Even despite the damp cold of late January, the Shanghai apartment had the warm feeling of a home, with artwork, family photos, and the aroma of Italian meatballs throughout. The couple hosting, Eric Paci and Julia Carey, were in their first teaching post together, and as far as I was concerned, they were living the dream. I’d been teaching abroad for almost a decade, but always solo. I had often wondered how different my life would be if I were carrying on my journey with a teaching partner, someone with whom to share this amazing adventure as an international educator.
After a delicious meal and wonderful conversation, I returned to my apartment and logged onto Facebook. I’d been a member of the International School Teachers group page for over a year, but only in the previous six weeks had I seen the page truly adopt the role of professional and social network. It was the heart of recruiting season, after all. As I was scrolling through various threads and reflecting on my evening with friends, an inspired thought entered my mind. Suddenly, I was typing a post of my own.
“It’s recruiting season, and every time I log on Facebook, this page has more and more comments from people seeking information about schools, countries, and job opportunities. I am NOT seeking a new post, but rather am staying put in China for another year. That being said, I AM in the market for a teaching spouse, so if there are any single, globetrotting male teachers out there, you should consider a move to Shanghai!”
I ended with “Hahahaha” to make sure everyone knew I was kidding (or was I?), hit the submit button, giggled at myself, and succumbed to my food-induced coma.
The next morning, I opened Facebook and was shocked to see that while I’d been asleep, my post had garnered quite a bit of attention. As I read through the comments, I shook my head and laughed. Clearly, I thought, I’m not alone. I seemed to have said publicly what many others have thought, and every response was positive and enthusiastic.
Within an hour, a man named Craig Gray had jokingly suggested a singles group page, one that many others eagerly stated they’d join. Another man sarcastically offered his hand in marriage, while several women echoed my sentiments with “Me too!” and “I second that!” By mid-morning, Shanghai time, another commenter, Carrie Renault, had acted upon Craig’s idea and created the International Single Teachers page–a group with the semi-serious intention of helping teachers find love and, subsequently, their future teaching partner.
Anyone who is a member of Facebook has seen images touting the power of social media. A teenager holds a sign reading, “My mom says she’ll shave her head if this gets one million likes” or something of the sort, and it spreads like wildfire. While this didn’t exactly go viral, it certainly took on a life of its own, and amazing things have happened as a result.
Five days after the original post, the International Single Teachers Facebook group had 200 members. One month in, there were 350. Groups of singles from Shanghai to Dubai have met up for happy hours, vacation plans have been shared, and sofas and guest bedrooms have been offered to those passing through. Singles from the IST page have met at teaching conferences worldwide, discovered countless professional and personal connections, and have made new friends resulting from their membership in the group.
It is now a little over a year since our group’s founding, and we have surpassed 1,500 members. So, has anyone coupled up? Well, the verdict is still out on that. There have been numerous conversations started as well as some dates originating from the connections made, but as of yet, we haven’t heard any wedding bells or couples’ teaching contracts being offered.
One of the most incredible things about being part of this group are the messages I receive from members who say that they have been provided wonderful information and tons of laughs as a result of the page. What stemmed from a snarky remark after a home-cooked meal has led to countless friendships, professional contacts, and life-altering advice. The humor and wit of the group members runs sky-high, and even when self-deprecating, we always manage to find the positives in our status as singles abroad. We truly love the lives we lead. In these messages, I’ve been thanked over and over again for something over which I truly had no control (Craig and Carrie are really the ones to thank). Even so, how could any of us have possibly known that this would take off, and the amazing network that it would create? My original post may have served as the inspiration, and for that, my appreciation goes to the home of a teaching couple and the smell of Italian meatballs.