Laszlo or Zoltan…Baby Gibson’s name?

There is a list of girls names and a list of boys names in Hungary, about 2500-3000 names on each list. Parents that have children are only allowed to name their babies names that are on these lists. The law is quite strict. If parents try to name their child with a name that is not on the list, they will be prevented from doing so. There is a whole government ministry dedicated to researching and checking names for these lists. Each year about 10 names are added to the list. For example, Laszlo is one of the approved boys names. My Hungarian language teacher’s name is Laszlo and his nickname is Laci (pronounced La-tsi). The “c” in Hungarian is said like a “ts” in English. Zoltan is another common Hungarian name, nickname Zoli.

The Hungarian language is similar to NO OTHER language in the world. It has about 1000 words that are kind of similar to Finnish. Yes, the Finnish language that is spoken in Finland. Hungarian is considered an old Asian language, somewhat like Finnish and Estonian. But it is has been influenced by Slovak languages and languages in Siberia apparently. Today in language class we got a history lesson on the Hungarian language. I also learned that knowing no other language in the world makes it easier to learn Hungarian. Hungarian is all on its own in the world of language and it is not an easy language!

I am currently in my third and final week of my Hungarian language course. And I actually really like it. It is challenging and sometimes confusing. I often wonder if I will ever be able to string together a sentence with pausing before every word. But I am enjoying it. I like using my brain this way. It is much different than the way I have been using or not using my brain for the past 10 years of teaching and the past 3-4 years of doing my Masters.

Class is every day (Monday to Friday) for three hours in the morning. We do written, speaking, and listening activities. We are constantly moving mentally. As we learn new concepts or “rules” about the language, we practice them and get to know them well. Then we have homework to do. Homework includes all the learning and practicing vocabulary and rules done in class. The school is called Budapest University of Debrecen Summer Language School. 

As I continue to learn Hungarian, my biggest challenge will be to use it. I am shy to try using out in public because A. most of the time the person I am speaking to speaks much better English than my Hungarian and B. I don’t know enough to just say whatever I might need at any given moment. So the next step is to practice speaking and using all the things I have been learning.



Doing a Masters- What a Saga!

Here is the saga of me trying to do a Masters program. If you or anyone you know needs any advice on Masters programs in counselling, I have inside knowledge of several different programs. I started 3 different programs and have yet to finish any of them!  I am not exactly sure how it all turned out this way. In some ways I feel a bit sorry that I haven’t finished any of the programs. But I do also remember that sometimes this is the way it goes.

Here is the story:

Masters 1

I started my Masters in January, 2012. The program I was doing was through Lehigh University. It was Masters of Education in International Counselling. I did four courses, two online and two on location in Athens, Greece. This program required me to complete a practicum of about 20 hours per week while I was also working full time. I felt like I was not going to be able to do this in the situation I was in at the time. After finishing the fourth course, I earned a Graduate Certificate and then decided to change to a different program.

Masters 2

In the summer of 2013, I started a new program at Athabasca University. It is an online university in Calgary, Alberta. The new program was a Masters of Counselling, focusing on Counselling Psychology. In the summer I completed an orientation course. In the fall of 2014 and the winter of 2015, I completed three courses. This program also required a practicum. I was not sure I was able to or interested in completing it. The following summer of 2014, I chose to not take a course and I was planning to continue in the fall of 2014.

Masters 3

In the fall of 2014, I again chose to not take any courses and then decided to switch programs again into the University of Missouri. This time the program was Masters of Education in Educational, School, and Counselling Psychology with an emphasis in Educational Psychology and a focus on Student Learning and Well-being. In this program, after the various events of the year, I completed one course. This program does not require a practicum, which was what I was looking for so that I could do all the courses at home and just finish it. Probably not the best attitude towards doing a Masters!

Where now?!

