04 December 2012

Peer Correction of the Week

Samuel: But Ms. Vanessa, I didn't do nothing!

Me: You didn't do WHAT?!

Whole Class: ANYTHING!!!

Double negatives will be gone by June.

29 November 2012

2nd Quarter Updates

It's already almost time to go home for the holidays! Where's the time gone?

One of my friends and I decided that we wanted phone plans (I've really been missing my data plan), so a couple weekends ago we headed to the mall to get contracts with Tigo. What a process! We needed all sorts of things: residency booklets, social security pay stubs, a water or light bill... We didn't have the bill since the school takes care of all of that for us, so the salesman ended up borrowing a bill from a friend. By the time all was said and done, we had been back and forth to the mall 3 times and spent most of the day waiting. However, I now have a data plan and an 18-month contract ($30/month). Most people here have BlackBerrys, which is what my friend got.

We headed to Costa del Sol for the Thanksgiving holiday and had a really good time. It's nicer and more spacious than Tunco. We had a huge house with a pool and kitchen, and even had the housekeeper cook our meals one day.

I've been doing some soul-searching as far as my classroom management goes. The system I have now (PAT, moving clothes pins up and down, counting wasted time, giving warnings) worked at my school in The States, but it's failing miserably with the kids here. My next-door neighbor and fellow third grade teacher turned me on to ClassDojo.com, and I asked my kids what they thought about changing to a more online behavior-management system. Some of them had even used the website before! Since most of the kids at Escuela Americana have access to a computer at home, it seems like a logical choice for them. I think I'll try it in January and see how it goes.

I am very much looking forward to being in Texas in 17 days! Sharp cheddar and customer service, here I come!

Costa del Sol

I never get tired of the sunsets!

21 November 2012

PAT Today

We had a pretty rough couple of weeks, but my kids were so good during PAT (personal activity time) today that I had to take some pictures.

Texas Bingo


The Artists (and Connor)

13 November 2012

iPhone Photo Dump

Here're some pictures of my classroom. And stuff.

Our class library
My little corner of insanity before I got my charola from Office Depot
A particularly nice sunset walking home from school one day
Coloring mandalas in class
There's a lot going on here.
The Writing Process
Huge burger from GBC...ate this on an in-service day.
Random note from my student
This chicken was walking around the bus stop at Tunco.
Good morning from the boys' apartment!
Casey and Matt getting ready for a pirate party

05 November 2012


It's November! The rain has turned off like a faucet. Parent conferences went well last month, and we're already nearing another round of progress reports. My class is trucking right along. We've even got centers set up! On Thursday, I shared a little bit about Mexican Día de los Muertos celebrations that we have many of in Texas, and I brought them some sugar skulls to color - they loved them!

We finally got our first day off last Friday for Día de los Difuntos. Some of my friends and I went to Parque Nacional El Imposible (there used to be a pass that was near impossible to cross until they built a bridge). We rented a pickup and somehow managed to miss the correct highway and go in a big triangle instead of a straight line on the way there...the good thing is that El Salvador is so small that it didn't really send us too far out of the way. It was a good idea to get a truck - going anywhere in ES is pretty risky when you're not sure if the roads will be paved or not (they're usually not). We also had a fun surprise when we turned on the CD that was in the stereo: a random mix of 80s and 90s, heavy on the Air Supply.

We stayed here for the weekend, and it was awesome. All the food at the restaurant was made to order from scratch, so it took a while to get fed but was sooo worth it. We usually took a deck of cards with us and just played games while we waited. The day after we got there, we walked about 1/2 a mile to the entrance of the national park and hired a guide for the day (you can pay them whatever you want - there were 4 of us, and we paid $10, which is pretty good). We hiked about 8 km round trip: first up to a mirador to see the tree tops, then alllll the way down to a swimming hole to eat lunch, then back up again to the park entrance. It was a pretty steep hike, but well worth it.

That evening, we ate dinner at the hostel and asked if there was any place to make a campfire. The hostel employee shrugged, looked around our cabin, and pointed to a spot in the dirt among a lot of foliage. Ha! Smoky the Bear would not approve! We made it anyway, and managed to avoid burning down the whole park. Hot dogs, s'mores minus the graham crackers, and quite a lot of beer were consumed.

