Reflections at the end of 2016

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark TwainThe Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

This restful season, I am yet again reminded of the many dynamics of teaching. Now, perhaps more than ever in my lifetime, we teachers are needed to instill a sense of hope.

As an educator, I remain overjoyed to be working with students, parents and fellow educators who have meaningful life experiences from various points around the globe. This lifestyle is the norm for our students and is becoming the norm for me. I am beginning to realise that I simply do not see the world through the same lens as my fellow Americans anymore.

America has survived The Great Depression, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, Vietnam, Watergate, Reaganomics, Wall Street’s theft, and the lie that became the Iraq wars. Americans will survive this too.

Alas, during this time of uncertainty and grief, it is time I go back to the basics. It is time to share our school’s good deeds and work ever harder to teach our students empathy coupled with critical thinking skills. I choose to reinvest my time in personal and professional growth. It is how I combat fear.

That said, while living and working overseas, I have yet to meet one person that is pleased about our most recent Presidential election. Not one.  I have thrice been asked about the probabilities of WWIII as if it is a foregone conclusion.

After a deep breath, my response, is that more people voted against our President-elect than not. This cannot be overstated. If only millennial voted, there would be barely any red states. I am indebted to the my students’ generation. They will lead us well when I am old.

I remain ever hopeful. Still, I am scared. Let us carry on our good work together.

Knowledge of Content, Pedagogy and Students

Expat Teacher Man

In order to understand, I spend a considerable amount of time getting to know each student. This is crucial to my being an effective teacher. Getting to know each student begins in August during a schools’ “open house.” This particular time is primarily a short, introductory conversation with the parents. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to get to know one thing about each child. From there, I grow my understanding of the child to better empathize with their struggles. This helps me connect with the student during my many one to one conversations. It is perhaps my most effective means in constructing understanding.

I celebrate learning and I learn from each student. I learned to meaningfully compliment each student, each day. This is not only kindness, but also a way of creating a safe learning environment for my students. I tell my students early and often that when the brain…

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Leaving Hong Kong

So many positive thoughts to my friends in Occupy Central HK. I am really proud of what this movement has turned into. This is your time and I wish you the best of luck. I am alongside you in spirit. Solidarity from Amman.

Expat Teacher Man


“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
  
Leo Tolstoy

“I’m not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I’ve always been a freak. So I’ve been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I’m one of those people.”  John Lennon
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com

Hong Kong is amazing. Hong Kong is amazing.

Saying goodbye and leaving Hong Kong was demanding of just about all of me. It was one of the hardest transitions of my life. I mostly had a terrific experience at work and I am especially grateful for my school’s culture of professional development. I met some of the most wonderful people from the four corners of the world. Financially, my wife and I set ourselves up rather modestly for our future. We are quite thankful for our time…

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An interview with aspiring teacher, Emily Gelhkin

One of the perks of being an ageing elementary school teacher is that I occasionally get to hear how my former students are doing. It is one of the most satisfying parts of my job. I especially love to hear when a few are thinking of becoming educators themselves.

I met Emily Gelkin while teaching 5th grade at Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan. I remember Emily being sweet to every one and that she was ever inquisitive. She was a model student. I remember teasing Emily that I had to move all the way to Japan to meet someone from Idaho. In fact, Idaho was what I called her mostly. We learned a bunch and had a lot of fun that year.

Emily and I watch the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

 Koshien Stadium.

Emily contacted me via Facebook messenger to ask me questions about teaching. The following are my responses:

Emily: If you could go back to school, what would you focus on most?

Barry: There are so many dynamics at play when you are a teacher. I cannot stress this enough. My best advice for you to keep a daily writing and reading journal. Writing, for me, has made a world of difference in my career. I really am much more reflective. Also, I would focus on a life of constant and consistent professional development. Professional development is how I stay satisfied and it makes me more marketable in a life teaching overseas. Plus, it is good for the students!

Emily:What is one thing you wish you hadn’t done when you started teaching?

Barry: I started teaching when I was twenty-two years old. I was merely 10 years older than my students. I had a lot of growing up to do and I had very little business being a teacher. I made so many mistakes. One big mistake is I listened to teachers that advised me to keep parent communication to a minimum. Keeping an open and honest dialogue with the kids’ parents makes life more meaningful.

Emily: What have you had the most success with (whether that be a teaching method, daily routine, life motto, etc.)?

Barry: When I got my masters, I had to create a professional mission statement. It was two weeks in the making. My mission statement is:  “ I will provide a wholesome and upbeat environment for any and all students to succeed. I will teach students to learn to be content. I will demand that students care for the world around them as well as themselves. I will remember what it is like to be a child.”

Creating a safe learning environment is a priority each year. Learning to actively empathise with my students is a constant.

Emily: What would be your biggest recommendation before I start teaching?

Prepare to live within your means. You will never be rich but you can do well if you save your money from the beginning. Stay away from negative people. Read with a purpose. Strive to better yourself each day. Be ever hopeful.

Also,understand that teaching well is physically demanding. After completing my first day as a student teacher, I fell asleep at 5:00 PM and did not wake until 7:00 AM the next day. I was almost late for school. The students are so needy.  This job really takes all of you. (Still does!)

Start a professional learning network now. Get on Twitter.

Emily: What is the one thing you wish someone had told you before you became a teacher?

Barry:

The school year is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t forget to breathe. Also, prepare to laugh a ton.

Good luck in whatever you do, Idaho!

