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The Indignant Teacher Goes Abroad

September 23, 2013


Susan DuFresne and Katie Lapham are the women behind the website, Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gatesthey are experienced public school teachers and amazing authors. Susan recently invited Him to take part in an interview with her, to discuss his role in public education and some of the issues on the table.

“After all, public education is one of few areas where you have determined you will make a difference when you “take on the really tough problems.”  Thank you for your interest in public education.   Let’s talk about those really tough problems and the “difference” you are making with your reforms in our interview.”

Today I saw they tweeted and otherwise shared my “Second Letter to Bill Gates”, which I’d written just two weeks ago, after the official end of summer. I was curious as to why they would just be sharing my post now, when typically they’re shared immediately – or at most, shortly – after being posted, like I think mine first was on September 7th.

What struck me as I re-read it just now for the first time, was the anger behind every word. And as I read on, I remembered the emotions that drove my thoughts that day, and the realities of things in my life that I was faced with at that moment. And it pissed me off, and I unloaded on Bill Gates. I remember wishing he was in front of me and I was speaking, not typing, my words. Because, while he mightn’t be directly responsible for many of the things that pissed me off that day, the reality is that if not for his directing the privatization movement as he has, I would not have come to find myself facing them at all. He was the impetus for how I’d arrived where I was that day professionally, and in many ways, personally too.

The emotion in my 2nd Letter is raw; it’s palpable. It’s not a level of emotion I’m usually comfortable expressing at all, let alone for the nation to see.

Anyway, the reason I’ve decided to write about it, is because I’m so struck by what a difference just two weeks can make in a person’s life. Today, I’m not angry with Bill Gates – certainly not as passionately as I was back then. Today, I’m confident that he’ll get his comeuppance…& likely soon. And I can’t wait to see that day come.

But today, I’m also grateful to Bill Gates, although admittedly it’s a very selfish gratitude, and not one that in any way reconciles anything for me. But the reality is, if not for Him, I don’t think there would even be a 0.01% chance that I would be where I am at this moment…or that I would ever have come to be facing this amazing opportunity I currently am:

To explain, I have to go back to before the summer, when The Indignant Teacher was in her infantile stages of being. I was able to create and develop my alter-ego only because I had the time available to read, deepen my understanding of things, and write about it. I didn’t have to “work” back then, although realized that eventually, I’d have to start thinking about doing so.

Over the summer I started applying and interviewing for teaching positions abroad. The Middle East is desperate for American educators, and they are willing to make it well worth a person’s while to take a two-year contract as an “expat”, so I focused my efforts on the United Arab Emirates, Quatar, Bahrain, and immediate neighbors.

Typically, I am not self-assured about much of anything in my life…except my teaching ability. No matter how many times in recent years this has been tested, the fact is, I’ve been doing it long enough to know – without any dispute – that I am an excellent teacher. And so given the number of teachers that area of the world was seeking, and the remuneration packages they were willing to offer, I was confident that I’d obtain a position by the end of the summer.

I was wrong.

And so I began the unfortunate task of coming up with a plan that would lead me to find work that was meaningful, allowed me to use my skills, was enjoyable and rewarding, and provided financial stability. I simultaneously (& more urgently) started to think about the best option for my boys’ educations.

Having to face that prospect for us, and then having to go though the process of it, was a nightmare for me personally, and left me suffocated by the most extreme stress I can remember (& unfortunately, stress has been no stranger in my life)…none of any options I could conceive of – either for myself as the source of income or for my boys as learners – were good. It was dreadful, overwhelming, and emotionally exhausting. It left me an emotional wreck, and my 2nd Letter to Bill Gates speaks to the frame of mind I found myself in. The fact that other facets of my life happened to be equally unsettled, unstable, & uncertain in their own ways, too, brought me to the level of raw emotion that is felt in my words. That post is like my own big Battle Scar.

Today, that Scar is healing. Today, I am also faced with a level of stress so extreme that it goes beyond almost anything I’ve known, only this time, it’s not daunting. It’s not dire. It’s not devastating. I’m not depressed.

I’m eager. I’m excited. I’m enthusiastic. I embrace this current stress; I’m blessed to have it in my life as I do.

I am, tonight, awaiting notice from an international school in Dubai, where, in a matter of days, I will be headed off to begin my new position as Special Needs Coordinator. I am stressed beyond words because of the pace at which things are happening, and the amount of work I have to keep up with it. But I’ll do whatever it takes, and with a smile.