We woke up to a wonderful, homemade breakfast at the restaurant, took a picture with our awesome truck, and headed home to see Skyfall (IT'S ALREADY OUT DOWN HERE, SUCKAHS). Great weekend! Just two more full weeks of school, then it's time to celebrate Turkey Day Salvadoran style (at the beach).

Y'all go vote tomorrow.

16 October 2012

Time Flies

I can't believe it's already the middle of October! This week, I'll complete week ten with my kiddos. I have parent/teacher conferences tomorrow, and we have an in-service on Friday, so I only have them for three days this week.

Many challenges have arisen, but I'm finding ways to solve them. This morning, we had a class meeting about how to use kind words if someone is bothering you. I busted out "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind," and I think some of them actually understood what I was getting at.

It's really fun to watch them learn. I've almost corrected away their double negative use. They edited and "published" actual paragraphs, formatted on the computer and everything (it was such a test of patience to get 21 eight- and nine-year-olds to format a paper in Word). They can subtract across zero. They know the difference between incomplete and complete metamorphosis. They understand that a rural area does not mean a poor area.

I'm really trying to encourage more creativity, and I luckily have the freedom to (for the most part) do what I want with unlimited-ish resources. After lunch, we color mandalas to settle down. They created small Blot Books to jot down and illustrate ideas. I need to get some songs going because I have a few who are so auditory. One in particular absolutely MUST be making some kind of noise at all times.

I also decided to take on the extra challenge of starting a master's degree. The school flies in professors from Framingham in Massachusetts, and we also get a scholarship for the program. I'm really glad I started it, as I've already completed one of the nine required courses (Curriculum Theory and Practice). Each course goes for two weeks, 3:30-6:30 during the week and 8:00-4:00 on Saturdays. It's a lot, but it's doable. In the fall of 2014, I'll complete a master's of International Teaching. Sweet.

El Salvador is still wonderful. I like my friends, I like my job. I don't have to do laundry or clean.There are bugs everywhere, including a new colony of ants in our kitchen, but oh well. Rainy season is almost over, and it's going to be endless, perfect weather.

We are going to Costa del Sol for Thanksgiving.

I will try to update more often.

26 August 2012

Cumplimos un mes!

I've made it through two weeks of school with my 20 kiddos; week three starts tomorrow. They're really interesting, smart kids, and I'm having a blast getting to know them. I'm also really enjoying the 1.5 hour planning period I have in the middle of the day while they're at Spanish. It's just unreal and totally unheard of in the States.

We also celebrated our one-month of living in ES last Thursday. In honor of this milestone, I've decided to list some things to remember while in El Salvador:
  1. Always carry an umbrella.
  2. Check your cup for ants before reusing it.
  3. Agree on the price of every taxi ride before getting into the car (this is always negotiable).
  4. 2 pupusas are probably enough.
  5. It's okay not to refrigerate eggs, but you should wash the shells.
  6. If an invitation says 5:00, no one will show up until at least 6:30.
  7. Might as well get a beer...it's the same price as water.
  8. Never underestimate the amount of time it's going to take to get somewhere on a road that's not paved, no matter how short the distance.
More on school soon!

04 August 2012

La Palma, El Rosario, Perquín, and El Mozote

Lots of traveling around lately has lead to a little confusion and has brought to light a few cultural differences between United Statsians and Salvadorans. That said, I got to go to a lot of really cool places this week, all of which turned out great.

On Wednesday, we took a long day trip to a lodge in La Palma, a town in northwest ES. We stopped up in the mountains, and the scenery/weather was gorgeous. From the lodge, we drove about 40 minutes and went on a hike to the border with Honduras. We waded across the river to stand in the other country and had a fun time in the water.

After hiking, we went back to the lodge and had gallina india for lunch (chicken and soup, basically). After we were all done eating and were ready to go, we had to wait around for like 30 minutes for our driver to finish whatever he was doing...wouldn't really fly in the U S of A, but down here, you just kind of have to roll with things. We finally got going and stopped in el centro de La Palma to buy some goodies before heading home. Lots of time in the car that day.

On Thursday, the new elementary teachers + one of our lovely welcoming committee gals set out on a trip to Perquín, a town in the northeast of ES. We rented our car for $25/day from someone that a lot of people in the complejo use. Driving in ES is a talent. Carolyn did an awesome job avoiding pot holes, cows, dogs, horses, pedestrians, and semi trucks, all without wrecking the car on one of the crazy curving roads.

