Saturday, March 22, 2014


4 months and counting! On July 22nd, my family and I will be arriving in Panama to live for two years.

My children having only known the Rocky Mountains as their home.
My husband and I have lived here for almost half our lives.
Our pets will learn to live with new people.
We are leaving a town of 2000 to live in a city of 800,000!

For 2 years or so, I have been applying for international teaching jobs via a job agency and independent research. I had some interest even a Skype interview or 2. I knew deep down that I had to attend a job fair to be hired. I am not a typical candidate for international schools. I am not single or part of a teaching couple. Basically, I am an expensive hire since I have three dependents.

So I went to a job fair. Talk about humbling and empowering and confidence boosting as well as shattering! Luckily, I was a bit prepared from friends and research what the experience would look like. Interview sign ups is like speed dating. I hand the principal or director my resume packet and then sell yourself for 1- 5 minutes to get an interview. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

International schools can ask you questions that are against the law in the US--age, family details, health, etc... A friend of mine who is an administrator in Dubai told me, you may feel so exposed that you feel like you are stripped down to your underwear during an interview.

By the end of the speed dating session, I had 8 interviews: a few were dream positions--reading specialist, learning coach, and of course, classroom teacher. I had about 1 hour between sign-ups and my first interview so I checked my mailbox. All candidates and schools had mailboxes to write notes, leave thank yous, contract offers as well as rejections. I checked my mailbox and there it was a note from a school that I hadn't even contacted or considered because I didn't think I had a chance.

Dear Sharon (formal name only used when in trouble as a kid or for tax purposes),
         I would like to meet with you to talk about setting up an interview as our Elementary Curriculum Coordinator for the International School of Panama. Please stop by our table.
WHAT! My heart raced as I ran down the stairs to the conference room. What if she left? Did I miss the chance of a life time? Fortunately, I had an idea of the location of their table. Whew! They were just packing up!

"Hi! I'm Shari. I just found your note. So sorry, I didn't come by earlier."
"No problem. . How are you?"
"Well, I'd like to interview you for the Elementary Curriculum job."
heart pounding, mind freaking, so crazy excited
"Great, I am very interested in curriculum and would love to have the opportunity to talk with you."
"Are you available at 5:00?"
"Let me check...does 5:30 work?"
"Yes, we will see you then."
"Thank you so much. I look forward to it."

Calmly walk out of room. Jump for joy. Run up the stairs!

So next, interviews happen. You meet in a hotel room and have 30 minutes to answer all the questions. "Why international teaching?" "Strengths?" "Weaknesses?" "Reading?" "Writing?" "Math curriculum?" "How does your family feel?" "How old are you?" ETC...

I go to Panama. By this time, I am calm, tired, focused, and ready. From the moment I sat down, it was a conversation. The 2 administrators were approachable and kind. It felt good. I left with a Skype interview with the current curriculum director for the following morning at 8:00 am.

So fast forward, great Skype interview, note in box that references were being checked, Michelle finding me at lunch and asking me if could meet at 2:30 to talk contract. Less than, 36 hours later, contract?!

So, leaving out a bunch of details (I don't want this to be a "bed-to bed" story). You know, when your students write a story starting with "I woke up..." and ending with "Then, I went to sleep".

So we are off to Panama!

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