Another New Adventure Begins

August 9, 2013

On August 19 I will begin the next phase of my TESOL career by beginning a new position with the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System teaching ESL at Garinger High School. This Sunday, August 12, I’ll be moving from Brevard in the mountains to Charlotte, in the piedmont of NC.
This will certainly be a new experience for me. Although my original teaching licensure, in the State of Michigan, included high school, and I did my student teaching in a middle school, all my subsequent teaching experience has been with post-seconday students and adults. So teaching in a public high school will provide me with opportunities to learn all kinds of new ways to teach!
Other than getting my stuff packed and moved (I’ve arranged to rent the upstairs of a house just 10m minutes from the school) the biggest challenge facing me will be getting prepared for the first day of school. You see, I won’t know until less than a week before the first day of school exactly what classes I’ll be teaching, and what curriculum I’ll be using! I could be teaching ESL classes, or I could be co-teaching (as the ESL resource teacher) content area classes that have a lot of English learner students in them, or some combination of both. One way or another, its going to be a challenge!
Something that should be a big plus is that I will be part of a team of 8 ESL teachers at Garinger. If that sounds like a lot of ESL teachers for one school, that’s because it is a lot. The ESL team meets 2X per week to plan and study together how to more effectively get our English learning students up to speed so they can understand what is happening in their content area classes (math, science, social studies, English language arts, etc), learn the content, and graduate with a meaningful diploma.
There are a lot of students who are living in homes where a language other than English is spoken, and they need support to catch up with their classmates, especially in the area of learning and using “academic English”. They often “pick-up” interpersonal English communication proficiency, and if you were to meet them and talk with them, you might conclude they are fluent in English. But they haven’t grasped the “academic” English vocabulary, discourse, and writing skills necessary to excel in school. So my job, along with the rest of our team, is to work with the English learning students to support them in learning the academic application of English.
A special shout out to all y’all who have been so supportive of me as I’ve traveled through my transitions from Atlanta to Santiago Chile to Brevard and now to Charlotte. Here’s to empowering English learner students with mastery of academic English, so they can successfully chose a positive, constructive path in life, whether through university, technical college, or the military (Garinger has a huge ROTC program). As a fellow ESL teacher once said to me, “we want these kids to learn, graduate, get a good job, and pay into Social Security so we can retire some day!


Getting Ready for the Next Step

March 3, 2013

Its only been a year since I last posted – that’s about average for me lately! So, what’s up???

I spent the second half of 2012 thinking through where I was headed after Mom’s passing. Would it be overseas again, or right here in the good ol’ USA? I decided to put out feelers in both directions and see what would develop.

First, I applied to the state of North Carolina to transfer my Professional Educator’s License from Michigan. After a series of delays, it arrived after the Fall semester began, so any thoughts of teaching in public schools in 2012 was out. While I was waiting to hear about my Educator’s License, I made some contacts in Ecuador. They looked promising, so I planned a trip to Quito, Ecuador in October to see what might develop. I received my NC Educator’s License just before heading to Quito to explore the opportunities there, so for the months of Sept-Oct I was mulling over whether Ecuador or the USA would be better for me at this time. I decided on the USA, and returned to NC the end of October to begin preparing to teach in the USA.

Even though I have my NC Professional Educator’s License, I felt the need to get more knowledge and experience to transition from teaching adults to teaching in the K-12 environment. So, I’m enrolled in courses at 2 different universities: Univ. of NC and NC State Univ, getting myself up to speed. I’ve also been networking with some ESL teachers and observing their classrooms to see first hand what the ESL public school environment is like. Hopefully in the next week or so I’ll begin “shadowing” an ESL teacher to gain a thorough understanding of the day-to-day routines, as well as getting direct personal experience teaching, with a mentor to encourage and evaluate me.

So now I’m beginning to preparing everything I need to embark on the journey of applying for jobs! I’ll be going to my first teacher’s job fair on March 19, with more to follow. I’m revising my resume and putting together a portfolio. An important part of my portfolio is preparing a listing of references. If you would like to be listed as a reference for me, please let me know!!! You can email me at And if you know of anyone who is looking for an ESL teacher with international experience, please let me know about that, too. I’m offering a Starbuck’s gift card to anyone who provides a lead that results in an interview (for a full time job). If Starbuck’s isn’t your thing, we can go with WalMart!

