Gobsmacked!

Me at Castel Muiderslot

Greetings from the Netherlands!

It has been some time since I thought about my blog much less visited it and I am truly gobsmacked at the amount of dots on my cluster map. (Gobsmacked–one of my favorite terms from a guilty pleasure of mine, the British soap “Eastenders.” It means astounded, amazed–you get the picture.) I can’t believe that so many people would read my little blog. A blog I had practically abandoned.

Well, for those who might be interested, I will give an update on my life. Sorry, I don’t have a lot to say about technology in education at the moment since I’m not really in the field and my life has been so full of other kinds of experiences. Sorry to disappoint if you were expecting techie stuff.

I left you at the end of the school year with my explanation for leaving. June was a very busy month of packing, weeding through my belongings to get rid of a lot of things, having yard sales, and showing my house in an attempt to sell it. Oh, and I also sold my Honda (ack!) and spent the rest of my time in the States driving my mother’s Toyota Corolla.

With the help of my very good friends and my sister, I was able to move out in early July with my 2 cats, 2 oversized and near bursting suitcases, a rolling carry-on (also stuffed), and an equally stuffed laptop shoulder bag with my 17″ HP. I left 15 boxes in my living room that were shipped to Europe in September. In those boxes were my most precious belongings that I could not or would not sell or give away.

I moved in with my parents and sister. I became a full-time caregiver for my mother and wore many hats in the household as I tried to meet all sorts of needs. My father and sister worked full-time outside the home so there were a lot of things that needed doing. Those months with my family were some of THE most trying of my life but I learned a lot about myself and my family. I was able to care for my mother during the most difficult part of her home stay. By the time I left, my father and sister were able to take over her care along with the help of an aid who came daily to be with my mother.

I moved to the Netherlands on September 17, 2008 and life has been one big adventure ever since. About the flight itself, I will only say that if you live in a city with a direct flight to Amsterdam, you should sincerely thank God. There is no direct flight to Amsterdam from any airport in North Carolina so I had two legs with a rolling carry-on, a laptop bag and a cat carrier (one of my cats had to fly with me in the plane since the first flight was on a small airplane and bags are checked all the way through, only one cat could fly in cargo) to contend with. We all arrived at our destination relatively unscathed but somewhat exhausted.

Since my arrival, I have had a lot to get used to. Shopping every couple of days because food here is a lotstrippenkaart fresher, learning Dutch (although thankfully many people here speak English), living without cable/Internet/phone in my home (because until I got my residence permit I couldn’t open a bank account which meant no other kinds of accounts either), walking a lot more, and using public transportation (the strip system was kind of tricky at first–umm…OK, let me clarify: the most common way to travel on public transport is to buy a “strippenkart”, a long ticket with “strips” or places for the conductor to put a stamp indicating what time you entered the tram/bus, date, and what zone of the city you boarded.) As the holidays approached I have become increasingly homesick for friends and family. While I have made friends here, I still miss the familiar faces of those I know and love. This was my first Thanksgiving away from my family ever and I was very depressed about it.

On the home front though, my mom’s health is progressively getting better. Her care is a lot less demanding as she heals which I am glad for. It was very hard to leave her, knowing what she required on a daily basis but my father and sister have really done well from what I understand.

My current status is that I have my residence permit and am currently looking for a job. I am renting my house to tenants with an option to buy it which I hope they do at the end of the contract. It is cold here compared to the balmy temps of coastal North Carolina and I’ve seen more snow in the last week than I’ve seen in the last 15 years in NC. It does seem to melt before sunrise but it’s pretty to watch when it falls.

I will try to write a little more often. My next post will be about the technology I’ve seen in use here so far.

Where I’ve Been and Why I’m Leaving

Ok, the cat is out of the bag.  I am leaving.  So for once, I will blog about something pretty personal:  where I’ve been and why I’m leaving. This post is actually prompted by an email inquiry I received today from someone who had seen the job posting and wanted to know what I do exactly.  One of the last lines of the email asked why I was leaving.  It was a good question and gave me pause to reflect.

