Watching your Parents age from a Distance…Saying Goodbye as an Expat

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Each summer, before returning to Asia, I have to say goodbye to my parents. It is an awful ritual. It is increasingly difficult as the years go on. This summer was nothing short of torturous in that my mom and dad are struggling so mightily to live. It kills me to see them in pain.

I wrestle with self-centeredness, by balancing the thought of my mom and dad’s exceedingly dwindling quality of life versus my need to learn from them and enjoy their company. I am often times needing to tell them that I have a really good life and that I am happy. Each year, I find myself playing the loser’s game of wishing that I might see my parents just one more summer. I find myself wondering if I am living a life of meaning if I cannot even take care of my own parents’ basic needs. Each year I try to reconcile my conflicting emotions. “Should I stay or should I go?” Should I risk taking a real pay cut to return home? Can I eek out one more year?

Would I be  an added burden if I finally did decide to return home?

In writing this piece, I think of a quote from Confucius that I read somewhere. To paraphrase, “a man is not a man if he leaves his parents’ hometown before they have died.” This quote slays me each time I think about it, knowing that I have left my parents when they need me most. This quote is especially gnawing in that I feel like I have left my siblings holding the bag.

I am sure that I am not the only expatriate dealing with these thoughts.What helps me is to remember and share the advice my parents sent my way,such as:

“Live simply, boring is good.” “Have a good life, enjoy your time with your wife.” “Be happy is all that I ask.” “Don’t live to help people. That is egotism. Simply live to not hurt others. That is enough.” “Whenever in a hospital, you got to eat.” “There are not a lot of people who have a relationship like we do.” “Life is incredibly humbling.”

What also helps is to organize their lives as much as possible to set them up for survival. I did this with my mom by writing a financial, mental, and physical health plan that is achievable. I aided my dad by showing him all that he can still do, and not tell him what he should do.

Finally,below are ten ideas that help me live overseas while my parents age:

1.Accept that you cannot stop the aging process, even if you are living nearby.

2.Appreciate the kindness and positivity of your parents as they look upon their lives. Listen to them.

3.Thank them incessantly in for all that they have done for you.

4.Empathize with their plight, but do not allow yourself to wallow in pity.

5.Help your parents adapt to technology and accept the tools that are just too overwhelming.

6.Do what you can, whenever and whatever.

 7.Continue to make memories.

 8.Listen to them…just sit by their sides.

9.Trust caregivers and hope for the best.

10. Pay it forward and volunteer to work with the elderly in your newly adopted country.

 

 

 Expat reader, I sincerely wish you luck as you watch your parents age. Off to Hong Kong.

 

 

 

Teaching Technology to Expat Teachers

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Recently, I had the good fortune to attend the educational professional development course, Teaching Technology to Teachers. Justin Reich and Tom Daccord  led the class. The training was held at Harvard University’s Adolphus Busch Hall. Below are some notes and reflections I found useful for international educators. Additionally, I have provided some links from the course.

Justin clarified to me that effectual educational technology assists students to:

Collect information needed for understanding.

Relate to each other in collaborative learning groups.

Create meaningful, authentic performances of understanding.

Donate their work to a broader audience.

Moreover, Justin and Tom got me questioning my teaching habits, such as, “What is my educational technology mission statement? How do I spend my time? How specifically does my technology choices improve student learning? How do I differentiate my audiences’ level of technical comprehension?How can I use technology to more readily collaborate with my teammates and teachers?”

I envision that this class will help me prod my teammates to contemplate their own philosophies on use of educational technology. I hope to offer opportunities for students colleagues and parents to appreciate that technology is not a cure-all but rather a tool delivering content.

Reich and my cohorts shared teacher-tested professional development models including:

Digital Educator Academy: (Providing college credits for Ed Tech professional growth.)

Nine tech lunch talks throughout the school year

Ed Tech prize drawings provided throughout the school year

Bagels and Laptops: Monthly voluntary breakfast meetings where cohorts share tech secrets and successes

Tech Leader Representatives per Teaching Team or Department

Geek of the Week (I love this idea in spite of the label)

Technology in practice weekly blogs

Technology Fairs where teachers are given time to informally” test drive” tech ideas

Reich explained the rewards of challenges to inspire confidence to change. He presented digital challenges that show, and not tell, teachers the joys, benefits and relative ease in using technology.  A highly engaging challenge is here.Expat teachers can reach available protocols and tutorials to cut issues that will appear. You can use your students and teachers partners to develop tutorials and screencasts. Commoncraft is one such site that has a bevy of tutorials. Screencastomatic is a simple and free site that allows users to produce screencasts while instructing. They can later be linked to teachers’ websites for future viewing.

Upon reflection, the course, Teaching Technology to Teachers, will profoundly affect how I teach my students. Specifically, my students will more markedly share their work with fellow learners worldwide. This is a path to improving student learning.I strongly recommend that international educators consider enrolling with Justin and Tom in the future. I most definitely plan to attend again next summer. I am quite grateful for this time well spent.

