Random Thoughts

30 Years in the Education System

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As another school year draws to a close, I find myself both nervous and excited about the future.

by JacobYarboroughPhotography

For 30 years, or since I was 5, I have been in the education system never taking a year off. Moving from High School to College to being an Educator never once pausing. It’s very much the “American Way” I guess. Our culture tells us we’re suppose to go to school and then get a job. There is nothing in the American Culture that says “Take a year off, go travel, see what you see.” Unlike many other cultures in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Cultures where in our travels have time and time again ran into 18-20 year olds out traveling the world before college, or taking a break during their college years to travel.I look back on my own rat race and feel so lucky that my wife pushed us to try international teaching. We’ve had the opportunity to travel to 36 countries, live in three very different cities and countries and experience moments that just can’t be put into words.

Staying in the education system that I know so well would be easy. We could continue to travel the world live in exotic places and enjoy life. But over the last couple of years I’ve felt this need to get away. This need to step out and try something different something other than cafeteria food, bell schedules, assemblies, and curriculum meetings.

To say that I’m excited for this coming year; Moving back to Seattle (something we never thought we would do) consulting full time, and just trying something different and seeing where it leads, would be an understatement. To say I’m completely nervous about it all would also be an understatement. I am finding there is a thin line between excitement and nervousness.

I keep thinking what it’s going to feel like come August when we’re not on an airplane back to our “home” or in September when all the schools in America go back and I’ll be at home enjoying my first non-first day of school. 

I have plenty of ideas to keep me busy for awhile. Here are just a few of the things I’ll be working on in the coming year. 

More Blogging:

I’ve really let this slipt the last two years as I worked on the book and then COETAIL took off. It’s been great these last two weeks to get back into a routine of blogging a bit more. I feel like I’m in Spring Training….stretching it out, working to get back into the flow of things and I’m excited to share my thoughts here more as well as leave comments on other bloggers around the web.

I also have an idea to bring back UTechTips.com a now defunct group blog that I feel never really reached its full potential. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about that here as I start putting together a plan for that site as well. 

More Writing:

Reach needs to be updated badly and this will be top priority later this summer. I think this time I’ll start writing the book with e-format in mind and then backwards edit for the paper format. I would go completely paperless but there are some university courses that are using the book now as text and would still like the paper copy. 

There’s also some article writing I’d like to do and get back into that a bit as well. 

Ninja Program:


The Ninja Program which I blogged about here is going extremely well. I have been amazed at how educators, schools and districts have taken it, updated it, and used it with kids. This project is my first priority this summer with hopefully a website launch by ISTE in San Diego. Over the last two months I have been working with a graphic designer to come up with new logos and badges for the program. To the left you’ll see a sneak peak of the new green belt ninja badge. Although it started with Google Apps, I am getting requests for creating similar material for WordPress and the Mac OS. As well as tests in Spanish and for elementary students. I think this program has some potential and I’m excited to be able to dedicate more time to it in the coming years. 


COETAIL LogoAs mentioned above the COETAIL program continues to spread and we continue to add cohorts of international educators. By September we’ll have about 160 educators taking the program with more cohorts starting throughout the year. It’s been a great program and I have enjoyed watching educators grow and change their classroom with a focus on good pedagogy that incorporates technology in very meaningful ways. Feel free to follow along as well as find new people to follow at our COETAIL Twitter list. Or follow the #COETAIL on Twitter.


I am looking forward to doing more consulting and presenting as well. I am still an educator and I still love sharing my knowledge with others and helping others to see things in a new and different way. My favorite is by far full day workshops where we can dive deep into an idea or product and really think about how it has lasting impact on a classroom, school or district. I already have a fair amount of things lined up for the coming year and am looking forward to continuing my own learning journey while interacting with other educators around the world. 

That’s my future plans for now. When I’m not traveling I’ll be working from our new home in Seattle, WA. We’re excited to be living back in the States for the first time in 10 years, to reconnect with family and friends and to give myself some time to work on all these projects I want to work on. Where the future will lead…..I have no idea but I’m excited to fine out. 

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Lauren Teather Reply

    Jeff! You are amazing! All that you have going on is incredible, and I look forward to hearing more about EACH and every item you mentioned. You are a true leader and innovator in your field. I know you were such an inspiration to many at SFS when you were here for a visit. I hope our paths will cross again soon!

    (in unrelated sad news, I was ousted as the Mayor of the Pool at the Shangri-la in Bangkok last week on foursquare. Sad day indeed.)

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Sorry to hear that your rule at the pool has come to an end. Sounds like you need another trip to Bangkok. 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words Lauren. I’m excited to see where all this goes and hopefully I’ll be back at SFS soon.

  2. Best of luck in your transition – America’s a better place for it! Glad to hear about the ISTE Google Nonja launch too – thanks for this amazing resource!

  3. Thinking about many of your sentiments early this morning before I stumbled on your post. Finishing my 31st yr in the classroom in June and on to my next chapter. Commonwealth countries initiated the idea of international teacher exchanges and only a few US states subscribe to it. Took my family from Canada to Australia in 07 and wished I’d done this earlier in my career. International experience is vital to our connected world. Keep blogging and leading us, your humble readers and colleagues!

  4. Good luck with the next big thing, Jeff. If you ever drive the couple hundred miles south to Portland, give me a shout and I’ll buy the beer.



  5. Jeff, Jeff, Jeff. You forgot one important thing for your “To Do List” during your new adventure. Attending a day game at Safeco Field in SEPTEMBER. Really, dude, get those priorities straight.

  6. Hey Jeff,

    Best of luck with your transition. I am sure you will excel in where ever this wild ride of life takes you. Thank you so much for your participation in the EARCOS conferences over the years. I met you at both the Manilla and Kuala Lumpur conferences. You informed, inspired, and guided me and so many other teachers in ways to integrate technology in creative, meaningful and academically appropriate ways. I benefited greatly from your workshops and in-turn my students’ enjoyed more personalized enriching learning experiences in my classroom.

    Again best of luck and I will certainly be checking in regularly here at The Thinking Stick.


    Kaohsiung American School (Taiwan)

    • Jeff Utecht Reply


      Just getting back and getting set up here. We’ll see how this all goes. I will be at EARCOS Teacher’s Conference again this year in Shanghai, China. Hope to see you there.

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