Before I actually give my reasons for leaving, I will describe what my role has been as an instructional technology facilitator at MCMS.  (To read what the job description is according to the IMPACT model, click here.)  I have tried to follow the IMPACT model as closely as possible but recognize that there was a lot of room for improvement.  I had hoped to be in this job for many years.  I saw so many possibilities.  I still do.

Where I’ve Been:

  • I was a French teacher at ECHS for 10 and a half years.  During those 10 and a half years I fell in love with technology and troubleshooting.  I watched the Internet change our whole world and I found that I loved teaching others how to use technology.  When I received a phone call 3 years ago this coming July to interview for a technology facilitator position, I jumped at the opportunity because this was my dream job.  When I was accepted, I was elated.
  • My first year was a whirlwind.  I had so much to learn, not necessarily about how to integrate technology into the classroom but how to troubleshoot and manage all these computers at our school.  Without a technology assistant, technology facilitators have to do quite a bit of troubleshooting.  This school had been without a technology facilitator for three years so they were starved for someone in my position to point them in the right direction.  I loved my job.  I tried to focus my attention on training the staff so I did a technology camp for teachers that first summer.
  • I was much more comfortable during my second year.  I was ready to really lay some groundwork with the staff on technology integration.  I was introduced to the world of Web 2.0 and have been hooked ever since.  I created my own personal learning network which has helped me learn so much using iGoogle and Google Reader.  Some of favorite Web 2.0 tools are iGoogle, Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Skype, Second Life, del.icio.us (although Diigo is quickly eclipsing my love of del.icio.us), Picasa, and Flickr.  I use many others but these have been invaluable to me.  I wanted to focus my attention from the teachers just a little to equipping students so I taught a technology camp for students during that summer.
  • This third year has been a little different.  I have been in the classrooms much more, co-teaching with teachers.  I was also selected to help be a core trainer for NCWise which our county was converting to this year.  I think a lot more teachers are using technology this year than they have in my previous two years here and I am glad to say that they are putting more and more of that technology in the students’ hands.  I finish this third year happy to say the hardware is in place (3 wireless labs, two desktop labs, data projectors in almost every classroom, 2 interactive slates per team, 2 wireless presenter mice per team, 1 document camera per team, 3 digital video cameras for the school, and two student response systems for the school).  Ok, we’re not completely at my dream classroom but we’re on our way.  I don’t pretend to take credit for all the good changes I’ve seen in our school these 3 years.  We have many shining technology teaching stars, a tech savvy media coordinator, a supportive tech support team, and a fireball principal who understands the important role that technology plays in the future of education.  I was fortunate to get to ride this wave with such great folks.  I know this school will go far after I leave.

Why I’m Leaving:

  • My mother became very ill and was admitted to the hospital on February 14.  Unfortunately she is still in rehabilitative care but is making progress.  I plan on spending my summer and fall before leaving for the Netherlands taking care of her and helping my family.  Leaving this job will make me more available to my family.
  • I visited friends in Amsterdam, Netherlands over Christmas break and my thoughts began drifting to my old dream of living in Europe.  An apartment became available not too far from the city center and I just can’t let this opportunity slip away without grabbing the bull by the horns.  So, I’m going for my dream of living in Europe.  Of course, that means I am now looking for a job in Amsterdam.  Does anyone know if they need technology facilitatators/coordinators there?  🙂

So the plan is to move to the Netherlands once my mom is back on her feet.  I will be keeping this blog however and it is my sincere hope that I can continue to work in technology education even if I am in a different country.

Needless to say, I will miss my colleagues and friends that I have had here in Carteret County.  It’s not easy to say good bye to 13 and a half years of one’s life but these have been good years, learning years.  I’m sure I will have much more to reflect on in the next few months so stay posted!