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Navigating Mixed Feelings About Moving To Turkey

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Thanks for the info, Fil and IWB!

A quick update: I was offered and accepted a position with one of the state universities. Filled out the paperwork and then hit a snag: the director called me back and told me that they are not allowed to consider me as a "native tongue teacher" because I have a kimlik. (He hadn't hired a native before--the last one in the department worked there some 15 years ago and he hadn't known the rules.) If my Turkish (and apparently math!) skills were better, I would be able to take a kind of civil servant's test and get a position that would be 600TL less than what I was offered as a native, but neither my Turkish nor my math is up to that, and frankly the native tongue teacher pay was already more than 1000 TL less than what I had been making before (but I was willing to make the financial sacrifice for a sane place to work.) I'm pretty bummed, but am looking at other options.

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Hi Quinn, I just want to share with you my experience in moving here to Turkey, hopefully it'll put you a little more at ease. My wife is Turkish, and her parents are also separated (permanently, but

Quinn, it is quite normal for you to be anxıous and worked up about the whole thing. It is a huge move - a new job, a move, a new country, a new lifestyle, separation from loved ones etc. Every time I

A quick update: I'm feeling ever so much better, perhaps because I am closer to being ready. All gifts save two have been bought, all the stuff I needed to buy here--like cosmetics and decent bras an

Actually, Sunny, I did seriously consider that. Posted Image I would like to teach and I would prefer to teach university students, but if the students I had in the fall are indicative of private university students, then I'd rather not teach them. Over New Years, I went to visit my husband's brother and his wife and family. They have two daughters, both going to different state schools. I asked them: are you allowed to play with your cell phones during class? They just stared at me and then shook their heads vehemently "no!" I saw this and so many, so many behavior problems where I taught. Students who interrupted for spurious reasons. People who just wouldn't shut up. Others who never brought their book, a notebook, paper, a writing instrument, and would not participate in the class. People who fell asleep. People who came into class literally 30 minutes late. I did the best I could to manage the class and if I was the only person having problems, I would have to take a long hard look at my classroom management skills, but pretty much everyone was in the same boat. My boss, who has umpteen years of teaching under his belt, would come into the office and say, "I lost my temper, they act so badly." My closest friend there called me literally crying last week about her own students. Another friend decided to get tough and kick badly-acting students out of the classroom; they went en masse to management and he was told he is being too harsh. So that's why they act like that: there are very few repercussions as to what a teacher can do there and they know it.

State schools promised a completely different vibe. The truth is, state school students are just better students. From what I've heard, classroom management is a complete and total non-issue. At the place where I hoped to get on, teachers have exactly half the work load that I had this fall. Tests are on special test-days, rather than given after class three days a week. You can go home after you finish your classes if there are no meetings, rather than be locked into a 9-5 schedule. Summers were largely off and paid. There is a month off between semesters and it's paid. At two other private universities I have looked into, there are no breaks between sessions and summer vacation is all of two weeks. I'm just not willing to do that. I think the reason why many people go into teaching, aside from wanting to help and guide others, is that they are willing to give up the big salaries that are possible in the professional, corporate world for just a bit more flexibility and time, a more human schedule and life style. The state school actually offered this. At least at the place where I worked, people got two days off between fall and winter quarter; other schools don't even give that and I can't imagine going from correcting finals right into the next quarter without nary a day (well, besides the regular weekend!) for lesson planning or--gasp!--a weekday just to relax.

No, the truth is I deeply regret getting my kimlik. I didn't need it for anything I've done here and I would have at least been able to get on at the university and see if it was worth it even to not get my kimlik. Giving it up is much more serious than just not getting it in the first place. But after some hard thinking, I decided that without knowing for sure that the state school would work out, and considering it does pay so very very low, and also considering that my husband would also not be able to work there when he comes over because he, too, is Turkish citizen, I decided to keep things status quo for now. But it is sort of a cautionary tale for others who would like the option of teaching in a state school.

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That's a very comprehensive assessment of the situation Quinn, thank you for that as I'm sure it will help others when making decisions about which path to take.

