Saturday, June 14, 2008

Detour, part 2

When I returned from Japan nine years ago, I had no concrete plans. But being someone who likes to write five-year plans and then promptly forget them, here's what I thought would happen:
  • I would either settle down
  • or stay for a few years and then move on, becoming a lifelong expatriate.
The first point got a push from my dad, who helped me buy a condo near Senn High School, where I had been hired to teach. A couple of years passed, and I was offered the opportunity to teach in the school's International Baccalaureate program. After that, no matter what happened during the rest of the day, I had one period a day with bright, eager, usually motivated students. These kinds of students are a drug to teachers: They listen, ask, challenge, compete, learn.

Eventually, I became a slightly better teacher, and I was able to get "regular" students to respond. Life wasn't bad.

But still, in the middle of every school year I started wishing for something more. I'd look at the world map in my classroom and wonder about the possibilities. The world is big. Life is short.

Meanwhile, my friends were getting married, having children, settling down. I felt torn: I wanted that too, but I also wanted the independence and freedom to bounce around the planet one or two years at a time. This wishy-washiness doomed every relationship I was ever in. Years passed.

So ... flash-forward to this school year. Sometime in December, I decided that this was it. I HAD to move on. I told my principal I wasn't coming back, asked for a letter of recommendation. I told everyone that I was moving to California, either to the sunshine of San Diego or my friends in the Bay Area. One hundred percent guaranteed. I started examining housing and job opportunities.

I soon discovered that this might not be the best year to move to California: Arnold had ordered school districts to cut 10 percent of their budgets, and teachers around the state were losing jobs, searching elsewhere to work. No worries, I thought: I can do something else. A friend of mine is big time in the blogging world, so maybe I could somehow work with him or maybe he could set me up. Other friends are resourceful and generous, so I'd make it.

Then ... something happened on this blog. Because of this blog. Readers started posting really positive comments about me. Readers got together to donate money to one of my students, and they said they wanted to help in part because of the kind of teacher I am. And I realized: I'm not yet a great teacher, but I'm slowly getting there. And I don't want to do anything but teach, to work with teens, to help in whatever way I can.

So ... what could a person in my shoes do? I thought about my dream to bounce around the planet. I thought about a couple of my friends that had gone off to teach at international schools. And so I checked recruitment services that help place teachers at schools around the world.

I discovered it was too late to attend an international school recruitment fair. But one source listed schools that were still hiring. I checked out those schools' website and was intrigued by one. "Well, it's a long shot," I thought, "but if this place hires me, I'm going."

I filled out the application form, sent my resume and letters of recommendation, and hoped. The school replied, sorry, the position has been filled. I responded, thank you, maybe I'd consider working in the residence hall and wait for an English position next year. (This is a boarding school, so they need people to help take care of students outside of school hours.) They interviewed me. And a few days later said that the English position is available after all, what were my intentions?

I'm writing this quickly, with few details, but mostly as a reminder for myself, so I don't know if any of this makes sense to anyone reading. But the bottom line is this: I have been hired to teach high school English at a boarding school in the mountains of India. I leave next month.

Half my new students will be Indian. The other half from all over the world. Yes, they speak English. In fact, the school has an American curriculum, and many of the students end up coming to the U.S. for university; others go on to study in the U.K., Australia, or all over Asia.

Yes, I'll miss Senn and my students, but I'm excited to move on and start a new chapter of my life. And yes, I'll continue blogging, and will post a link on this page when it's ready. Thank you all for reading; I have a few more loose ends to tie up, which I'll do in the coming days.


rich the photo guy said...

Congrats AP!

Sounds like an opportunity for some great life experiences.


--rich the photo guy

appopt said...

Thanks, Rich. I think definitely my next blog will be very photo-heavy. Plus, I'll make my flickr photos available. I expect you to critique my work ...

Anonymous said...

That is so cool! What will you do with your cat?

Jackie said...

Wow. I wish you all the best in your new journey!

middleson said...

amazing. i've loved your blog for a long time now and wish you great success and epic adventures with your new endeavor. good luck and can't wait for the new blog.

Elisa said...

Congrats on the new post! I look forward to reading about your future adventures.

spacedunce5 said...

Dude, that's so great!!

Careful now, schools outside of the US can be really addictive to teach lol!

Jess said...

What an adventure! The best of luck to you. Hope you're serious about continuing to blog.

appopt said...

Thanks, all. (I'm hoping that spacedunce5 is correct, by the way ...)

I've decided to keep two blogs in the coming years. Well, hopefully. This one will continue with my experiences in the classroom. I'll probably change the title to Chicago Teacher Man vs. India or maybe Internatinal Teacher Man or some such thing. The second one will be mostly about my misadventures and a platform for my photographs. The link to that one is in my profile.

Bill said...

The word "jealous" seems so inadequate. Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Your friends, family, and students will miss you...way too much.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and keep us posted from India!

A friend of mine left Kelvyn Park for a school in Poland a few years back and last I heard he was still there.

Anonymous said...


What will Senn be like without you Mr. P? BORING! With a capital B! But we all have lives to carry on and pasts to be remembered.

Just don't forget your favorite IB class of 2009!

Good Luck!

Hug Girl

Anonymous said...

I love this boarding pass! Just the thought of the page, "Chicago Teacher Man, last call for flight AC to India. Chicago Teacher Man, please board immediately" and the image of you being offered a libation of your pleasing in First Class -- "Would you care for something to drink, Mr. Teacher Man?" -- brings a smile to my face.

Here's an imaginary toast to you and your courage in the journey ahead... and to reality with a good dose of humor.

Hai said...

Congratulations on a different path in India! I'm sure you'll make a difference in a student's life there. That is where you seem to derive your energy, when you've had a personal impact. See ya soon.


Anonymous said...

Wow. I wish you all the best in your new journey!

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