Finding Something 'Different'

When I resigned from my current position back in December, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. All that I knew was that I wanted to do something ‘different’.

Defining what ‘different’ was took time and reflection. I don’t think I can recall all the different things I thought about doing (although I now own 3 more domain names). It was a month and a half of highs and lows, of considering different opportunities and talking through what it was I really wanted to do.

The experience itself was life changing. To quit your job not knowing what you want to do, where you want to go and allowing yourself time to figure it out. It is about taking risks and stretching yourself to the limits. On bad days I thought “What the heck did I just do?” and on good days the sky was full of possibilities.

It came down to this: I quit for a reason.

I took time to find out what that reason was for myself and then went about trying to find a way to make that ‘something different’ materialize.

There is a growing need in the Asia region for consultants and presenters around how technology is changing education. A niche if you will is starting to form. I have been privileged enough to watch it start to bloom over the past few years. With the success of the Learning 2.0 conference in September, I have seen the start of important conversations at schools in the region. I then had the opportunity to present at the EARCOS Administrators conference in November. There I had further conversations with administrators in the region as they struggle with the change, and try and define for their own schools what this new learning landscape looks like.

I found myself wanting to be involved in helping schools define their future. I have a passion for sharing and teaching others and love to watch teachers and students alike get excited and hear that passion spark in them around new ideas they can use in their schools and classrooms. That was ‘different’, that was exciting.

The only issue then was how do you continue to affect change in a school and have time to explore a niche that is just starting to emerge (or that you hope emerges)?

You need time, time to explore, to think, to reflect. That time can not be added onto what you already do, it has to be part of what you do. It should be part of what we do in education. So I set out to explore schools that would challenge me professionally within the system and at the same time allow me to explore options and learning outside the system. This explore time would come to be known as “Google Time.” As I talked to schools, I pitched the idea of allowing me 20% of my time to explore other options outside of my regular duties. My thinking was twofold, not only did I want 20% time, but I also wanted to be a part of a school that I felt was heading in a positive direction, and that I was excited about. After all, 80% of my time is still working within the system affecting change in that organization and with students and teachers. That school, then, needed to understand who I was and what I could offer.

Google Time
How do you sell Google Time to a school? How do you help administrators understand that this time would not only benefit oneself as an educator but would then also benefit the school?

Google Time allows an employee time to explore, take risks, learn, network, and create opportunities. Some, if not most of these opportunities, will affect the employee in deep and meaningful ways. Whether it is taking time to create networks, write, play with new software, read about new theories, or just explore the world around them, this time adds value to employees and the time they spend on the other 80% of their job. Add to that the opportunity for those employees to build a social presence within networks on the web, this also brings something back to the school (think free marketing, too).

So that was the pitch. Some administrators I talked to struggled to wrap their heads around how this might work. Others were open to it, trying to understand the changing world we live in and how technology is affecting our society. Not only did they have to wrap their heads around a new way of thinking, but I also had to have that feeling of “the fit.” That feeling you get in your heart and soul when you know that this administrator, this school, this job is where you are suppose to be (if you do not feel that…I encourage you to look deeply within yourself and find out what it is you really want to do).

Of course on top of all this is where do you want to live? The world is our playground and my wife and I spent time thinking about where did we want to go. Did we want to stay in Shanghai? South America? Asia? North America? Europe? When you really allow yourself to think, to allow the possibilities to be endless, it is amazing the ideas and opportunities that come your way.

So after weeks of soul searching, researching, and conversing I am excited to announce that my wife and I next year will be moving to Bangkok, Thailand where I will be the Elementary Technology Coordinator at the International School of Bangkok.

My wife does not have a job at this point and is starting to go through the same process that I have been going through this last month of looking deep within and finding out what it is she truly wants to do. She loves working with kids and knowing Bangkok I am certain that she will find an opportunity there that will be a fit for her if she so chooses. My wife has the gift of understanding, the gift of love, and I am excited to support her as she finds what is next in life for her.

When I quit my job and posted about it here, I knew it would be my network that would help me to find that perfect fit and I wasn’t mistaken. Justin Medved, Kim Cofino, and Dennis Harter, who are at ISB already, I know played a large role in my hiring. I cannot thank you guys enough and I know how lucky I am to be joining such a dynamic team!