When I was teaching in Izmir, (a long time ago) I taught at two private schools. The first was where the children of rich families went and the second was where middle management people sent their children. The second school was far better, especially the behaviour of the children and the respect they had for their teachers. How things are now I don't know but I guess that things have got worse rather than better.

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Hi Quinn,

I enjoy reading your posts on here. I'm glad you left your last job, and you got your sanity back!

Interesting developments for you. I know that state school jobs are really sought after by Turkish teachers, because the conditions and pay tend to be better as you have mentioned.

I believe that you can get your US qualifications 'equalled' to the Turkish system, and then with your kimlik you could be employed 'as a Turk'.

I'm interested in your statement from the director that they "are not allowed to consider me as a "native tongue teacher" because I have a kimlik." How definite do you think this is? As I have a kimlik too, and wonder if my school would be able to employ me as a yabanci or not now.

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Hi Sunny, Hi Ahududu!

Thanks Sunny for both the kind words and also for sharing your experience. One of the things I hope to do is that by sharing my experiences, others may have a bit more information as they move forward on their own dreams to live and work in Turkey. Everyone has been so generous with their experiences here that I hope to do the same.

Ahududu, I was not entirely surprised when the director called, because way back last spring/early summer I had an interview with the president of a new state university--he had come to the States to do recruiting at the various consulates--and when I told him I had applied for my kimlik he said, "if you get your kimlik then the deal is off." I was so shocked! But apparently there is a rule that states that if you have a kimlik, by definition you are not a yabanci. I then had an interview at another state school in early December. I told the director I had a kimlik and asked if that was a problem. He made some calls right then and there and was very surprised to find out that yes, apparently it was a problem. He said that apparently he couldn't hire me as a "native English" teacher. At the last place, the place I really liked, they asked me if I had a kimlik and I told them I did. They rejoiced, thought hiring me would be super easy. "It's not every day a native with a master's and a kimlik falls in your lap!" he crowed. But then after he submitted my paperwork, he found out that no, he actually isn't allowed to hire me as a native. Now he could hire me as a Turk, but apparently the rate is 600 TL for 12 hours of teaching, plus overtime. I believe the "overtime" rate is 10TL. If I worked evenings it would go up to 1300. He didn't tell me this but a friend who used to work there told me this. Oh, and no paid summers. All the director told me that he would be able to hire me as a contractor, but said, "it is far far less than the amount we'd discussed" and didn't even try to offer it to me. And he was right: I can't accept that.

It does seem that I've gotten the same story from three different people at three different institutions, so I'm inclined to believe it's pretty definite. I know that the last place apparently did a little research and asked if I could be hired in some other capacity, i.e. as an administrator instead, and the answer was no. Maybe it was no because they didn't have the budget for that, or because what they really want is "official" native teachers, but it was no just the same. Are you an English teacher, Ahududu, or do you teach in another discipline?

Even though I'm not working now--and even though I do need to find a job that I like before I greenlight a permanent/semi-permanent move for my husband and cats, I have to say I am grateful for this experience and glad, glad, glad I quit. As I wrote a friend earlier this week: " I have to say, I am super happy right now, despite how on the face of it things "haven't worked out." I've found my joy again, which is my more-or-less natural state, not that you or anyone else (or me!) would have known it in the fall. I'm doing all kinds of things I just didn't have/make the time for in the fall, most importantly exercising with gusto (I've put myself on a "fitness boot camp" and am enjoying the heck out of it). The predictable result is that I'm both energized and body-relaxed. I went to the Bostanli pazar for the first time since August (!) I'm not only cooking, but actually meal planning and shopping accordingly. I'm painting. I'm writing. I'm the patron saint of the street cats--they all know me and rush up to me when they see me, creating quite a scene at times when I go for walks. I go for walks! I know I'll have to cut down on some things when I get back to work, but I am so very glad to have this time to just enjoy Turkey and Izmir right now." That pretty much says it all. Posted Image

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That is certainly the case in the state sector, but in the private sector it may be different.

