TORF: Take 2

Last year I TORF-ed. It was a wonderful, and slightly over-whelming, time, but it landed me the awesome job I had while teaching in Mexico. Unfortunately, due to financial need, I had to TORF again in January (2016) so find a new school. I wrote an article for 14beds in February about my TORF experience the second time around. Below is the article 🙂

 

Reflections and Interviews Tips from TORF.

Last January (2014) I participated in my first ever TORF experience. It was one of the most stressful things I had done all year. On top of the multitude of projects and assessments due, I had to additionally submit multiple documents and research schools I was interested in. By mid-Saturday I had multiple offers to choose from and I had no idea what the “right” one would be. This year I knew I had to approach it differently. There are many ways to approach a job fair, but the following tips worked well for me.

Tip #1: Pre-TORF

As soon as I knew I wanted to TORF again I began looking through the list of schools I was interested in. I did this in early December. Many schools post the positions they need for the following year on their school website. Generally you can find this under the “About Us” section of most school websites. I looked at many schools and researched the countries. I then set about sending cover letters and resumes to schools I was interested in letting them know I would be at TORF in my cover letter. Some schools fill their positions even before coming to TORF so it is important to get your name out there early. This also saves you the stress of lining up and being told 30 minutes later that all the interview times are filled.

Tip #2: Be Ahead

As soon as the school profiles went live, I sent out additional emails with cover letters to schools that I hadn’t found positions on their websites and whom I hadn’t maybe considered in my first round of emails. Many schools want to Skype before TORF to see if possible candidates fit positions that may open up and to save time for everyone involved. I had a few Skype and phone interviews at the end of December and early January. I also received emails about coming to the table and that the recruiter would be told I was coming and was looking forward to meeting with me.

Tip #3: Prioritize

The lining up processes can be daunting. Be sure to make a bee line to the school you most want to interview with and that you know has positions and would accept you based on your experience and expertise. This way you can be sure to secure an interview with your most desired school first and then stand in line for the other ones you may be interested in. For some schools you could wait up to 45 minutes in line and be told they have no more room.

Tip #4: Budget

With student loans I hadn’t considered additional costs and the cost of traveling on my first TORF. If you are going oversees to teach you likely also want to travel. Consider making a budget and use the minimum a school puts in their profile to see if all your financial needs can be met. Don’t forget things like haircuts, groceries, utilities, and any other personal needs you may need. Also remember taxes and factor this in when you budget. We each have obligations that are different from one another, so your budget may be vastly different to someone else. This process helped me narrow down my search.

Tip #5: Values

Every time you teach somewhere different you will have different questions and needs you want met as a teacher. This time I was also looking for a school’s professional development outlook and health benefits. Be sure to ask these types of questions as well as…

  • “What deductions come off my paycheck and what do they go towards?”
  • “How do you support teachers when they move to the country and in the classroom?”
  • “What do health benefits cover?”
  • “What is the professional community like at the school?”

There are many other questions you can ask, but this depends on what you value as a teacher. Be sure to email Pamela Goodspeed if you want the input of teachers currently at the schools you are interested in so you can ask them other questions and get a better feel of the school.

This year I narrowed it down to a small handful of schools. I was too overwhelmed with choices the previous year and knew that I didn’t want to feel the same way.

Tip #6: Connections

Everyone you meet at TORF or other job fairs are future international teachers. Speak to as many people as you can and make connections. These connections can help you in your own location and also for future changes. I am still in contact with many of my friends who have traveled abroad through TORF or other fairs and we share ideas often! Connections you make can last a life time even though you may be on different ends of the world!

My Experience

The entire processes is made to feel easy because the lady in charge of making you feel welcome and at ease is Pamela Goodspeed. She is an amazing lady who quickly answers questions! THANKS PAM.

Having done the fair the year before and flying in from Mexico I arrived at the fair around 6pm. I picked up my envelope and found a spot to see if I had any blue cards. These are put in by schools who have looked at your information and who want to interview with you. These are exciting to see! You answer yes, no thank you, or you need to change the time. If you need to change the time you need to go to the table during the line up time. If you select yes you must include a copy of your documents with the card.

