International School Community Blog

From Senior Leadership to Homeroom Teacher: Embracing the Journey

Almost a year ago, I found myself heading back to the school where my international teaching career began in Cambodia. When I left this school in June 2018, I was leaving a senior leadership post for an ed-tech role at a large IB school in China. At the school in Shanghai, I worked with over 190 adults, and the culture was truly international. My job was a dream, and I collaborated with an amazing team to grow the department to the success it is today. However, the lockdown in March 2022 changed the course I had plotted for myself, and it was at this time that I put my family and my well-being first and decided to leave.

Fast forward to July 2022, and I found myself back in an entry-level position as a homeroom teacher, with a responsibility for ed tech. This was a hard pill for my ego to swallow. However, I was back at the school that I loved, working with established educators in a culture that embraced collaboration at a different level. In the beginning, I thought that I would have a bunch more time, but I underestimated how much work a homeroom teacher does. You see, I had been out of the classroom for 7 years. Although I still taught, it was middle and high school, and then for only 4 hours per week at the most! Now, I was teaching all day, every day with grade 5 students. It was overwhelming, but also hugely rewarding. The relationships I built with those amazing kids were awesome, and I was reminded every single day why I got into teaching back in 2004. I found myself working late nights and weekends again so that I could help my students realize their potential. Having said that, and although time was even more precious now than before, I still needed to push ahead with some side projects outside of my schoolwork.

The first thing I did was to restart the master’s program I paused during the lockdown. Aside from scheduling myself time each day for reading, this was fairly straightforward as deadlines (which I need to stay motivated) are set by the university. My next challenge was to remain connected with the tech circles which I had worked hard to become part of back in China, through the ubiquitous WeChat groups that exist there. I tried to break into the tech circles in Phnom Penh but found that it was too difficult and gave more easily like I would like to admit. I did continue hosting PudPD, as I had done in Shanghai for the previous 4 years, meeting some awesome international educators from across the city. Now, I needed to pursue something tech related, that would keep me on top of current trends, and enter ISTE.

Back in August 2022, I had the chance to apply to become an ISTE evaluator. I thought this was in line with increasing tech presence, so I applied and got accepted for the training phase. Over the next few months, I and a group of other hopeful evaluators met with the fabulous ISTE team to learn how to evaluate portfolios. I learned a lot about grading as well as getting to see the amazing work that educators across the world are doing to empower their students. After 3 months of 430am meetings, and practice grading portfolios, I was accepted as an ISTE evaluator. As such, I could now apply to become an ISTE trainer, which I jumped at!

This process was much more difficult, as we had to train with existing trainers online. I found it quite daunting as well, as I was delivering content that I had not created. It required a lot of visualizing the ISTE criteria and anticipating what questions might come my way. I was also training adults that I had never met, which outside of speaking at conferences, was a new experience for me. I found it difficult to build rapport online, but such is the reality of online work. All of the training I was doing really built up my appreciation for andragogy and a newfound appreciation of the complexities of adult learning.

I always find vacation time a chance to find space to reflect on what I am doing and where I am going, and spring vacation was no exception. During this break, I decided that whilst I was loving teaching with my fifth graders, I needed to work towards getting back to a similar role to the one that I had left in China. In that role, aside from being responsible for technology integration and coordination, I was also involved in the school’s gentle push toward coaching. So, I enrolled in a coaching course, run by the Instructional Coaching Group, which has been a real eye-opener for me and has served to remind me of where I hope the next chapter of my education life will be.

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.