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  • Najah Amatullah

Moving to Guatemala!

When did you decide?



May 13th, when Jen sent me a message that said: Hey, I


know you might not be ready to move abroad yet, but we have an unexpected vacancy. Wanna come with us to Guatemala?


I thought about it for about two hours before I was convinced this was my chance.

When do you leave?


July 20


When do you come back?


I’m on a two-year contract, but everyone will be happier with 3-5 years. I’ll be home likely every summer. Gotta celebrate Juneteenth on the East with my bro.


How did you get the job?


I sent my resume to the principal, we set a meeting. Application, more meetings, paperwork, more meetings, paperwork that I’m still not done with.

THIS IS NOT THE USUAL PROCESS. I had an in through a teaching couple already under contract; I have a decent looking education resume; I manifested this (second blog post coming later about the manifestation).


What will you do there?


Teach 11th and 12th grade students about literature written in English and about writing, adhering to Common Core standards. It’s a private “American“ school where students are bilingual, receive a dual HS diploma - Guatemalan and US. Many students, if not all, will graduate and go to university in the US or Europe. Many students are children of expats, multilingual, and some third culture.

See sights, become fluent in Spanish, hike, dance, raise a bilingual child, enjoy sharing a city with my best friend, travel around Central and South America, prayerfully write more.

Where will you be living (more specifically)?


Guatemala City in housing provided by the school.


With who?

Myself and my daughter, my best friend Jen and her husband, and all the other new hires to the school.


Why?


I wanted to go back to Millwood, where we train up student athletes and work as a team. I was looking forward to tech savvy education models and a family type atmosphere. And it feels very weird to trade something you really wanted for something that's essentially a dream come true. I sort of want to give Millwood the last word anyway. I was right there. We chose each other. I was headed "home" and then I got swooped up.

Because when Jen sent me the message, no school in Oklahoma could financially match paid housing, paid relocation, paid insurance and taxes, and paid tuition for my daughter.


Regarding schools in other states - why go to Texas or some unknown US city when I could live in Guatemala with my best friend? Even doubling my salary at a Texas school wouldn’t have ensured that me and my girl get to travel. There’s a globe inside a book tattooed inside my right wrist. An old school Frank Ready. There’s a world map above my bed and a globe on top of my bookshelf. My daughter has 2 world map puzzles. I have never wanted to just be here. I have always wanted to be a citizen of the world (more on this is the manifestation blog).

Teachers in OK hoard supplies because people keep electing folx who won‘t fund schools. We all deserve better. This is how the universe saw fit for me to get mine.


I may never teach in another US high school, and that's weird to say. By the time I'm ready to come home from Latin America, I'm likely to try my hand at university teaching.


I've been struggling with having done enough even though I gave a lot of effort. Hustle culture and teacher shortage and the unrealistic expectation for teachers to be saviors can make it very hard to distinguish between: "I tried" but "Did I try hard enough?" I wasn't perfect, so was I even good? I am thankful that my students - even at this last school where I felt really disconnected - told me I impacted them and that I did well (even though that perspective will never be unanimous).


I definitely had to coach myself that people who donated to my classroom over

the years weren't going to be mad at me for not using everything. We did have an unexpected global pandemic that landed me out of the classroom for almost a year (I haven't ever told that story, have I? Well I did on TikTok. I'll do a written version when I'm safe on Guatemalan soil). I left the extra supplies in the hands of a teacher I met at Rogers and worked with again at Star Spencer. Her kids are my kids are our kids.


I'm working on what to do with my classroom library, the half that I brought home (because I'm a book hoarder and I hope to bring a Latinegra pre-teen back to the states to a home library), if I don't want it to sit in storage. I left a ton, including all those copies of The Book Thief, at PC West. I also have Book Thief projects to share...at some point.


If I know anything about myself, despite the fact I won't be teaching hard core Black historically infused poetry like a refugee hiding from the CRT police, I will likely still be using my expertise, if not with my Guatemalan kids, in some virtual format for those of you who want to stay connected with me from the states. I was speaking to a group in Tulsa last week about how I would hate for that momentum to be completely lost.


I trust that it won't be. Order, balance, connection. First I move, then I finish my thesis and defend it virtually, then I can focus on connecting my communities in this internet space.


So let it be.


Thank y'all for everything.


I'm taking my Millwood teacher "Woodside" jersey to Guate.


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