Category Archives: Kailie Nagrath

School Breaks and the International Educator


Monkey Forest. Ubud, Indonesia
Monkey Forest. Ubud, Indonesia

We’re in the Home Stretch
With the school year winding down, teachers at international schools, and schools everywhere, are operating on a fever pitch to get everything done in order to conclude another school year.  From class trips, to school projects, to report cards and other administrative tasks, we are in the final countdown to summer break and the pace is full-steam ahead.  The excitement is palpable among students and teachers alike and everyone at the school is on a mission to make the end of the school year not only fruitful and productive, but fun and festive to celebrate the successful conclusion of students completing their current grade and moving on to the next.  At an international school, it’s not just saying goodbye to students who are moving up a grade or graduating, there’s the added emotion and drama of saying goodbye, to people (students, teachers and friends) who will be moving overseas to their next school or assignment.

Summer Vacation – the Ultimate Break
All the hard work and stress of the final weeks brings with it a handsome pay-off – summer vacation.  Yes, the break of all breaks. Perhaps this time-honored tradition is one of the greatest perks of the teaching profession.  Two whole months of rest, relaxation, and a time to reflect and enjoy family . . . it doesn’t get any better than that!  Of course many teachers utilize the time for professional development, while others may even pursue a second job over the summer for additional income.  For many international teachers this is a highly anticipated holiday because after almost a year of being overseas, many look forward to going home and spending time with family or taking the opportunity for extended travel and excursions.

Is this the end of Spring Breaks?
The upcoming break has got me thinking about this past year and the wonderful opportunities I’ve had, not just professionally while school is in session, but personally during the various breaks throughout the school year. The most notable and recent one for me was last month’s spring break. Ah, Spring Break . . . just the term alone conjures up certain images of American college students partying on the beach as if there were no tomorrow. Last year, in my senior year of college, I was celebrating a lot of lasts. My last homecoming week, my last final, my last class, my last spring break . . . I thought this is it – I’ll be entering the real world where I’ll have to kiss those cherished breaks good bye. But then I entered the world of international teaching where spring break is brought to a whole new level.

This is Not Your College Spring Break
In this, my first year out of college, I had three ‘spring break’ vacations already!  But these are not the spring breaks of college days with senseless partying in the sun and sand, but the kind that is a real adventure filled with travel and personal growth.   At first I thought as a teacher the breaks were really for the students and that teachers’ breaks would be filled with reading, reviewing curriculum materials, student reports, and catching up on work for the week ahead.  Was I wrong! For teachers at international schools, spring break, more than any other, is a time for travel! Right before break students get very excited for the upcoming vacation, but it’s not just the students — teachers get just as excited for the vacation time, if NOT MORE! 

I think it’s because as expats living in far flung corners of the world, everyone it seems, has made elaborate travel plans. The opportunities are incredible when you’re living overseas, so we tend to get very excited about the upcoming trips.  Moreover, it’s part of the culture of international teaching to use your time off to travel and expand your horizons by seeing new countries and learning about their history and culture.  This exposure only helps you as you interact and relate to your students and their families who hail from all over the world.  

A Trip to Vietnam
Last month these travels took me and two of my teacher-friends to Vietnam, where we set-out on a journey that stretched the length of the country starting at the Capital of Hanoi, and traveling down the coast via overnight trains to Ho Chi Minh, where we stopped and stayed in the cities of Hoi An and Nha Trang in between.

Vietnam is a beautiful country filled with lush, tropical vegetation, a verdant countryside, beautiful beaches, busy and bustling cities, and some of the most delicious food I have ever enjoyed.  I would have never imagined the immense beauty of this ancient land, based on the images and portrayals I have seen in movies and the media, nor would this have been on my list of places to visit. But thanks to living and teaching in the nearby Philippines, and to friends ready and willing to try something new, I was able to see first-hand what an amazing place Vietnam is.  I found this country so compelling and beautiful that I know I want to return here and also come back to see the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos.


Surviving a Recruiting Fair: A Game of Musical Chairs

Musical chairs

Now that February is safely behind us I can look back at the recruiting fair I attended last month, and let out a sigh of relief.  For anyone who’s ever attended one, they can understand that describing it as stressful is an understatement.  For the uninitiated, the best way to describe the stress level is to think of the nervousness one feels when going on a job interview . . . and then multiply it by ten.

