Today is Saturday, and I am at school. What?! I know, but it's not really what you think. I mean don't get me wrong I do have a pile of lab reports I need to grade, but the real reason I am at school is that I need to use a reliable VPN service.
I live in China, and my school (actually the entire country) is off for the week (Yeah! National Holiday). Due to the National Holiday, China is currently cracking down on the use of VPN services. A VPN or virtual private network is a service that takes your Internet connection and makes it more secure, helps you stay anonymous and helps you get around blocks and access censored sites.* VPNs allow those of us who live in China to access sites that are behind the Great China Firewall. From time to time, the government will crackdown on the use of VPNs, which tends to make the lives of expats a little more complicated (or at least more frustrating).
But even with the issues like VPNs and visas, I have found a life abroad that I love and that I don't ever want to give up. Living in China these past four years has allowed my son to receive a world-class education, has afforded us the ability to travel around the world, and allowed me to obtain an advanced degree (see also travel). I have had the opportunity to grow as a teacher and a teacher leader. I have the freedom to teach students, not just content but life skills.
I looked into teaching abroad because I was about to give up on the educational world altogether. I was extremely frustrated with discussions of bubble students and practice test for the practice test. I didn't feel like I was educating young people, and instead, I felt like I was preparing test-takers. While no school is perfect, I landed in the school that allowed me to be the sort of teacher I wanted to be.
Over the years, I have had a few stateside teacher friends ask me about teaching abroad. Last year my roommate and I did a video series answering some of your possible questions. Check out the videos. If you are looking for a position for the 2020-21 school year, now is the time to start your search.
The school year continues to roll onwards, and great things are happening in Qingdao. Yesterday we held the annual international day festival on our campus. Every year the festivities seem to get better. An international day is an excellent opportunity for the students, teachers, and their families to get together and enjoy one another outside of the formal classroom setting. There were multiple performances and musical acts including the QISS rock band (if you would like to see this year's performance just ask me for the link). In addition to booths from businesses and restaurants from Qingdao, and family and teacher booths, this year the committee encouraged students to try their hand at marketing and have for-profit booths. It was great to see students excited about selling bubble tea, stationery from Japan, and screen-printed tee-shirts. Some students at the end of the day realized that their business was not profitable. This was a real-world application of various skills. What better way to understand business than to do business. The day was a day of learning and fun.
Five weeks into the school year, and I am just making my first post. Not to make excuses, but the start of this school year has been particularly hectic. I have taken on additional leadership roles within my school, and I am teaching a course I haven't taught in a couple of years. On top of the aforementioned professional changes, my personal offspring is dual enrolled at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). I wouldn't wish any of these opportunities away but golly gee more times than not these past five weeks have been challenging.
As professionals and parents, we often seek (or even demand) the benefit of the doubt when you are dealing with difficult situations. How often as a teacher have you been late with report card comments, or you didn't call a parent back within 24 hours. Or maybe you are the teacher who has to run to the copier during the passing period because you forgot to make copies for your afternoon class. I know I am guilty of at least one of these things.
Why do we as adults leave little room for mistakes to happen in our classrooms when we (at least me) make mistakes all the time. Mistakes: missing a deadline, not fulfilling the criteria, or failing to attempt the assignment should be a jumping-off point for learning to happen. And while sometimes that learning is content-based in my experience, it is often more important to facilitate kids in discovering methods to help them deal with the high expectations.
Learning new processes on top of learning new information can be both exciting and frustrating. As a professional adult person, I sometimes need a break or a helping hand to deal with new challenges. I sometimes want to quit, or I sometimes need to vent, but that does not mean I am a bad, lazy, terrible teacher.
If you have a student who is struggling to meet the expectations, remember they are not bad, lazy, or terrible either. They are learning. They are a senior in high school who is taking two online college courses and needs to learn how to stay organized and how to navigate the online system. They are a grade seven student who is new to international schools and doesn't yet speak much English. They are a grade nine student who is new to high school and is participating in sports and other school groups.
Yes, content is important but building students up by teaching them skills to help them become a better student, and a better human is even more important.
A teacher from the United States of America, currently teaching abroad. I teach science to middle and high school students. I enjoy reading and doing nerd things.