Where I stand right now: I just completed the one course I did with the University of Missouri. I feel a mixture of relief and elation. I am so glad I did it. I am so glad it is done. And I am so glad I don’t have to do anymore right now. For now I will wait. I am not completely dismissing the idea of finishing but I am also not going to continue right now. I am looking forward to some time without coursework and homework and readings and papers hanging over my head. I will enjoy the break and see what the future will hold. Maybe the time will be right next year or in 5 years or never.

In the past couple of years, some of the events of life have made doing my Masters harder, including leaving one country and moving to another, planning a wedding and getting married, and also the accident my parents were involved in earlier this year.

Motivation is key!

I am also trying to figure out my level of motivation. When I started I was very keenly motivated and highly desired studying and learning about counselling. I felt that I had found my next calling and career. I was very passionate. As I have carried on throughout the courses I have done, I am still loving the learning. I am still passionate but not as much. It has been hard to describe and figure out for myself. Do I want to be a counsellor? Or do I just want to learn about it? Or at this point, do I just want to give up on it?

For a person who likes to have a handle on how I feel about things, I find this kind of annoying. I think part of what I am feeling is that I don’t like giving up on something in the middle of it. I have started this Masters and I should finish it. I can’t just stop. But I also need to be realistic and know how I feel. I can stop because I can choose what I am going to do. I don’t have to do something just because I don’t want to allow myself to stop. This is a hard thing to accept for myself.

More learning?

Then there was the desire to do something different. I had been teaching the same subject to the same grade level for ten years. I was getting a bit tired of it. But I have now had a break from it for half a year and I am not sure I am so desperate to do something very different now. The thought of going back to work sometime and having to start in a brand new position and learn about it all is kind of tiring. Maybe going back to something that I am familiar with would be okay. Especially since I have had a break. Maybe I will eventually go back to a different grade level to make things just a little different but somewhat the same too.

Who knows? Maybe I will never go back to teaching. Maybe I will never finish my Masters. Maybe I will. Maybe I will continue writing this blog and I will be able to have lots and lots of people reading it. (So share it with all your friends if you like it)! I am open to the possibilities of various adventures. But for now, I will enjoy whatever it is that I am doing and look forward to a very big new adventure coming our way in December.

Before I finish this story, I want emphasise the importance of education. I am not intending to complain. I have loved all the courses I have done and information I have learned. When I am interested in the subject and I get to read about it or write about it, I feel engaged and in “flow”. I am grateful for the incredible opportunities that I have had to further my education. I know that there are many people in the world who do not have access to the high level of education that I have had and I wish that was not the case. I am truly thankful.

Teaching PE Inclusively and Cooperatively

Phys Ed 1

I am a PE teacher, or a Phys Ed teacher. Sometimes people call me a Gym teacher. I am not a big fan of that description. I feel like it refers to the location of the class, rather than an appropriate description of my particular subject. I try not to get too offended!

I am a female PE teacher. The distinction made between male and female is often important in PE. It is more ideal if students are able to have influence from both male and female PE teachers. Particularly the female students, as often sports and fitness role models are male so a female influence is good. I don’t like that there has to be such a distinction between male and female in this regard but it seems to be unavoidable.

Today in my grade 9 PE class, the students played basketball. In order to encourage participation by everyone, I make small teams of 3-4 players each. There are two half-court games happening at one time. In this way, it makes it more likely that more players will be involved if there are fewer players per team. The students played the first game. After the first game, we paused and “discussed” how they should create space on the court to get open and make shots. After a short discussion, the students went on to their second game. In this game, I noticed that there were two teams playing where 2 girls on one team and one girl on the other team were hardly moving during the game. They stood towards the outside of the court and waited for an occasional pass from their teammates. The teammates were running around the court and were always getting the ball. After watching for awhile, I decided that their teams were too big because they weren’t working well together. I also added a rule into the game that both teams must pass to ALL fellow team members before they can take a shot on the basket. This seemed to work a little bit to get the teams to work better together but it was still not going well. Eventually, I had to stop the games and allow the girls to play against each other on one side of the gym and the boys to play against each other on the other side of the gym. In these games, almost everyone was participating and involved.