Any Job Interview is Stressful
Preparing for an interview is a whole process in and of itself and as any job seeker knows, it’s critical not to overlook anything.  First it starts with lining up the interview, researching the organization, learning about their products, services, history, values and mission, and then preparing yourself to be able to answer any and all questions that may come your way.  You must be prepared to explain how you can contribute to the organization and why you’re skills and experience are just what they need.  As part of any interview you must demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the company, can make valuable contributions and can back it up with references.

Make a Good First Impression
In addition, you have to take care of your outward packaging by making sure that you’re dressed and groomed professionally, your shoes are shined, your nails are trimmed and you’re well rested.  (Dark circles under the eyes can belie your claim to possessing tireless

International teaching job fair
First impressions count

energy levels and concealing them is not such an easy task when landing from a 24 hour flight from the other side of the world!)  Even the most painstaking preparations can be rendered meaningless if the little things are not taken into account.  Arriving to the interview on time, making direct eye contact, and having a firm handshake are also important details not to be overlooked because as the old adage states: You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

The good news is that’s not entirely true at a job fair!  Here you have several chances to make a good first impression depending on how many interviews you have lined-up.  During a job fair you could be going on as many as five to ten interviews back-to-back for two days straight, all conducted in the same building.

Supply and Demand – A Competitive Environment
To magnify your stress level, you are constantly reminded of how competitive it is because at the same time you are surrounded by hundreds of other people who are also going on interviews, many of whom who will be interviewing with the same employer you met with, some even, for the exact same position.   The principle of supply and demand stares you in

International school recruiting
Competitive environment at job fairs

the face at the interview sign-up tables, in the elevator and in the lobby as you make small talk with other candidates.  How awkward when you find out that you’re new best friend at the job fair has to run out for an interview and you wish her good luck only to find out that she’s interviewing for the same position that you just interviewed for!  Do you still hope you get the job or do you start the sour grapes dialogue in your head, so that you can root for her by telling yourself that job wasn’t really meant for you anyway?

Check your GDQ (Geographic Desirability Quotient)
Then there’s the geography trick . . . “Yes, I would love to work in Korea!” “Yes, I’m dying to go to Argentina,” and “Yes, Dubai sounds thrilling!”  If someone heard the geographic

International school jobs around the world
I’ll go anywhere!

shifts I made in one day they may think I’m a liar, but the truth is I do have great interest and enthusiasm for all of these varied locations, and can get equally excited about relocating to any one of these places.  That’s what makes the job fair so exciting; you walk in the door with no idea of where you’ll be relocating to in just a few short months, but wherever it is it’s a place you’ll call home for the next two years.   Being open to anything and everything lends an air of mystery to the whole process leaving you with the fatalistic notion that where ever you’re meant to be is where you’ll end-up.

When the Music Ends
Speaking of endings, that’s where the musical chairs comparison comes in.  At the start of the game, all the players begin with optimistic enthusiasm that they will remain in the game.  It’s still fun with a high level of energy and hope.  But as the job fair winds down, just as in the game, the chairs are removed one by one and you’re wondering if you’ll secure one of the few coveted seats, or if you’ll be left standing when the music stops.  This stress hangs like a cloud over the candidates who have not yet secured an offer, and it’s a palpable feeling that feels like a strange combination of desperation and hope.

small school chairI am happy and relieved to report that I ended up with a seat, and I know where I will be living and working for the next two years.  Despite the stress and anxiety associated with the job fair I can say that it was all worth it in the end.  I am thrilled to be heading to the Gems International School of Dubai and know that this is exactly where I am meant to be.

Taking Time






As the waning days of December passed I found myself clinging to the feeling that time is moving too quickly . . . that it’s a precious resource that there is never enough of or that doesn’t last. Much like money, if not spent wisely, it can slip through your fingers with nothing to show for it.

Fortunately, those melancholy thoughts did not persist into the New Year, in fact, with the turn of a fresh page of the new calendar, I suddenly felt energized and renewed and ready to start taking advantage of the promise that a new year represents.