On the way, we stopped in El Rosario to find the aguas termales (hot springs). After a lot of asking for directions and circumventing a construction zone on foot, we hiked about an hour out of the town down to a river, only to discover that the nearby hot springs were actually just a tiny trickle of water funneled into a concrete pool about four feet by three feet. We were entertained and took pictures.

On the way back up the mountain, we got caught in an afternoon rainstorm and got completely soaked. I was lucky to be with super laid-back, flexible ladies that weren't bothered one bit. We hiked back to our car in the downpour, much to the amusement of the locals who smiled and laughed at us as we walked by.

We got to our hotel, the Perkin Lenca, and got keys to our bungalow. It was super nice and pretty spacious, with free bottled water and a hammock on the porch. We cleaned up and headed to dinner in the main building - it was delicious and inexpensive.

Our hot breakfast was included the next morning; we ate and booked a guide to come pick us up for what we thought would be a few hours of hiking on the Llano del Muerto and Bailadero del Diablo. Our guide arrived, and there was quite a bit of confusion as to how long we were going to be hiking and where we wanted to go, etc. There was a particular waterfall we were interested in seeing, and Carolyn and I did our best to convey in Spanish the fact that we wanted to do a long hike to get there. We thought we had it all figured out, but our guide Rafael apparently had other ideas about how long we'd be hiking and drove us about 30 minutes from the hotel to the entry point for a 3 minute hike to the waterfall. Hmm.

After discussing with Rafael the fact that we were very confused about our agreed price of $50 for a 3 minute hike, we decided to use him as transport to the Cerro de Perquín, a hill/mountain that the guerrillas utilized during the war and the place where the war museum was located. We drove about 30 minutes from our waterfall to the hill and hiked up about 30 minutes while Rafael told us all about the guerrillas and how they used the hill. He turned out to be a former guerrilla fighter, and he showed us all sorts of things like plants they ate for survival and places where bombs had impacted the side of the mountain. It turned out to be a great tour with a lot of good information.

We hiked back down and went to the museum, which houses a lot of pictures, news articles, weapons, and propaganda posters. There are a lot of former guerrilla fighters there who are very eager to share their stories.

This morning, we checked out and headed to El Mozote, a site slightly south of Perquín where a terrible massacre occurred during the war. The government was utilizing the strategy called quitar el agua al pez or taking the water from the fish. During the war, the guerrilla fighters were like the fish, and the pueblos and civilians were the water that supported them. The government massacred the entire population of El Mozote, nearly 800 men, women, and children. We heard the story from a woman near the monument as well as from a young man named Eduardo. While not everyone in our group could understand every word he was saying, Carolyn and I did our best to translate, and it was obvious to everyone what a terrible tragedy it was.

Eduardo told us about another monument about a mile away that was under construction and offered to walk us there. We followed and were very pleasantly surprised at a large structure featuring Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, and MLK Jr. It was beautiful and quiet, and we felt surprised and privileged to have seen it before its completion, as it was obviously not listed in any of our guide books. After taking some pictures, we headed back to town, bought some artesanías from the ladies near the church (the freakin ginger candy is amazing), and hopped in the car for our drive back to San Salvador.

All in all, it was a great trip. While confusing at times, we were happy with the outcome and learned quite a bit about El Salvador. If you are on a strict schedule or need everyone to always be on time and accurate when estimating the time things are going to take, you may not be the happiest camper traveling around this country. The key is to relax, take it all in, and not be too perturbed when things don't go exactly the way you were imagining. The people are incredibly kind and helpful, and will always be around to point you in the right direction if you're lost. The animosity toward people from the US that I've felt in other parts of the world doesn't seem to be as much of a thing here. For someone who has been to a lot of places, the gente amable of El Salvador is a welcome change.

Posing by our anticlimactic hot springs

31 July 2012

Lots of things!

Lots has happened since my last post. We met our maids last Friday and organized which days they were going to come. One of the perks of being here is having inexpensive help around the house, and our complejo residents pay much more than the ladies would be making elsewhere. Megan and I have Antonia on Tuesdays and Fridays, and we pay only $24 a week. She does laundry, cleans, and will even make food if we want. Next week I'm going to have her make that tamarindo drink I like so much. I'm so glad I'm able to speak with her and the vigilantes, etc. around here; it's come in really handy and saves us a lot of time.