I will be taking Justin’s position as he and his wife find out what is next for them in life. I am disappointed that I won’t get to work with Justin (although we know the network well) and at the same time a bit worried about trying to fill his very large shoes. When it comes to a school that is truly understanding the shift that is happening, I think you have to put ISB as a front runner in the Asia region. Justin has been a driving force behind many of the things happening there, including getting both the elementary principal and the vice-principal to start blogging. They both have RSS readers and have been collaborating on some amazing documents that can be found here and here. I encourage you to also listen to a podcast we did last week where Justin goes into even more detail of what is happening at ISB. Wherever Justin goes, I know that he will continue to have an incredible impact on education.

It does not get much better than this. I have the opportunity to work at a school
that is looking at deep change within the system and having time to explore other opportunities as well. That is what ‘different’ became for me and I am excited that I found it at ISB and in Asia where things are going to continue to be ‘interesting’.

Thank you to everyone in my personal learning networks, be it this blog, twitter, social networks, or just Skype and e-mail. So many opportunities presented themselves because of the collective you. Your support and words of encouragement will not be forgotten!

And to my wife who quit her job with people she loved so that I could find my ‘different’. Your constant encouragement, reflection, and level headedness is why I love you (everyone should have their own personal counselor!).

May your job be the ‘different’ you need and if not I encourage you to take that risk and go out and find it for yourself. The process of deep reflection is very powerful. We learn nothing by playing it safe, we only learn when we take risks, push ourselves, and take time to learn. That is what our classrooms should be about, and so should our jobs.

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22 Comments

  1. All the best and know that you take your network with you.

  2. I so admire your journey of “different” and your willingness to give yourself the time to find the direction you wish to head in. ISB is incredibly on the mark to be adding to their team, yet another forward thinking educator who is dedicated and passionate about technology changing education. All the very, very best for your new direction Jeff, and for your wife’s new journey too, and I look forward to reading more posts about what you doing!

  3. That’s a serious all-star team, wow!

  4. great
    there are 20 mins of my life I will never have again after checking out ISB…mmmm there are jobs there for us too!!!Don’t think I am ready to be ‘different’ just yet.
    love their home page with the google earth thingy
    KP

  5. Nice Jeff! I visited ISB a few years ago. The staff apartment complex had a great looking swimming pool. And the tech department was offering GNU/Linux Cisco networking classes. If I recall, they had a strong IB program there. The campus was really nice.

  6. 3 words: WE GOT YA!!!

  7. Jeff, fantastic news! Good for you. Enjoy the heck out of the rest of your current school year – Mark

  8. I just started the very first day of a new job for me- not quite as brave as you as I have only taken one year’s leave but I am now an ICT facilitator- charged with helping teachers at 14 schools- primary and secondary- integrate and embed ICT into their teaching practice- I am wavering between excitement and fear- have I bitten off more than I can chew????

  9. Good luck on your new venture. I know what it is like to have a supportive spouse and I couldn’t have done all the things I’ve done without my husband’s support and encouragement. I’m glad you have someone there for you. I’m sure you will do great because I’ve already learned a lot from you on Twitter!

  10. You and new hire Chad Bates (ISKL) joining Dennis Harter and Kim Cofino will create one powerhouse learning team. Under Stephen Lehmann (Tech Director) I can’t wait to see where the thinking and ideas go. Can’t say I am not a little envious :)

    When I decide on a school in Toronto I will have to open a 24 hour skype channel so I can tap in :)

    J

  11. Best of luck to you in the Land of Smiles… It’s certain China will miss your presence in this heyday of it’s transformation…

  12. Jeff, I love your term “Google Time.” I work for an independent school, and my head of school has given me a gift of time to develop and define my job as instructional tech coordinator. I spend much of my day exploring sites, trying to join online conversations, playing with new apps and toys. It’s a joy to have the time to figure out what we need to do and where we need to go. Good luck and have a great time. Thanks for all your posts and sharing. I’ve learned so much from you.

  13. Congrats, Jeff!

    I have great admiration for you and Kim Corfino – what a team!