Regardless of our intentions, or the length of our To-Do lists, time cannot slow down for anyone. Now that I am officially half-way through my first year of an overseas internship, I know how fast time passes so I am going to try and soak up every minute from this amazing experience from this day onward.

The most profound shift for me is going to be my relationship with time. So instead of the never-enough mentality, I am going to think of it as an abundant commodity simply by focusing on being in the moment and appreciating those I surround myself with.

This new attitude will hopefully find its way into my teaching practice and the learning experience I still have before me.

  • Focus on the Now – Being in the moment takes a conscious effort to not let your mind wander to what needs to be done next, or what could have been done differently in the past… but instead, recognizing that the most valuable lessons are right in front of me – now.
  • Be Engaged — A child’s interest and sense of discovery is more vibrantly enhanced when interacting with that child fully by engaging him or her with undivided attention free from distraction or tension.
  • Listen Fully — A mentor’s advice is more valuable when immediately put into practice right alongside them and participating fully. If it’s a conversation, listen carefully to what is being said and focus on the message and the present moment; not on your feelings or something that happened in the past or may happen in the future.
  • Express Gratitude — Your appreciation of a friend, co-worker, mentor or student will be more meaningful when you express those feeling of gratitude now versus sometime in the future (or never at all).
  • Savor the Experience — I want to savor every moment of the remaining school year because I know these days won’t come back again. I want to make the most out of this experience so that I can truly learn from it and continue to grow and succeed!

Although this New Year, like every other, still has 365 days, my goal is to make each one count by enjoying every moment of this round trip around the sun!

5 Tricks of the Trade for Substitute Teachers


By Kailie Nagrath

As an intern my primary role is to be the ‘go-to’ substitute teacher for classes in grade levels from Preschool to grade 4.

They didn’t Teach this in College

So far, I have subbed for all grade levels, and have found that one thing is for sure, with all the training we get in college – from classes in education and psychology, to student observations and field practicums – nothing teaches you how to handle this!

Learn as you Go

At first it felt like being thrown into the deep-end of the ocean, but I am starting to see the light and have actually figured out a few tricks of the trade which I will summarize here.  Subsequent blogs will delve a bit deeper into each strategy, but none of these are etched in stone.  As teachers we learn as we go, and one important learning method is to talk to other teachers.  So teachers, please feel free to add your tips and tricks to the list!

Five tips to help anyone who has to get up in front of a classroom and say, “Good morning class, I’m your substitute teacher today!”

1.) Know thy Subjects – I am not referring to content material although that’s important, I’m talking about the kids in the class.  Get to know them and connect with them, the best and first step in doing that is to learn all their names.

2.) Know the Classroom Culture – Just as every school has its own unique culture, so too, does every classroom. The teacher will have set the tone from day one and it’s your job to know the classroom expectations and what the students are working on.  Being consistent not only supports the teacher you’re filling-in for, but it makes your day, and the student’s day run more smoothly and productively.

3.) Embrace the Co-teaching Model – If you have teaching assistants in the classroom take advantage of their skills and ability to provide consistency and support.  If not, seek out other teachers in your grade level and have them co-teach lessons, or team-up on outings or activities.

4.) Do Your Thing –Have your own unique go to prop, activity, or story that shares with students a little bit about who you are as a person and what your interests or personal style is all about.  This relates to the first strategy of getting to know your students. Building a relationship is a two-way street and it’s greatly enriched if your students feel they get to know a little more about you. This of course does not mean revealing things from your personal life, but it means sharing your passions.  This could be anything from a love of poetry, to an obsession with birding, or an interest in music, the arts or sports.  Is there a poem or a song or a sports fact you can teach the students by the end of the day?  If so, it will make your time with students more memorable and will prove helpful if you’re coming back tomorrow or later in the year!

5.) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – If you’re having a difficult time getting through the lesson plan, take a deep breath and relax.  A more experienced teacher gave me advice that I can’t repeat here, but the gist of it is to go with the flow and try to have fun with the students. If they see fear or nervousness, or impatience than you will not be in control of the class.  If you must, let go of the lesson plan and find fun ways to connect and allow students to learn.

Any other ideas are welcome!