The new elementary teachers and I are planning a trip to Perquín for the Agostinas coming up. I called the place we wanted to stay, and of course they had no one available who spoke English. I'm happy to report that I booked the whole thing, complications and all, in Spanish. I think this is a first for me. The weird thing down here is that you can't hold the room with a credit card; you have to go to their bank and make a deposit into an account. So, I took my first trip to Citibank the other day, which happens to also be our bank. It reminded me a lot of the DMV. I took a number and waited to be called, only to find out that the lady couldn't transfer money from my account to the other account. I had to go outside and around a corner to the ATM, take money out, and come back to deposit it inside the bank. What a pain! I definitely missed the conveniences of home that day.

We also took a trip to Ataco, stopping at a few places along the way. We ate at an amazing garden/restaurant for lunch, bought some stuff at artisan markets, and stopped by a gastronomical festival.

I don't remember which day, but we also took a trip to downtown San Salvador. It was quick, but interesting. Definitely a very different world from our school bubble over here in San Benito.

Today we went to La Libertad to the beach club that the school has a membership to. It was a nice, relaxing day. Megan and I plan to come back to the States super tan for winter break.

After we got back today, a few of us were feeling under the weather, so we took a field trip to the farmacia across the street from the complejo. I described everyone's symptoms and we walked away with medicine that would for sure need a prescription in the US. One of the things I really like about being abroad is the ability to walk into the pharmacy and get things like antibiotics with no problem. I remember in Spain I had a blister that got infected, and I just went to the pharmacy to get prescription-strength antibiotic ointment. It's incredible and such a time/money saver.

Tomorrow we're going to La Palma. I have no idea what we're doing, and no one else seems to know either. It will be a surprise!

26 July 2012

A Very Productive Day

Today was long. We started with breakfast an hour earlier than usual, then had a presentation about our salaries and taxes (we have to pay into the Salvadoran pension program). It's nice how much the school does to figure out the best way to get us tax-free income.

After that, we met with our department heads and got keys to our rooms! Very exciting. Our principal and vice principal took the four of us foreign elementary hires to lunch at El Circulo Deportivo Internacional, a country club type thing in our area. We all felt pretty classy, I think.

Then, we had to go back and deal with banking stuff, get our debit cards, and sign a bunch of forms. We had a brief Spanish/culture class then bussed to a home store called Divesa and got some stuff for the condo. After that, we went grocery shopping and got our cell phones! I'm happy to report that my unlocked iPhone now runs successfully on Tigo. Hooray!

The guy in the store quoted me prices of $.30 per minute for local calls, $.09 for a local text, $.15 for a text to a US cell, and $10 per GB of data. I don't know how quickly I'll use this up, but I got a pay-as-you-go plan, so I'll figure it out and report back.


25 July 2012

In which I use a lot of italics...

Today Megan and I got up and ran on the track (pictured) before breakfast. What a view!

 In the morning, we had a meeting with the director after breakfast, got our fingerprints scanned to get into the complex (we have a fingerprint scanner security system...it makes me feel like James Bond), and went shopping again. Megan and I unpacked our kitchen things, so the downstairs is looking much nicer. For dinner, over 20 of us went to a pupusería and had a great meal. I had two beers and two pupusas + curtido for $7, including tax and tip. Amazing. There was even live music!

A note about our living sitch - My school has us living in a complejo (complex) with only teachers. I'm really enjoying this perk of being here, especially since we only pay a small utility fee to stay. Megan and I live in a condo with our bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs, plus a patio, dining room, living room, and kitchen downstairs. There's a beautiful pool, not to mention maintenance workers to take care of anything we need. We'll meet our maids on Friday morning.

The complejo is guarded 24/7 by vigilantes and is in a really nice area of San Salvador. We don't ever lock our door. It's kind of giving us a false sense of security as far as walking around and exploring. When we go into the city this week, I imagine it'll be quite a bit different. No jewelry, no valuables, etc. Can't take the public transportation due to the risk of gang violence.