After the welcome message (which is always funny and informative), I headed to the two tables I wanted to speak with first. I set up interview times and then knew I was done. This may seem daunting to someone who has never TORFed before, but I had done the pre-TORF and knew what I wanted. As I was trying to leave the gym everyone was trying to get through. I got strange looks from many because they were surprised I was already leaving (I was in the gym for maybe a total of 15min).

On Saturday I had two morning interviews and then I had to decide. I made a decision by 10am and felt confident in my choice. After signing a contract and having further questions answered I left the fair with a new teaching location for the 2015-2016 school year and was VERY excited.

Apology

I have emerged from Mexico and feel very sorry for the lack of communication and blogging I have done this last year!

With all good intentions, I wanted to blog often; however, life got busy and this fell to the side. So here is an update before I flood this blog with all I have done this year!

A little snippet of what's to come!

A little snippet of what’s to come!

After moving to Mexico at the end of July 2014, I worked at the John F. Kennedy American International School for a few months before realizing I would need to change schools. Having accumulated a large amount of student loans, and the U.S. dollar to Peso exchange rate forever climbing I couldn’t afford to stay for long in Mexico. In January 2016, I headed back to TORF at Queen’s University to find a job that would both support me and my student loans. I decided on Germany (Bahrain was a close second).

So here I am back in Montreal for the summer (although with this weather I am not sure there has been a summer), waiting for a new adventure to begin in August. In mid-August I will be heading to Frankfurt, Germany to teach at PHORMS. I have been assigned grade 3 and will be teaching English, Mathematics, and Social Studies to two classes in English. To clarify this for people, they spend their day 50/50 in English and German – or so I have been led to believe. I will clarify this when I am in the trenches.

For now this is my update; however, stayed tuned because within the next few days I will be posting all of my holidays, adventures, and life of living in QRO 🙂

ÂżQuĂ©? … WiFi

Querétaro, MXAlthough the welcoming to JFK and our apartments have been beyond wonderful, the only thing they do not provide for your apartment is wifi. This can be confusing and complicated in a new country. Let me break it down for you.

Wi-Fi, the hot topic of all international teachers. Some of you will be lucky enough and have the school set this up before you even arrive, others will be like me and run around confused trying to set it up in a different language with thousands of reasons they can and cannot set it up where you live.

Here in Mexico it is much the same, inefficient and based on how someone is feeling that day (among other things). Depending on where you live different companies will be able to offer you different packages due to the lines (or not offer anything). The top 3 companies here in Querétaro are: Telmex, Cablecom, and Megacable. Another reason they won’t be able to provide you with Internet is if there are too many people in your complex with the same company, yes they cap it! Something different from Canada is that often their locations are within a store such as Wal-Mart. For MegaCable, I went into the Wal-Mart near my apartment to a little kiosk after you pay for your items and spoke with the woman there.

Several weeks ago, I went to Telmex because they have big offices 5min down the street from my apartment. There they told me because of where I live I would have to get a home telephone PLUS Internet. I didn’t want a home phone so I decided to go to MegaCable in Wal-Mart. The prices also are very different. Telmex is like Bell in Canada (large, monopoly company) so they charge slightly more for their services. At Telmex it was going to cost $359 for Internet per month, which in comparison to Canada is very cheap for unlimited Wi-Fi (in Canada unlimited Wi-Fi does not exist!).

At Wal-Mart I spoke to a lady, thankfully there was a young guy at the next booth who could speak a little English and help myself and the lady understand one another. You do not need identification or proof of address unlike with the other companies. You simply need to give your name (nombre), phone number, and address. You need to tell the person when the best time for you is so they can come then and set it up for you. You also have to pay a deposit of $200 (pesos). You then sign the contract and voila! The lady told me between 1 to 7 days someone would come and set it up for me.

