How I Got into International Teaching in the First Place

It’s hard to really date my very first interest in international teaching. I’ve read back in some of my older journals and the idea gets thrown around a little bit here and there. In this post I’ll explain the three major factors that pushed me to finally take the leap: my breakup, I got into yoga, and (especially) I hated my job.

Step 1: Lose the Deadweight

I graduated from university the same way a lot of Southern girls do. I was ready to get married! My boyfriend of about 3 years was the only problem. When would he propose? Not to be bothered by technicalities, I moved to his city and managed to secure my very first teaching job.

I was ecstatic! My life was finally shaping up to be everything I had dreamed it would be. I couldn’t wait to get a ring on my finger and start having babies!

The best laid plans, eh? The boyfriend felt overly pressured by my zealousness (or something like that) and we broke up. I still look back on this tragedy as the first fork in an impossibly complex road that led to me living what I now consider my “best life.”

Fine, I thought. I’ll just get some new hobbies.

*cue several female empowerment anthems*

Like so many bada** women before me, the end of my relationship began the first chapter of the elevated me.

Step 2: Start Exploring

Unhindered by the responsibility of caring for an overgrown toddler, I started to explore my own interests for the first time possibly ever. I was determined to not only heal, but to grow. I studied all the major religions, including reading the Quran.

I began to do yoga and meditate and focus on my mental health.

My interest in religion quickly transformed into an interest in religious history and then history in general. I was beginning to realize how very little I knew of the world.

The next phase of this journey was obviously travel. I started to visit everyone I knew in any city of the United States. I ordered my passport. Travel became an important part of my budget.

If you’re like I was, and you’re in the market for some new dreams, the best thing to do is just to get curious about everything! Read and go to classes! Talk to strangers online!

Step 3: Get Uncomfortable

Lastly, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that the state of the public school system in America was a big part why I eventually moved on. I didn’t feel quite as pulled towards the Middle East as I simply felt pushed out of public education.

At the time that I finally called it quits, I definitely felt like I was drowning. I had no more than 1 hour of plan time per day, and it was extremely common for even that hour to be eaten up by IEP meetings or parent conferences.

If you’re a teacher in America, I know you know what I’m talking about. Being overworked and underpaid simply wasn’t sustainable for me. My fourth year in my first job saw me turn to anti depressants to curb the feeling of utter dread that I experienced every morning when I woke up.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely still believe that every child deserves a free and quality education. I just don’t think that I should have to sacrifice my mental health in order for them to get it. Until the government starts paying us what we’re worth, I don’t think I’ll be able to teach there again.

Though I do believe my personal experiences did pave a path that opened my eyes to the possibility of an international life, it wasn’t wanderlust as much as it was a desire (rather, need) for a sustainable wage and work load that eventually pushed me over the edge.

Final Thoughts

Me on my last day in America in 2015!

In conclusion, I know they always say that heartbreaks and losses often make room for more good to grow, but I’ve never found that sentiment very comforting in times of darkness. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I am now forced to admit that many of the uncomfortable phases of my life truly were pushing me towards something greater.

I’m in my 4th year at my school now, and I’ve traveled from UAE to the following countries: Morocco, Egypt, Belgium, Portugal, Japan, Italy, Spain, Thailand, and Australia. AND I’m booked for Nepal in the spring and Greece in the summer! Plus visits home every year for at least a month. I’m semi fluent in Arabic and I now save more money per month than I used to earn.

If international teaching is something that interests you, I’d love to chat. My email is laneyleeteaches@gmail.com and I’m on Instagram as laney.leee. Since many teachers work 2 year contracts and move on, I now have friends all over the globe. If I can’t help you, I’ll connect you with someone who can!

My teaching resources have already benefitted the learning of over half a million students. Please pin the image below to help me expand my reach.

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Laney Lee
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Published by Laney Lee

I'm an American expat in Abu Dhabi seeking new ways to support teachers. I currently teach grade 7 science, run a Teacher Pay Teachers store, and am writing a book on classroom management.

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