Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Arriving in Poland

Well, it has been awhile since I have shared with you my thoughts about living in Poland.  I arrived safely and on time to Wroclaw's Airport on August 3 around 1:30 pm local time.  I was collected at the airport by one of the schools' secretaries and she is fantastic.

The first thing we did was to go and look at two apartments before I was dropped off at the hotel, so I could start thinking about permanent housing for the two year duration of my contract.  I really liked the second apartment that we visited but the landlord was away on holiday and would not return for another week.  So the secretary and I agreed to visit three more flats the next day and hopefully by the end of the week, I would be settled in a flat.

If you follow me on Facebook, you have seen a few of the pictures that I have taken since arriving here.  So I will start with my stay at the Hotel Wroclaw at the edge of the center of town.  If you look at the far left of the picture, and count four windows down from from the roof, the corner room is the one that I stayed in for two nights and three days.  It is one of the most quaint hotels in the area.  It still carries the feel of Soviet architecture and spartan accommodations.  Here are the pictures from the room with explanations.

The room had a working desk, bed, bathroom and closet.  At the end of the desk, below the television is the refrigerator for the room.  The room was clean and for someone who had just been travelling for over 17 hours, I had no complaints about anything.  

The bathtub was deep and it felt wonderful to soak my travel weary body in hot water and relax.  I almost fell asleep in the tub.  The toilets on this side of the world do not have handles, they have push buttons or they have pull chains.  The one at this hotel has a push button on the top of the water tank.

The first night was a bit difficult because the floors have up and down steps.  So when I was going to the bathroom I stubbed my right toe and damaged my gorgeous pedicure. I was not happy about that, but I rolled with the adventure.  A chipped toenail in Poland is worth it.  Here is the step that caused the damage to my toenail.  However, the bathtub and other facilities were above par as you can see with these pictures.

I had all of the best intentions to go out and have dinner at the center of town, but I only had enough energy to bathe and go to sleep.  Besides with a bed as inviting as this one, who could turn it down?  Sleep came easily and quickly and it was difficult to wake up in the morning to go to breakfast.  I almost did not go, but knowing that the quickest way of getting over jet lag symptoms is to quickly follow the routines and timetables of the locals, I decided to get up, clean up, and join the rest of the waking world here in Wroclaw.

At the hotel's restaurant, I was greeted by the server and seated at a table.  The breakfast is set up as a buffet and I proceeded to get my food.  To my surprise, breakfast in Poland is nothing like breakfast back home.  Here you are welcomed with wonderful green salads, three kinds of fish, boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, buttered rolls that literally melt in your mouth, yogurt, and assorted fresh fruits.  

Espresso here in this area of Poland is king.  Regular coffee is instant and then milk is added to the mixture.  I have also noticed that you have two choices for sugar:  white granulated sugar and granulated brown sugar.  I have not been able to find sugar substitutes at all.  Tea is also a big drink here in Poland served both hot and cold.

I settled for fresh fruit, yogurt, coffee with brown sugar and milk, and juice.  Everything was fresh and very flavorful and the room was filled with quiet conversations and the noise of eating utensils being used.  I thought that I would be stressed out, but the environment was so relaxing that I stayed a little while longer just sipping my espresso and engaging in people watching.

That evening, I decided to venture to the store next to the hotel.  It's like a Wawa, except that they serve food for you to eat at little tables inside the store.  The store is called Wild Bean Cafe.  My first meal, ordered in Polish, and taken to the hotel can be seen in the picture.  A cup of coffee, a bag of chips, a sandwich, and a smoothie.  The food was quite tasty and cheap.  Total was about 15 pln which is approximately $5.  

Tomorrow I will tell you about finding the perfect apartment and learning to use the public transportation system.  

Thank you for dropping by and I hope to see you soon here in Wroclaw to celebrate the EuroCup!

Until my next post, have a great adventure where ever you are!

The Nomadic Librarian

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To Summer Vacation

As the academic year 09-10 drew to a close on June 18th, my spirits were high with the idea that Summer Vacation had finally arrived.  This was a particularly difficult end of the year due in part to the current political environment in Jersey regarding State Budgets and funding for Education and also with the thought that I might not be a member of the BTHS staff come September.

Driving home, I was still wondering if I would get a job offer from one of the recruiters that I had interviewed with at the IRC in Fairfax.  Mainly, I was hoping to hear from the school in Poland.  Fantasizing on my way home as to what would be like to work and live in Poland and at the same time, wondering how well I would manage a rejection from them as well.  The phone buzzed and I ignored it, since in NJ you can get ticketed by using your phone while driving; I did not want to start my Summer Break with a ticket from one of New Jersey's finest.  Anyway, by the buzzing sound, I knew that email was coming through, and although I was curious and hopeful, I decided to wait to check email until I was home.

