Monday, March 5, 2007

Expat Profiles - American School Teachers

This is the fifth in a series on Profiles of Expats. I hope to show the good, the bad and the ugly side of expat personalities. You may know them, you may have seen them or you might be one yourself.

Disclaimer: I have lived as an American Expatriate for more than 10 years in several locations and come across numerous “characters” in my travels. However, this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

American School Teachers – Some – the cream of the crop have been with their schools for ages, love teaching and love the country. A good percentage of these teachers who are single, have decided to settle down in their host country. You can tell when they’re around: cluttered classrooms filled with costumes for plays, artsy prints hanging on the walls, a greeting with a smile and they actually sound like they’re honored to meet you with a full explanation of what they’re involved in at the school. They truly love teaching and the school. They’ve dedicated themselves to their calling and aren’t the types to complain about the shoddy school appearance. They’ve not only created, but have enhanced programs at the school and are well respected throughout the community. They’re the ones who live in the bohemian style villas or apartments that look like they were made out of sea salt and could crumble at any moment. They’re the ones that are becoming a rare breed.

Unfortunately, these old timers are being shoved aside in favor of a new sort, many of whom are primarily ex-missionaries or ex-Peace Corps workers, with high and mighty views of their place in society. Due to their backgrounds in underdeveloped countries, they feel superior in every way to everyone else around them (they think they’re the ones who discovered the shovel.) They still believe in the alphabet method of teaching, where memorization is a daily routine. They argue against "dumbing down," but refuse to smarten up. They assume (because they’re such well educated know-it-alls) that moving to a new area is a move to some tidal backwater town. Other characteristics include: refusal to compromise; think parents who pay their salaries are harassing; don’t believe they have to be accountable or answer to anyone; have the ability to terrorize kids and families due to the fact that expat education options are quite limited. They’re the ones who look annoyed when introduced to another new family, have corny, mindless and boring educational posters plastered all over the walls, and always complain about substandard facilities, particularly their own housing. They’re the ones who will ask their students who attended church over the weekend, base grades on piety of child, suck-up ability or for no reason at all (maybe they’re exceptionally good friends with the family.) They are the ones who believe in redundancy or busywork they call “homework” and then never check it.

Teacher: "Children, now raise your hands if you attended church this weekend."

Teacher: "Vagabondblogger son, why didn't you raise your hand? Didn't y'all attend church this weekend?"

Vagabondblogger Son: "No ma'am."

Teacher: "Why not Vagabondblogger son?"

Vagabondblogger Son: "Cause my mom and dad said I'm the heathen of the family."

Teacher: "Is that right?"

Little bubble in teacher's head says:"Vagabondblogger Son ain't never gonna get an "A" in my class!"

Often a trailing wife when a husband finds work as an expat. Sometimes both work as teachers for the same school, bringing with them their passel of kids, who get free tuition and larger more expensive school financed villas. Newer administrators believe in the 2 for 1 policy and, as they say, “you get what you pay for.” Always looking for an offer from ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia so they can gather together the retirement fund they’ve already squandered on expensive vacations like hiking to the base of Mt. Everest, snorkeling off the coast of Australia, going on safari in Kenya or cruising down the Nile. We all like to travel, but they have taken the phrase “working vacation” to new heights. You’d think three months would be enough, but noooo! They’re Frequent fliers perpetually looking for a free ride, a boondoggle, or a working layover to another vacation. Vacation days are a priority among this group. They can't stand having their holidays determined by moon sightings – it’s primitive and unreliable. How can they possibly book their tickets to leave the very night school lets out, if they don’t know whether the moon will be sighted in time? They love teaching in their “new” country so much, they have to hightail it out of there as soon as possible. A very subjective group who are often old buddies with the School Administrator (how do you think these losers get their jobs?)

If you enjoy going to school conferences where the teacher has nothing positive to say, then you’re at the right place.

Their kids are always on honor roll, inducted into the honor society, always head of school groups/ teams/ organizations/leadership positions, and always picked for awards and school shows. And you thought you’d had enough with the American Executive’s kids, huh?

Favorite sayings: “Life is a holiday!”

Favorite Sport: Booking their next vacation and accumulating frequent flier miles, of course.

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