The other new elementary teachers and I (there are four of us) have been discussing renting a car to travel around during the Agostinas (August holidays) coming up. I got an international driving permit at AAA before I came, but apparently our US driver licenses work fine here. Someone on the welcoming committee told us that it's only about $25/day to rent a car. We're thinking of doing the Ruta de Café. We'll see where the week brings us!

Settling In

First of all, I am having the best time. The weather is awesome, San Salvador is awesome, and my school is AWESOME. I'm helping some of the new teachers with Spanish, and I feel important.

Today we woke up and had breakfast together at one of the condos, then we went to get our residency cards. This involved our passports, a $1.25 fee, waiting in line for a long time, and signing a paper. It was nice to have the Escuela Americana people there to guide us.

Then, we signed stuff to open our bank accounts (CitiBank), got our settling in allowance, and went shopping for some basics at Wal Mart (haha). Wal Mart here is weird - there are like people standing on every aisle trying to sell you things...? I don't get it. My roommate and I got stuff like clothes hampers, trash cans, hangers, a coffee maker, etc...stuff that the condo didn't come with. She had already bought a kitchen set from a departing teacher, so we are pretty set. I'm excited to go grocery shopping! Produce! Yes!

Tomorrow we are getting finger-printed for our complex, more shopping, meetings, etc. Meg and I are going to explore the track in the morning before breakfast. Hooray!

This is our condo!

24 July 2012


I have arrived in San Salvador! My housemate Megan and I are unpacking...we've already killed a roach.

We have a lime tree in the backyard. :)

Big day tomorrow - grocery shopping, bank stuff, etc. Looking forward to seeing San Salvador in the sunlight. 

01 July 2012

Cell Phone Stuff

Did some research into cell phones in El Salvador and decided that I'm too addicted to my smartphone to live without one (so pathetic, you have permission to roll your eyes at me). As Verizon phones don't have SIM cards to be switched in other countries and smartphones in ES are pretty expensive, I bought an old, unlocked iPhone 3G yesterday in hopes that I'll be able to purchase a SIM card and plan when I get to San Salvador. We'll see if it works! Otherwise I'll just have bought a really expensive iPod touch.

Verizon lets you suspend phone service for $15/month, as long as it's active for six months out of the year. Guess I'll suspend it Aug-Nov this year so I can have a US cell when I come back for the winter holidays. 

T-minus 22 days until departure!

13 February 2012

UNI Fair - Reference Post

Alright, it's been over a week, so I suppose I should post about the fair. I'll try to keep it relatively short, but I have so many experiences and so much advice to share!

Thursday: Everyone arrived in Waterloo; no one got any sleep because we were all so nervous. There was a gal in my hotel whose reservation was lost, so we ended up rooming together (really good idea).

Friday: We woke up at stupid o'clock, tried our best to look professional, and headed over to the convention center in the shuttle (it was freezing).

We arrived at the convention center a little before 7:00 and were directed towards our "mailboxes" (hanging folders with our names on them). Everyone began to go through the materials and interview invitations. I had a few from schools I had contacted previously and a few new ones, so I spent my time deciding which to accept/decline and making a plan for the round robin, circling table numbers on the floor plan and such. I also had my laptop, and I tried to research some of the schools I was interested in, but everyone was doing the same thing so the internet wasn't really working.

At 8:00, we had an orientation from some of the UNI staff, some school directors, and a married teaching team. It was mostly advice, encouragement, etc. We then had a meal break (brunch?), and everyone scarfed some food while furiously researching schools and finalizing plans of action for the round robin interview sign up.

At 11:30, everyone had crowded around the doors to the main room in preparation for the round robin. I had the urge to yell "NO PUSHING!" It was madness. The doors opened, and we flooded in to sign up for interviews.

We had a couple hours, but I really felt like I was pressed for time. My number of interview invitations was on the higher end (12 I think?), so I was trying to confirm the most important ones first and still leave time to decline ones I didn't want so other people could have the spots and then try to get interviews with schools who hadn't invited me. To be honest, it was very difficult. It was crowded; we had to wait in line a few times, and the interview slots fill up fast, so you really have to prioritize. I didn't get any interviews with schools who hadn't invited me to begin with, either because they were full or because I didn't have enough teaching experience.

I ended up with 10 scheduled interviews. A lot of people had less, but I tried to keep my mind open and accepted most of my invitations (I turned down a school from Egypt and one from Saudi Arabia). After the round robin, interviews began immediately.

