Article – Who Said You Can’t Go Home Again2018-03-26T09:20:22+00:00

Who Said You Can’t Go Home?

My husband and I finally decided to give international teaching a try after listening to his sister and her husband rant and rave about their experiences abroad summer after summer. At the time, we had no idea that what was originally planned to be a two year trial phase would turn into a decade of living, teaching and traveling overseas. And boy do our scrapbooks and photo albums bulge with recollections of some fantastic adventures. It was also during our 10 years abroad that our family grew to include 3 children. We quickly added 3rd world hospitals and medical care to our international experience as well as nannies and traveling with hideous amounts of luggage. We somehow learned to joyfully manage it all while considering ourselves blessed indeed to have healthy kids, great jobs and quite an exotic lifestyle. Yet, despite advice from our international friends, we decided to give it all up and return to the States in search of what we found ourselves desperately missing overseas– the support and love of extended family and the stability of a place we could call home. 

As perfect as our international life seemed to others, my husband and I began to experience a tremendous sadness because our children did not really know their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, nor were they making memories with their cousins. We wondered about the integrity of the social support systems our children were exposed to in the international circuit of high turn over. Plus, the underlying anxiety parents feel about their childrens’ futures and the survival skills they’ll need to make it in the real world began to creep up on us. Were the false securities of vacation resorts, maids, extended air travel, and disposable incomes going to prepare them for the kind of life we hoped they would lead someday? The very thing that attracted us to international teaching a decade prior — more liberal professional situations combined with carefree living and travel — had lost its luster.

Today, our salaries and benefits packages far surpass our last international post, and unless we do something really stupid, a disgruntled superintendent or school board member can’t end our contracts six weeks before school is out.

Flash forward five years, and I wouldn’t trade our life here in the States for anything. Our children have developed deep, life-long bonds with their grandparents, cherish their relationships with aunts and uncles and cousins, and have learned all things USA (which some of our former international friends would say is not a good thing). We live in a big old house, which we restored to its original splendor and all of our neighbors don’t work where we work. Instead of jumping on Boeing 747’s, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed light stateside traveling and the myriad of lifetime leisure activities that the beautiful Pacific Northwest has to offer. Has it been an easy 5 years? No. There was no welcoming committee when we arrived at the Seattle International Airport. No driver to take us to our furnished villa. No accolades or kudos from new colleagues who were not familiar or interested in our travels or the fabulous schools we described. As a matter of fact, our international teaching experience worked against us in a standards-based system defined by curriculum based measures and research driven data. ‘Who you know’ and ‘where you’ve been’ didn’t matter as much as ‘what you know’, and we were behind in our professional pedagogy.

Both my husband and I decided right away that it would be to our professional benefit to further our degrees and make major career changes. We each earned second masters degrees as it was the only way to build our very weak knowledge base while learning to navigate a very foreign system (pun intended). Today, our salaries and benefits packages far surpass our last international post, and unless we do something really stupid, a disgruntled superintendent or school board member can’t end our contracts six weeks before school is out. What we know for sure, after experiencing both, is that stateside teaching and international teaching are two completely different entities. As much time and effort as it took us to adjust to international schools when we left public education so many years ago, it has taken us that much time and effort to embrace public education — as educators and as parents with children in the system.

There are those times when we look whimsically through our scrapbooks and photo albums, when we get an email or Christmas card from afar, or when one of our children decides to do a school project about a country we have visited which vividly remind us of those rich cultural experiences and wonderful friends we left behind. Yet we feel grounded knowing that we have what we need right now in our lives to experience genuine happiness and fulfillment. We have our health, great jobs, a home to call our own, and most importantly, lots of family all around with whom to share our good fortune.