    I’ve been happy with the “Google Time” in my contract for the past 7 years or so – having a year-round job of 200 days rather than the standard 260 days – about a 3/4ths position. If the admin is OK with you taking days off during the year (and you have good support at home and the day job), this is a fantastic situation. I can’t imagine being a road warrior like some full-time consultants/speakers, but I get itchy if I don’t get on a plane a couple times a month. You’ll love it!

    All the best with your transition! Looking forward to hearing about all your new adventures.

    Doug

  14. Welcome to the team Jeff!

    I can’t wait to see what amazing things happen at ISB with you and Chad here next year! If only Justin could be here with us too…

  15. Jeff,

    Just read your “stick” post about your new job. Congrats, man.. you’re right about the “network”. When I arrived at ZIS for my interview the first person who wanted to talk to me was their tech coordinator. I ended up spending an hour with him on a laptop talking about blogs and wikis… He knew all about my blog and wiki, and is more excited than the principal to have me coming there.

    Also, in the econ teacher network, the other Econ teacher at ZIS was a reader of my blog, so that helped too! It’s amazing! I think ZIS is for Europe what ISB is for Asia, smartboards in every classroom, Lenovo Thinkpads in every students’ hands… and an administration that has committed to tech.

    You’ll love Bangkok. I would have stayed much longer, if our school had paid well or if I could have worked at ISB! Liz and I have already decided that ISB is one of about three or four schools in Asia we’d like to come back and teach at, the others: ISKL, SASingapore, and ASIJ… other than those four, we’re done with Asia.

    Hey maybe we’ll cross paths again through the “network” in the future.

    I think that you and Denia, me and Liz need to do dinner downtown soon. We need to catch up before we all take off on our new paths!

    Way to go man, you’ll love working with Dennis and the other pros at ISB!

    Jason

  16. Thanks for sharing…my family is living apart by 170 miles this year as I searched for something “different” too. So far, so good, so i feel the decision I made is blessed. My husband and son #2 will stay in the other location until he graduates not this June, but next June. Then we will resume a more traditional living situation–TOGETHER. When people ask, i say it was not a decision we made lightly.

  17. I love your idea of Google Time! I am a college student, and it is very important for me to find a career which will challenge me and allow me to grow as a professional. When I think about becoming a teacher, I become excited by all of the possibilities that exist to change students’ ways of thinking, learn new teaching strategies, and take advantage of technology to enhance students’ educational experiences. However, with only 24 hours in a day, I worry about how much time I will have to research and improve upon my teaching once I get home. It is refreshing to see that teachers are actively pursuing growth opportunities and changes in the system, and it is wonderful that you have found a place to go and live the career you are seeking.
    Danielle

  18. Thanks so much for this post. It really had an impact on me in thinking about changes that I want to make. I think you are going to have a marvellous year! Kia Kaha (Stay Strong)
    Amanda

  19. Jeff,
    As much as I love my job, I envy you in the sense that you are experiencing parts of the world that I would love to visit. Congratulations, and I hope the new job is great for you. If you are looking for an elementary school in the states to hook up with, let me know!
    Dave

  20. Well, I have to say that after reading your blog, I was kind of blown away. I love your idea of “Google Time.” I am currently a Junior in college. I have always wanted to become a teacher and my biggest fear is failing. I have always been afraid that with teaching and doing other activities, I woundn’t have enough time to develop new ideas and strategies. I don’t want to be one of those older teachers that hasn’t changed their lesson plans in 20 years. My major is Business Teachers Education and I know that with technology constantly changing, I will need more time to research new ideas and methods.

    As a future educator, it is inspiring to see others constantly changing and coming up with new ideas to improve education. Thanks you again for the blog. I look forward to reading more!
    -Sheila

  21. Congratulations Jeff – you are joining a great team at ISB; just don’t let Stephen Lehmann give you a hard time :)
    I am sure you will enjoy living in Thailand; I have really enjoyed the last four years here and there is real camaraderie at the schools in Bangkok.
    I will miss linking up with Stephen at ISB and John Tranter at Bangkok Patana, but like you, I had to take that next step and Shanghai or Hong Kong was a difficult decision.
    As you know there are many schools in Bangkok, I am sure your wife will find something; you could try the International Schools Association of Thailand ISAT

  22. It’s going to be great!

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