About 10 days later a notice in my door informed me that they could not install internet at my apartment because of the way the cables run (at the complex 2min walk from my door they can get it – but not us?!). I marched back over to their booth in Wal-Mart and they told me I had to take my contract and the notice to the head office (thankfully close by) to get my deposit back. Which I did the very next day (also a massive process)!

A few days later I headed back to Telmex and after a 45min wait I was given my contract (printed on a recycled piece of paper) and a modem. It took them a total of 3 days to come by and install my internet and home phone (which I caved in a bought cheaply).

The main lesson of my life story is go to the main office so they are able to check if there are cables where you live they can connect to and whether or not they have reached the maximum capacity of people on their network where you live. Be thankful if you have internet it has become a life line to family and friends around the world; I did not realize this until I didn’t have it!

So You Don’t Have It?

QuerĂ©taro is beautiful. It is lively and the people are incredibly friendly. The food is amazing, even if I cannot eat most of it I would be lying if I said I haven’t tried it.

Our first night we met up with a colleague and he took us to an amazing and cheap taco restaurant in Mercado de la Cruz. This market has many open stalls during the day and on Sundays the parking lot is filled with additional stalls. There is a smaller section that is closed during the day, but at night opens up with several open restaurants (open until 3am). This is where we ate our first meal in Querétaro and it was delicious. Each amazing little taco was only $1 and huge bottles of water (1L) were about $2.50. We have been back again (2x in 4 days)!

On Friday we moved into our apartments. They are fully furnished 2 bedroom: 1 bed, side table, closets, desk, kitchen utensils/pots/pans/etc., sectional sofa, coffee table, and dinning room table. There is a lot that I felt I needed to still buy besides food. My apartment does not have storage under the sink and I bought two plastic drawers to store some things. I bought several kitchen utensils, plastic Tupperware’s, glass dotage containers, a juicer, etc.

Juicer 🙂

Kitchen

My Office

Our Complex

Living room

At the end is my bathroom, on the left is the office and bedroom

At the end is my bathroom, on the left is the office and bedroom

Although I love this place and may never leave (sorry Mom and Dad), there are several frustrating things I will now rant about.

Sheets. Thank goodness I bought some before coming because they are either mostly-100% polyester or very low cotton thread count. I have yet to find a duvet or a second sheet set for when I do laundry. Previous to moving here I had the misconception that nights would be hot, like in South Africa or Canada in the summer. Do not be fooled – I am sleeping in socks, sweatpants and a long sleeve shirt. My window is cold and I wake up every morning around 6am shivering. I desperately need a duvet (the apartment comes with one, but I’d prefer to have a new one). I have searched Walmart, Comercial Mexicana, and Soriana and have not found one I like. We will hopefully get to the mall this weekend so I can check out Sears and the other stores – will let you know how that adventure goes. If you move here make sure you can find out what bed you get previous to moving or buy sheets at home and buy the bed to fit.

Update: Last week I went to Antea the giant new, and expensive, mall in Jurica. It is beautiful and still not finished. I found a wonderful duvet at the Home Store and found a duvet cover at H&M home. Although both were still more expensive than back home, I am now sleeping warmly. I recommend checking out the H&M home store because they have some really great things for a reasonable price.

Banks. My credit card worked wonderfully at Walmart and Home Depot (bought a new shower head). It did not work at Soriana (they do not accept intentional credit cards, no idea why) or Comercial Mexicana. I am with ScotiaBank (Canada) and was told that when I’m in Mexico I can take money out at a ScotiaBank here (but not deposit) for free. This is a lie. I went to an ATM and the actual bank ATM and had zero luck. I finally used my BMO debit card at an HSBC ATM and it worked. Went back to Walmart to buy a few things today and it worked. Not sure what is going on, but not happy about it to say the least. Can’t wait to have my local bank account set up. Thankfully the school does that for us and I don’t have to play charades.