I think it is a case of the other man's grass is always greener, quinn. Having spent 6 years at a state university in a faculty position, it was certainly not a bed of roses.

Whatever people say about foreigners getting more money, the reality is often somewhat different. The foreigner salary was said to be three times the local, but when I compared with a colleague, I found that my gross was twice as high, but after various supplements, rebates and overtime were taken into account she actually took home more than me for most of the year, and over 12 months it evened out and was about the same.

Another point to consider is that foreigner position state sector jobs are often offered, but it is quite rare that they actually happen. That is because the number of foreigners who can be employed by a state university is stricly controlled by yök. There were just 6 such positions in the place I worked, and one of those had to leave before someone new could be appointed. Someone on this forum said she had been waiting for many months for that, as I recall. Can't remember who.

I think if you keep looking around with your existing status, quinn, you will find something you like in the end. Determination, flexibility and good qualifications will always see you through in Turkey.

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Thank you, Fil; you always have such good advice. I thought you were pretty happy at the state school? The students were super good and you really enjoyed them. But you're right; there are always things you're going to love and hate about any job. The trick is to find something where you can live with the downside of the job, while enjoying the good. I do have to say that from what I have observed, there is a large differential between yabanci pay and Turk pay. One example is that Turks don't get a housing allowance worth 750-900 TL at a private university I know. They also only get 10TL for overtime pay. Yabancis got 20TL. So that right there pointed to a pretty big difference. But I guess every place is different. I am planning on spending the spring looking to see what I can uncover for the fall. I'm not in a hurry right now; I'm more interested in getting a good fit, even if it means changing some of my original perimeters/expectations in terms of location, age of students, rate of pay, etc.

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I'm contributing some thoughts to balance what I feel is an over-rosy view of the situation in the state sector prep schools based on assumptions, some of which may not be real. The students were good in the department I worked in, and I was very satisfied with them. But I never heard my friends who teach in the prep saying how good their students are. Many of my former students are now okutman in state universities, and some have to teach classes of over 100.

I think you have established what a prep school teacher can earn. But you were earning that as a Turkish citizen, not a yabancı. In the private sector everything is negotiable, not so with the state. I have remarked before on this forum that one hears of all the great advantages, perks and privileges that foreigners get, and how badly off Turkish people are in comparison. This is the perception, and it gets repeated often, but it is just a perception, not a reality. Also I know several people who thought they had jobs at state universities but they never materialised.

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Wow, over 100 students in a single class. That's really . . . . a bummer. It's true, hazirlik school is a different animal than other college teaching. I am currently considering high schools and also first grade. I'm leaning towards first grade. I'm attracted to teaching phonics and I feel comfortable with that age group. I'm just going to take my time and talk to people and try to be able to spend time at some schools if possible, and just see.

One of my friends here is looking into one of the State schools I interviewed at. I have let her know your warning about offers for jobs that don't materialize. Thank you for the heads-up.

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Hi all--

Although I've been active on other parts of the forum, I thought I would close this thread with an update.

I went ahead and got my CELTA. It turned out to be a great experience. I learned a ton, and think the practical approach did have a very positive impact on my teaching. I also made friends and formed great contacts, which is so important in Turkey as you all know. It also gave me some direction and something positive to focus on while I figured out my next move.

I also interviewed at a variety of places--language schools, a university, primary schools, high schools. One of the high schools wanted me to start right away. I told them I couldn't because of CELTA, but they offered me 5 hours a week, and so I took it. I figured I would be able to practice what I was learning in CELTA and also check out what teaching in a high school was like. It would also allow me to check out the school itself--the administration, policies, schedule, etc. I knew almost immediately in the fall that I did not like the place where I was teaching in the fall. I figured that over the course of 4+ months at the high school, I'd figure out if I could like it there or not, even if I was teaching so few hours.