The Philippines – From Tropical Paradise to Tropical Depression

The Philippines before
Before: The Philippines – a tropical paradise
After: Typhoon Yolanda – a tropical disaster

When Disaster Strikes Near, But Not at You 

By Kailie Nagrath

I have been getting a lot of inquires from friends and family members who have been hearing about the devastating super typhoon Yolanda.  “I am perfectly fine and safe,” I assure the people back home.  But I can’t help but feel sad, and even a bit guilty, about all the thousands of people who are not so lucky.

Manila and the surrounding metro area seemed to escape the wrath of this violent typhoon, but the ‘eye’ of the storm struck hard on the southern part of the Philippines.  So hard, that Filipinos are calling this the worst typhoon in the island nation’s history.  Filipinos are not ones to sensationalize their weather as they have grown accustomed to these powerful tropical storms, living in a land where almost half of the year is considered typhoon season.

Yet many of the southern islands could not have known or prepared for the stormy uproar that struck their land late Friday night into early Saturday morning.

Eastern Islands Hit Hard

The area of the Philippines most affected is the Visayas provinces. Tacloban City in Leyte caught the full force of the typhoon with winds of up to 310kmph (195mph) completely decimating the city.  Exact figures are still unavailable but the death toll in that city alone is expected to reach the 10,000 mark.  Countless others are suffering from injuries, loss of shelter, food, electricity and clean drinking water. The actual destruction of this storm is so massive it is still being mapped out and the damage and human toll has yet to be fully calculated, but one thing is for sure, this is a disaster on a massive scale.

President Benigno Aquino III declared a “state of national calamity” in a plea to the international community to offer relief efforts.

Manila not Hit but Hurt

Seeing my host country going through this disaster is so heartbreaking.  Although Manila was largely unaffected by the storm, the emotional and psychological effects are plainly visible.  In a small island nation almost anyone living in the capital has friends, family or relatives in the outlying islands, so everyone is affected.  In a culture that is as family-oriented and giving to friends and loved ones as the Filipino culture is, everyone feels personally connected to this tragedy.

The current mood of the city is contrasted sharply to the city I landed in just a few short months ago.  A city where I could always find a welcoming smile, a helpful hand to assist me, a friendly face eager to say hello, or a warm smile sent my way.  The typhoon has left such sadness in the air that it seems to have washed all the smiles away.  I wish I could give back more to the people who have welcomed me to this country, because I have seen first-hand that these are a people who do not think twice to help out someone else in need.

Images Don’t Capture the Devastation

They say a picture speaks more than a thousand words… but none of the images you see can fully capture the magnitude and level of devastation that has hit this country.  Nor are there enough words, or even the right words, to explain the wreckage this storm has caused.  Lives were lost, families torn apart, and countless people have been left homeless with nowhere to go.  Survivors are desperately looking for loved-ones and searching for food and clean water to drink.  One can only imagine the desperation these people are feeling.

This morning when I went into the convenience store across the street from me, the man at the counter asked me to donate all of my old clothing.  It’s the least I can do, but of course I want to do more.  I know there are many people who feel the same way, but need to know how or where they can best help. 

How to Help

I would like to pass along this message from the International School of Manila on how best to help at this time.  ISM would normally send teams from the school to help assist first-hand but due to the level of devastation and the health risks that is not currently possible.

The best form of aid is financial assistance.  If you would like to help out with a donation you can either give directly to ISM’s Disaster Relief Fund or to UNICEF Philippines.  Please click on the link to ISM’s fundraising page to see details on how to make your donation:

Donate Through ISM

The people of this country have welcomed me with smiles on their faces everyday and I have learned to love and care for this country and its people.  As a guest in this very special land, I know they really need our help right now.  It is my hope that anyone who can make a contribution of any kind would do so now in this hour of dire need.


We Have a Sub Today! (P-A-R-T-Y!)

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers, leave them kids alone
Hey, teacher leave them kids alone!
Lyrics from “Another Brick in the Wall part 2” – Pink Floyd 

Somehow the lyrics from the classic Pink Floyd song seem to sum up the attitude of students from all around the world when it comes to having a substitute teacher.  The other prevailing mood among students from just about every grade level is the teacher’s away it’s time to PARTY!!!

