The End of Wandering?

A drawn bird curves its neck back to collect a seed.
Sankofa Bird; bagaball, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi” It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten. (Akan proverb)

I have always been intrigued and inspired by the Sankofa bird, a representation of the idea that we can look back to the past to help us create the future. However, we must be ready before we can look at the past without being overwhelmed by old emotions.

It has been quite some time since I wrote here. There are two reasons for that: I’m not doing much wandering these days, and the events that led to that have stung too much for me to write about them until now.

The lack of wandering is due to me being back in the US and not being employed full-time. Neither of those were part of my plans, and I have to admit I have been a bit unsettled.

It has now been almost exactly a year since I went from the highest point in my teaching career to the lowest. 

In October 2020,  I declined 2021-2022 renewal of my contract from the international school at which I taught for 3 years. The international schools recruitment cycle is such that these decisions have to be made early. Due to my son’s experience at the school, I was extremely picky as far as the schools to which I applied in that recruitment cycle. This meant that I was facing stiff competition for a small pool of highly competitive schools, and by January I was feeling rather defeated by a string of final interview rounds that didn’t lead to job offers.

Then, things suddenly shifted from being ghosted by schools and dealing with constant anxiety to getting interest from two of the biggest names in the international schools circuit! I’m talking plentiful resources, $10K+ salary increase, stellar benefits, and the type of name recognition that would pretty much open every international teaching door I could imagine in the future. Not only were both schools interested, they were invested enough to compete in order to be the first one to offer me a contract. After 15+ years as a classroom teacher, I felt like I was being recognized as a high-value educator. In the end, one school prevailed, and I excitedly accepted a middle school English position with them.

As is the norm in this line of work, I soon began gathering paperwork from home and local authorities (that’s a whole other post right there), getting multiple pictures in highly specific formats taken, and scheduling doctors’ appointments. I was welcomed into the [insert school mascot] family and asked to send pictures and a little blurb about my son and I so my future colleagues could get to know me. I scheduled my son’s academic placement test and registered for summer professional development.

Then, in early March, as I was waiting in line for my second COVID test of the week, I received an email from the school director’s secretary casually asking if I was available for a chart with my hiring principal and the director in the following 5 to 10 days. Since I had recently confronted my son’s school about their less-than-best practices and their harmful effects on my son, and was aware that his principal had recently met with his future principal, I immediately felt a chill despite the friendly tone of the email. I followed up with my hiring principal, and he gave me the news: without ever contacting me, the elementary principal refused to admit my son, and so the contract was rescinded. 

The fact that I went from being part of the “family” to mattering so little that, had I not emailed my hiring principal, they would have let my son sit for a 2-hour placement test knowing they had already rejected him speaks volume about their lack of integrity. So does the director not only being late to the Zoom call, but also never turning on his camera. Not to mention that the elementary principal who made the decision was not present and instead left my hiring principal to handle the awkward conversation.

In the end, I was left with no job, and it was too late in the recruitment season for me to look for another appropriate international school teaching post, which meant I had to return to the US.

While most things were uncertain, it was clear that I did not want to teach in my local schools again. Most of the factors that had prompted me to leave were still present, and frankly worsened by the pandemic.

Since my five-year plan involved gradually expanding my skill set to eventually transition into a new career, I decided to move these goals up. After looking at my work likes and dislikes as well as skills interests, I decided that a combination of part time freelance editing and full-time learning and development would be ideal.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was very naive about the amount of time it would take me to make any inroads in either field, and I have had to deal with the emotional toll that comes with not yet succeeding.

Still, I woke up recently and rather than feel sadness and longing at the thought of my international life, I smiled. I still love wandering even if I’m not going anywhere far right now. So I’m looking forward to writing the Abidjan stories I haven’t told yet. And since my son is doing well here (which tells me we should stay put for a while), I’m committing to enjoying and writing about local wanderings, until I can wander far again.

Keep wandering,


2 thoughts on “The End of Wandering?

  1. Sweet Joelle,

    This story touched my heart on many levels. First, your writing style resonates with me, leaving me enthused for the next installment! Additionally, though I cannot imagine the depth of frustration and sadness you must have felt during that time, I feel your resilience and steadfastness immensely, which is beyond inspiring.

    Sending you so much hope and strength as you reinvent your career! Your son is very fortunate to have you as his mom.

    Warmth and Light,

    Angel Marie Tisdale


    • Hi Angel,

      Thank you so much for the kind words. I went through just about every feeling then, but thankfully I have a great support system.

      Wishing you well,


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