As soon as I was home, I turned my laptop on and prepared a cup of coffee.   I opened my email and saw an email from the school in Poland.  I hesitated to open it, because at that time two thoughts crossed my mind:

  • This is it!  Here is the job offer!!!
  • This is it!  Here is the rejection letter!
I immediately opened the email letter and read it so fast I could not understand any of it!  So, I took a deep breath and read it again.  Indeed, it was the letter I was hoping for!  The school in Poland was offering me the job!  I was so happy that I stood up and did the "happy dance" and since this is true confessions time, I also squealed!  I know that this is difficult to imagine, but folks, I was there, and it did happen.

Not being able to wait until Larry would come home from his meeting to tell him the happy news, I called him up and read the letter to him on the phone.  I could tell by my voice that I was happy and thrilled with the opportunity, but I think it caught Larry off base because the news was received with a moment of silence and very quiet "Congratulations!"  Under other circumstances, that lukewarm statement would have bothered me, but I understood that he had company in front of him, and being happy for me at that time and expressing it, would have been inappropriate.

I immediately let my colleague MH know via text message that the offer was made and told her to "pack her bags, we are going to Poland."  She was just as excited about the news as I was and expressed her wish to talk in depth about this happy event with a phone conversation without distractions.  So we parted with the agreement that she will call me to talk more about this awesome opportunity.

Larry and I took the weekend to think things through (weighing the pros and cons) about this move from both personal and professional perspectives.  On Monday, I found an email from the school in Poland wondering why I had not responded to their offer.  Larry and I panicked because we thought that we had missed the window of opportunity to answer their offer.  I sent a hasty email confirming that yes, I was accepting the job.  We spent the rest of day running errands and wondering if we had blown this opportunity altogether by taking too much time to think things through.  To our relief, we received an email letter that same evening confirming that I would be the new Middle Years Programme Coordinator and Library Media Specialist for the Wroclaw International School in Wroclaw, Poland.

Please join us in our journey from Medford to Wroclaw right here on this blog.  Your comments are always welcome and encouraged!

And so, this new adventure begins!

The Nomadic Librarian

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Attending an International Recruitment Center Conference

I attended the Fairfax, Virginia IRC on June 11th to 13th of this year.  This was my first IRC conference and it proved to be a successful one for me.  If you are interested in attending one of the upcoming IRC Conferences scheduled for 2011, please visit this link:  International Recruitment Center for the dates and locations.

For those of you who have already decided to attend an IRC, here are some strategies and suggestions that I followed and proved to be helpful in achieving the goal of getting an interview and later on a job offer!

BEFORE deciding that you might want to attend an IRC:

  • Make sure that your file (dossier) is up to date with ISS fees have been paid.
  • Pay the fee to attend the IRC, otherwise you will not be able to attend the event.
  • Try to book your room accommodations at the same hotel that the ISS is using for the IRC Conference.  
  • Use the ISS registration code to get a cheaper rate on your room.
  • Arrange for plenty of travel time from your home to the hotel.  You will want to freshen up before the IRC Orientation Event.
  • Organize all of your credentials in a two-pocket folder.  In that two-pocket folder include:
    • A label with your name and address on the front of the packet.
    • Left Pocket:
      • Business Card (you can make your own or order cards from your State Teacher's Association)  Here is a link to order business cards from for less than $10:  Counterpoint and also Vistaprint are two online and reliable printing companies that I have used in the past.
      • Resume
      • Contact Information for your Professional References
      • Educational Philosophy, Vision, and Code of Ethics.
      • Any executive summaries for:
        • Action Research
        • Projects
        • Committees
    • Right Pocket:
      • A label with any URL's for online portfolios, wikis, etc.
      • Copies of all of your State Licenses (Teacher, Supervisor, Principal, etc.)
      • Copies of all of your Diplomas
      • Copies of all of your Transcripts
      • Copies of all of your Assessments (NTE, Praxis, etc.)
  • Make sure that you have enough packets to give each school that will be in attendance at the IRC.
  • Invest in a Presentation Portfolio
    • Have all of the documents mentioned above in this portfolio.
    •  Additional reports, presentations, or documents that will help you showcase your work and the work of your students.
  • Pack professional attire for all IRC events.  Two business suits, dress shoes, and accessories should do the trick. Remember, first impressions always make a big difference!
  • Bring stationary, pens, highlighters, pencils, extra business cards, and lots of mailing labels (this is a perfect time to use all of those free labels that come in the mail and accumulate around your desk area at your home).
  • Bring a buddy that you can bounce ideas back and forth with about the possibilities that are going to be presented to you during the IRC.
  • Don't forget to bring your laptop and cell phone.  Use the laptop to research the schools that you have an interest in meeting with their recruiters.  The cell phone comes in handy if a recruiter needs to meet with you right away.
  • Bring an open mind!!! 

the IRC:

