Speed Transitioning

We’ve just completed our first PD day of the year. As a staff- new and returning- we’ve now been together for 30 days. DAYS.

A good friend of mine in the US has been teaching with the same person- her grade 3 partner- for 12 years.

Reflecting on this, it has occurred to me that there are times when international teaching is very much like speed dating. From the interview process to orientation and the first days of school, we are rapidly getting to know and getting used to each other. The necessity to be able to “know” rather quickly is a skill I believe most of my colleagues have, and need.

From the initial, “I want to work at your school and live in this new country- I’m up for an adventure,” to the reality of living and working in a new place, there is so much transition. Some people, (regular people, my daughter calls them, meaning not superheroes like us) don’t go through a “life transition” such as moving or changing jobs. They stay where they are and do what they do. That consistency roots them to a place and a community. Others only transition when they must. For some of us though, the scenario of new job, new school, new country is a familiar one, occurring every two to six years.

Right now, I’m working with a new admin team. Of the eight of us, six are new to the school and country. In my division, we have 13 new teachers. Unlike a business where we could spend weeks, months even, getting everyone up to speed on the project at hand, we have to be ready to work with kids from day one. That requires people be quick to come together, fast to plan, and most importantly immediately ready to trust.

That is where the speed dating turns into more of a shotgun marriage. The immediacy of the “I dos” (and maybe some I don’ts) are what allow us to get moving, so we can serve our students and families.  We sort out the details as we go.

While I can’t imagine having the luxury of teaching with the same person for 12+ years, I do know there must be a sense of safety with that consistency. However, I also know that for our transitioning population, there are lessons to be learned from teachers and leaders who can quickly get up to speed. It is a life skill. One we can model because we are living it.

Here’s to the unique few who can transition, adapt and thrive. All in record time.

Photo credit: http://spark.utah.edu/images/ideas/581/images/large/timer-icon.png?1349198229

About Jen Munnerlyn

Jen Munnerlyn is the Elementary Principal at the American School of Warsaw. Her international experience began back in 1980 when her parents first started teaching overseas. Jen blogs about her own experiences as a Third Culture Kid, the adventures of being the mother of a TCK, and about elementary education in an international school setting. Her picture book The Adventure Begins, about the first day at an international school, is a favorite among adults and students abroad.
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