On the Party

18, August 2018

Three days before my departure, my family hosted a party at our house to provide many of our family and friends the opportunity to say “Good riddance” to me.

Though the name for the party on facebook followed the line and its tongue-in-cheek attitude, it was only a few days ago that I wish I had named the celebration the “DePart-Y,” a regret I will have to endure until the end of my days.

It was a great party. About 40 people were there, including my best friend from college, geographically-close family, my master-teacher, and dozens of family friends accumulated over the years. It was such a blessing to have all of these people who have played such an instrumental part in shaping the person I am in one place.

My favorite local Thai restaurant, Mom Can Cook, catered and seemed to be well-received, judging by how little we had left over! For dessert we had ice cream bars and bundt cakes–no mess and no clean up is always the best.

My father delivered some kind words about how far I would be: 6487 miles away. He also informed the crowd that if you dig through the earth from California, you do not end up in China, as popular mythology suggests. (It is, in fact, the middle of the Indian Ocean). He also announced that it was also my birthday, much to the surprise of many of the guests! Like I said previously, the purpose of the party was to say good-bye, but it was a happy coincidence that the Saturday before my departure landed on the anniversary of my birth. He even lead the guests in the Chinese version of “Happy Birthday”.

My mom spoke next, though did not get through her five items without cracking a bit. She announced to everyone’s surprise that she loved me, she was proud of my selection of profession, that she would miss me, she said good riddance, and then wished me the time of my life. 

As the sun was setting, it was my turn to speak. I had prepared a speech, which I will include in the next post.

The rest of the evening was catching up, telling everyone about my coming adventure, and thanking them for coming and the contributions to my life. It was an overwhelmingly happy and beautiful evening.

A perfect epilogue to the first book of my life.

Thank you all for making it happen.

PS: I apologize to everyone for giving them the wrong address to this blog! I thought I had also bought the other domain, but learned that I hadn’t. Oops!

On My Adventure

I noticed, perhaps too late, that I had never detailed what my adventure is. I have made allusions to it in other posts, but nowhere do I properly explain what is happening. So here is everything in one place:

I leave August 21st for Shanghai where I will be teaching at a high school that is ranked among the best in China. (So that I can be more open in this space and to maintain some anonymity, I will not state which school).  The students at the school receive all of their instruction in English with the exception of their Chinese-language class. About half of the teachers are American with the other half being mostly British, Australian, and Canadian–so I should have a reasonable foundation for a social life. The students all expect to earn their way into the best universities in the world and for some reason, the school thought that I could help them get there. I will be teaching 9th and 10th-grade history.

My contract is for one school year, but that can be extended at the end of the year if I like the school and the school likes me. The school pays approximately what I would be making if I was working as a first-year teacher in the States if you include the fact that the school will provide me with housing and utilities in one of the most expensive cities to live in!

Shanghai is a massive city of 24 million people; my home state of California has 38 million. Only about 2% of the city’s population is foreign-born, but that still accounts for almost half a million people!

I got this job by attending a job fair in New York City in February. I was by far the youngest and least experienced person at the conference, but I interviewed well and the school was looking for a teacher who can bring new ideas into the department about how the students can focus more on critical thinking and problem solving than memorization of dates, events, people, and concepts. Even though I haven’t much formal experience teaching, they liked what I had to say and decided to take a chance on me. An opportunity for which I am already extraordinarily grateful. I am not throwing away my shot. 

I went to the conference because I wanted to teach abroad. And I strongly feel that I have a unique window that is open to me right now that may not be available to me later in life. I am single and at the beginning of my career, so the flexibility to move to another country will probably never be greater.

I have also wanted to live in another country for as long as I can remember. Not just to travel, but to live and immerse myself in another country. I want to feel foreign; like a perpetual outsider. I want to see how a different culture creates different people.

I want to expand my vision of what reality is.

On the Next 57 days

I leave for China in 57 days.