  • Check-In with the IRC desk and pick up your credentials.
  • Attend the IRC Orientation program.  - This is a VERY helpful event prior to meeting the recruiters the next day.  This is were you will receive the most up-to-date list of vacancies, the ISS School Directory, and the latest copy of NewsLink.
  • After the orientation event, take some time to read all of the materials given to you at both check-in and at the orientation meeting.  
  • Select the schools that have vacancies that you are eligible for based on your credentials and experience from the vacancy list.
  • Prepare an introductory speech that will include:
    • Complete Name
    • Subject and grade levels taught
    • Years of experience
    • Interest in the position listed
  • Meeting with Recruiters:  This is a meet and greet opportunity.  Do not take more than five minutes with the recruiter.  Have your introductory speech memorized and charm them with your smile!
    • Introduce yourself and indicate to him or her that you are interested in interviewing for the position posted on the vacancy list.  Give them your folder to review before they see you for the official interview.
    • Set up the interview, thank the recruiter, and move on to the to the next recruiter of interest.
    • Once you have met with all of the recruiters that you have credentials for, go ahead and introduce yourself to the other recruiters.  Ask them to keep your folder on file in the event that unexpected vacancies at their school occur after the IRC that you are qualified to teach.  
  • Strike conversations with everyone in the waiting lines to see recruiters and those candidates mingling around the IRC help desk area.  This is a great opportunity not only to meet and network with other teachers, it is also a great way to create new friendships and check out the competition!
  • Interviewing with Recruiters:
    • Be on time!
    • Most interviews will happen in the recruiters hotel room.  Don't be alarmed.  This is a cost saving move on the part of the IRC and there is nothing suspect about it.
    • Relax, be yourself, enjoy the process.  Most of the interviews should feel like a conversation and should not feel rushed.  Take notes during the interview.
    • Ask questions about health coverage, retirement, housing, relocation fees, visas, etc.  Most schools will hold your hand during this process.  So ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel comfortable with the job placement and the decision of teaching overseas.
    • Please remember that if you agree to take the job verbally, that becomes a binding contract!
  • After meeting with a recruiter, put a thank you note in the recruiter's mailbox by the IRC help desk.  It may sound quaint, but it is good manners, and it works!


  • If you did not get a job offer during the IRC, don't give up!  Other opportunities await you!
  • Keep checking the candidate portal of ISS and keep sending emails to recruiters listed on the portal for job openings.
  • Keep checking the ISS website for additional information on upcoming IRCs.
  • Start planning on what you would like to pack, give away, or sell.  Eventually, you will be hired to teach overseas and there is no time like the present to lighten up the load in the event you get a job offer that you may need to relocate quite rapidly.

I wish you a productive and successful IRC experience.  If I can be of further help, just drop me a note here, and I promise to get back to you soon!  

All the best,
The Nomadic Librarian

Monday, June 21, 2010

Once Upon a Time ...

There were three teachers talking about their experiences in teaching.  One teacher had no previous working experience other than student teaching and the current post.  He is hoping to get tenure next year.  The other teacher had taught for more than 14 years.  And the last teacher in this trio, had taught in South Africa.  Her story was so inspirational that it motivated the veteran teacher to explore this idea of teaching overseas a little deeper.

That night, our veteran teacher decided to research the International School Services website and discovered that she could start her documentation and post it to the website right away.  She was hopeful, but at the same time, she had been disappointed before in her teaching career, and she did not want to get too excited about the prospect or even the possibilities of teaching in an environment where her experience and abilities would be sought out and appreciated.

Meanwhile, our other two teachers continued to teach and hope that things would get better for all of them.

Before April 15, the three teachers knew that the environment in the NJ Educational System would change drastically and would not bode well for any of them.  The new Governor made some drastic decisions and funding for Education Programs and Public Library Systems were diminished if not altogether eliminated from schools.  With less funding, it meant, less jobs and larger class enrollments for those lucky enough to survive the first wave of job eliminations.  Their district eliminated 84 positions altogether.  It was looking pretty grim for all of them.

Two of our three teachers survived the job elimination process and without too much damage to their programs.  They understand that their classes will be larger and that resources to teach their students will be very limited to say the least.  Our veteran teacher did not fare so well.  She was asked to work in and manage three buildings, be responsible for instructing over 2000 students, and support over 200 staff members.  She was happy that she had a job, but knew that under this new restructuring of programs she would not be able to do a good job for her students or the staff members that she had come to know in the past six years.  Our veteran teacher would need to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to make something that was educationally unsound and developmentally inappropriate work for both students and staff without causing further damage.  After much thinking and analyzing, she came to the conclusion that to make this work, she would have to do a mediocre job and that was not acceptable to her, although it was acceptable to her supervisors.

During those dark days, our veteran teacher received an invitation to attend an International Recruiting Center Conference in Virginia.  She consulted with her husband and they decided to attend the conference.  They spent the weekend talking to recruiters and interviewing for teaching positions in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

One of those interviews became a possibility and with that newly discovered hope, our veteran teacher felt reinvigorated, validated, and appreciated as a Teacher and as an Educational Leader in her field.  It was the shot in the arm that she needed to get motivated and enthusiastic about the vocation and career that she had embraced so long ago.

Our veteran teacher returned to school and shared some of her experiences of the IRC with a few of her colleagues, including MH, the teacher that taught in South Africa.  All of them at this time have their fingers crossed and hope that our veteran teacher get her wish to teach overseas. 

Until our next adventure,
The Nomadic Librarian