I have been teaching and living in a foreign country for just about two years and the end of my contract is near. Therefore, I feel compelled to give future international teachers some much-needed advice. Where do I begin? Where do I end? There’s so much I can reflect on as a ‘veteran teacher’ in a middle eastern country. Yeap, that’s right! Lol. You are considered a veteran teacher if you made it through a year of teaching and return to do additional years. You become the ‘go to’ person for many of the new teachers. I believe they have hired over 500 additional teachers……probably more than that for the upcoming school year! Naturally, these teachers have many questions and seek veteran teachers via Facebook.
I figured I’d post a few of the most popular questions I have received from teachers who are planning to relocate overseas and teach in The Middle East.
1) Do you have any regrets?
– Absolutely not! This experience has afforded me opportunities I never would have experienced had I not taken this leap of faith. I have grown on so many levels; spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually, professionally. More importantly, I now view the world through a global lens. This shift (in how I view the world) has motivated me to continue living and serving on purpose.
2) What was your biggest challenge?
– I had two really big challenges that I had to deal with on a daily basis. The first challenge was surrendering to the culture of this country. Culture shock is very real and there are stages you will go through over a period of time. Get familiar with these stages so that you are prepared to respond appropriately to the roller-coaster of emotions. Over time you will gain a better understanding of the cultural norms and how things work, but you must be patient with the process and simply let go and surrender to the way things are!
The second challenge was my biggest challenge. The challenge of being so far away from everything and everyone that I know and love. I genuinely missed my family and friends to death. As a result, I have and still experience a whole new type of loneliness. But I’m grateful for it because it has forced me to really appreciate the company of myself. This new and enriching relationship I have with myself has afforded me a newfound spiritual connection with my source. I needed this time alone to really get to know me and the one above. Point to ponder: They say a person begins to feel lonely when they no longer enjoy the company of themselves. Ways I dealt with this challenge included Facebook, Skype, Magic Jack, Voxer, and Text Now which all kept me in constant communication with everyone. Additionally, I made an effort to create new friendships. However, be VERY careful about who you surround yourself with. It’ll make or break your experience. Needless to say, it helps to chat and hang out with people who can relate to what you are feeling. Also, I have come to realize that our thoughts are just thoughts. And when you are feeling a particularly way it is simply a thought in motion. If you change the way you think, you change the way you feel. I have found a few ways to dismiss the negative thoughts. However, sometimes I simply allow for them to just pass. It takes a lot of practice, but after 2 years I’m managing my negative thoughts a lot better than I used to in the past. Lastly, I constantly remind myself that I am serving for a purpose greater than myself. I am living a dream that is dreamt by many. I tell myself to be in the moment and embrace it……why? Because this too shall pass…so live on purpose!
3) What is your best advice for an incoming teacher?
– Expect nothing and everything all at once. Lol. It doesn’t make sense right? Lol. Welcome to life overseas! A person who can keep an open mind and exercise infinite patience, flexibility, and tolerance will be able to embrace the foreign experience.
4) What’s your most memorable moment over this past year?
A) My mom taking her first trip overseas to visit my new normal.
B) When the plane landed in this foreign country, it symbolized the start of my journey.
C) The first day I met my students and they looked at me like I had five heads.
D) Being able to afford trips to places like Sri Lanka, Paris, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Qatar, ect….
E) The first payday. No taxes taken out of my check! Incredible!
F) The day I met Abdullah (Emirate) and he introduced me to his family.
G) The day I walked into my free two bedroom, 2 bathroom villa.
H) The day I realized I was making an impact globally.
I) The moment when I realized how blessed I am to be an American.
J) Immersing myself in the many cultural activities in the this foreign country.
There are so many memorable moments! I could go on forever but I think you get the picture. :0)
5) What was your teaching experience like?
– I felt like a first year teacher all over again. Why? Because my students didn’t understand much of what I was saying. I had never taught English as a second language and was shocked that the school didn’t provide me with an Arabic translator. I had to exercise humility and be willing to ask for ideas, strategies and resources. A teacher who is truly reflective and open to stepping outside of their comfort zone will exhibit success in the classroom. Point to ponder: your number one priority is to find some way to develop a relationship with your students. Without that, you will fail. You do whatever it takes to win the kids over and then keep doing it! Trust me, it’s the only reason I had a successful 2 years in the classroom. The kids liked and respected me as their teacher and friend. More importantly, they knew I cared.
6) Do you think I’m making the right choice by going to a middle eastern country? I’m so scared!
-Relax! Your feelings are normal. We all were feeling what you’re feeling and it’s okay. You’re making a big move in your life so naturally you will begin to experience every possible emotion. I will leave you with this thought; they say a person doesn’t truly start living on purpose until they begin stepping outside of their comfort zone. The choice is ultimately yours and I invite you to change your fears into curiosity. Only then will you afford yourself life changing experiences.
This is myTRUTHmyClarity…. ;8)