that most people cannot imagine.

The idea of the ripple effect of positivity is very appealing to me. By being a positive person, I might the day just a tiny bit brighter for someone else, who in turn might do the same thing. And hopefully, on those days where I need some positivity, it will come rippling right back. We have the power to change the world for those around us. The nice thing about being a kindergarten teacher is that I see this all the time. When I am positive and happy with the kids, they send back more love than I even knew they had. Working with kindergartners is a bit like a pyramid scheme (except it actually works). I give love, hoping that the little ones will buy into this and also give love, and sure enough, they do. I’m sure the pyramid scheme is not exactly the right analogy, but hey. To be honest, I also try to be positive for selfish reasons. Being an optimist is a lot easier and more fun than being a pessimist. I’m too lazy to be pessimistic.

But really, why should we believe in anything other than love?

Erin at Aldiana

if that isn't joy, I don't know what is

My two cents

Ya know, blogging just seemed to be the thing to do. So I’m giving it a spin. I’ll be using this blog to share what’s on my mind. I do NOT promise that this will be interesting.  🙂


Just chillin' with a roo in Australia... you know, the usual.