What Was Your Ah-Ha Moment?

Hindsight is 20/20, and when you’re smack in the middle of a situation you may not realize that your present actions may open unforeseen doors in the future. You might not reap the fruits of your actions for years to come, and it may be only in retrospect that you put 2 & 2 together and say, “ah-ha”…it’s that which led to this. If only I had known back then.

Yes, we grow from our mistakes, or at least I’ve been told, but I think I’ve grown the most from realizations that took place in those few and far-between “ah-ha” moments. We’ve all had such moments as international educators, the moments when a light comes on and suddenly we’re wiser, more savvy and more worldly concerning our chosen career.

Have you had an “ah-ha” moment in regards to some aspect of your international teaching career that you would like to share with colleagues? We can all learn from each others’ experiences. We invite you to share your experiences and realizations..

12 Responses to What Was Your Ah-Ha Moment?

  1. Mr. C says:

    I’ve been teaching overseas for some years, but I still experience that moment of shock the first morning I wake up in the bedroom of my new apartment in my new host country. Ah-HA! I live here now!


  2. Beentheredonethat says:

    The overseas teaching community is like a small town in many ways. Not too many secrets. People talk of the theory of six degrees of separation…I think it is more like two in international schools. Inevitably in conversations with other overseas educators you know somebody who knows somebody. You may well have gotten your present job on the nod from your last director. References are everything. Glad you are enjoying it.


  3. overseasme says:

    Ah Ha moments have been few and far between. After a few months at my current school it struck me that I was super lucky to be here. The Ah Ha moment came when I realized that my previous director and my current director know each other beyond just a professional affiliation. I know this because I saw a photo of the two of them on a fishing trip and they looked like old pals. The international teaching world is a lot smaller than you might think and the Ah Ha moment for was that word gets around the circuit.


  4. Kate Lucas says:

    I had a wonderful first experience in Turkey. Was it different from my 30 years in the states in public schools? Yes. Was it amazing and enriching? Totally. I don’t think it’s possible I gave back to the children and the community as much as I gained but I gave it my best. Isn’t that what teaching’s about?


  5. trav45 says:

    Exactly, MizSeaDub! Let’s take this out of ISR’s usual “international schools are a landmine” mind set and make it positive!

    My first international position was in Turkey, and I really struggled the first few months being so far from home, not understanding the language, and everything. I cried myself to sleep every night for three months!

    Then, at Christmas, I went to the Aegean coast for the holidays.At night, I left Ankara buried in 6 inches of snow, and had breakfast on an azure coast, with bougainvilla draping over the walls and palm trees waving in the breeze. One day, as I was walking on the beach, I came across remnants of Byzantime mosacis, just lying there, in the sand. I looked across the water, where the Greek isles hung low on the horizon in a smoky haze. Just then, a fish jumped out of the water, sparkling in the sun, and I had one of those epiphanal moments, realized I was having an amazing time and needed to just suck it up and enjoy the experience.

    I never looked back.

    Watching all my library friends back home, being layed off by the thousands, while teachers are maligned in the media as greedy, lazy parasites sucking at the government teat–why would anyone want to bury themselves in that mindset?


    • Beentheredonethat says:

      You have a good point about the negative aspect of comments made in this forum, myself included. Yes, this is a risky business due to lack of oversight and of course there are horror stories testifying to the fact. However, we do it because of the type of experiences you and others have shared here. It is a great life and worth the risks. ISR helps us remain vigilant, but I take your point that we should focus on the positive once in a while. Good on you. I am in Turkey now and wished I had come twenty years ago. Turks are Muslims the way some Irish are Catholic. They like a good ham sandwich and a beer sometimes. The place is amazing, and I thank you for reminding me of that.


      • Trav45 says:

        Grin–oh, that comment wasn’t aimed at you. You were responding to the way the post was phrased. ISR is a good resource, I just get tired of all their negativity. If I were looking at this site, and thinking about going overseas for the first time, I’d never do it!
        Isn’t Turkey awesome? I really miss it. Where are you? Istanbul? Ankara? And you’re absolutely right about the Turks–I remember thinking the Grand Mosque in Ankara was a perfect symbol. A huge mosque–surrounded by a shopping mall!


        • Beentheredonethat says:

          I’m in Istanbul on the Asian side of the Bosporus. This is my third year and I love it. I never get tired of the view and even riding the ferry to the European side to shop or go to a restaurant is a treat. I have worked in Latin America, SE Asia and Africa but this is the best yet. Even better than Bangkok. Prior to Istanbul, Cape Town was my favorite city, but I have been won over by this lovely place. I am making my stand with the Turks and will stay until retirement. Inshalla!


  6. MizSeaDub says:

    My “ah-ha” moment came in my fourth year of teaching in a low-income school in the states in the midst of the ongoing Great Recession. My husband and I had been talking about teaching overseas for years, but suddenly he couldn’t get a job because of the massive teacher layoffs and went through a long and painful period of unemployment where he couldn’t even get a job at a grocery store, despite having been a manager at a co-op during our college years. My school was being hammered by the federal government’s insistence that ever-increasing percentages of our non-English speaking students pass the English-only state mandated test, and in response my school admin decided to effectively only teach testable subjects. On the news I saw my profession maligned by know-nothing pundits, meanwhile the drop-out rates in my school district continued to increase, partially due to cuts in the arts, music, science and health classes (hello teen pregnancy). I loved my students but felt like I was running in place and would never save enough money to start a family.

    My husband and I dove into international teaching and are very happy with our new school in Ecuador. I’ve never had such a posh teaching position, plus with excellent travel opportunities, adventurous colleagues and a generous maternity leave in the future our latest “ah-ha” is that we don’t plan to return to the US anytime soon!


  7. 2xaround says:

    My big “ah-ha” moment came when I realized my hunch about the director 6 months earlier at the ISS fair was not a mistake. Too bad I didn’t listen to that little voice inside my head saying “this clown couldn’t lead a paper bag.”

    The next big “ha-ha” moment came when I realized I had been blackballed for breaking contract at the end of the first year.

    I’m very sure the directors “ah-ha” moment came when he found himself reviewed on ISR by me and others at the school. And I’m certain an even bigger “ah-ha” moment came for him when he discovered the trouble he was having getting teachers to say “uh-huh” I”ll take the job. Thanks ISR for helping us pass those “ah-ha” moments on to people who deserve them.


  8. Beentheredonethat says:

    Perhaps one “ah-ha” moment was when I saw the fee structure for schools going through the accreditation process and realized why some very dysfunctional schools were able to retain their accreditation despite poor performance and obviously not meeting the published standards of the agencies involved. Ah-ha, money.


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