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The beginning of the end

One year to settle in, One year to plan the exit!

sunny 20 °C


The dawn of a new day in Egypt. The sun is coming up over the apartment buildings while I prepare for another day at work. Not an unusual event but this sunrise is obscured a little by an autumn cloud.

My second year of living in Egypt is already speeding by, helped by the rather hectic start to the first term at school. Working hard and playing little has left me worn down and greatly in need of the Eid holiday. Rather than a half term break it's actually come only a month before the Christmas holidays begin. Despite being a bit of a workaholic, I have managed to resist opening the folder on my dining table with the empty plan and set of reports I need to check before returning to school on Sunday.

I'm definitely busier this year than last. More jobs to do at work, more naughty children to tell off and more responsibility. I suppose that's what my promotion has offered me. Last year was a breeze. I had a fantastic class, no hassles and no responsibility. Towards the end of the academic year however, I felt the tide of change, sweeping over and passing me, as many of my colleagues left to go to other schools and other countries. I was used to being the one leaving and not the one left behind. I didn't know what the new year at school would offer or whether I would enjoy my new position.

Even on the first day of school I missed the teacher who had been my neighbour along the corridor. What a difference he made to my day; always smiling, saying hello and asking how I'm doing. I would go downstairs towards the end of each lunch break and he would be sitting there on the bench, enjoying the sunshine, while one of his students waffled in his ear about something. Now the warmth has gone in his section of the corridor and all I see now is a cold morning smile and complaints about taxi drivers and Arabic teachers being late.

My new class arrived at the start of term and I couldn't help but feel I had in some way borrowed them. My old students would surely return the next day, or maybe the one after that. At first they didn't speak to me and had no answers for anything I would ask. They were noisy, disorganised and messy. After the first week I felt quite frustrated and wondered how I would shape them into good students with an enthusiasm to learn. After all I didn't have to try this hard last year!

Now it's November and things are starting to settle down. In front of me are seven months of teaching, school trips, productions, reports, parents' evenings and school events. Well at least that's what's happening at work.

At home my time is largely being spent looking for jobs for next year. I've made a long list of countries, schools, websites, contact details and curriculums. I've updated my CV, written cover letters and sent them to lots of schools. It seems crazy that I need to spend an entire year planning for where I move next. It makes every day of the next seven months feel somewhat shallow and temporary.

Having never really applied for teaching jobs in the UK I can't really imagine what it must be like to already know the culture, language and people of the place I'm applying to. When I'm trying to choose countries to live in I can only base it on hearsay, Google images, the occasional tourist's blog and documentaries like Bizarre Foods and No Reservations! While Andrew Zimmern annoyingly dribbles over a deep fried cockroach, I'm always trying to see what's happening in the background, whether there are any decent looking shops and whether I would be tempted to eat the street food. Not much to go on really!

I'm trying to be more selective about schools I apply to this year. I've been teaching for over five years and I want to be moving to better schools each time I look for a new job. I have different categories of schools and countries on my list and up until Christmas I'm only writing to the schools I really want to work at. I want to give myself the illusion that I can choose my own destination, although in reality it's likely to be the destination that chooses me.

The hardest part of job hunting is the waiting period and the fact that I might never hear that my application was unsuccessful. The unknown is somehow far worse than bad news. I'm already in a much more fortunate situation this year because I have two good schools in good locations interested in me. I also have an interview coming up in the new year.

My goal is to have a job by February so I can relax and make the most of my final four months in Egypt. But for now it's the waiting game.

Posted by lucid 23:03 Archived in Egypt Tagged egypt teaching living_abroad

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