We all know that transitioning to a new country isn’t always a simple process, and yet, most international educators do so multiple times. The goodbyes, the uprooting, the in-between summers, and the settling-in are physically, financially, and emotionally draining.
As of today, I have been in the United Arab Emirates for exactly one month. At times, it feels like I’ve been here for years, slowly plugging along and trying to find my place in my new country and school. Everything is new, exciting, and exhausting, all at once.
At my new school, we currently have a consultant working with teachers about how to conduct writing conferences with students. He speaks of the need to “nudge” students toward the next step, teaching them the most precise lesson that they need right now in order to improve their writing. I found this concept useful in more than just elementary writing workshops, and wondered how I could “nudge” myself to make this transition easier.
I’ve been teaching abroad for many years, but never before have I moved into an unfurnished home. To me, buying furniture is a rite of passage into adulthood–one that I’ve successfully managed to avoid until now. I’ve never been accused of being stylish or savvy, and I don’t know the first thing about purchasing sofas or curtains. To give myself a nudge, I recently sent an all-staff email seeking a personal shopper to help spend my money in return for words of appreciation and a free dinner. Tonight, an amazing colleague took me up on that offer. By Thursday, I’ll have enough furniture in my apartment to absorb the echoes my mom is always hearing in our Skype calls. And it’s only taken me a month.
Of course, having a sofa and an entertainment system will make me feel a bit more at home, but just as my students require multiple conferences to produce their best writing, I too need multiple nudges to make my transition as smooth as it can be. I’m teaching a new grade level this year…one that I knew would be a challenge for me. I’m up for it, of course, but I may have to seek help and advice from colleagues more often than I feel comfortable doing. There will be a learning curve, and it will take time. However, only by nudging myself to confront my fears and weaknesses will I learn the best ways to reach my students and make myself a better educator.
The same goes for giving myself a personal nudge. It is all too easy when moving to a new school and country to get lost in our work. We want to do a great job, do the best for our students, and be appreciated by our colleagues, the administration, and the parents. We know that the profession we are in is never-ending…there aren’t enough hours in a day to “do it all”. And yet, many of us try, burning ourselves out in the process. How can we possibly be the best teachers for our students if we don’t take care of ourselves first? If we’re not healthy and happy and well balanced, our students won’t be getting the best version of ourselves. And so, during a transition, a nudge must also go toward work-life balance, even when it seems that work is all encompassing.
By searching for the precise lessons that our students need at a given moment in time, we can guide them into producing stronger, higher quality work. By giving ourselves a nudge, we can improve our professional practice, seek help from others when we need it, and better transition into a new home and school. Because sometimes, a little nudge is all it takes to get us right where we need to be.