1. You've worked at a number of international schools since you started teaching. What has been the best thing about each country you've taught in, including Brazil?
It's almost impossible to pick just one amazing thing about each country I have lived in, but I will try!
Japan has a specific "way" of doing things — from how food is presented to how to prune a plant. I loved how deliberate and mindful they are with just about everything!
South Korean culture seems like the perfect mix of old and new — with neon signs and traffic lights next to centuries-old buildings.
Singapore is a perfect lesson on how to pack diversity, modernity, and awesomeness into the tiniest of spaces.
Oman's natural beauty and kind people captured my heart in a way that still surprises me.
The UAE does everything BIG. Buildings, deserts, malls, food... it's a country that pushes boundaries and thinks there is always something beyond the best, the biggest, and the most.
Brazil? I've barely scratched the surface, but I can already see the fun, joy, and color this place has to offer. I have never been in a more vibrant, musical, and exciting place! Brazilians just seem to have a sparkle. I can't think of a better word — the smiles, the eyes, the personalities... they all sparkle.
2. What book has made a big impact on you?
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery gave me a heroine who embraces her weirdness and was unapologetically herself. Anne doesn't change who she is. The people who truly matter learn to appreciate and celebrate her quirks and exuberance. Those who don't - who needs them anyway?
3. You co-lead the Green Club. Tell us one fact that will convince every student at Graded to consider going green or going "even more green."
Every piece of plastic you have ever used is still somewhere on this planet.
Your garbage doesn't disappear just because you have tossed it in a trash can. Think about using less and choosing biodegradable options. When I scuba dive, I see plastic everywhere, and I have helped free more than one sea creature that's been trapped by trash! Do you "need" to bring in plastic plates, cups, and cutlery for your birthday party at school? They'll be used and tossed in minutes and will stay on our planet for centuries. Cupcakes are much more environmentally friendly. Plus, who doesn't like cupcakes? No one I'd ever trust, that's who!
4. Your husband, John Wolfe, also works at Graded. What is the worst — and the best — about working at the same place your spouse does?
The worst is that it is hard to escape work. If we don't make a deliberate effort to avoid "talking shop," our job could literally take up our entire life! It is much harder to achieve a work-life balance when we work with the same people, at the same school, doing the same type of job! Especially when our friends work at the school as well.
The best? We have a lot of empathy for each other. Our jobs are very similar, so I feel he really understands the joys and challenges of being a teacher. Also, his team is full of hilarious, cool people. Not only do I get to hang out with my amazing Grade 3 team, but I feel like an honorary member of Grade 5 as well. Double the fun, double the parties, double the love!
5. What do you miss most from your childhood?
I'm a farm kid from a place where everyone knows everyone. My entire high school had about 150 people. While people may not know you personally, saying your last name would be enough for someone to recall your father, your mother, your grandparents - your whole lineage. I had some teachers who actually taught my parents, aunts, and uncles! I hated that growing up. How can you get away with anything when everyone knows your family? Answer: You can't.
Now I miss it. I am so proud of my family and where I'm from. I miss being able to introduce myself as "Leigh Ann Fitch, Peter's and Ann's girl" and having someone know exactly where I fit in within the world.
6. Have you ever felt excluded? Explain the situation and how it made you feel.
I have freckles, and they are just sprinkles of fantastic all over my face. But I didn't always think like that. I got made fun of pretty badly by a couple of kids in my class. They wouldn't let me play with them because my skin looked "dirty." It really made me hate looking in the mirror and seeing those spots! I tried scrubbing my face until it was almost raw. I tried rubbing lemon juice on them. I even tried bargaining with Santa because he had a solid record of making things happen. Please note: I was about seven years old at the time, so I felt I had explored all my available options at the time.
Luckily, I had one more alternative. Her name was Tara, my friend who also had freckles. Tara didn't care what those other kids thought. We ignored the freckle haters. Tara figured that they were just jealous. Why else would they be so obsessed with us? Shouldn't they have better things to do since they're so cool? It turns out that ignoring them and doing our own thing made us boring to pick on. The freckle haters moved on with their freckle-free lives. Tara is still my best friend, and we now wear our freckles with pride. If you find yourself a Tara, get on her train and never get off.
7. What is your favorite thing to do outside of the classroom, in your free time?
Scuba diving! Did you know that humanity knows more about the surface of the moon than the bottom of the ocean? There is so much to see, explore, and learn down there. I swear that each fish has a personality and a worldview. I even imagine voices for them when I see them swimming about. I recognize how bonkers that sounds, but I'm like Anne of Green Gables. I embrace my weird!
Scuba diving has helped me learn to slow down, breathe, and observe the world around me. I'm a chatterbox, so having a regulator in my mouth for breathing forces me to communicate efficiently and carefully. Diving has its own special sign language and you need to get it right. If I could learn to say more with fewer words on land, I'd be all set! We are all works in progress, aren't we?
8. If you could be any cartoon character, which one would you be?
Let's just forget about the fact that I was obsessed with Snow White when I was in kindergarten. I only answered to the name Snow White and refused to take off the princess dress that my mom made me for Halloween. Also, can we forget that I completely lost my mind when I watched Snow White during a Disneyland parade? Let's ignore the fact that I was 25 years old when that happened. Yes, ignore and forget all those things.
9. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
Hands down: the people. I've lived in enough places to know that people can make or break a place. You can live in paradise, but if you don't feel you belong with the people you see every day, paradise changes to a hellscape pretty quickly! I've met some pretty incredible people on my travels and Graded people are tops on that list.