 Sub Means No Work Today!

I remember back to my own school years — throughout elementary, middle school and even into high school, the attitude of students when walking into the classroom to find a substitute teacher waiting there can be summed-up simply: “It’s a day off!”

I remember in middle school seeing the boys give each other high -fives and the girls excitedly planning social excursions to the ladies room.  I had one friend whose tradition on sub days was to go to the nurse and get sent home sick.  Her key strategy was to effectively persuade her mom that it was OK to miss a day because it was only a sub!  Her mom agreed and off she went for a day at home in front of the TV!

 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Somehow the Ferris Bueller’s day off mentality has stuck within school culture throughout the ages.  I am not sure how this all started, or why it’s so ingrained among students, but it is as real today as when I was going to school and was even prevalent in my parents’ school days, and their parents before them.

I remember the feeling myself, but now there’s a big difference . . . I am the substitute teacher!  It’s a whole different story when you’re suddenly viewed as the ticket out of the daily routine and a free pass to a classroom PARTY!

 Good morning class, I’m your substitute teacher today!

As an intern at a large international school one of my primary responsibilities is to be the ‘go-to’ substitute teacher from Preschool to grade 4.  As the designated pinch hitter, I have some theories on why this free-for-all attitude takes over even among very young students.  Understanding it holds some of the keys to dealing with it.

Tricks of the Trade

I have also learned some tricks of the trade for managing a class that’s expecting “a day off” which I intend to share in my next blog!  Be advised these strategies are being crafted on a daily basis and much of substitute teaching involves learning “on the fly!”

Till next time! 

A Journey Together


Kindergartners Wired for Learning
Kindergarten students are thirsty for knowledge and their excitement is palpable. As the days progress, I am witnessing first-hand the process of how a young mind untangles the symbols of language by stringing the sounds of letters together to decode words on a page. This is reading and they are embarking upon the most important learning process of their lives! I am not only witness to this miracle, I am their guide showing them where and how to find the keys so that they can learn to unlock this great gift of language. And then there is the mystery of numbers — numbers greater than 20 have real names, two numbers together make a higher number – as the students start to put these pieces together, you can clearly see the excitement on their faces. It’s learning in its purest form – inquiry and discovery.

We’re All in this Together
As I watch the students’ minds open up through learning and discovery, I can’t help but feel that my journey parallels theirs’. Every day, I too, am on a learning curve trying to fit together the pieces of the educational puzzle. At the end of each day I come home with more practices and pedagogy than the day before. As an intern, this may be expected, but the thirst for knowledge is not just relegated to students — everyone at this school, (and perhaps every great school), is thirsty for knowledge and the quest to be better at what they do.

No one Really Has All the Answers
I am greatly aware of how much I need to learn in this craft of teaching so I have made it a point on several occasions to reach out to some of the more experienced teachers on our staff, so that I may pick their brains for advice and insight. I’ve spoken with teachers who’ve been doing this for more than 10 or even 20 years, and when I ask these educational gurus for some sage advice they offer it freely, but always seem to qualify it with some version of: “But hey, I am still learning myself!”

Learning for Life
This is good to know that even the experts are still figuring it all out. It tells me that this profession of teaching, like life, is infinitely richer because we can’t possibly know all that there is to know. And just like those kindergartners who are starting out on their journey, it is a reminder that learning truly is a life-long process and should be filled with wonder, excitement, and most importantly, love

First Day of School Jitters

Back to School

The first day of school. Just that phrase alone conjures up reactions spanning the emotional gamut from happiness and excitement, to fear and dread and just about every other emotional state in between.

Until this year, my entire lifetime of first days of school came from the first person perspective. It was my first day of school, my new teacher, my new friends, my new classes, etc. I even remember laying awake in bed the night before fifth grade was about to begin, just as I had done on so many other Back-to-School eves, wondering, Will I like my new teacher? Will I make new friends? And the most important question of all, are my back-to-school clothes cool enough?

Butterflies in Stomach
This year was different. I once again had that familiar feeling of going back to school, but this time I was going back to school not as a student, like every other year, but as a teacher,* which surprisingly, still produced the same sensation of butterflies in my stomach that I remember feeling when I was a kid.