Taxis. I live about 15min walk max to Walmart. When we have too much to carry back we get a taxi which has cost us about 40-45 pesos. When we go into the centro (downtown) the taxis fare is about 40-50pesos. It is about 15min drive to the centro, which doesn’t make sense why they cost the same. We are working on our como? (what?) face so we don’t have to pay as much. Will keep you posted.

For now that is my only rant. There may be more things, but for now I can only say I love this place and I haven’t even began teaching.

What To Expect From ResLife While @ Teachers College

Jean Royce Hall – Queen’s University Residence

Back View of Jean Royce Hall – Phase 2

“So you’re in teachers college and living in residence”

This time last year I began packing my boxes and bags to prepare my transition to teachers college and res’ life. For the first year at UWindsor I lived in residence; however, this experience would not compare to my time in res’ at Queen’s U. This is an unbiased and purely informative post, everyone experiences res’ life differently so I will leave the experience in your own hands and give you the best facts I can.

When you arrive, you need to go get your keys (for the room, building and mailbox). Once you have these, my suggestion is see the layout of your room. When we all arrived the beds were on the hallway wall, closest to the door. This proved to be a problem for many people because res’ echoes and you will hear many things, often amplified, so move your bed to the wall away from the door, nearest the window (image below of what I did). You do not need to move your furniture back to where you found it at the beginning.

Due to the above-mentioned noise factor of res’ a few items you may want to include in your packing is noise cancelling headphones, earplugs, and a fan to cancel out any noise. A fan is a fabulous, necessary item in res’. Mine was on from Sept 1 (move in) to the day I moved out. Res’ get’s hot! I even had my windows open in the dead of winter!

There is a common area and a fully equipped kitchen (fridge, stove, microwave, sink, drying rack). In the cupboard there should be a vacuum and mop. My floor went the entire year without a mop, only to discover this was something we should have had. Get to know and be kind to the maintenance staff. They will be more than helpful if you say “hi” when you see them and clean up after yourself. Maintenance staff is there to clean floors, the bathrooms, the kitchen, and restock toilet paper, etc. They are not there to clean up after your cooking, drinking, or other activities. Be kind J

There is no paper towels for the bathrooms, bring a cheap hand towel to leave in the bathroom (or as a floor pitch in a buy a few at the $ store). A res’ mate of mine often left a dishtowel in the kitchen and when I did laundry I would throw it in with my wash to keep it clean.

Common Room

Common Kitchen

Common Kitchen

Items to bring:

– A mini fridge (I got one with a little freezer because the kitchen freezer always overflows!)

– Cooking utensils (if you plan to cook)

– Dishes, utensils, etc.

You know what you use most often, so pack what you need. The beds are wonderfully high off the ground so there is PLENTY of room underneath for storage!

While in res’ I was not only “lodging” with other teacher candidates (TCs). There are PhD’s, Masters, Law, and even undergrad exchange students if there isn’t enough room in other res’ halls/houses. Most of the people I am still friends with were not from teachers college, but it all depends on who you have classes with, practicum with, eat with, etc.

Cafeteria

I decided to buy a meal plan that allowed me to eat at the caf’ 5x a week. You can use this at any of the dinning halls on main campus, on campus restaurants, etc. I found this plan worked well for me. I typically used them at night, but would sometimes keep one for weekend brunch J

If you have food allergies email the dinning hall and let them know you would like to set up a meeting with a chef to discuss your dietary restrictions. I eat a very Paleo based diet due to multiple food allergies and intolerances. The head chef and other staff were all very helpful. When you scan your student card for your meal ask the person if they could get the chef for you. Everyone is very helpful and I made several wonderful friends I will keep for life. Even as I head off on my Mexican adventure, I think of the chef’s and staff and only have happy memories (your postcard will come shortly!).

The friends you make in residence may very well be friends for life, so treat everyone with respect and HAVE FUN!

View of the field from Phase 2

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

After searching the web for a gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free pizza crust I decided to experiment.

I have only made this recipe twice, but feel I have almost perfected it. The cooking times may vary depending on the dish you use and the type of oven you have; however, this is the final product (for now).

