The family that coaches together, stays together

Last year Jeff took on coaching U14 Girls’ Soccer and Forensics & Debate. Still a little overwhelmed by my MEd, I opted not to coach for the 4th year in a row. By the end of the year I was hopeful that this year would give me a little more flexibility to start coaching again. Unfortunately there were no spots open for the Track & Field team. Then Jeff got the crazy idea that we should coach together. Unfortunately again, his assistant had already been chosen.

Fast forward to August – the U14 boys’ coach got injured and had to give up coaching. Jeff’s assistant (a man) was moved to the boys’ team…which left an opening for me! After having 2 male coaches for the girls’ team last year, it seemed perfect that this year we could have some female influence. Fortunately, I got the job 🙂

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Our first practice; also Jeff’s 31st birthday!

We’ve had a lot of fun. It’s been nice to spend time together in a new way. And on super busy weeks it gives us the chance to actually be together. Last week we had our 1st game (our 2nd was canceled because of storms). Our girls won 8-0 🙂

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Kuwait – where you seek out your own happiness

In general, Kuwait is a pretty easy place to live. We work at a good school. We can speak English pretty much everywhere. There are a ton of Western amenities (there are more American restaurants here then there are in Holland & Battle Creek combined). We make enough to travel where & when we want to. We belong to a beautiful gym. In general, our daily life isn’t too bad.

However it’s not always that simple. Kuwait is a dry country and thus there are none of the activities typically associated with alcohol. We can’t just go hang out at the bar for the evening. There aren’t professional sports. You can’t really take a weekend trip anywhere in the country. There’s only 1 geographical feature (and we’ve been there). You get the idea. What we’ve figured out is that this is a place where it is up to YOU to seek out your own happiness. It is not going to come to you. There is a lot of stuff happening in Kuwait but you just have to find it.

Here’s what I/we’ve been up to:

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This weekend is Halloween (even though we can’t celebrate it at school). Trick-or-treating for staff kids is on Friday night and then there’s an adult costume party. 7 Market is Friday and Saturday. And finally Qout Market is back on Saturday…so excited!!! There’s a lot going on…you just have to seek out what you’re passionate about and make your own happiness.

A weekend in Dubai

…2+ months later!

Way back in March, just over a week after returning from Athens, Jeff and I flew down to Dubai for a 3-day weekend. This time it wasn’t all fun and games…we attended and presented at the Google Apps for Education Summit at the American School of Dubai. Professionally it was a great experience for both of us and we’re excited to collaborate in the future with the new people we added to our PLN. Small world – one of the organizers of the Summit also graduated from Hope College. It was great to meet and hang out with Cindy 🙂

Even though the trip was short (approx 72 hours), we were able to squeeze in a little fun too! The trip started with the mandatory stop at the Duty Free store on our way out of the airport 😉 Thursday night we taxi’d from our hotel to The Walk at the Dubai Marina. We did (in fact) a little walking and took in the area. Unfortunately the views of the water weren’t too great because of the construction. We ate Mexican while sitting outside – the people watching was pretty fantastic. We were immediately struck by how many Westerners there were and by the amount of skin people were showing. We weren’t in Kuwait anymore!

After getting in quite late on Wednesday night, we had a little time change mishap on Thursday morning. We made sure to set several alarms for Thursday morning…but none of our devices switched to Dubai time (1-hour ahead of Kuwait) and there wasn’t a clock in the hotel room! We arrived a little late to the summit, but luckily we didn’t miss much! Our hotel was close enough to ASK to walk which was nice…even if it was hot and we had to brave the traffic.

After the conclusion of the Summit on Friday, we met a few other presenters for dinner at the Emirates Golf Club. We had a lovely dinner at M’s before heading downstairs to help Spike Bar close up for the night. The food was delicious but it was quite refreshing to be able to order & enjoy adult beverages at a restaurant! Since the night was still young, we stopped by the bar at a friend’s hotel. A great time was had by all!

