International Educator Interviews: Greg in Saudi Arabia

This week’s interview is with Greg Lemoine who is a career international educator currently working in Saudi Arabia. Greg has been teaching overseas since 2001 (Honduras, Egypt, Kuwait, Cambodia, Venezuela, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia – in that order). I was first introduced to Greg through his podcast, The International Teacher Podcast which he hosts with two friends. (He interviewed me for episode 33 if you want to check it out.) Greg has also written a book called Finding the Right Fit about how to get a job in international schools.

Tell me about living in Saudi Arabia.

I’ve been working for Saudi Aramco Schools since 2016. Did you know it gets up to 52 degrees Celsius (126F) in Saudi Arabia? Living in this company compound is like living in a small suburb back in the 50s. Kids walk or ride their bikes to school. They play at the park until dark without their parents watching them. Of course, it has to do with the multiple layers of serious security. But that’s how I can best describe the feeling of living around the school I work in. I’ll leave it at that. Saudi is not the easiest country to live in if you like women and bacon. Enough said.

What is a myth (or something most people don’t know) about your adopted country?

I love the way you call it an adopted country. I sort of feel like the country is adopting me. It’s fun to hear it turned around. My favorite myth of Saudi Arabia that I usually end up explaining – debunking, so to speak – is the idea that all Saudis are oil-rich. There are a lot of Saudis that fall way short of being rich. Most of them are from a class of Muslims that is in the minority in Saudi.

What has been your favorite teaching position/location thus far? Is there anywhere you are hoping to land a position in the future? 

My favorite teaching position is right where I am. I am a techie and maker space teacher at a fantastic school with a great package. My favorite place to live and teach was Switzerland. I am in love with Switzerland.

What made you decide to become a teacher?

The best thing about being a manager for Warner Bros. stores was training my staff to fill my positions as I moved up in the stores from part-time. One of the core values that drives my personality is the idea that whatever I learn is wasted unless I pass it on to at least one other person. I’m a natural teacher. It’s truly a calling for me.

What’s challenging about teaching at a new school in a new country?

The first real challenge for me is to be away from my family. Mom, dad, and my two brothers’ families are all close. The other challenge is being single. I believe in serendipity, so someday the right woman and I will cross paths. In the meantime, I’m enjoying life and living the dream of international travel. 

How is teaching internationally different from teaching in your home country?

The most important difference between teaching overseas and teaching in the U.S.A. is respect from students and parents. Teaching overseas gives me a chance to earn what a teacher SHOULD earn. Plumbers make more than the average elementary teacher in the States. What’s with that?

When you are looking for a new job, what do you personally look for in a school and country? Has that changed from your first international job search?

I still stand by the rule that I can live in any country. It’s the school that is important to me. If I am happy at work, I am happy in life. I spend so much time at work, I have to enjoy it. As for what needs I have, there are three. You may laugh, but I need a maid because I hate ironing and cooking. The second need I have is ice cubes. If I can have a good supply of ice cubes, life is grand. Third is transportation. In most countries I have lived, I had access to a car or moped. It is important for me to be independent. Many schools offer a bus for their expats, but in my experience, those bus rides turn into a negative teacher lounge pretty quickly. 

How do you go about making both your new accommodations and your new country your own? 

Well, it’s not decorating. Hah! Actually, I make my apartment “mine” by hanging up my collection of underwater photographs I’ve taken over the years from all over the world. Other than that, language is the overall key. Learn the local language and you will feel part of the country. It will quickly become home.

How do you know when it’s time to leave?

Gut feeling for the most part. Although, I was fired early on one September morning. I knew well in advance that it was time to leave at the end of the year. Long story with a great ending. Life isn’t always easy. That was a bizarre September morning.

What tips or advice would you give to others thinking about making the leap to a career in international teaching? 

Read my book, Finding the Right Fit. Then talk to me.

To find out more about Greg:

Visit his personal website: St. SomeWhere.  

Listen to his podcast: The International Teacher Podcast.

Find him on Twitter: @21Teachnology

Buy his book! Finding the Right Fit

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