There are a variety of methods that I use to ensure all students in every class can participate. One method is to play small games. If there are teams of 3 then all the members of the team are required to play or it won’t work. If there are teams of 6 or more, it is easy for a team member to stay on the outside of the play and never be involved. Another method I use is modification of games. For example, no dribbling in basketball, only passing, or 2-3 passes are required in volleyball or the team cannot score a point. The students will often groan and complain when I explain the rules for a game because they are forced to modify it but it does ensure that more students are involved.

Another way that all students will hopefully feel included is through the use of appropriate language. The students will often ask about “girl” pushups. I try not to entertain the distinction between “girl” and “boy” pushups and refer to them as full pushup and “modified” pushups. The difference being that what the students are calling “girl” or what I call “modified” pushups are ones that are done with their knees down, a slight modification allowing those students will less upper body strength to do more pushups. I have no problem with modified pushups and I allow the students to decide which kind of pushups they would like to do but I do make the distinction in the terms used to describe it. I also do not like hearing statements, such as “throw/run/kick like a girl”, that make a general reference or stereotype of one gender or the other.

In class, I will discuss with my students that there are many differences between males and females but that we do not need to make these into stereotypes, particularly negative ones. For example, it is common knowledge that a girl and boy of the same age will have different levels of strength. Boys tend to have more muscle mass and strength due to the presence of more testosterone in their bodies than girls at the same age. This does not mean that all boys are stronger than all girls or that girls are weak. Girls and boys are different in many ways and that is okay. Whatever differences there are should be valued and respected without negative stereotypes.


Exciting?! Events

This week, I have gone back to work, vacation is over! I feel both sad and happy about this development in my life. My husband, Niall, has been working at the school for the last month and I will be joining him. I will be a substitute teacher for the high school Physical Education teacher who will be away for 4 months. I will be teaching Grade 9 and 10 Physical Education. I am excited to be back in school to continue teaching and developing classes and new ideas for students. I am also a little bit sad to be back to work because I had just started to settle into my stay-at-home life, which I really enjoyed.

Our new little puppy, Hamish, arrived last Saturday. He is a tiny, 8 week old French bulldog. We had decided to get a puppy last year and we had been looking forward to it ever since. We have had an amazing time getting to know little Hamish in the past week. He is very friendly and playful and easy going. He loves to chew on everything, as many puppies do. He is also a lot of work because he is not trained at all and he pees and poos everywhere. There was a lot of cleaning up to do in the first week with Hamish.


Since I had to go back to work full time, we had to find a place for him to go during the day because he can only be alone for about 2 hours at a time. We found a good doggie daycare/bootcamp where Hamish will go during the week so he will not be alone in his crate and where he will get some housetraining. He will come home on the weekends where we will get to enjoy him. It was a hard decision to send Hamish away during the week because we do miss him a lot. I was surprised at how attached I became to him in the first week we had him. But we also realize that this is the best option for right now for him. Then we will be able to enjoy him even more in the future because he will be happier and better trained.

I have spent some time (as I always do) reflecting on both of these changes. Going back to work has come at a time where I feel I was just settling in to Budapest, our apartment, and my life at home. I was starting to feel very comfortable being at home and being able to work at my own pace and on my own schedule. Having a taste of that time at home has given me a positive view of it. I look forward to the time in the future when I will hopefully spend more time at home.

Going back to work is somewhat of a relief also. I feel less guilty about life because I am earning an income again. I felt a little bit bad being at home and not doing anything “productive”. I felt that what I was doing was productive but I had to continually justify it to myself in my own mind. I felt that I should be earning an income but I did not really want to have to go outside of the house and do that. I am grateful for this opportunity to work in a position that I am experienced in and therefore fairly easy for me.