August 21st is D-Day. Now that my project is complete (see last post for how much of a relief that is!), here are a few things I must do:

  1. Complete the Visa process
  2. Formally apply for teaching credential
  3. Finish my last class to earn my Master’s degree
  4. Compile a more Shanghai-appropriate wardrobe
  5. Order a new suitcase set and traveling equipment which may, I hope, last for the remainder of my life (any suggestions would be appreciated!)
  6. Write cards to everyone who may want to follow my adventures in China to tell them about this blog (Hi Everyone!)
  7. Identify all of the things that are easier or cheaper to purchase here
    1. Purchase all of those things
    2. Figure out how I am going to get those things to China
  8. Restart learning Chinese
    1. (I was using Duolingo and Drops for a few months but stopped about a month ago due to stress)
  9. Try to identify as many potential problems with the move as possible and seek solutions to those problems
  10. Prepare for the classes I am going to teach in China!!!!
    1. This is the one I will probably most regret not spending the most time on

So I am by no means done and I cannot relax before I go. But most of these are exciting or at least interesting, so my fears of procrastination or laziness preventing me from tackling them are probably ill-suited.

So I should probably stop writing here and get started on something on this list now!

PS For the careful planners out there, I have already purchased a flight and have an apartment set up for me by the school. The school is also providing me with transportation from the airport to my apartment, so I do not have to worry about those parts!

On my Project

Yesterday I completed a major step in my development as a teacher and progress to working in China. I finished a 4 part project that proves to the State of California that I am capable of being a teacher. The Teaching Performance Assessment (TPA) is a project every teacher in California must complete in order to earn a teaching credential. It is notoriously time-consuming and arduous to produce. And in order to work on this project, I have spent no fewer than 4 hours at least 4 days of every week for the past 4 months in my town’s public libraries to work on it.

This project was probably the most difficult work-related task I have had to complete. It is not interesting nor fun nor does it feel necessary. Merely opening the document on my computer was difficult. Keeping myself focused while the mysteries and wonders of the world outside of the TPA beckoned was the most difficult part of completing it for me.

I so badly wanted to escape this responsibility–this burden. And on many days, I did. Some days I would explore the internet or play Civ with the project open in the background. On days with better impulse control, I sat in the library and forced myself not to open reddit or to play a game. On more than a few occasions, I sat in front of an empty screen waiting for the will to begin typing.

When I left the library, I often felt deep anxiety about not being able to complete it. That anxiety would whisper seductively that my future would fall apart if I didn’t finish and that I wasn’t even capable of finishing it. I sat at home with my stomach in knots angry that I did not finish enough that day and worried–perpetually stressed–that I couldn’t finish.

I will stop myself there before this post turns into a rant about how much I hated this project. But suffice it to say this:

It took me 77,681 words on 184 pages to answer all of the questions the state of California asked me.

But I am now finished with it.

 

I know this all may feel dramatic or hyperbolized, but I am trying to describe as accurate as possible my experience with this project. It was painful. It was difficult. I do not feel like it made me a better teacher. But I had to do it and I did.

I wish I had worked harder on it and more efficiently. I wish I had not procrastined so much on it. I wish I had done a million little things better. But I am doing what I can to not dwell in that muddy pool of self-depreciation. I really want to feel proud of myself for pushing myself to the library all those many days and for pushing myself to continue typing on the days I managed it and for pushing the final submission button yesterday. I want to acknowledge that I did accomplish something and allow myself to enjoy this moment of success–a treat I so rarely allow myself.

 

11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us that “Less is More”.

Filling My Map

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When I left my 7th grade math classroom for my Fulbright research assignment in Finland I thought I would come back from this experience with more inspiring, engaging, innovative lessons.  I expected to have great new ideas on how to teach my mathematics curriculum and I would revamp my lessons so that I could include more curriculum, more math and get students to think more, talk more and do more math.

This drive to do more and More and MORE is a state of existence for most teachers in the US….it is engrained in us from day one.  There is a constant pressure to push our students to the next level to have them do bigger and better things.  The lessons have to be more exciting, more engaging and cover more content.  This phenomena  is driven by data, or parents, or administrators or simply by our work-centric society where we…

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On the Name

Its a rare and blessed experience in life. If you are here, you probably know why. You are here to follow, well, me.

And, therefore, you might be surprised to see that there will be no mention of my real name on this website. I have done this for a couple of reasons:

  1. I value anonymity on the internet. I smile when I noticed that if you google search for my real name, no pictures of me pop-up. I am delighted that I have withstood the compulsion to create a social media account (more on this another time).
  2. By using a different name, I hope that it will change my mindset when I write here. I can be more analytical of my own feelings and behavior. When you get off an airplane, every Square People Pipe looks the same. Every airport looks like an airport. The first time you realize–and really appreciate–that you’ve actually traveled anywhere is when you see the name of wherever you are. Names manipulate distance.