I was SO nervous, but the interview slots are only 30 minutes; there's really not a lot of time to screw up. During my first interview, I was asked 3 or 4 questions about teaching, and then I was allowed to ask questions about the school. We parted amicably, and I walked away questioning why I had been so worried.

I had four interviews on Friday, all of which went fairly well. One director invited me for a second interview on Saturday. I got the feeling that the schools had a good idea about who they wanted to hire already from looking at our credential files.

Friday evening, there was a social for the directors and the teachers, but I missed most of it because I was in an interview. Supposedly this is a good time to chat up the interviewers, but I had enough already that I didn't bother. There was a cash bar and food, but my roommate and I were so tired that we just grabbed some water and chatted in a corner. We rode the shuttle back to the hotel and researched the schools we had interviews with on Saturday before going to sleep.

Saturday: Back to the convention center, interviews all day. I received a rejection from one of my Friday interviews that morning. About noon, I had already received two offers: Pre-school in Shanghai and 1st grade in Puerto Rico. This is where it got kind of hairy. Shanghai offered it to me in the actual interview, and I had to let them know that I was still interviewing with several schools I was interested in; I asked when they needed a decision by. The answer was basically ASAP. Puerto Rico offered after the interview, but I had to call back and ask the same question. Their response was that it was between me and another woman, and the job was going to whomever accepted first. Lame. I had kind of a weird feeling from the Puerto Rico interview, and wasn't sure I would be happy at the school. The director's whole selling point was that I wouldn't really be "leaving the U.S." I thought to myself, "well, that's not really why I'm here."

I had a panic-y moment and called Dad at this point for advice. Decided to go to a presentation by one of my top choice Friday interviews (Honduras) and ask if they had made a decision yet. They hadn't, and I still had the second interview with a school from El Salvador to go to, plus two more first interviews. I was 90% sure El Salvador would make an offer, so I decided at that point to accept it if that happened. I felt very happy with the school from the info I learned in the previous interview, and I was excited that I would be in a Spanish-speaking country.

The director did end up offering, and I signed the contract on the spot for a 3rd grade position in San Salvador! It was all very exhilarating and nerve-wracking. After signing, she gave me a poster and a little mantelito (place mat) from El Salvador! How lovely.

After that, I called Mom and Dad as well as my other offers, including a new one from Kuwait, to let them know that I had accepted something else. I also had to cancel my last two interviews. It was pretty stressful, but then I could relax! My roommate got an offer shortly after that, and we found a Mexican restaurant nearby to celebrate at.

Most people left on Sunday, but I thought I might have some interviews on Sunday and had bought my ticket for Monday. Oops. I hung out at the hotel and watched the Super Bowl with vending machine food.

SO. Words of advice:

1. Get a roommate! You can participate in the forum before the actual fair and find out if anyone would like to share a room or a ride with you if you're driving. Several people did this, from what I could tell. Having a roommate gave me someone to touch base with throughout the day, sit with on the shuttle, and get meals with. It was nice to have someone to talk to so I didn't have to stand alone awkwardly at any point during the weekend.

2. DON'T BE NERVOUS. The interviews are easy. They are not going to throw you a question out of left field. It helps to know a little about the school sometimes, but not always. Relax.

3. Prioritize. If you don't have a lot of interview invitations, prioritize which schools you want to focus on speaking with during the round robin. If you do have a lot of invitations, stop by the ones you're interested in the most first to sign up for a time. The slots fill up fast, and I didn't get interviews with a couple schools who invited me because I didn't make it to the tables in time. It helped me to make a list and then cross them off.

4. Bring food. I was terribly hungry throughout the day, and the cafe in the convention center was good, but I didn't always have time to buy and eat a whole meal. Granola bars were a life-saver, especially because I had back-to-back interviews at times.

5. Don't lug your portfolio or a laptop. Before the fair, you should have contacted and researched schools, so researching them in the convention center is not really necessary. Do that at home or in your hotel room beforehand. Also, none of the interviewers looked at my portfolio at all. I think it's a good idea to bring it, but leave it in the hotel and offer to bring it the next day if someone wants to look at it (rare). All you really need is your cell and a binder to organize school fact sheets and brochures and to take interview notes. Don't forget money for food.

