In 7th grade, a short story of mine was read in front of the class as an example of the exact type of writing that one wanted to avoid, if one wanted any respect whatsoever as a writer.
We were supposed to write sci-fi stories, and since I had recently read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I took a comedic approach to my storytelling, filling my pages with lines-long acronyms and initialisms that I found (and find) hilarious, but that my teacher found terrible enough to be used as a cautionary tale.
I still think fondly about that story.
Many years later, I became an English teacher. This was possible in part due to the fact that good writing teachers need not be good writers (although it helps to be able to fake it), and over the years as I’ve thought back to seventh-grade, my feelings about my sci-fi tear-down have stuck with me.
Mrs. Whoever’s cautionary tale of writing has become my own cautionary tale of teaching, and she taught me a critical, unintended lesson: that teachers are often wrong, and their mistakes can linger for decades. One skill critical for successful teaching is empathy – you need to know how your teaching will be received by your students.
It turns out that teaching is complicated.
After grad school, where I learned some of the tricks one needs to teach writing (or at least to be able to fake it), I took my bag of tricks overseas, where I settled in Korea. I lived in Seoul for 7 years, married my wife, met my son, learned a lot, played a lot, and added to my bag of teaching tricks.
One of the great things about teaching-tricks-bags is that they can always hold more. I taught at Asia Pacific International School in Seoul, and I was fortunate to have leadership there that encouraged me to grow, to learn, and to try new things. There, I practiced developing student agency, and I pushed the boundaries of what it means to give students choice in their work and to get them self-invested in their learning.
After Seoul, I moved with my family to Kuwait, where we worked at the American School of Kuwait. We lived there for five years, and a lot has happened to our family in that time. My son started school there; he was 3 years old when we arrived. My wife earned her Masters in School Counseling and became a professional educator; I became a Literacy Coach, earned my admin credential, and became Assistant Principal. I built a desk out of wood I scavenged from construction sites.
I am happy to look back on my time in Kuwait and see how far we’ve come as a family, as individuals, and as professionals. We’ve made life-long friends here.
That said, Kuwait is a mixed bag. It’s hard to blame the teachers who arrive in August amidst 50C weather, 80% humidity, and dust as far as the eye can see, who say “nope,” and head out at the first opportunity.
We are leaving Kuwait now, for Mexico. It’s our turn in the expat life-cycle, constantly churning with comers and goers. My son is turning 8; although we have traveled quite a lot and Liam has seen many places, Kuwait is the only home he remembers.
That is strange to me, and bittersweet.
I often wonder if we’ve made the right choices for our son, but I think that all you can do is make the best choices you can, and hope it all works out. In keeping with the theme of this blog, when I take a moment to look around, I’m happy to see where we’ve come, and excited to see where we go.
México, ¡te veremos pronto!