17 December 2010

from the 2nd grade blog

Anna wrote:
Yesterday we started to learn about Antarctica. We even riten facts about Antarctica.

We saw two man on the roof. One was choping of the iceicles we called him Mr.Ice Man and the other man was shufuling the snow off the roof we called him Mr.Snow Man. And when Mr.Ice Man choped off the last iceicle... We shouted all together... " Good job Mr.Ice Man!!!"

11 December 2010

From Russia, with love

In international teaching, most schools require teachers to declare their intentions for the following school year in November. Last November, Lexi had been home a month and I wasn't ready to think about where we'd go next, so I signed on for this year. But, even then, I knew that this would be my last year in Russia. Six years in Russia is a L-O-N-G time.

Shortly thereafter I started thinking about where we'd go next. My friends were leaving and, as they looked at new schools, I mentally tried them on to see if they'd fit us.

I put it in the back of my mind for our big summer trip, even though it tried to force its way to the front on more than one occasion.

Back in Russia in August I wanted to wait until the year was started to think about this. When September came, I was debating and debating. I didn't have a clear sense of leading. I just went round and round the possibilities and crossed them off one by one.

-Our school would mean keeping many friend, our home, our car and everything that has become familiar and homey to Lexi. It would mean changing grades for me. (I don't think having Lexi in class is a good thing. She gets LESS of me because I'm worried that it will look like she's getting more. Not fair. But, changing grades can be managed.) It's a small, supportive community of students and parents which is nice. They've seen her come home and grow. There is little to be explained here about her background, and she is accepted at school. However, it's a small school and it's in Russia, which rules out so. much. that she needs. Few resources. No recreation. (You either train for the Olympics/Bolshoi/etc. from the time you're three or don't bother taking lessons in anything. You can't just learn how to do a cartwheel here. And, the shame-based educational system is NOT to my liking.)

-Our Moscow school is big, has more resources, and has *some* recreation opportunities. Life is easier and teachers are more "taken care of" than we are. I would keep my salary. (This is big as most international schools only allow you to enter the pay scale with a max of +/-8 years of experience.) It's a big school and I think she'd get lost in it. And, the commute is extreme in the afternoons. Most teachers consider it an early night if they're home by 6:00. For us, 6:00 is the beginning of dinner-bath-bed. I'd miss out on all our after school time together.

-There are many Eastern European schools that are reputable and in cities I'd like to explore. But...many were small and seemed like they'd offer about what our school does, but without the consistency that remaining here afforded. Or, they were big and very similar to Moscow but wouldn't let me keep my salary. And, after visiting Slovakia, I'm not sure that "Russia light" in the Baltics would be enough of a change for me.

-Singapore, Shanghai, New Delhi, the Hague...all are good schools. They're big, so they've got many resources. But they'd be NEW. I'd have a new curriculum. We'd both have a whole new world. And I was afraid Lexi would feel lost.

I was talking over these options with a friend (okay, I was probably whinging to her about them, if we're honest) when, if I remember correctly, I said I thought I'd apply to them all and see. But, I hoped no one would hire me and we could come home to the US and live off savings for a year and homeschool.

Friend (oh wise, wise friend) asked why I didn't just do that.

And I was stumped. Why didn't I?

And so, that is what we are going to do. In June we will leave Russia and come home. I'm not sure where yet...but it will be near a friend and have low cost-of-living.

I'm REALLY excited. I know this will be best for Lexi. It gives us time to work on academics in a place she feels safe, take all sorts of music and dance and gymnastics and swimming lessons, and work on all sorts of things.

I am living proof of the value of a sabbatical. I taught seven years before going to Oxford and hitting the boards full time. Now, I've been back in the classroom seven more. I'm ready for a year off. Or four. (Yeah right--if only I could afford THAT!)

Of course, I'll still be teaching next year. I'll even still be teaching second grade. I'll just have a very small class!

I highly recommend international teaching. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to live and teach in both England and Russia. It's so different from going on a vacation! I like experiencing different cultures--not just in my host-country but also through the families in the school. International teaching has enabled me to save enough money to stay home for a year--or maybe even two. Yes, this was earmarked for us to use to buy and furnish a house. But, I think that this year off together is more important than a house. It's still being spent on our family. And really--it's just money.

I know that there will be people who think this is crazy; that this is not the economic climate to do this; that I'm being irresponsible. But, I think this is right and good. It's a big leap. But, I've leapt many times before and always, always been caught. I think I said a while back I was feeling nudged about that to do next year. This is the nudge I felt. So I'm leaping.

I'm very excited about our next adventure!