Hopefully I’ll have more news to share before March of 2014!

A New Beginning Begins

March 21, 2012

If you haven’t followed my little adventure to Chile and back again, feel free to read my previous posts. This  is my first post since April of 2011.

For the past 14 months I’ve been caring for my Mother as she was growing older. Then in mid-February she fell and suffered a very minor leg fracture. For you and me this would have been a bit of a setback, but not a big deal. However, for someone of her age and condition, it was a major issue. She needed a very minor surgical procedure, but then afterward, never recovered. Just 10 days after the surgery, on March 1, she passed away. Although end of life is not a pleasant topic, there were several blessings: she was in good health to the end, she was able to live at home until the end, and she was in the hospital only 10 days before she passed. And to top it all off – her memorial service was on St. Patrick’s Day, and if you knew my Mom, you know she was fiercely proud of being Irish! So there was blessing in the midst of sadness.

Now its time for me to figure out what I’m going to do next!!!!!!!!!! So here’s my plan…..

I’m beginning to make contacts to begin the process of “networking” with the goal of going back to my interrupted career of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL. I’m not ruling out any place on the globe, but since I’ve spent a year in Latin America, and I’ve learned a little Spanish, Latin America is my primary focus.

I’d be happy to return to Santiago, Chile, so if you can help me network and develop employment contacts in Santiago, or another city in Chile, that would be great.

Ecuador has been getting an increasing amount of attention in the USA, and looks to be a promising country for TESOL. So if you can help me network in Ecuador, that would be great. A benefit of Ecuador is that the cost of living there is lower than in Chile. One of my main concerns is balancing the cost of living vs my potential income.

Costa Rica is a well know country for TESOL, so I’d welcome contacts for networking in Costa Rica.

If you have contacts in another country where TESOL is a viable profession, please let me know. One of my primary goals is to have a job in place before moving to another country. As we all know, it is common for people to show up in a Latin American country without any job, and start looking. That is not my method of operation! When I first went to Santiago, I had a job lined up before leaving the USA, and had the necessary visa for full employment. I plan to do the same again this time.

So, the adventure begins again! For now, I’m working on improving my Spanish, losing another 10 pounds (so I can once again be known as “slim Jim”!), identifying useful TESOL web sites, and beginning the process of networking for reemployment.  If you have any suggestions, comments, encouragements, or whatever, please let me know. And as Paul Harvey always used to say, “Stand by for news!”

April 2011 Update

April 6, 2011

For all who have wondered, I am still alive and kicking! Some rather sudden changes occurred in December, so I’ve had to make “a few” adjustments.

When I traveled Stateside for a 3-week visit with family and friends over Christmas, I fully expected to return to Santiago and continue teaching ESL. However, when I arrived I discovered some fundamental changes had occurred in the living arrangement of my mother during the past year. My younger brother had been living with her for quite some time, and even though she is experiencing the natural effects of aging, the situation was workable. However, during the past year both the mental health of my brother, and the overall health of my mother, were deteriorating dramatically. There was serious cause for alarm, and my older brother and I, after much discussion, determined that either our mother needed to be moved to assisted living, or I needed to return and stabilize the situation. We finally decided the only workable solution was for me to return.

So, on Monday January 17 I made my return flight to Santiago, not to stay, but to collect my belongings and return to the USA. That same day my younger brother acted out behavior resulting from his personal difficulties. You can Google “David Joseph Gearing” and read any of numerous news stories about the event. Fortunately, through the intervention of a concerned Federal official, my brother is currently receiving help, rather than being processed through the criminal justice system. Of course, this “event” would have resulted in my mother being left living alone, which was not sustainable. My older brother was able to cover for the week that I was gone to Stgo to collect my stuff. However, had we not already decided on my return, the situation would have been very difficult to resolve.

So, now I’m in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, on top of a small mountain outside the town of Brevard (pop.7000) in Transylvania County (pop 30,000, not including vampires). Mom is stabilizing, and David is getting help. I’ve taken over the 2 upstairs rooms of the house for my little “sanctuary”. I’ve gotten the house essentially cleaned-up, and I’ve started painting. And today I finally got hi-speed internet connected at the house. Woo-hoo!!!!!!!!!