Why the nerves? Because I, just like every student who gets nervous for the first day of school, implicitly understand that a good first start can set the tone and mood for the rest of the year. Knowing this, I wanted to make sure that I could make the day as great as possible for the kindergartners that would be walking through the door on that early August morning. Additionally, I also wanted to make a good first impression with the students, their parents, and my colleagues.

Let the Games Begin!
As the morning bell rang there was no time for anxious worry because bursting through the classroom door was a swarm of five-year olds excited to begin their elementary school career! The children’s uncontainable skipping carried their curious minds to the various learning tools that were placed in every nook and cranny of the classroom. The tables and shelves were stocked with toys, puzzles, games, and books all designed to foster their natural curiosity. Some students gravitated towards the math center, while others stopped at the science exploration center. Then there was the writing center, dramatic play area, blocks corner and reading center where there were books, books and more books! Here was a fully rounded environment designed to facilitate learning through exploration, play and inquiry for all types of learners.

First Things First
While the young students were eager to learn and get started, I too, as a new teacher, was equally eager to start teaching! But I immediately remembered what I learned in orientation the week before. We were told that the first days of school are all about making sure each student feel emotionally connected and secure. More important than jumping into the curriculum, is the need to make real one-on-one connections with each student and to help them form connections and friendships with their fellow classmates.

Breaking the Ice
It was clear that some students were already making friends, as they clutched onto each other’s hands and explored the classroom together, while other students were shy and reluctant to interact with their peers, and instead, seemed more focused on taking in the classroom setting itself. Kindergartners, like adults, need certain “ice-breakers” to help them warm-up and feel comfortable in a group setting. One way to do this is to encourage them to share some personal facts about themselves in a safe and encouraging environment.

Personal Connections
A dialogue is started to spark a naturally curious mind to want to know more about the person sitting opposite him or her in circle time. Questions are asked to promote conversations such as; Does anyone have an older brother? What is your favorite food? Is anyone else’s favorite food sushi? These questions immediately show students that they have something in common with their classmates and help to enhance the newly formed social relationships that are being forged. This in turn enhances student motivation because only when a child feels emotionally secure and happy in the classroom is the soil ready to start planting the seeds of learning.

Aristotle Knew
By the end of the day, even the shy students had already made new friends. It was encouraging to see them pairing-up as they set out to explore the classroom together. Watching them decide amongst themselves who would go first, and what they would do next, was almost as gratifying as seeing the smiles on their little faces. It reminded me that even with all our new research and insight into how children learn that more than two thousand years ago, Aristotle had it right all along when he said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

*Actually I am a teacher in training at an internship program at The International School of Manila.

Setting the Stage

Setting the Stage
Finally, it’s time to put all of that rich information from orientation into life as we set up the classroom!

Sweating the Small Stuff
I’m not sure if was the intense Manila humidity, or the overwhelming to-do list of transforming a bare classroom into a kindergarten classroom that had me breaking into a sweat. After all, if one were to look into your typical kindergarten classroom it would not be an overstatement to say that a visitor may be hit with sensory overload. Colorful calendars, cubbies, pictures and bulletin boards adorn every wall and work space, making it a bright, cheerful and sensory-rich environment.

An Empty Classroom; a Blank Canvas
Unless you’ve taught your own kindergarten classroom, there is literally no way you can imagine how much thought, effort and energy goes into all of the classroom displays and the overall presentation of the classroom. The empty room is like a blank canvas and as an intern mentoring under an experienced pro, I have felt like an apprentice training under a master artist laboring on her next great work of art.

The Art of Teaching and Mentoring
The teacher with whom I have the pleasure of working with has been teaching at the school for over ten years. Not only is she an incredibly successful and effective educator, but she is also an artist capturing beauty in every moment of the day. Whether it’s humor in the midst of chaos while preparing our classroom, or patience and understanding as she pauses in her activity to guide, instruct and encourage me as I prepare for my first days in the classroom. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside such a passionate teacher who is so generous in spirit that she’s willing to share with me her past successes and mistakes all learned through years of experience.

