School Daze, Minus the Spike Lee

“Foreign Service? Sure! That sounds great! With my teaching degrees and background, I’m sure I’ll be able to land a job as we jump from country to country from now until retirement. Hauling boxes of young adult books and hard copies of fabulous lesson plans trans-Pacific/Atlantic will be no problem at all. I’ll go pack my bags right now!” These were the thoughts running through my head as Thad passed test after test to land himself a dream job with the US Department of State.

Oh, the naivety of my youth…

Because yes, I do have a bachelor’s degree in English/Spanish teaching; and yes, I do have a master’s degree in middle level education; and yes, I have taught for seven years in the US and two in China; but no, I cannot just jump on the first job opening at the local international school in each new posting. You see, when traveling with the State Department, the list of rules/regulations is longer than the Christmas list of my five year old niece. (It does include much, much less Hello Kitty. As I think about it, though, a little pink and glitter would liven of the FAM guidelines a bit. )  Some countries allow spouses to work on the local economy and some do not. While the reasons for the prohibitions are as numerous as the aforementioned Hello Kitty swag on the Christmas list, the outcome is still the same: if there is no bilateral work agreement with the host country, the diplomatic spouse cannot work.

That is the boat I am currently floating along in in China. Because there is no bilateral work agreement here, as I was exploring my employment options in Chengdu, I was told that I was not allowed to apply for jobs at the international school, even though there were openings that would have been perfect for my background. Although I was initially disappointed, my spirits were revived when I saw the Community Liaison Officer (CLO) position would be opening up within weeks of our arrival. With impeccable timing and a lot of background working with people in various capacities, the CLO job ended up being a great fit. I’ve been lucky to work under fantastic management during my introductory year to State and had a great time expanding the CLO position in Chengdu. It has been a great way to spend my time in Chengdu.

But, at heart, I am a teacher. I miss teaching, especially literature and writing. (My middle school niece recently started her own blog and I’ve been pestering her constantly about what she is writing about, excited to see some middle school creativity again! She may soon start ignoring me on G-chat messages if I’m not careful.) So, while at times I’ve felt a bit discombobulated by the lack of lesson plans to write or expository essays to edit, I’ve comforted myself with the thought that I’ll be back in the classroom in 2014.

Oh, the naivety of my (less than before) youth…

Much like the royal baby, there was great anticipation for bidding season. (This is an appropriate simile, as you may remember that I wrote a long post comparing Foreign Service bidding to having a child. Check that one out here.) We waited with eager expectancy to find out where we would spend (aka: where I would teach) the next two years. And at last we got the coveted email: Kuala Lumpur.

Great! It is warm (hot!!) year round, the travel opportunities are endless and the cutest baby elephant I’ve ever seen lived in Malaysia. I’ll go pack my teaching bags right now!

Or not.

After the excitement (and shock!) of our posting wore off, I did what I always do- research and obsess. Before the news had even been announced to all of our family and friends back home, my Amazon cart was filled with books (both fiction and non-fiction) about Malaysia and I bought the Malaysia, Borneo, Singapore Lonely Planet at a bookstore in downtown Taipei. I plied through document after document from the embassy in KL, reading everything I could get my hands on about housing, transportation, community events…and work. Much to my chagrin, I soon realized that diplomatic spouses in Malaysia are facing the same struggles that the ones in China are- no bilateral work agreement. Long story short- I can’t teach in the international school in KL either.

Frustration doesn’t begin to do justice to the moment.

Quickly, I decided it was time for a new game plan. Knowing that complaining about the situation wasn’t going to change it, I started scouring the internet for possible online teaching opportunities and bugging everyone I knew in the education world for possible connections into the world on online teaching. But, introductions would not be enough. Coming from a background of teaching in a traditional classroom setting, I figured some training in online teaching wouldn’t be a bad idea, so when I stumbled upon  an Online Teaching Certificate program through Pacific Lutheran University, I knew this was a perfect fit! I’m excited to start a program will give me the tools I need to be a successful teacher in a new environment and an attractive candidate when I start applying for jobs in the spring. (Plus, I need to renew my Idaho teaching certificate in the spring.  Win-win!)

Fall semester might be a little overwhelming. I’m registered for nine credits through the university and plan to keep working at the same time. I figure if I could teach full-time while completing my graduate degree, I can definitely CLO full-time while doing a certificate program. No problemo! (I say now, full of energy and excitement. Ask me again in October and I may be singing a different tune.)

“Foreign Service? Sure! That sounds great! With my teaching degrees and background, I’m sure I’ll be able to land a job as we jump from country to country from now until retirement. I’ll go pack my bags right now!”  I may not have had a clue what I was talking about a few years ago, but I still think the Foreign Service sounds like a great idea and I am still convinced that I can use my teaching degree as we bounce from post to post. It is just a matter of expanding my teaching tool kit and looking at education-oriented jobs outside a traditional classroom setting- both of which are exciting prospects.

Now, about those nine credits…

4 thoughts on “School Daze, Minus the Spike Lee

  1. Good luck!! I love your creative solution to the bilateral work agreement issue! My husband is facing the same issue at our first post and trying to figure out what his next moves should be.


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