Int. Education

90% Educator 10% ?

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It’s that time of year again in the international education world of contracts, decisions, and thinking about your future. Kim Cofino has a great post about finding the right fit…the right school. Whether you are an international educator or not it’s worth a read.

International Teachers are different…we’re weird….we don’t like stability, we like change and challenge. We like travel, culture and to be honest I think we all like just being different. If you’ve met an international educator you’ll know what I’m talking about. Countries, airports, and airlines are just common conversation. We talk about “Bali Belly” the “Shanghai Shits” and the “India Illness” like it’s common conversation….seriously never start a conversation about being sick with an international educator….we share way more than you ever wanted to know. 🙂

But that’s us…..we live on year by year contracts, don’t try to make us sign a multi-year deal….cause that’s a deal breaker in itself (part of the reason we left Shanghai). We’re renegades, we’re individuals, and nobody is going to tell us where we’re going to live or that we can’t leave….cause we will just to prove you wrong. Yeah….International Educators are different. We expect open bars at conferences (over 50% of our food budget for Learning 2.010 was spent on alcohol…cause if you don’t have it people won’t come). We expect conferences to be in amazing locations. Borneo, Bangkok, Greece, Shanghai, Singapore, Egypt, Nice, etc. Yeah… conferences are rough.

And then there is the friendships you create. Deep meaningful friendships with people who become your family. My best friends little brother, who I’ve known since he was in 6th grade graduated from University at an elementary teacher and decided to try out the international teaching thing. His first posting has been Kuwait where he’s in his second year, meaning that he’s now having to decide whether to stay another year or decide if it’s time to move on. He wrote a blog post, a couple lately actually, talking about his decision and how attached one becomes to friends, a country and these amazing kids we have the honor of teaching. Some very reflective blog posts from a young teacher trying to figure out life, education, and the meaning of it all.

Created on an iPad by a Kinder Teacher for me. 🙂

And then there’s me…..maybe this blog post is describing me more then the general international educator (I’m sure they’ll let me know in the comments), but I’m constantly searching for something. The perfect school (doesn’t exist BTW), the perfect balance of online and offline, and what it is I want to do when I grow up.

As I’ve done more consulting and conferences in the past two years people ask me quite often, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

It’s a questions I honestly can’t answer because I don’t know where I see myself in 1 year. But here’s what I do know.

I know I love teaching, I know that in the past two years as I’ve presented at more and more conferences, and consulted with schools, and now running the CoETaIL program with Kim, that I love teaching teachers. It’s not that I don’t love teaching kids….I miss it every day, but as I evolve, as my thinking evolves I find myself enjoying the presentations, the consulting, the courses, and the discussions with educators near and far.

So this year when it came to deciding to sign contracts at ISB for another year we sat down with the administration to see if I could have my cake and eat it too. Could I work in a school with students and continue to consult and present? Three years ago we reached an agreement that allowed me to take days without pay up to 20% to do consulting. Which brought me to ISB in the first place. With a new contract season upon us it was time to see if we could come to an agreement again….and I’m happy to say we did.

Next year I’ll be on a 90% contract at ISB as the High School Technology & Learning Coordinator. So I’ve given up 10% of my contract to focus on following my recent passion of consulting and presenting.

I have to pinch myself to see if this is still really my life. Working at a school willing to work with me (and all my craziness), being able to do what I need to do to stay stimulated as an educator, to keep growing as an individual, to be able to follow my passion, and to be married to a woman who not only supports me in my craziness, but pushes me to follow my passion (benefits of being married to a counselor?).

It’s hard to believe that I’m actually doing this…that I’m going to try my hand at consulting and presenting and seeing where it takes me….and if I don’t book any gigs…well…I get an extra 20 days next year to blog. 🙂

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. This article makes me want to go back overseas.

    I had a love/hate relationship with the contract renewal decision. When was it right to stay? When was it time to move on? And the contract negotiations with one’s school were always fun. Mine ended up going something like this:
    Me: I’m single, with no dependants. so I’m always working and I don’t cost you any extra, so I would like double the professional development allowance.
    Them: No.
    Me: Okay, fine. But I’m only staying one more year, because I don’t want to move this year!

    Seriously though, I loved each of my three overseas schools and all of the experiences and friendships that came with them.

    And now that I’m home in Vancouver, and am happy to be here. I can live vicariously through my friends who are still globe-trotting, and can still come visit!

    • Yeah…the contract time is always a love hate. Do you go, the move, the effort. A lot of times it’s just easier to stay. But we’re moving downtown next year because we had to do something…we had itchy feet this year and told ourselves that if we stayed we’d at least move places….so we’re moving anyway. Yes…we’re that crazy!

  2. Hey Jeff-

    Wow, thanks for the shout out. I got all excited seeing the number of my site’s views go up! Hope the holiday season is treating you and Daneah well!

    It’s looking like a 3rd year in the desert!

    • Glad to hear it RJ….any plans for the winter break? This will be our last one going back to Seattle. Next year back on the traveling trail for us…we miss it!

      • Yeah, visiting my dad and other family in the Philippines. Haven’t seen him in awhile, plus it’ll be nice not to have to pay for hotel, car, etc. Enjoy Seattle! and Merry X-mas!

  3. The whole thing of the teaching teachers with travel and conferences etc is a big part of why I left the classroom for my current job at Microsoft. I don’t have as much face time with students and I sometimes miss that. Sometimes I miss it a lot. But over all I think everyone has to find the balance that works for them. Good luck in the coming year!

  4. Hi Jeff,

    As a former international educator and presenter at quite a few international conferences (Nairobi this fall was great!), I enjoyed re-living a bit of my past. Every time I work overseas, I yearn to return. Dang retirement plans!

    For what it’s worth, I’ve done the 90/10 (for me it is more like 80/20) day job/consulting for over 10 years. The day job give me credibility since I put theory into practice. The consulting work forces me to keep current and gives me a chance to learn from many people. Remember too that the day job is only as far away as an Internet connection.


    • Thanks Doug,

      I do have the option to go down to 80% if I get more request for consulting days. We’ll see if that happens. They are also giving me the option to “make up days” during the summer or coming back early. Seeing that my wife has to be back early anyway…I’ll probably pick up another 5 days there that I can trade in later in the year. They are being really flexible which is what I needed and appreciate. We’ll see how this goes. 🙂

  5. Jeff, your 90/10 (or 80/20 or whatever it ends up being) model reminded me of this article about a new book on “Teacherpreneurs” and the prediction that they will be the face of the future of education. I hate the term, but I love how Sacks defines it. In particular, I love how she says it’s really just taking ownership of the profession. I do hope it’s a model that more teachers are able to negotiate, though I suspect here in the USA it might be a long time coming.

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