Now that “phase 1” of the transition is completed, I can begin focusing on my next 3 goals. 1) Connect with a couple web-sites and some local live Spanish-speaking people to continue my Spanish language learning. I didn’t progress as much as I wanted while in Chile, but I did advance my Spanish somewhat. I want to continue to progress. 2) Develop my own curriculum for teaching ESL. 3) Get a part-time job. I don’t have basic living expenses to worry about, but I still need some additional income. A part-time job would allow me to provide sufficient support for Mom while bring in a few needed bucks.

At this point, I’m not sure how long I’ll be here. While Mom will be 87 in July, to this point she has not developed any chronic illness, simply the normal effects of aging. If she continues to be able to take care of her basic care needs, I’ll stay so she can continue living at home. If medical issues develop, she’ll need more care than I can provide. So I may be here another 6 months or ???? Time will tell.

I’ve appreciated the interest all y’all have shown in my Chile Adventure. And who knows, maybe I’ll be back in Chile, or someplace else teaching ESL before its all over.

Years ago a popular group, The Byrds, had a hit song based on the 3rd chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes from the Hebrew Testament of the Bible: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven”. So, right now my life seems to be in a “season” for helping Mom get through this “season” in her life. It certainly has been an unseen turn of events. But then, we’re not expected to see the future, but to respond to what God brings onto our path. Solomon continues in Ecclesiastes 3:14: “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him”. My job is to go with God’s flow, and trust him to bring about his desired result.

When there’s a significant event to update, I’ll post again. Until then, as Rick Steves always says, “Keep on traveling!”

Tests, Glorious Tests

September 26, 2010

Well, our wonderful Dieciocho holiday had to come to an end, which meant we had to face the reality of tests all week for Duoc students. Actually, quite a few students did just fine. But then, there are the others. And then there are those (quite a few) who did not even show up to take their tests! Someday its going to occur to these students that if they don’t come to class prior to the test, they’ll fail the test. And if they don’t come to class on the day of the test, they’ll fail. But, so far many haven’t figured that out yet.

For me, this has been a pretty nice week. On Monday, the last day of the Dieciocho holiday, I borrowed my friend Doug’s extra bicycle and had a great ride to parts of Santiago I hadn’t seen before. I’ve enjoyed taking a lot of “walking tours” around the area, but of course you can cover a lot more ground with a bicycle. Up until now almost all of what I’ve seen in Santiago has been high-rise apartments, with a few houses here and there. But on Monday I got a little further away from the “urban center” and saw some new housing developments that look very similar to what you’d find in a suburban area in the States. One of the differences here, however, is that no matter where you go, no matter if the neighborhood is poor, middle class or luxury level, all houses and apartment buildings have walls around them, usually with a variety of spikey thingys on top of the walls.

Today I took a walk into Santiago Centro, and made a necessary purchase. During the warmer weather the multitude of stray dogs seem to become more feisty. My second week in Santiago (last February which is summer here) I was bitten on the leg – I was wearing shorts – by one of said stray dogs which had sneaked up behind me without my noticing it. Fortunately the attack appeared to be a “get-out-of-my-way” attack rather than an “I’m-gonna-take-a-chunk-outta-you” attack. But nonetheless, it was rather unnerving, especially when said dog’s buddies started to surround me. So, I found a store that sells “animal deterrent spray” that uses a citronella formula that apparently works great, but doesn’t have the negative effects of pepper spray. So now, fully armed and more vigilant, I hope I’m prepared for the canine street gangs.


Feliz Cumpleanos Chile!!!

September 19, 2010

Today Chile is 200 years old. And Chilenos celebrate their national birthday, known as Fiestas Patrias or Dieciocho (=18 for September 18) much the same as we do in the States – Barbecue! Of course, the Spanish word is “asado”, but its much the same – beef, breasts(chicken) brats, and beer! Along with the staple asado items, add chicha, a Chilean wine which is somehow naturally fermented. Its very smooth, thus deceptive, and tasty, similar in a way to hard cider, but made with grapes.

Of course, we are the beneficiaries of a nice extended weekend. The declared national holiday is Friday thru Monday. But all classes at DuocUC were ended at noon Thursday, and since all my classes are at night, I’m getting a 5-day holiday. Woo-hoo!