It turns out that the high school experience was the exact inverse experience that I had at the university in the fall. The hours for full-timers are reasonable. There are only two big testing periods a year (rather than 6 weeks out of every 8 weeks). Class gets over at 4:15 and the service buses leave at 4:25, rather than at the other place where classes get out at 4:00 but you have to stick around for another couple hours. They have smartboards--electronic/computer whiteboards, which is super cool. The administration is great--fair, kind, nice. My coordinator is the exact opposite of my last coordinator: whereas the last one took the deal I had negotiated for myself, which is what instigated my quitting, my new coordinator told me, "we were going to give you X class, but then I realized Y would be easier for you because they are at a higher level and better behaved, so I'll take X and you will have Y." I just about fainted from the shock of that one.

The kids themselves are great. Apparently it is a very, very, very competitive school and the kids need super high test scores to get in. They are super smart, motivated, nice, kind, respectful. They get up when I walk in and don't sit until they are told. Cell phones aren't allowed. Not once has someone mouthed off to me. In fact it's the opposite: I adore then and, I have to say, they appear to adore me. They fight over who gets to carry my bag. They fight over who gets to prepare the smartboard for me. They fight over who gets to do my photocopying. Compare this to the university kids, who would say, "hocam, canım sıkıldı" ("teacher, I'm bored.") My colleagues at the university, which includes another American woman who taught 11th grade for five years, agreed with me that the university kids were like 14 or 15 year-olds in terms of maturity. So I was really, really worried about teaching actual 15 year olds. I needn't have worried. One day early on, I had to run and make photocopies for the class. I told the class: I expect every one of you to be reading when I get back. I don't want to see one person talking or looking out the window. Of course, I expected they would completely erupt into chaos as soon as I left because they are 15, right? But I felt I had to at least act stern. Well, I got back and peeked into the window and what did I see? Every single student was reading. Again, I almost fainted from the shock. Posted Image

I was offered a full-time job. It pays a lot less than the other place, but the hours are much, much less as well, i.e. about 63% of what I was working before. I also negotiated a 1/2 day off each week. My husband got a job at a sister school. He is able to take a leave of absence from his work. We are going to rent out our place in the States but move the stuff into storage--we aren't ready to move everything here yet. I think we both need to be here and working, full time in our respective jobs, to really see how we like it and if we want to take the next step of shipping all our stuff here. At this point, I think I could be happy here, but I think my husband needs to see what it's like to teach high school. He wasn't particularly keen on teaching in the past, so we'll see. At worse, we will be here for a year, he will have a chance to live his dream of living in Turkey, we will have an experience and an adventure, and then we will ship everything back to the States (most of our furniture in the States desperately needs to be replaced and we bought nice things here that we can ship back) and pick up where we left off--him at his job. My old job, which I quit in 2010 is probably open to me, as it involves a specific skill set that is difficult to find and I continue to be in contact with management there (on a personal basis--my former manager's manager is one of my best friends), although I might also seek other work.

My husband is coming next week and we will be visiting various places then go back to the States at the end of the month. We'll prepare our place to rent and return to Turkey--with our two kitties!-- in mid-August.

So that's it. It's been a long, strange road and things did not work the way that we had anticipated but overall I'm happy, I'm glad for the experience, and I'm excited about the future. Posted Image

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I am so pleased for you that it has turned out well.

That school sounds too good to be true, you will have any prospective teachers who read this sending you PMs to ask the name of it. Posted Image

Classes of age 15+ students I've had in dershanes were similar but not the ones in schools. You are lucky.

I hope you and your husband get everything sorted and that he likes living and working here.

Please keep in touch as now with all the experiences you've had you will be in a position to help others and we'd like to know how you're going on anyway. Posted Image

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That is really great news and especially good to see you've slipped into the Turkish let's-take-each-day-at-a-time attitude instead of trying to have things all planned out far ahead. It all certainly sounds really positive, and as you say, whatever happens and whatever unanticipated things come up, it is an adventure which you will be glad you had a go at.

