New teacher orientation must-have: Lunches provided by the school during the orientation week at the school campus.
August 10, 2012
In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school. A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part of your start at your new school, in your new host country.
Must-have #3: Lunches provided by the school during the orientation week at the school campus.
Having a catered, home (cafeteria)-cooked lunch is NOT a given when you start working at an international school. Some international schools include free lunches in their benefits package all year round (for all teachers mind you!), but some international schools don’t offer this benefit…not even during PD events or during new teacher orientation.
It is definitely a nice gesture on the school’s part to offer lunches to the new staff during the orientation week. It is setting the right tone amongst the new staff and their budding relationship with their new school. Additionally, it is a great opportunity for new staff and administration to get to know each other better being that they are kind of forced to dine together because they are eating the same food.
It is important to note that new teachers most likely don’t have everything set up in their new apartments to be ready to cook themselves a packed-lunch to bring to work. The new teachers might not know exactly where to go (e.g. where there is a proper grocery store) to buy food they like to eat either. Well they might know a place to go (one that was recommended to them by a new friend at work), but it might propose a challenge for them to walk there or to navigate a taxi or the public transportation to get there. All of these things are stressers for new teachers during their first few weeks in their new host city/country, and one of the main goals of a new teacher orientation week is to make sure the new teachers are as least stressed as possible.
Now I’m not saying that schools are offering free lunches like in this picture (the beautiful hummus wrap), but some international schools have very nice cafeterias and cooks that can make some quite tasty lunches. At a colleague’s international school in Mediterranean [American School of Barcelona (79 Comments)], they did offer free lunches during new teacher orientation week (during the whole year as well). The food wasn’t the highest quality, but it was nice and made in-house. Lots of fish and local cuisine were prepared on a number of the days. At another colleague’s school Seoul, South Korea [Seoul International School (68 Comments)], there is a buffet available to staff every day…a pretty nice buffet too. There are many choices to choose from. The quality can be quite good at times as well. The colleague noted that sometimes they had to control themselves from not over-eating being that the buffet choices where very good some days! There is a small cost though involved for the teachers to pay if they wanted to eat at the school’s buffet, but it is reasonably priced at $3. However at new teacher orientation, the new staff get it for free (breakfast and lunch). Additionally, the new teachers and the whole staff also get free lunches provided by the school during the first week back before students arrive.
At a for-profit international school in Shanghai though, it was a different story. For the most part, the school did not provide lunches for the new staff during orientation week. If they did provide lunch one day, it wasn’t a lunch prepared for by the kitchen staff. It was from a take-away place nearby to the school. Most days though the new teachers had to figure out their own food to eat during orientation week. The new teachers that didn’t want to make their own lunch (and most new teachers didn’t want to or weren’t really able to), they could also order for themselves (and also pay for themselves) from the take-away place. After trying to navigate a menu all in Chinese characters with a Chinese staff member translating, when the food arrived it definitely wasn’t the highest of qualities or not even close to what you thought it would be. It would have been better really if the school had started up a better relationship with another take-away place. The problem was though that the school was basically in a very rural part of Shanghai, far away from the nicer places. On a positive note, the lunches at the take-away place nearby were priced very, very cheaply!
It is important that the basic needs be met for a new teacher working at an international school. They should have a place to sleep (shelter), they should have some money (via a relocation allowance possibly) to spend on necessities, and they should have food and water (among other things). A wise international school chooses to play a major part and takes an active role is helping to make sure their new teachers have their basic needs met. One way to support this decision, for sure, is to provide lunches to teachers during new teacher orientation. Now how that provided-lunch will look like can vary a lot though! It is definitely not a “deal-breaker” though and you should mostly likely not be asking about the possibility of catered lunches (and their quality) at your interview!
How funny though if schools did come prepared to show pictures of the types of free lunches they provide to their new staff. Actually, seeing those pictures at the interview might be nice; anything really to help you make your decision before you sign the contract.
So, does your school provide lunch during new teacher orientation week? Please share your experiences!