ESL, Featured, Volunteering

Teaching in the Past, Present, and Future Tense

13 Comments 25 June 2013


An old chair from the past, sits in our present day Bloghouse, following the future white light.

My computer blurts out a tone that tells me I have a Facebook chat message, “Shit!” I mumble – I get mad at myself as I realize that somehow my chat got turned on again unknowingly (damn technology) and now I was going to get sidetracked from writing. When I clicked over prepared to ignore someone or tell them that I wasn’t really available – I was surprised to find out my message was from an old student in India – Suraj. The message read, “i am suraj from hlc u r remember me? namste mam. how r u?”

My Grinch-like heart softened and of course I chatted with him a bit to find out what was happening in his life – married, kids, new job? Six years later and my old students from India still contact me and call me “Mam.” – a term I never really knew if I liked and found endearing, or if I hated and felt old! I knew it was a form of respect in India – and I shed my personal feelings about it and tried to accept being called Mam. Chatting with Suraj brought the memories of teaching and Delhi back and once again I thought – I need to get back to teaching again.

Past Tense – India and Vietnam

India computers

My students in India working on their computer skills.

Teaching, and specifically volunteering in India, is actually what kept me from going back to my old corporate life. (Let’s take a moment and thank the heavens that I found a way to not go back to my corporate life! Cubes, florescent lights, and me don’t get along.) It was my ticket into this world of travel writing and social media that I have landed in now. During my career break travels I knew right away that I didn’t want to go back to my old corporate life, but I didn’t have any answers on how I could continue traveling and seeing the world without a job/paycheck. Then the holy burning bush spoke to me in India and told me about ESL. (by ‘burning bush’ I mean a woman named Martha smoking a cigarette in a nightclub in Delhi.)

I was a believer!  I went back to NYC, got my CELTA certification to teach English and moved to Vietnam where I could make money, teach, and work on building out my writing skills and website. I absolutely loved getting up in front of a classroom to share knowledge and most importantly see people grow and get excited about learning. I taught my students in Vietnam how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – an invaluable skill. However, after about a year of teaching, the website and Meet Plan Go took off and I no longer had time to continue teaching. I sadly said goodbye to grammar and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, my white board, and students – but was eager to continue on the road to world famous travel blogger!

Present Tense – Bloghouse Toronto


Seriously love the chalk board at Bloghouse!

Four years have gone by since Vietnam and I am reminded just how hard it is to become a world famous travel blogger – yet I keep plodding along mainly because …well…it’s damn fun to see the world. But what if I were to combine blogging and teaching?

Navigate Media Group (a blogging/marketing group I am a part of – check us out as we are pretty darn cool), decided to hold a blogging workshop in Toronto which means I have the chance to step back into my teaching shoes again! One problem though – even though I’ve been blogging for 7 years now – I still feel I’m a novice when it comes to this industry. So I’m a bit unsure of what I can bring to the table, but am excited to hang out with my fellow Navigate members and get into teaching mode again.

Bloghouse is an intense one-on-one 3 day workshop for new travel bloggers. We mentor and teach new bloggers on subjects like niche, SEO, design, social media, workflow, photography, videography, wordpress, pitching, media kits, newsletters, and monetizing their careers. Yes, sadly there is no PB&J making – but we did eat a lot of cheese. Participants apply to attend and we take a small number of people so that they get the benefit of a close relationship with each of us.

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese provided by Cheesewerks in Toronto…delish! Their motto – Get Comfy!

We basically work with cool partners like Flipkey and Flight Network to help us throw the event in a great location where we can easily work and live for 3 days and provide a lot of instruction. In Toronto we actually didn’t have a BlogHouse, Flipkey provided a BlogCastle. It was an old monastery on the campus of De La Salle College that still houses monks and office workers during the day – but also provides event, meeting rooms, and housing. It was a bit quirky but that’s just what I like when I travel! That AND women named Martha giving me advice.


A Bloghouse ‘session’…small and intimant learning opportunities

I’m covering topics on photography, time management, and the business side of blogging and social media. It is fun for me to get the adrenaline rush again of standing up in front of people and teaching.  There’s only one thing missing – no one is calling me Mam! I think this is a good thing – right?

For me the most fun (and intimidating) is doing a photography workshop. When it comes to photography skills and knowledge, I’m stuck somewhere between enthusiast and professional – I guess that means I’m an amateur. So when I was tasked with teaching the new bloggers a photo workshop – I panicked – I don’t know enough about photography to be teaching it. I just do it – I don’t think about it – beautiful pictures are created. Thanks to the amazing Pete Heck for talking me off a castle ledge in a state of panic. He helps me realize that I know more than I think I do. (how long do I have to keep learning this lesson?) Teaching continues to challenge me to look at things differently and test myself.

