Ten things that could have gone better while I was working as a consultant with international schools.
  1. 1. The “missing” party invitation: At 4pm after a productive day of working on curriculum, the superintendent (who didn’t attend my workshop) entered and announced to everyone that there would be a big party at his house so that the teachers attending the session from neighboring schools could get to know each other.  As I gathered up my equipment. the superintendent told me that one of the school drivers would take me to my hotel as soon as I could get ready.  No mention was ever made about the big party.  I later learned that it was fun, and the teachers wondered why I didn’t attend.

  2. 2.The shared computer:   Because it was the developing world, where luggage often gets lost, I asked the Head of School if I could leave my laptop at home and use a loaner.  He said “Sure, we have a computer to loan.”  Turns out they had a total of ONE laptop to loan, and about noon the first day a teacher came in and took it because she had been promised it so that she could make a PTA presentation.  The Head of School had left for the week, and it was Thursday before I got the machine back.  Meanwhile, I used a library computer, but had to leave the library during classes.   I didn’t accomplish much that week, and never again traveled without my Macbook.

  3. 3.The noisy room:   I was scheduled to make an all day pre-conference presentation at one of the big regional conferences.  About 40 people attended, but the assigned space was one large room with only a partial curtain between my group and another group of 40.   I pretty much yelled all day.

  4. 4.The missing AV equipment:  I was told that, sure, the school has a projector that I could use.  “It’s a good one and we use it all the time.”  So, you can guess the rest of the story.  It didn’t work, and, after traveling 4000 miles to get there, I gave the workshop using the white board rather than my beautiful PowerPoint slides.

  5. 5.The missing AV equipment, part 2:   This time, the school had a projector, but the largest screen they owned was about 5 feet square, and we had 100 people trying to see.  I learned later that never, in the history of the school, had the teachers viewed anything on a screen during a faculty meeting, so they had never acquired a big screen.

  6. 6.The missing luggage:  I have a rule that I carry one set of work clothes (coat, shirt, tie, etc) in my carry-on luggage.  One time the bags were a day late and I spilled coffee all over my pants on the first day, so I asked a teacher if I could borrow some casual pants to wear the second day. We agreed on the size and he promised to bring them early so that I could change.   The pants turned out to be VERY casual:  his camping jeans that had huge stains and a torn hem!  I decided to just wear my own clothes, coffee stains and all.

  7. 7.The missing electricity:  In the third world one can’t take anything for granted.  The teachers gathered for an all day Saturday session, but the electricity was out for the day.  Until my Mac ran dry I pulled up information on it and passed it up and down the row of ten teachers. Fortunately, the locals were quite accustomed to this and took it better than I did.

  8. 8.The scheduling mishap:   It was during my third trip in one year to a small school in East Asia.  Because I knew my way around I went directly from the airport to the hotel.  The next morning I walked into the Head's office and she looked puzzled.  "Is THIS the week for your visit?   We had to cancel our Professional Development day to make up some lost weather days, and I think we forgot to tell you that the teachers won't be available for a large group session with you all week!"   (Happy ending:  I visited each teacher one-on-one during the week and we accomplished quite a lot.)

  9. 9.No lunch:  For some reason it was my job to tell the cafeteria that lunch was to be served on the day of the big all day work session.  Oops.  Fortunately the cafeteria staff put out a few leftovers, and some teachers found food off campus.  That was my last time to work at that school!

  10. 10.  Not much English.   It was one of the few times that I was booked to work with local, nonnative English speakers.  I was told not to worry:  they all understood enough English.  Wrong.  After 30 minutes we decided to use a translator, so I spent two days saying a couple of sentences and then waiting for the translation.  I wasn’t skilled in this style of public speaking and the pace was frustratingly slow.