6. Don't be afraid to tell an interviewer that you're not ready to make a decision yet. Most will give you a few hours to finish up interviews. While you do need to make decisions quickly, don't let them guilt you into accepting something you're not happy with. This is a big decision.

7. Bring thank you notes and leave them in interviewers' mailboxes as soon after the interview as possible, especially if you have a good feeling and want to continue speaking with them about employment. Leave details like a cell number and when you're available for second interviews.

8. Ask questions in the interviews. Important things to find out: What exactly is the housing situation like (make sure it's not a dorm)? What is living in this city like (especially important for women) and how does the school help its employees to stay safe? How does your HR department help new hires settle in? Is there a mentor or buddy teacher program? Are language classes available? What professional development opportunities are there?

9. And most importantly, have an open mind! You may get interview invitations to places you hadn't even thought of. Accept them! I planned for South America the whole time, and ended up with only ONE interview on the whole continent. That particular school was the most sought after in the whole fair. If I had limited myself, I wouldn't have ended up in the great school that I did. Decide beforehand what your "deal breakers" are, and then go from there. Accept any and all offers that seem even vaguely possible for you.

I hope this post is helpful for someone! I had such a stressful but awesome time participating in the UNI Fair, and everyone was so friendly and helpful. I've heard that other fairs are more cutthroat, but of course I can't judge any but this one. What a super experience; I can't WAIT to begin the visa process and get everything ready for my new job!

27 January 2012


Today was good because:

LivingSocial hired me to write for Escapes (YESSS. I CAN WORK IN PAJAMAS FROM HOME UNTIL I DEPART FOR WHEREVER).

I sold several pieces of furniture.

I got to see Emily! Yay.


I had a couple of pre-interview interviews this week for two schools in Shanghai. Both went well.

I got two more interviews confirmed for the fair:
Prishtina, Kosova and Guayama, Puerto Rico. Beginning to think I overbooked myself. We'll see.

I'm starting to get sad about leaving Austin.

This song is currently cheering me up:

Ai se eu te pego!

23 January 2012

More Fair

Yesss my fair binder is done. I organized all the school fact sheets and sticky noted with different colors so I remember which ones have invited me to interview and which other ones I want to talk to. I also have a sticky note color for "last resorts," but shh don't tell anyone.

I usually suck at organizing things, but this was pretty essential to do unless I wanted to lose my mind trying to keep all of them straight.

Days until UNI Fair: 10

22 January 2012

Adventures in the Kitchen: Raspberry Poppy Seed Dressing

I made this for a strawberry and spinach salad on New Year's Eve, and ooh it was good.

Raspberry Poppy Seed Dressing


1/4 cup grated/minced onion (half of a small onion)
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds


Add minced onion, vinegar, sugar, mustard, and salt to a blender or food processor and mix until combined. With the blender/food processor running, add the oils in a thin stream through the hole in the top. Blend until well mixed. Add poppy seeds and pulse just until mixed.


21 January 2012

Grammar Lessons from the Future English Teacher: Installment 4

Today's lesson will be a quick one: direct address. If you are directly addressing someone/something, this means that you are talking to him/her/them/it. If you are writing or typing your direct address, you need to use at least one comma.


Did you hear me, Watson?

Easy. Now, if your address is in the middle of a sentence, there needs to be a comma before AND after the name.


What I said, Watson, was to stop eating all of my cheese.

Also easy. If your address is at the beginning of the sentence, the comma goes after.


Watson, please buy me some more cheese.

EASY. Please use commas.

20 January 2012

UNI Fair Update

Finished my credential file for the UNI Overseas Job Fair and sent my resume and cover letters to 33 schools in total, all around the world. An additional five schools contacted me separately (only one of which I turned down), so I've got some interview invitations set up already:

Barranquilla, Colombia
Manizales, Colombia
Shanghai, China
Jakarta, Indonesia
Taichung, Taiwan
Hawalli, Kuwait

I just finished sending out letters today, so I'll hopefully get a few more responses before the fair and some other interviews scheduled once I get there.

On an information type note, I've had a couple schools turn me down because of my lack of full-time experience (a lot of schools want candidates to have at least 2 years), but there are definitely options for new teachers like me.

I'm really excited about all of these prospects! I might be going to the Middle East, but I'm definitely going somewhere.