Golf club lamp @ Emirates Golf Club

Saturday we hopped on the metro (with all our bags!) and stopped by the Dubai Mall on our way to the airport. As one of the world’s biggest malls, it was quite overwhelming. We ate lunch while gazing up at the world’s tallest building, had a quick encounter with a shark at the aquarium and wished we had time for ice skating!

ASD was gorgeous and Dubai was definitely a new take on the Middle East. It did seem a little sterile though…it was hard to find any culture because everything was so shiny and new. Our only regret of the whirlwind trip was that we didn’t buy Peter, our dads and Uncle Jim (& all the rest of you who play) golf paraphernalia from the Emirates Golf Club. Hopefully you guys can forgive us!

ASD campus from our hotel room

REAL grass!

To see all our photos from the trip, check out our camera and iPhone albums.

A couple of MEds

Jeff and I started our masters on Monday! We are currently going through the COETAIL program. This program consists of 5 courses that we will complete over the next 1.5 years. In May of next year, we will have a Certificate and be half-way done with our masters degrees! COETAIL is tailored specifically for international educators and partners with Buffalo State – SUNY. We will choose 5 other courses during the next few years and eventually have our Masters in Multidisciplinary Studies 🙂 We’re pretty excited to have found a program that is reputable and tailored to our needs as educators. It’ll be some work, but we’re excited to LEARN!

Sports at an international school

**Warning: I don’t have the luxury of coherent thought today. The following is what I call a braindump; when I just turn over the bin in my head all of these thoughts are in and they come tumbling out in whatever order they please.**

I had never really thought about what school sports might be like for international schools. Having been in public school for grades K-12 and then again as a teacher/coach afterwards, it just never really crossed my mind.

It’s super cool.

Our school is hosting an ISAC (International Schools Activities Conference) volleyball tournament this weekend. Teams from all over the region have flown(!) here to compete. We have schools from Jordan, UAE, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The halls are full of students that don’t go here and it’s great.

Once they get here (more on that later), students from our school host athletes from other schools and teachers host coaches. Just think about that. Would it ever happen that way in the states? I have a hard time imagining it would, but that’s part of what makes our time here so amazing – we’re experiencing things we never would have in the US.

We’re hosting a coach from AIS Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). He’s Canadian, has keys to our apartment, and will sleep in the room next to us the next few nights. We met him last night around 9pm. We are required to provide breakfast for him every morning, a clean bed to sleep in and a bathroom/shower for him to use. When it comes time for his school to host a tournament, he’ll do the same thing for someone else. Did I mention that he brought us chocolate from Bahrain?

At the risk of sounding sappy and melodramatic, it’s fun to continue experiencing humanity here. The trust and kinship you acquire abroad seems more potent than back home. I’ve got several theories for this, the simplest of which is “we’re all in the same boat.” In the same way that hostages and shipwrecked sailors bond due to their circumstance, it seems so do international teachers.

Now that we’ve got the philosophical meanderings out of the way, I can get back to fascinating details.

When you try out for a school sport, you assume the responsibility of covering travel costs to various tournaments. The girls volleyball team for example, is expected to pay 135KD per person for their trip to Amman, Jordan later this month. The girls know ahead of time that if they can’t travel, they likely won’t be put on the team. This may strike Americans as “unfair,” but it’s the truth of being somewhat isolated when it comes to competition. We are spoiled in the states to have so many schools geographically close by. It makes scheduling incredibly cheap and easy. This cost makes the expectation of hosting somewhat understandable. When our students travel for tournaments, they will be hosted by families at those schools. If they’re forking over close to $500 USD to travel, it’s nice to know you’ve got free accommodations when you get there.

Other teams travel to various places and locales including Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Lebanon, Holland, and Qatar. They’ll play teams from all over the world at these tournaments and they’ll make connections with other kids and families half a world away. They have activities planned for them while they are here and are kept busy with the hospitality of the host school. On our side, students are largely responsible for organizing most of the logistics as part of an IB programme project. What a great learning experience.