Yesterday I just chilled out. Today (Saturday) my buddy and part-time boss Doug and I started out with a bike-hike up Cerro San Cristobal. After working up a good sweat going up, and enjoying a nice glide down, we chilled for a bit, re-hydrated, and ate apples. We then hopped in Doug’s car and took a little road trip outside Santiago, into the country. Once outside Santiago, people were everywhere taking advantage of open spaces to have their asados. In the States people generally have their barbecues in the backyard, but in Chile people like to get out in public places and mingle a lot more. Driving about in the foothills of the Andes was an incredibly relaxing experience. The scenery was wonderful, the foothills are still pretty big, there were some vineyards nestled up against small mountains, as well as a number of almond and fruit orchards.

We made our first stop at a little country place selling empanadas, fresh goat cheeses, and other stuff. Doug and I agreed the empanadas were the best we’ve ever had, and the goat cheese was quite tasty also.

A while later we stopped at another little country place and had a little chicha. We consumed in moderation – me because more than a little chicha and I get a headache, and Doug was driving. This chicha was tastier than the bottled stuff I had had for the first time Wednesday…true down-on-the-farm-home-brewed hooch. So before we left Doug had the proprietor fill a 2-liter Coke bottle with some to take home.

After the holiday we’re having our first round of tests at DuocUC. It’ll be interesting – students will have been on holiday, and have had a full week between our last class and the test. I have a feeling that many of the students, after doing what “young people” tend to do on holiday breaks, will be in such a state that they’ll have difficulty speaking Spanish, much less English! So I’ll try to post next weekend, let you know how it all came down, and other good stuff.

Until then, Feliz Dieciocho!!!!!


August 1, 2010

This is not a typo. Pedigree Dog Food is running a TV add in Chile claiming their product produces better dog poop. In the ad Fido is running around, then stops to do his doodie. They cut away for a few seconds to avoid showing the act in progress, then return to show the most well formed pile you can imagine – and of course you do want to imagine this, don’t you!!!!!! The owner then dons the obligatory plastic pick-up glove-bag and effortlessly takes care of Fidos business. No muss, no fuss.

On a more savory note, I have completed my move to the pension, where I am indeed enjoying 3 savory meals per day, plus a room with sufficient space, a much nicer neighborhood than Santiago Centro, and wi-fi that actually works! When school starts back up in 2 weeks, I’ll have a 15 minute walk to campus. Cool beans! When I get a clear day (its been rainy and overcast this week…. oh, poor Jim) I’ll take a pic out my window and put it on Facebook.

I’ve been able to relax a little this week, with final exams over. However, there was more paperwork than I expected to finish the semester, so my real vacation didn’t actually start until Friday. So now I have 2 weeks of relative leisure. I still have 3 classes in businesses continuing through the semester break, and I’ll spend some time doing a little advance planning for the 2nd semester at DuocUC. But my major focus will be getting started on a more systematic improvement of my Spanish. I’m meeting Monday with a Spanish teacher, and if we can find a mutually agreeable time in our schedules, I’ll start private classes with her next week. Also, being at the pension forces me to use Spanish with the 2 sisters who run the place, so that’ll help me improve as well.

So right now I’m sitting at my desk, sipping some apple tea, being warmed by my wonderful little estufa (=space heater), listening to the Chuck Mangione album “Feels So Good”. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…………

Exam Time

July 18, 2010

Its exam time at Duoc – I gave half my exams yesterday, and I’ll give the other half the 24th. For reasons I don’t understand but accept like a good trooper, Duoc schedules almost all exams on 2 Saturdays. I’m already in vacation mode, ready to do some serious relaxing, as well as giving a lot more attention to Spanish acquisition.

The ski trip to El Colorado was a fun day. Plenty of snow, except at the very top, so I couldn’t ski quite the entire “cone”. After I publish this I’ll upload the ski pics to my Facebook photo album.

It looks like I’ll be moving in a couple of weeks. A fellow teacher is living in a “pension” (=boarding house) in Comuna Providencia, and a person is moving out. Its a very nice, spacious room, well furnished, meals, laundry, cleaning, wi-fi, cable, the works. And all for $75 less than I’m paying just for the rent on my apartment in Santiago Centro. Plus, its only a 15 minute walk to Duoc, so I’ll save $25 a month on Metro (subway) fares as well. After the move I’ll get some pics on my Facebook page.