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That school sounds too good to be true, you will have any prospective teachers who read this sending you PMs to ask the name of it. Posted Image

Please keep in touch as now with all the experiences you've had you will be in a position to help others and we'd like to know how you're going on anyway. Posted Image

lol Sunny. Re-reading my entry, I can see why you wrote that it seems to good to be true. I did highlight all the positive things and didn't mention any of the negatives, but of course there are negatives there just as there are everywhere. What I've discovered is that what's important is to determine if the negatives at any given place are something that you can tolerate. At my school, for instance, sometimes the administration is a little disorganized--I have found out on numerous occasions that my class was cancelled during the end-of-the-school-year testing, for example, and no one told me. I didn't receive any training on the smartboard, so the kids constantly have to help me out and show me what to do. Also, I'm required to wear a white coat, which many of the teachers hate, especially in Izmir's hot weather! But you know, I'm okay with these things and other minor annoyances. No place is perfect, and what is annoying about this place doesn't annoy me so very much, all told. Posted Image After the horrible experience at the first place, this is a huge relief.

Thanks for the kind words, Vic. It's true, I guess I didn't even realize it but you are absolutely right: I am taking a let's-see approach rather than be in my former uber-planning mode. Oh my gosh, maybe I'm becoming Turkish after all!Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

I absolutely plan on sticking around and hope to help others, as I've been helped. Moving to another country is a daunting prospect for anyone. I'm so grateful for all the help and support I've received from this forum. Posted Image

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Loved your post Quinn. I was also glad to see as Vic said "you've slipped into the Turkish let's-take-each-day-at-a-time attitude" it's the only way to go, it's hard to do at first, but less frustrating in the long run. It will be interesting for you when your husband comes over because you will see how well you have adjusted into Turkish life, as you watch him struggle getting to grips with it. Good job he will have you by his side to help him through it. :)

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Thanks for the kind words, Vic. It's true, I guess I didn't even realize it but you are absolutely right: I am taking a let's-see approach rather than be in my former uber-planning mode. Oh my gosh, maybe I'm becoming Turkish after all!Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

I absolutely plan on sticking around and hope to help others, as I've been helped. Moving to another country is a daunting prospect for anyone. I'm so grateful for all the help and support I've received from this forum. Posted Image

Don't worry about becoming too Turkish yet, Quinn - you've worked out that you have "about 63%" of your previous workload - are you sure that's not 63.2%? or maybe 62.9%?Posted Image

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I'm really glad you've found somewhere nice to work, I was wondering how things were going.

I think it's wise to not burn your bridges back home and for your husband to see how things go for a year.

It can be such a different experience for 'Returning Turks'!!

"WHY did you move back here??"

"Are things SO bad over there??" etc etc!

I hope things get better and better for you Posted Image

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So glad to hear your updates Quinn, and to see you transitioning (sort of) into the casual, easygoing Turkish way of doing things --- perhaps without even really noticing ? You seem to be quite comfortable with it, despite those few little "negatives" !

Enjoy your return to the US, and the reunion with your kitties -- and we hope to "see" you back again (with hubby in tow) for the next part of your adventure in Turkey, and to share in your experiences ! :)

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Don't worry about becoming too Turkish yet, Quinn - you've worked out that you have "about 63%" of your previous workload - are you sure that's not 63.2%? or maybe 62.9%?Posted Image

Don't worry about becoming too Turkish yet, Quinn - you've worked out that you have "about 63%" of your previous workload - are you sure that's not 63.2%? or maybe 62.9%?Posted Image

Posted Image Ok, you got me. Posted Image

Abi--you're so right. I do find my husband being rigid or frustrated and I'm just like "Türkiye böyle." Posted Image

Ahududu--so true. I think it is harder for returning Turks, in a way, than it is for us yabancis. People tend to cut us more slack, and also to compliment us on our progress in the language, while all the time my husband gets, "you've forgotten your mother tongue!" (he moved when he was three!)

Thanks for the kind words, Meral. It is true that I finally feel comfortable here. So many things have come together in the past few months. I'm finally in a place where I can make short sentences in Turkish (complex sentences are another matter but hey, that's my goal for next year!), so I am much less apprehensive about communicating--that makes things a lot easier. I know my way around/the public transportation system. And I feel good about my job and my husband's plan to come out. It's taken a good8 or 9 months, but it feels good to be at peace at long last.Posted Image

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