A few days after I posted that 2nd letter, a recruitment specialist from London called me out of the blue for the school, having had my resume (or “CV”, as they call it) on file since July. The next night, at 2am, I had a Skype interview with 2 administrators; I was offered the position on the spot. 

In the week and a half since, I’ve come to negotiate and accept an offer, made arrangements for taking care of business here, submitted necessary paperwork, and am now awaiting an email that will likely give 24 hours notice of our departure flight. 

I was told by the recruitment specialist to be ready to go for Monday or Tuesday. I admittedly was flooded with relief to not find our flight info in any email today, and I actually hope the same holds true tomorrow. Because as eager as I am to start this new phase of life, the reality is I could be more ready for it. And because I am also the world’s worst procrastinator, thinking every day is my last here works surprisingly well at motivating me, and hopefully will prove to be the trick to actually finding me fully prepared when the time comes. That alone will be a new experience for me!

I joke, but there’s a reason my body feels like I’ve been beaten and kicked by big guys for hours. There’s a reason why my mind is spinning and I can’t seem to finish a thought, much less a sentence. There’s a reason why it’s 3:30am and I’m utterly exhausted but can’t sleep. There’s a reason why The Indignant Teacher hasn’t been around much lately, even though she’s so wanted to be at times (like when she read about Education Nation – for now, it’s a nightmare, and you can see why here).

But no matter how difficult these days and nights may be, I am elated, and happy to do what I must. I am no longer full of rage towards Bill; I’m grateful to see something positive come out of something that was so negative. My hope is that when we come back to Boston after the 2-year contract is up, the BPS will once again be a place where I know my boys will be getting the very best educational opportunities available to them, and a place where I could go into a classroom and do what I was meant to do – teach. And who knows, maybe by then I’ll have decided against it anyway, and maybe other options could become available to me. I can’t predict the future. All I can do is hope for the best, and do my part to see that it happens.

And so no matter if I’m in Boston or Dubai, The Indignant Teacher will continue to fight the good fight. And I hope I’m right in thinking my 2nd letter was shared today in regards to Susan’s upcoming interview with Bill, and I hope to find out he heard my voice in it. Because I would love to hear what he’d have to say about that. Unfortunately, the chance He’ll accept Susan’s offer is negligible, and so I probably never will.

But, boy, would I like to! Especially now that I’m not still driven by the emotion that drove me to write the letter, and my thoughts and words wouldn’t be muddled among such overpowering negative feelings and thoughts. Hopefully, that day will come, because even though I now can see the amazing opportunity as coming about because of Bill, it still doesn’t absolve him of the fact that in so very many ways he contributed to ruining my life in ways. And it certainly doesn’t absolve him of the fact that he continues to ruin the lives of teachers and children in the US every day, and with more aggression and more near-desperation, at this point.

I know I’m one of the lucky ones. But to escape the wrath his actions would have on me and my family, I have to uproot 6, 7, & 9 year old boys and move them to the other side of the world. America is no longer the Land of Opportunity. And we have Bill Gates and friends to thank for that. They have ruined our nation. It’s time they are stopped.

On October 7th and 8th, Education Nation will prove to be the most widespread, all out campaign to drive the corporate reform movement with unparalleled and terrifying force that could prove to be the most destructive initiative we’ve seen yet. I suspect this event is what finally has the power to, as Diane Ravitch said in Reign of Error, ‘drive the nation’s schoolchildren off of the cliff’.

Or it would, if it was 2011. Or probably even 2012. But because it’s happening in late 2013 (the 2nd day which also happens to be my big 4-0, btw), the corporate reformers will find that it happened too late. Because the tide has turned, and social media is proving to be more powerful than anything they could possible buy. Or bribe someone with. Social media has the power of truth. And the truth is, I happen to know of an unbelievable phenomenon that’s currently happening behind the scenes of social media, at least with the nation’s edu-bloggers. It’s an amazing mobilization effort to be a part of, and I feel as fortunate to be involved with it as I do to be going overseas. And the best part is, because it’s via social media, no matter where in the world I go, I will take The Indignant Teacher with me, and she will make her voice heard.


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One Comment
  1. Amika Kemmler-Ernst permalink

    As someone who has taught overseas, albeit without children in tow, I can attest to the amazing experience you are embarking on… it will change your life in unforeseen ways, and you will learn as much about yourself as you do about the culture you’re entering. Enjoy every moment!
    Amika 🙂

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