Future Tense – Hawaii

Keables Chair

Keables Chair Iolani School

Yup, that’s right – I will be going to Hawaii to teach in the future! One of the most exciting and unusual projects I have coming up in early 2014 puts me in front of a classroom again – actually, it’s not just a classroom, it’s an entire school. I was chosen to serve as the Iolani School Keables Chair in Honolulu in January.

“The Chair honors the memory of Mr. Harold Keables, a legendary Iolani English teacher. He was named Teacher of the Year by Life Magazine and received honorary doctorates from, among others, Yale University. The focus of Mr. Keables’ life was always his students, and it is with that commitment in mind that the Chair seeks to bring distinguished artists, writers, and teachers to Iolani each year for a two week visit. They work primarily with students, but also with teachers and parents, to broaden horizons and shape minds as Mr. Keables did.”

This could be the highlight of my travel/teaching career so far. I love blogging and traveling – but I have a passion for inspiring people about travel and following their own passions even more. I’ll be doing a number of presentations on travel, writing, photography, social/cultural studies, and career breaks. Much more on my role as the 2014 Keables Chair to come.

As a side note – I wonder if the Iolani students will call me Mam? I’m not so convinced that in America it’s a sign of respect!

Once again, I’m amazed at all of the diverse directions that travel has taken me – and teaching is one that I never would have predicted! The past, present, and future was, is, and will be incredible.

Images from Bloghouse Toronto:

Check out this fabulous group of Travel Bloggers from Blog House – great new people to follow with fresh perspectives that represent all age groups. They are up and coming and each have a cool new perspective on travel. And of course they have some great new photography skills!
Megan Smith – Megan o Travels
Noah Ledermann – Somewhere or Bust
Keryn Means – Walking on Travels
Mara Gorman – Mother of All Trips
Alana Morgan – Paper Planes Blog
Melissa Hogan – Suitcase and Heels
Emma Holliday – An Opportune Moment
Alouise Dittrick – Traveler Ahoy
Kay Rodriguez – The Kay Days
Stephanie Spencer – Nerd At Large
Lindsay Lewis – The Traveluster
Cacinda Maloney – Points and Travel

Thanks to Telecom Square for providing me and others at the Bloghouse internet access via their mobile internet device.  Secure & Convenient Mobile Internet. Use your i-phone, smartphone and tablet overseas with no roaming charges.


Your Comments

13 Comments so far

  1. Very cool!

    In the South, we still use ma’am and sir as a sign of respect for anyone older or in authority. I will admit that the younger generation do not use as much (city kids at least) or at all, because they weren’t taught it. I am 35 and was punished growing up for not saying it as respect to my elders or even to a cashier. I remember the first time I was a cashier at 16 or 17 and was called ma’am. I was freaked out, but remembered that was how I was taught. In the rural parts of Texas, you will hear people saying it still (even the young ones).

  2. Steph says:

    I would have called you Mam if I’d known! Thanks again for all of your encouragement and advice. I may not be new at this, but there’s always room for more knowledge in this nerdy old noggin.

  3. Nancy Brown says:

    Congratulations on your selection to Iolani School Keables Chair. Quite an honor. What a trip this will be! Aloha!

  4. Pete says:

    Very humbled by your kind words Sherry, thank you. It was an extreme pleasure to share this opportunity from you as you have been an inspiration to me since starting our journey.

    So when are we planning our photography only workshop?!?! 😉

  5. It must be a great feeling when former students still contact you.

  6. J J Kosmac says:

    Sherry, I haven’t been reading your blogs for awhile only your FB posts and after reading this one and several of your other blog posts today I am inspired to begin a new adventure and a change of lifstyle. Several months ago I bought a TESOL program and haven’t opened it. You post has given me new incentive! I would like info on your Bloghouse 3 day intensive. HOW DO I SIGN UP FOR BLOGHOUSE?Congrats on Keables Chair Honor! Your evolution as a traveller and blogger as well as being a solo female adventurer is truly stellar and inspirational.

    • Sherry says:

      Glad you checked out the blog again! BLoghouse happens only a few times a year when we can get it organized and put together. I believe the next one though will be coming up in end September/Oct in Dublin, Ireland. We take applications for Bloghouse. If you want to stay up to date on the upcoming ones – then it’s best to sign up for this newsletter ( and it will let you know when we are taking applications.

  7. Linda says:

    I am a 56 year old teacher. I have been teaching for 25 years. Is 60 too old to begin an overseas career?

    • Sherry says:

      I knew people who were in their upper 50’s teaching in Vietnam – so I don’t think it’s a big issue – especially if you have experience teaching! You can contact a few schools and at least ask!

    • Rosemary says:

      I will be 62 next year when I retire after 28 yrs in the classroom and I plan on volunteering- teaching English seems to be in demand in many countries. I am just starting to research but Nepal has peaked my interest. Good luck Linda.

Share your view

Post a comment

Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
New here? Then Start Here.

Where am I and Where am I going?

Minnesota/Wisconsin -> Nebraska

Receive Ottsworld Updates via Email

green line
green line

green line