We probably have another 3-4 weeks of “winter” before things warm up again. I have to put “winter” in parentheses because, even though we’re looking at snowy mountains right next to the city, on a sunny day is gets up to about 60 degrees F. Nights are nippy, sometimes below freezing, but for some reason my apartment hasn’t been getting all that cold at night, even though there is no central heat. Works for me!

So check out my Facebook page for some new pics. Ciao!


June 29, 2010

Sorry to be so log between posts. I’ve written several, only to have my internet connection dropped by the time I cllick “Publish”!!!

Remember, photos are at my Facebook page. Search for Jim Gearing and I’m the one with the pic of my my beautiful daughter at her graduation.

Well, Chile won their first World Cup match in 48 years, so even though they, and the USA went out in the first game of the Round of 16, it was a good year.

Santiago winter is settling in now, with night temps approaching freezing. If we have a sunny day, temps will approach 60, but on overcast and rainy days we’re lucky to get past 50. Of course, anyone who survived this past winter in the Northern Hemisphere is NOT going to feel sorry for me!

I’ll be spending the July 4th holiday skiing this year – my first time ever snow skiing on the 4th of July! A bunch of extranjero (foreign) English teachers are going together to a resort about 90 minutes from Santiago. When I get a decent internet connection I’ll let you know how it went.

The end of the semester is fast approaching. The last day of classes is July 15. Then I have 1 group of final exams to give on Saturday July 17, and another on Saturday July 24. 2nd semester classes begin on August 17, so I’ll pretty much have a month off. During that time I’ll still have my business English classes to teach, but I’ll have plenty of discretionary time to rest, relax, and work on my Spanish.

I was asked by a group called Vida Estudiantil to help with a 5-week English club at a nearby campus of University de Las Americas. I’m spending 2 hours on Wednesday afternoon with some advanced proficiency English students, many of whom are getting degrees in English translation. It’s a breath of fresh air to spend time with students who actually want to learn English!

With the mid-point of this year just a few weeks away, I’m starting to start to think about a strategy for finding employment for 2001. The contract with DuocUC is through December 31, and non-renewable. I’m thinking that after the September Independence holidays I’ll start contacting prospective employers for 2011. We’ll see what might develop.

For the rest of this evening, I’m going to enjoy a glass (or 2) of Chilean Carmenere and read a book. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

MidTerm Excitement

May 17, 2010

A couple days ago I wrote out a post, clicked “send”, and discovered I had lost my internet connection. So here goes again.

Yesterday (Saturday) I was doing a little work in the Sala de Profesors in the library at Duoc when 3 of my students found me and asked for some extra help. Of course, the fact the this week is midterm exams for students, both written and oral, may have provided some additional motivation, but that’s fine, as long as they’re learning.

We’re finally getting cooler weather here in the southern hemisphere, while its warming up in the northern. We got our first snow in the mountains next to Santiago about a week ago – of course it didn’t snow in the city, just a nice refreshing rain. Temps have finally settled down to to the 60s during the day, but dip into the 30s at night.

I’m now teaching 3 additional classes with business people. For two classes I go to the business to teach the class, the other is a private tutoring at an English institute run by a friend. These classes are quite a bit different than the classes with students at Duoc. These folks need to increase their proficiency in order to interact with international business clients, so their motivation is at a different level.

Monday nights I meet with an international, interdenominational, men’s Bible discussion group at the Marriott Hotel in the comuna of Las Condes (Atlanta people can think of Las Condes as Buckhead on steroids). We meet at the Marriott because the General Manager of the hotel is part of the group. The guys in the group have been a great support for me as I’m transitioning to a new cultural environment.

This Friday is a holiday – Navy Day. My Chilean colleague Jimmy Molina tells me that the holiday commemorates a naval battle with Peru that Chile lost. But since the Chilean navy fought bravely, the country celebrates the day to say thanks for trying your best! So, if the weather cooperates, it looks like my friend Doug (who owns the English institute referenced above) and I will get get on the bikes and get a little exercise. On holidays the city empties and its a lot safer to cycle around. Hopefully I’ll remember to bring my camera and I’ll get some photos to share. But for now, its time to get ready for another week helping the world speak English!