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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Waiting on a Friend

But I need someone I can cry to, I need someone to protect. -Mick Jagger

The waiting is the hardest part -Tom Petty

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The past week I am holed up at my in law’s home in Itami, Japan. I continue to await the birth of my first child. My in-laws are ready. I am ready. My wife is more than ready. I feel as if I am sitting on the tarmac ready for a life to take off.

My former colleague’s are back in their home countries or seeing the world. I know of teachers that are visiting Tuscany, Java, Machu Picchu, and Istanbul. I kind of envy them.

To combat boredom, I do yoga daily. I play the ukulele. I walk. I take in the sunsets over the Kansai hills. I read, drink lots of coffee and scour social media. I vacuum, wear slippers, eat Japanese, watch World Cup highlights (the games are on too early over here) sleep on a tatami and lift weights. I research Itami’s  history. I play ball with the family’s or neighborhood kids and they all laugh at my horrible Japanese comprehension.

I rub my wife’s feet quite often.

I miss my work. I miss my home. I miss my Massachusetts family and friends. I miss being able to communicate without a care. I am out of my element and need to stay calm. I am helpless.

It is becoming more and more clear that my wife needs to have a cesarean section. We are both coming to terms on what surgery means. We talk each night about our hopes and fears for the kid. We commiserate over our present difficulties. We try to stay positive and upbeat. We cannot wait to raise a kid together. We have to trust that everything will be ok. Blog postings like this help.

I guess that these days are training for all that will be out of my control in the coming years. There is nothing much of importance that I can do at this time but wait and stay busy. I try to think deeply and plan a better world for my son and my wife. That is all that I really am doing the moment.

Any advice or words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated.

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Leaving Hong Kong


“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
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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 in Hong Kong for we saved a good deal of money, relatively speaking, for a schoolteacher.

The following is a reflection on my last two months of life in Hong Kong as I prepare for my next destination, Amman Jordan.

My teammates were outstanding. Each day they were supportive and kind. Each day they let me know that they cared. Each day they found a way to help me out. I could not have asked for a better group of people. Each of my now former teammates are intelligent, kind, gracious and professional. It is an honor to have worked alongside them. I will never forget the kindness shown during the farewell video and baby shower.

My students were a hoot. They worked diligently till the end. I am proud of their academic, social and emotional growth, especially in mathematics. I feel that I was able to foster a love for the subject among more than a few of my students. I am proud of the way that they worked as a learning community. They were stellar and I miss them each day, still.

Google Docs was a godsend. My expectant wife (while in Japan) and I were able to collaborate online while we mapped out a plan of action. Organization is key when you are moving and google docs helped us tremendously. We were able to create a master plan that took advantage of every available minute. This was necessary as I was teaching ten-hour days and had not a bit of time to spare during the workday. The collaborative document kept us in constant communication about what to do next.

Facebook also was surprisingly helpful. We sold just about all of our stuff via HK Swap It. Nearly everything sold within 24 hours. We could not be more happy with Swap It-HK. We were especially happy to meet random expats from all over the world. Our favourite was a guy from Poland who bought our rug for his dog. The guy complained the entire ten minutes we interacted.

For expats, Hong Kong life is easy. Hong Kong is efficient and convenient. I was able to do our taxes and get my rebate check within five days. For our baby preparations,we were able to schedule health checks at the local free clinic and we were quite satisfied with their service.

Alas, it was bittersweet to say goodbye to our favorite restaurants in Hong Kong. I will especially miss Din Tai Fon.

Their noodles are out of this world.

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Thank you, Hong Kong for giving my wife and me such a lovely five years of expat life.

Next stop, Amman…

“Never give up on anybody.”

Hubert H. Humphrey

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Amman Jordan at night

Leaving your job as an international schoolteacher is a daunting proposition. Teachers need to resign from their current job, grovel for letters of recommendation, update their portfolio and resume, fly to job fairs (best described as speed dating), wait for positions to open up and hope for the best. It is an extremely stressful time that every veteran international schoolteacher understands. It is sometimes months before finding new employment.