Have a great year and I hope this helps. Below are some links that had a great deal of buzz:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2H4RkudFzlc

xtranormal.com

mathtrain.tv

goanimate.com

Polleverywhere.com

http://thwt.org/

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Please write back.

 

 

Watching your Parents Age from a Distance

Having completed my 21-hour flight from Hong Kong to Boston via Tokyo and Chicago, I am on finally on summer vacation at my mom’s house. I am preparing for a bike ride to my Dad’s nursing home facility. In an effort to stay clear-headed, I have decided to write a few thoughts about the challenges expats face regarding elderly care.

One of the positive aspects of living overseas is that when I do finally get to spend time with my parents, I truly am in the moment. I do not have any other cares besides caring for them both.  I spend my nights with my mom and the days with my dad. I have forced myself to slow down.

These last two days by my dad’s side have been quite positive. I have been able to see tangible growth in my dad’s physical condition. He is more positive, accepting and realistic about his life. That not to say that he does not still intend to walk unassisted, however.  He continues to work his muscles to the point of exhaustion. It is an astounding joy to watch him stand tall while he walks the 50 feet or so across the rehabilitation room floor.

Both he and I are relaxed together for the first time in a very long while. Gone are the days of a power struggle that is so common between father and middle-aged son. Neither of us is trying too hard. Sitting in a courtyard at a nursing home for long stretches forces one to accept things as they are. No longer is he struggling just to survive the day. No longer am I acting like a drill sergeant or cheerleader in getting him to move his limbs. Rather, we both are acknowledging the pleasure of reaching tiny goals.

We watch the birds, we finish the daily crossword puzzle, and we listen to each other. Dad is getting back to reading about the game of bridge (he was once nationally rated) and he is quite pleased that he still is mentally sharp. I am listening to wonderful stories from his life and getting a chance to read in the most comfortable of surroundings. It is wonderful living “off the grid.”

We are all hanging in there. I am still learning each day from my first and finest teachers.

Fellow Expats, What are your thoughts about watching your parents age?

When I was a Fourth Grader…

When I was a fourth grader…

 

The Sox and B’s were everything

Freddy Lynn and Bobby Orr were gods

Fenway was Mecca and the Garden was the Sistine Chapel.

The Globe Sunday Sports Page was my Bible

When I was a fourth grader…           

I loved to bike alone

I thought deeply (still do)

I was told to hate the Soviets, the Yankees, the Canadiens and the Brits

I questioned everything but I still hate the Yankees

When I was a fourth grader…

Fonzie jumped the shark

Smallpox was still around, but not for long

Elvis left the building

Atari 2600 was the gift that all the rich kids got for Christmas

When I was a fourth grader…

 

I was a “lab geek”

I went to school for gifted kids

I thought I was smart

I learned I was not

When I was a fourth grader…

 

Gas was expensive and solar energy was just around the corner

Bugs Bunny and the Three Stooges were always on

I pestered my teacher incessantly

I wanted to be Vinnie Barbarino

When I was a fourth grader…

I was really happy!

What were you like when you were your students’ age?

 

What was important to you?

 

What did you worry about?

 

What really mattered?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What are you going to focus on now that testing is over?”

#4thchat asks, “What are you going to focus on now that testing is over?”

This question makes me delighted that I am out of the US Public Schools’ system. My entire public school career loomed with the specter of school restructuring.  Thankfully, international schools generally do not put too much emphasis on standardized testing.

This one fact is a definitive improvement in quality of life. Fortunately, standardized tests are just a small piece of the assessment puzzle. Teaching without a looming threat of school de-certification really allows me to work on my craft.

Living overseas, I have been able to focus on learning-based curriculum. I still assess, however. My assessments are more for learning and not of learning. This has made all the difference. In short, my student assessments directly affect my teaching practice. They are more meaningful and viewed as more credible to all the stakeholders

International schools, from my experience, focus more on learning and not achievement. That said, we still spend some time with standardized testing. Mercifully, this time goes by quickly and we can go back to teaching the curriculum. This is a tremendous positive shift in my practice.

Reading today’s New York Times article further proves my point. Students are the losers in this game. Parents are rightfully scared that their kids will not get a proper education. Teachers must improve scores while not necessarily improving learning. This is inherently sad.

I will not try to offer solutions to the education reform movement. However, I offer that there are alternatives to the United States method of educating youth. I delight in the surge in online learning from Khan Academy. I connect students to Ted-Ed.com. I pay attention to folks such as Sir Ken Robinson, Punya Mishra and Sugata Mitra. I dream of a future where challenged based learning is the norm. I find myself energized by accomplishments of countries such as Finland.

If you are an American public school teacher, what are your thoughts on the standardized testing development?

Best of luck as you endure yet another year of high stakes testing.