The puppy is amazing. I have become one of those people who loves my dog! I grew up in a family where pets and animals had a purpose. They weren’t around for our enjoyment but rather for a reason so I was surprised to find that little Hamish grew on to me quite quickly. I became attached to him (despite having to clean up his pee and poo constantly)! As a child, my brothers and sisters and I had a dog but he was rarely allowed in the house and he spent his time outside. He was a big, energetic dog and we couldn’t really get him to behave very well so we weren’t able to do much with him. We loved him and played with him a lot but there was not the same kind of attachment that I already have with Hamish.

There continues to be exciting changes in our lives. I always look forward to the adventures that are ahead. Who knows what could come up?


The First Teaching Post…8 years ago


Kuwait Towers

8 years ago, I came overseas to teach. It was well before then that I decided I wanted to travel. My parents were travellers and had exposed me to the world. Although I did not actually travel a lot as a child, I heard all about various places in the world. When I started my career as a teacher, I wanted to go overseas but I knew I needed some experience first so I started teaching in Canada. Only 1.5 years later, I was preparing for my first teaching assignment overseas in the Middle East, in Kuwait. I remember landing in the airport in Kuwait and that is when it really hit me. Oh no, what did I just do?

The first few days in a new country are the hardest. It is exciting but it is overwhelming. In Kuwait, I was shown my new empty apartment. There were a few basic necessities in it and it was minimally furnished but it felt empty and lonely. I was exhausted after almost 24 hours of travel and I was jet lagged. I was also hungry but I did not have a way of getting food. Luckily a couple of new colleagues helped me get some food and then I settled in for a long sleep.

Eventually I was settled in to my new apartment and I was starting school. It was hot, hot, hot all the time. The sun beat down constantly. It was new to me. I was used to have at least a few “bad weather” days in a month where I would close the curtains and stay inside for a day. My Canadian blood was telling me to get outside and enjoy the nice weather. But there were a few days where, even though it was sunny, I closed the curtains and pretended it was raining and stayed inside!

The school I worked at had 11 PE and Health teachers from elementary to high school. My first year there, I taught grade 6 and 7. My second year there I taught grade 9-12. All the PE teachers were housed in one office. My desk was under the air conditioning unit and I slowly became accustomed to extreme changes in temperature, which were worse than in Canada! Our classes took place mostly outside in the extreme heat for the first few months of the year, then extreme cold for the middle few months of the year, and a few months each year between the cold and the hot was the most beautiful temperature you could find. That time was worth the extremes of the rest of the year!

In the two years I was living in Kuwait, I travelled a lot. I went to Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, China, France, Switzerland, South Korea, Jordan, and Egypt. Thus began the life of going to a different country or destination each holiday in the school year. Who does that!?! Well, international school teachers do that! It is still something that I marvel at often.

What it’s all about!

This blog is about what international teaching is all about, how to do it, what is so great about it, and what is difficult about it from my experiences and perspective. In the two previous posts, I have discussed a little about how to get an international teaching job and how I got started in this global community.

For the 8 years, I have been living and working overseas. I now consider the world my home. The discussions I have with my friends and colleagues are about where we are travelling on our next vacation, what we liked about the last place we travelled, and when you are planning to go home again. My neighbours are both next door but also in the next country or the next continent. My former vice-principal and his wife who lived across the hall from us in Shanghai, now live in Poland, while we are in Hungary. These are our neighbours!

Last week, one of my best friends from university came to visit. She is currently working and living in Izmur, Turkey. She came to Budapest for a week long holiday and she brought 3 friends and colleagues from Ismur. One night we invited some of our Budapest friends over for dinner with our Turkey friends. One of my Budapest friends (H) is close friends with my best friend’s (M) Turkish friends. This person has pictures of both H and M on her fridge! These are the connections that can be made when you are international educator. Both my friends and I are moving around the world and making short term and lifelong friends. The connections are numerous.


For our wedding, my husband and I received a beautiful framed world map from my husband’s sister. Coloured pins came with the map so that we can put a pin in the places we have visited, lived, or hope to visit. We can colour coordinate our pins. The yellow ones are for places either one of us or both of us have lived. The green pins are for places we have travelled together. The red pins are for places that I have travelled and the blue pins for places Niall has travelled. The map filled up quickly and we ran out of pins.