My current situation was a little desperate. I attended two job fairs (one in London and one in Hong Kong) only to lose out to lesser-qualified candidates. I was a very strong candidate. Alas, teaching couples got first dibs for they are cheaper to insure, house and transport. My beautiful wife is a non-teaching spouse so I had to wait for the couples to fill up the open spots. It is frustrating to hear that you are the most qualified candidate but that you cannot be hired because you are too expensive.

Flying back from the London job fair without a teaching contract and with my tail between my legs is a memory I will not soon forget. I left both job fairs feeling scared, tired and stressed. What good is all my hard work if I cannot secure a decent living? This was especially a concern of mine now that my wife is expecting our first child. Losing out was a lonely, humbling experience.

With each passing job interview, I reflected how much I have improved as a professional teacher. Due to my current school’s development opportunities, I now am much more confident in my abilities to affect change among my students. I remain steadfast that I will continue to improve as an educator. I am at peace with myself and proud of my growth.

Mercifully, I have secured a place in Jordan with the International Academy, Amman. I could not be much more excited about the transition. Along with teaching fourth grade, I hope to coach aspiring teachers. I look to develop curriculum. I plan to volunteer. I am registering to study Arabic. Along with Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah; I aim to help“build bridges with the world community.” I look to actively teach peace in a yet another corner of the world that could use it.

The complete guide to listening to music at work

I recommend Celtic instrumental music.

International School Recruitment Season

 

This month, yet again, I am off to London and Hong Kong to attend two job fairs. I hope to sign a contract with a “just-right” school. I intend to find an international school that provides dynamic professional development, a challenging curriculum, a collaborative philosophy and a worthy mission statement. It is a wildly exciting time in my career.

I have been extremely fortunate to receive extensive professional development at my current school. Still, enhancing my skills as a teacher is an utmost priority. I imagine it is probably time to apply for leadership roles, as well.

I am truly humbled by the many recent opportunities that have already come my way. I have heard encouraging responses from international schools in the United States, Japan, Singapore, Chile, Hong Kong, Hungary, and Switzerland. I am grateful to have received formal offers of employment from schools in Jordan, Kuwait, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.

One particularly captivating school is Branksome Hall of Jeju Island, South Korea. Branksome is an outstanding boarding school for girls. It is most definitely “cutting edge.” On their application, Branksome asks how I would help to “empower women?” This got me thinking to what exactly I do offer my students.

The following is my latest thinking about my hopes for each boy and girl in my classroom.

As an elementary school teacher, I demand that my students:

  • Improve their STEM skills
  • Read, write and think with stamina and confidence
  • Recognize and develop habits of mind
  • Self-direct their learning
  • Understand by design
  • Value diverse thinking
  • Help develop a learning community
  • Act responsibly
  • Notice the ever-changing beauty of mathematics, especially problem solving
  • Overcome obstacles
  • Find and follow their passions
  • Visualize a better world.
  • Continue to find joy in learning.
  • Welcome an enhanced work ethic

As a professional educator, I aspire to:

  • Constantly improve student learning
  • Constantly push for a differentiated curriculum
  • Share my expertise with my fellow teachers
  • Learn from my fellow teachers
  • Model excellence
  • Support professional development options
  • Lead, when appropriate
  • Be willing to change
  • Inspire all around me

My career has taken me to Singapore, Washington DC, Japan and Hong Kong. I estimate that I have spent an entire month of my life in the air and goodness knows, how many miles I have travelled. I do this all in order to grow as an educator while trying to carve out a more interesting life.

Fellow teachers looking to make the move overseas; feel free to write me an email. I promise to answer any questions or concerns. Expatriate living has made me a better teacher. I highly recommend it.

Good Luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Conversation with Allison Harris of Blue Marble Education Service

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Dear Reader,

My new friend, Allison Harris, is changing the world of special education with educational technology. Her online company, Blue Marble Education Service, is truly remarkable. Bottom line; Allison is helping parents receive much-needed special needs services.

Allison contacted me through my blog and I have ever since been blessed with her enthusiasm and vision. If you know of parents in need of special education services, Blue Marble Education Service aims to “educate the world about effective, evidence based special education teaching practices.”

I imagine that you will find this conversation as time well spent.

You can contact Allison at allison.harris.bmes@gmail.com  Blue Marble Education Service

Barry Mernin

www.gobelearning.com