Personal and Professional Goals for 2014-2015

Updated without broken links…

Expat Teacher Man

“Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.”Kristin Armstrong

 
A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.Nikki Giovanni
 
 
 
As part of my growth as an educator, I am to develop some goals for the current school year. This is a process that I always take seriously. As I have now finished my third week as a teacher in Amman, here is where I need to improve:

Classroom Management:  I need to adapt to my new school’s culture. So many of my habits that work with…

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Personal and Professional Goals for 2014-2015

“Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.”Kristin Armstrong

 
A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.Nikki Giovanni
 
 
 
As part of my growth as an educator, I am to develop some goals for the current school year. This is a process that I always take seriously. As I have now finished my third week as a teacher in Amman, here is where I need to improve:

Classroom Management:  I need to adapt to my new school’s culture. So many of my habits that work with East Asian students do not work here in the Middle East. Here the students talk all day, every day. There is never a truly quite moment. I need to adjust my practices immediately before I lose control of the class. I plan to carry out team meeting times where the students are able to come up with their own solutions to their problems. Too much of my time is fixing petty problems. It is imperative that I allow the student’s to find their own way.

Team Dynamics: This is my first go round as a team leader. We are most definitely past the honeymoon stage. My colleagues are mourning their former leader who left for his native New Zealand. I am making tons of mistakes as I learn the ropes. My colleagues are patiently tolerating me. This needs to change. My boss is helping me get through this stage. His work is greatly appreciated.

Learn Conversational Arabic: The Jordanian people are amazing. I must learn to speak with them in their own language. This will open so many doors for me. Hopefully, I will earn some respect among the people here. I remain stunned by the beauty of this nation.

Enhance the culture of literacy school wide: We are a bilingual school. Students spend a good part of each day studying religion, Arabic and Jordanian history. My contact time with my students has been halved. This, along with higher class size, greatly impairs my ability to adequately teach a love of reading and writing. Thankfully, my students are turning on to good books. It is exciting to push literacy in this school yet I need not push too hard, too fast. I have already met a few teachers that are sensitive to change.

Stay connected: Educational Technology at my school is severely lacking. This is a serious challenge to my craft. My goal is to override the school’s tech system wherever possible. I will be talking to the Head of School next month and I will spend this time pushing for more laptops in the classroom. In the meantime, I will continue to use google documents for collaborative planning. I will continue to use Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to connect with the teaching world around me. I hope to continue blogging. 

Yoga: I started doing yoga on the first day of summer vacation. Awaiting the arrival of my son, I was exercising daily. Yoga helped me with my strength, flexibility, balance and self-esteem. I need to get back to working out before school. This however would mean that I had to wake up at 5:00 AM. This is perhaps, one goal that is out of reach.

Make my wife and child comfortable: Watching my newborn son and wife bond via SKYPE has been wondrous. As they prepare to move to Jordan, I need to do what I can to make their transition as smooth as possible. My wife is slowly gaining confidence for her move as she sees how relaxed and happy I am here. I aim to help them wherever possible. Thankfully, Amman has been very easy for me. Hopefully, my wife will feel the same.

Inshallah!

The fruit and nut stands are too cool.

The fruit and nut stands are too cool.

I still miss my Hong Kong students though.

I still miss my Hong Kong students though.

My noodles have been replaced with hummus.

My noodles have been replaced with hummus.

My tea has been replaced with lemon mint juice.

My tea has been replaced with lemon mint juice.

My kid is gonna love learning to walk and talk here.

My kid is gonna love learning to walk and talk here.

After Hong Kong, the fresh air NEVER gets old.

After Hong Kong, the fresh air NEVER gets old.

Having a Baby in Japan.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso quotes from BrainyQuote.com

 

I am a father now.

Nearly three weeks ago my kid was born here in the Hyogo region of Japan. The following is what I will remember:

Japanese maternity wings are a hoot. The nurses worked so very hard to make sure that my wife was comfortable. Each person we met was thoroughly professional.

My mother-in-law and I put aside our cultural differences and language barriers to work as a team. We rotated rubbing my wife’s back for over twelve hours of labor until the decision to go with a cesarean section.

My wife never screamed. She relaxed as she headed into the operating room for her pain was finally coming to a halt. Her toughness impressed me no end. For some reason, pain medicine is not an option in Japan.

Our maternity ward still uses rotary phones. The hallways were dark and the aircon was kept at a minimum to save electricity and to help the environment. The hospital was old but exceptionally well-maintained. At no times was I a bit worried about my wife’s care.

I loved hanging out in the waiting room with the grandmas to-be. They were so patient with my atrocious Japanese language ability.

My wife timed her feedings like a Tokyo train conductor.

The nurses constantly go from room to room delivering tea from gigantic jugs. Tea is an all day affair.

I got to ride a bike to the hospital for eight days straight to visit the kid. Each visit, my wife asked me for the latest World Cup results. This made me strangely proud.

My wife came home well-trained. She was totally confident in her ability to raise her baby. The nurses were outstanding. My mother-in-law woke me up at 6:30 in the morning to make final preparations for the baby’s arrival. I scrubbed like a madman.

Sleep deprivation is no joke. My wife has lost the ability to add double-digit numbers. I have forgotten to brush my teeth and use deodorant, at times.

My mom’s phone calls are always appreciated. She gave birth to five boys and a girl so I heed her advice. Each time she calls I feel better. She reassures us that we are doing great.

The kid is healthy and growing. So many of my worries from the last ten months have gone by the wayside.

My kid acts like a some sort of urine sniper. He has bagged me seven times already.

Time to breathe!

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