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A Life of Design Rather than a Life of Default - Teaching in Turkey with Four Children
Written by: Courtney Bailey
Last Updated: January 11, 2021
I was feeling uninspired and apathetic about where I was professionally, academically, personally and geographically. I knew that I needed to make a change, but I was hesitant to upset my status quo. After all, I was secure and comfortable enough, but I was mentally and emotionally stagnant and there was no growth. I was a busy-body of sorts, constantly in motion, but with little productivity. A quote kept replaying in my mind, “nothing changes, if nothing changes”; It whispered to me at first, but in time, it grew louder until I could no longer ignore it. I listened and understood that the time had come for me to take a giant leap of faith!
Despite my intense curiosity in different cultures and my insane case of wanderlust from a very young age, my life took a different course and I married at the age of 19 and became a mother at the age of 23.
I went on to become a Spanish teacher and I often shared my immense love of language, travel, and culture with my students, leading several educational tours all over the world and by traveling independently as well as with friends and family - but this was not enough! I was unfulfilled, but recognized that I am happiest and most authentically me when I am abroad. I realized that International TEFL Academy could help me secure a longer-term experience overseas… but I am also a mother of FOUR, school-aged children, ages 6, 7, 9 and 11 - how was I supposed to make this work?
I had cautious support from family, but I knew that this experience would be one that I would take alone with my children, if I could make it work. My heart told me to trust the universe to work in my favor and enroll in the online TEFL course, but my rational mind told me that with four young children, this endeavor was too far-fetched, and so I procrastinated on making the decision to enroll for two full years! I vacillated with my (incredibly patient!) enrollment advisor (thanks, Britton!), asking questions over and over, trying to determine how to arrange the pieces of the puzzle so that its image would reveal how this endeavor could unfold for myself and my children.
Fast forward to today, I can say that making the decision to enroll, earning my TEFL certificate, and becoming an ESL teacher in Izmir, Turkey are among my proudest achievements and decisions that have changed my life in so many positive ways! My only misstep was stifling my own ambition by talking up doubts and concerns rather than believing in my own courage and tenacity to do anything that makes my heart happy and sets my soul on fire. I chose to walk towards uncertainty and become fearless despite the obstacles and challenges that were present.
I am now an ESL teacher, teaching to grades, 3, 9, 10 and 11 at an esteemed private school called Izmir Özel Türk Koleji!
I came to Turkey without my kiddos to begin. They remained in The States with their father to complete the first academic semester. Their subsequent arrival allowed me time to complete my school orientation, enroll them in school here, as well as orient myself with our new city so that when they would came to join me (approximately 8 weeks later), I would feel confident in helping them feel secure and optimistic about our big life change!
Prior to this, I had never been to Izmir. I didn’t know what my home would like or the inside of my school. I knew very little Turkish and my children didn’t know the language at all. I didn’t know anyone in Izmir. Though I had people rooting for me, my decision had not made sense to some – and this was okay with me. I felt in my heart that this is what I was being called to do, and so I walked forward with purpose.
I now realize that I can make a profound impact on the lives of all of my students and extensions of these students. I have the unique opportunity and important responsibility to help set the tone with my students in regards to language learning, specifically when it comes to the English language, as well as their thoughts on Anglophones. I also realize that I am indirectly serving as an ambassador of the United States and so I am hyper-aware of my image, my words, the interactions that I share with those native to Turkey and the energy that I bring into the spaces that I occupy.
Before arriving in Izmir, I looked forward to immersing myself in a new culture for an extended period of time, learning a new language, meeting my students and colleagues, viewing the world through the eyes of my children, traveling a bit throughout Europe and Asia, and making new friends all over the world.
Now that I am here, I love helping my children adapt to a new way of life and witnessing them becoming global citizens! I hope that sharing this experience with them demonstrates that it is never too late to realize their dreams. This adventure has proven to be a metaphorical reset for my soul, motivating me to lead a life of design rather than a life of default. I had romanticized the experience of becoming an expatriate for decades and while it has not all been easy, it has definitely been worth it!
Courtney Bailey is 35 years old and originally from, San Diego, California. She is a mother of four, school-aged children. Courtney worked as a middle school Spanish teacher before taking a leap of faith to jet-set with her kids to teach English as a foreign language in Izmir, Turkey.
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