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

3 Eggs

3/4 cup Almond Flour (if you are allergic to nuts you could try Coconut Flour – let me know if you do!)

1/2 TSP Garlic Powder

1/2 TSP Onion Powder

1 Head of Cauliflower (grated)

A pinch of salt and pepper

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 450F or 230C on convection.

Beat the eggs and add the other ingredients. Only grate the heads of the cauliflower, not the stems.

For added flavour, and dependent on your toppings, add a pinch of paprika and/or cayenne pepper for a kick 🙂

Use either a pizza tray or an oven pan. This recipe is quiet large and makes 2 large pizzas on the round trays or one large rectangular one (9 x 13 inch or 33 x 23 x 5 cm).

Scoop the mixture (it’s supposed to be liquid-y) onto the tray and spread to about 1/4inch (0.6cm) thickness on parchment paper.

Place the pizzas in the oven for about 25-30min (I check it at 25, but usually leave it in until 30). It will go brown and a bit crispy. I found that the pizza pans (with holes) made the crust crispier. 

Take it out and add what ever toppings you want.

Put it back in the oven for about 15-20min depending.

Remove and enjoy!

🙂

For the recipe in the picture stay tuned!

DIY – Organizing The Dreaded Tupperware Cupboard

Each time I come home to my parents house, my mom presented me with a list of “To Do’s”. This trip is one of the last ones in a while before moving to Mexico, so you can imagine the list is long! My first project was organizing the dreaded tupperware cupboard. This is ALWAYS put on the list because people throw the lids and bottoms into the cupboard as soon as I leave. I had to come up with a better system – which I did.

At WalMart I bought a shoe organizer you hang over the door and some Command hooks. I love these hooks because you can put them up and take them down without leaving marks on the wall 🙂

This is what the cupboard looked like before…

First I pulled the piping off the first of the pair (there are hour spots for shoes in each row) so that I could put wider lids into it. Then I cut the fourth shoe spot off because it was too wide and cut the bottom off as only two rows fit length wise in the cupboard. Lastly, I cut the slits at the top to put over the hooks and wrote large and small on each pocket so my family knows where things go. Let’s hope it works!

Next project is the linen closet! Stay tuned!

WE DID IT!

Today I completed my Bachelor of Education at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. It has been a long time coming and I am both happy and sad that this day has come.

I was thrilled to have both my loving parents who got me through all the tough times. I remember calling them during my undergrad every time mid-terms and every finals rolled around crying and saying I wanted to drop out of school. THANKFULLY I made it through with their love and support. This year has been one of the most memorable, joyous, happy and meaningful times of my life to date and I am so thrilled I was given this opportunity.

This year my gran was able to make it to my graduation all the way from South Africa. I have been blessed to have her in my life and she too has given me much support and love through the years and I am deeply grateful she was able to be present at my graduation today. Her love and compassion for others is a true gift and I hope to emulate even a smig of that!

Before coming to Queen’s I hoped and prayed to meet people I could laugh with, cry with and commiserate with. My year at Queen’s has introduced me to friends from all corners of Canada and the world, teachers and mentors taught not only knowledge and wisdom, but taught us how to laugh when everything doesn’t go according to the lesson plan, and I have left with a new family of friends traveling abroad or staying local who I will all miss dearly! I now have life long friends and this is thanks to events, student council, classes and ultimately stepping outside my comfort zone and making a conscious effort to meet new people!

Thank you Queen’s and thank you to everyone who has made a truly beautiful imprint on my life story. Keep in touch and remember we are all one very large, unique family!

Exceptionality Poster Presentation Day – Special Education On-site (Part 1)

Today is the culmination of all we have learned while on-site and on our placements for Special Education (part 1) at Queen’s University. It has been a phenomenal experience with amazing guest lecturers and teachers! The best part was the opportunity to do a practicum (placement) in the field of special education. Below are a few pictures from our presentations today. I will be including my own presentation (PowerPoint) in another post.

A Wonderful Afternoon & Evening w/ Good Friends