To-Do, or Not To-Do
That is the question! As we worked together on our exhaustive checklist filled with numerous items to complete such as the creation of bulletin board titles and borders, posters, decorations, reading corners, activity stations and everything else required to construct an inquiry/play-based environment, I was starting to feel satisfied that our room was slowly but surely coming together!

Despite this growing feeling of accomplishment, I couldn’t help but feel another sensation brewing in my mind. As I am poised to begin my first year teaching, I am getting the feeling that there is never enough time in the day! Even though the tasks on our to-do list have been completed, there is the realization that there is always more to do!.

This was really beginning to stress me out. Although I was working late and bringing work home, I realized that I had to accept that time had run out. Students would be arriving in the classroom on Monday whether or not the classroom rules were pinned-up , all activities were planned, and other details that we envisioned were not yet fully arranged.

As I walked into the classroom the next day, this concern was still on my mind, and I had to discuss it with the classroom teacher, and now my teacher. She patiently listened with an understanding ear and then explained to me, that this is something as a teacher, that I would need to accept. She confided that she too was a stickler for getting things done on time and was very hard on herself in the process. But through her years of experience, she realized, especially at this grade level, that there is always something more that can be done. Therefore, the checklist never ends.

A is for Attitude
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the never-ending to-do list, she advised, to instead focus on being mentally ready for the day. Your positive frame of mind and enthusiasm to start each new day is ultimately, the best preparation a teacher can give to his or her students. She reminded me that despite the importance of the props in setting the stage, the intellectual and creative energy of the director is what is going to produce the best performance from the actors.

So as we embark on a new year, and have a fresh slate to work with, I am reminded, and consoled, that there is no such thing as perfect. As educators we can strive to be as prepared as possible, but in this field, that will always be an elusive goal. It is the constant chase that makes our journey so exciting. With that understanding I came away with the assurance that all I can do at this point, is to save up as much energy as possible for Monday morning. With 20 new kindergartners set to walk through that door, I know I’m going to need as much of it as I can get!

First Impressions

So far, this opportunity of living and working overseas is nothing short of dreamlike. As I navigate my new environment and my first days here, I am struck with the following impressions:
· Living Conditions – The accommodations provided for staff here are amazing. My new
apartment is a big step-up from my college housing of the past four years! The number one
reason why the move overseas and settling-in has been so smooth is because the school has completely taken care of my housing arrangements. From furnishings, to décor, to appliances and electronics, the only thing I had to do was put food in my fridge!
· Help – The main difference between living here and back home is the help. Having household help in Manila is very customary. A colleague referred me to his ‘helper’ who I interviewed yesterday, and after a successful chat, I hired her on the spot! Let’s face it; we all know teachers never have enough hours in the day so having a fantastic home which is already taken care of is a tremendous benefit!
· Interesting People — I am surrounded by like-minded people who are engaging, warm, friendly, and here because they are passionate about teaching and they’re willing to go anywhere this profession takes them.
· Beautiful Campus — The facilities at ISM are first-rate and beyond compare of any of the public schools I have ever attended or seen in the U.S. The other benefit of working in this environment is that all of these amazing resources are not just for students; teachers also have access to the facilities. I can now look forward to introducing some new and fun hobbies into my routine, such as rock-wall climbing, tennis and swimming!
· Orientation – The first week of the new faculty orientation is both professional and personal and designed to make everyone feel at home in their new working environment. Transportation, meals, multi-faceted presentations including tips and insight into Filipino culture and understanding the school’s values and culture are all intended to help new staff settle in and become part of the community.
· Cared for – That’s how I feel because everything has been thought of and provided for the
incoming staff. Not only have the transition information and formal presentations been
incredibly helpful, but the personal interaction with school staff has been equally helpful.
Returning teachers are friendly and go out of their way to introduce themselves in the hallways or make time in their schedule to meet you and just answer any questions that you might have.
· Great opportunity – I realize that the opportunity for professional development at this school is outstanding and I plan to take full advantage of the various resources they offer. Everything from guest speakers, workshops, certification programs and conferences are all available to the staff here. These tools are designed to enhance the teaching/professional skills of all ISM faculty and staff which ultimately enhance each member’s ability to contribute positively to the school community.