/endbraindump

 

Update: We attended a couple volleyball games during the last day of competition. We were completely blown away at how much school spirit the students had! We are used to large public schools with varying levels of school spirit. We expected the atmosphere here to be much calmer (students don’t live as close to school here as they do in the US and many don’t drive themselves). Quite the contrary! TONS of AIS students showed up to support the AIS girls in the finals (we had to leave before the boys’ final game). The students organized cheers and even brought a drum set! It was a great atmosphere and we were completely impressed with how many students showed up to support!

How did you get the job?

We’ve been asked this a hundred times if we’ve been asked this once. After the initial shock wears off and people realize we aren’t joking when we say we’re moving to Kuwait, they always want to know how we got the job. Well, here’s a (rather lengthy) excerpt from an e-mail I sent to a former co-worker that’s also interested in doing what we’re doing.

Lissa and I used a 3rd party service called  Search Associates that specializes in matching International school openings with credible candidates. We had a fantastic experience and would recommend them to anybody interested in going abroad. You sign up individually and that gives you access to their database and also grants you entry to one job fair. You set up a profile that is pretty specific and every day Search Associates will alert you to any new jobs that have been posted in your field. Additionally, schools that have signed up through Search Associates will be able to see your profile and resume so they could potentially contact you without a job being open. I can’t remember if you pay by the year or not (as opposed to a 1-time fee), but the longer ahead of time you sign up the more you’ll get for your money.
 
Lissa and I signed up in late November-ish. In retrospect, that was pretty late. Based on our late entry into the game, we were limited in which job fair we could go to. We quickly decided on San Francisco (which took place in February) because the only other option was Toronto. If given the choice between SF and Toronto in February, it’s a no brainer 🙂 Once we had decided that, we spent our time combing through the jobs that came to us via the daily emails. With 2 weeks before the job fair, the American International School of Morocco contacted me and eventually offered me a job before the fair even started. Had we not bought tickets already, we’d be headed to Africa this August instead of the Middle East. This goes to show that you don’t NEED to go to a job fair to get a job, though I would say that our situation was not normal.
 
We went to San Francisco with little idea what to expect and were pretty surprised. Having never done it, I would compare it to speed dating. The job fair takes place over 3 days (fri-sun). You show up Friday morning and sign in. You go through some “training” in how the fair will run, etiquette, rules and some other housekeeping type stuff. In one of the conference rooms there are jobs posted all over the walls with butcher paper. It will have the country name, school name and the opening. You can go in that room whenever you want and check to see what’s open, what’s been filled, etc. The rest of the day Friday is spent going to 30 minute presentations on schools you’re interested in. It’s nice to have two of you because you can split up and cover more info. Friday night you go to a giant ballroom and sign up for interviews on Saturday/Sunday with the individual schools. It’s pretty intense, but hopefully by that time you have an idea on who you want to talk to so you can go straight to them. While all of this is going on, you have a “mailbox,” as does each school. Schools can contact you via your mailbox and ask to interview with them. You can reply to them via mailbox and also send them thank you’s after you interview. It’s oldschool but I can’t begin to explain the excitement when you open up your mailbox and see a letter waiting for you 🙂
 
Saturday you start your interviews. If you don’t have any you can spend your time researching schools, writing thank you’s, checking your mailbox, networking, etc. If you get a job offer, you have 24-48hrs to respond. It’s a very pressured situation and will require you to have your stuff figured out beforehand. If you’re lucky enough to get multiple job offers, it’s even harder. Saturday night you have a social. There is food, drinks and lots of networking opportuinities. People get job offers at the social. Don’t miss it.
 
A few insights and tips:
– Any IB experience will help you immensely. LOTS of PYP and MYP coordinator positions were open when we went.
– Kids can be hit or miss. Some really enjoy the family atmosphere. Others see it as an unneccessary expense.
– Work on your resumes. We re-designed ours so they would stand out and had multiple people identify us as “that couple with the resumes.” I’m positive it gave us a leg up on getting noticed.
– Do your research, do your research, do your research. It will prove to be invaluable.

In a nutshell, that’s what we went through while we were there. It was a maddening but worthwhile time, one I will gladly go through again should the need arise. I’ve probably left a good bit out that I can’t remember off-hand, so if you’ve got questions, please let us know 🙂