Atticus Gallivant. Sure, it sounds like a name out of a John Green novel. But it was intentionally chosen.

Why Gallivant?

Gallivant means “to go around from one place to another in the pursuit of pleasure or entertainment.” And though there will be plenty of work and struggle throughout this journey I am on, I hope to find pleasure, entertainment, and joy in all that I do where ever I go. I have chosen for myself the curious search for beauty and humanity. I want to push myself to find people and experiences worth appreciating in all things I do. Therefore, gallivanting is part of my life’s ambition. And with something so core to my perception of Self, I might as well integrate into my identity somehow–and now it is, of sorts.

Atticus, however, is a bit more complicated.  For the past month, I have been in the process of de facto changing my first name to Atticus. No legal paperwork has been filed yet, though I probably will someday. I will use Atticus as my first name with all interactions on this journey. So, I would appreciate that if you leave a comment, you do not refer to me by my old name.

Why Atticus? 

I wanted a name to which I could aspire, a name I feel like I have to earn. I wanted the name to be refreshing and interesting. I did not want a common name nor a unique name.  And so I stumbled upon and selected Atticus to be the first part of my online pseudonym.

And if you have heard the name before, it is likely from one of three sources:

  1. Atticus the Lawyer. A brilliant and principled fictional character played by one of the most famous actors in history from one of the most important books in American history. Someone certainly worth aspiring to be.
    • (It is a happy coincidence that one of my favorite nicknames for my dog is “Scout.”)
  2. Atticus the Philosopher. Not much is known about him, but my recently discovered interest in philosophy made this name sexier.
  3. Atticus the Poet. A pseudonym of a brilliant poet who wrote a devastatingly beautiful book of poetry that I count as my favorite.

I will let you do the psychoanalyzing as to why I chose this name. My truth is: I like it. And it fits me for some or all of the reasons that popped in your head.

I have created a more mature and complete version of myself that I have named Atticus; it is he who I aspire to be.

For now, I will still ask people in person to call me by my parentally-given name. I have considered formally changing my name to Atticus, but that will have to wait for me to earn that honor. Perhaps I never will, but I at least want a clearly identified and named vision of who it is I want to be.

On this Project

Hello!

Thank you for joining me on my adventure.  And as with any adventure, no one knows exactly what they are getting themselves into as they take their first step.

The purpose of this blog is for me to track and for you, dear readers, to follow the notable and interesting steps I take on my journey.  I hope to post about the milestones and maladies along the way. I hope to introduce you to people I meet and the experiences we share. I hope to use this as a place to explore my thoughts and feelings, seek and find advice, and, maybe on occasion, vent my frustrations. I hope to post pictures, videos, essays, and stories.  In other words, just as I do not know where my journey will take me, I do not yet know where my journal will go.

I will go into greater detail about what, exactly, my journey will be in a later post. I have some expectations and dreams for what my journey will be, but those aren’t particularly interesting to write about until they are either betrayed or confirmed by reality. But here are a few expectations I have of what this space is and will be:

  1. I want this to be interactive. I will allow comments on all of my posts and have set up a Contact Me page. If you have anything you’d like to say, please say so! I will certainly respond to questions and suggestions.
  2. I expect to update this blog at least once-a-week from here until I decide to close this project. Updates may be much more common than weekly.

So I hope you will find this as a useful and interesting place. The only audiences for whom I have ever written were my poor teachers and friends who were contractually obligated to read my thoughts. So I must say, I feel a bit nervous about posting here publically. For all to read. But I hope I have the courage throughout my travels to be honest and complete in my experiences.

But, to begin this honesty, I am doing this project for me.  I will continue to post here even if no one reads. I want this to be a record for me to return to; a perch from which I can oversee my progress and changes. I will probably continue to keep a private journal for all of the daily tedium, but this place is an opportunity for both you and me to track and follow the experiences that are worth remembering and sharing.

I have found myself hoping for a lot of things over the course of thinking about and writing this post.  Hope, for all of its virtues, is never surprising. We hope for a great many things when we travel: safety, novelty, the sublime.

There can be no adventure without hope; hope is what turns a pedestrian walk down the street into a quest for insights and novelty.

Here is to hope.

Here is to adventure.

Here is to the first step.

Cheers,

Atticus