This is what international teaching is all about: having neighbours all over the world, making great friends and connections both short term and long term, and seeing the world!

How to

International schools are schools throughout the world where students can attend in English or their native language (French, German, Dutch, etc). These schools are created for expat families living away from home. Generally the intended outcome is for the students to obtain an education that is similar to one in their home country and therefore can pursue continued education there, while living away. Most of these schools are recognized by international education organizations, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), or accredited by organizations in the United States, such as the Western Association for Schools and Colleges (WASC).

The families whose children attend these schools tend to be involved in business or a job in that country away from home or are diplomats in that country. There are numerous other reasons families move overseas, such as mission or humanitarian work, to experience a new culture, to be near family, etc.

In order to have schools overseas, there also needs to be teachers. Teachers can get a job in an international school, generally, with a minimum of two years of teaching experience. This guideline is negotiable depending on the school. The best and probably most common way for a teacher to get a job is by signing up with a job placement organization. There are two main organizations used by teachers: Search Associates or International Schools Service (ISS) These companies will help you set up a profile online. The international schools will also do the same and will post positions that are available. You can then search positions that are posted and apply to those positions. I have always worked with Search Associates and found them to be quite good. I was assigned an associate who works for the company and supports me and assists me in finding a job, if possible.

The timeline that international schools are working with tends to be extreme in that recruiting for new teachers starts much earlier in the school year than at home. Current teachers at a school need to give their notice if they are returning the next school year or not by about December. Even before that, schools will encourage teachers to let them know if they will be leaving the school. Therefore, as a teacher that is looking for a position, one needs to be prepared very early in the year. My husband and I made our decision to leave our school in Shanghai about a year in advance. We began preparing to leave in the summer of 2013 even though we wouldn’t be at the new school until August 2014. The preparations involved setting up a profile on Search Associates, getting references, preparing our resumes/CVs and cover letters, and exploring networks throughout the world.

The job fair is next. Job fairs are located in various major cities throughout the world, including Bangkok, London, Boston. The first job of the recruiting year is held in about January and they are held every couple of weeks throughout the world until about April or May and even into the summer. The job fair experience is intense, exciting, and exhausting. There are hundreds of teachers and schools gathering in one location to do the hiring process. Schools are looking for specific positions they need to fill. Teachers are looking for the right location and the right school. The job fair starts with an arena style meet and greet where all the school administrators have set up a table or booth for their school and have posted the positions they need to fill. The teachers then roam around speaking to principals and superintendents of schools hoping for an interview. This is the time where teachers and schools will set up a time for a more formal interview to take place that day or the next. Because the job fair only lasts 3-4 days, everything is done at an increased pace.

The first job fair I attended was in Boston in February 2009. I had previously worked in an international school in Kuwait but I had not been to the job fair. I managed to find that job through friends who were working at the school. I had some information about the fair from colleagues who had been to it. As a female Physical and Health Education teacher, I did have some interest from schools so I had several interviews. My decision came down to a large, well known school in Shanghai and a small school in Zimbabwe. Although I was tempted to go to Africa, I decided on Shanghai because I wanted a large city and a large school where I could meet lots of people and gain more experience.

My second job fair experience was in London in January 2014 with my husband. As I am working on my Masters to transition into a new career, I knew it would be difficult to find something in the new direction I was hoping to take due to my lack of experience. Therefore we would be looking for two PE and Health positions since my husband, Niall, is also in that field. The London fair turned out to be quite competitive and at first we felt quite discouraged because despite our solid previous experience we didn’t have much interest from schools. The issue was partly that we expressed interest in finding two jobs. We decided that we would then need to just look for on job for Niall and I would tag along as his spouse, while continuing to work on my Masters courses. We were able to discuss that with some schools and extensively interviewed with a school in Hong Kong as well as a school in Budapest. In the end, the Hong Kong school decided not to hire us but Niall was offered a position in Budapest. We accepted four interviews later and have been excited about it ever since.

(copied from