International School Community Member Spotlight #19: Andrew Vivian (An veteran international teacher currently working at MV Education Services)
December 1, 2012
(This member spotlight is a continuation from an interview we did earlier which can be found here.)
From there, we spent a year in Guangzhou, China, at Utahloy International School, with Helen as Primary Principal and me as Head of Science. Guangzhou, despite the air quality, was a really nice place to live. We started off in an apartment in town, while we looked for a place big enough to hold our material possessions – for us, home is where we live, and we take our furniture and everything with us, so relocation costs are substantial. We ended up in a ground-floor apartment out of town, but only a cheap 30-minute taxi ride to “the action”. The shopping was the main attraction, particularly for Helen,
We were asked to come and work at a school in Jakarta, and relocated, because we wanted to continue teacher training and we love Indonesia. Things didn’t work out, and we decided to try our hands at consulting, because we have a lot of connections with Indonesian private schools and Helen is a well-established Primary Years Programme workshop leader for the IB. After a year and a half for Helen, and a year for me, we are keeping the wolf from the door. Helen does a lot of IB workshops around Asia, and is working with the management of a school in East Jakarta. I’ve done one workshop for the IB, a few in Jakarta and one in Beijing. My main work has been a couple of tours doing school inspections in Dubai. I’ve done some course writing and prepared some teaching materials for a couple of organisations. We have just finalised our working visas and our Indonesian company, and will, hopefully, be expanding our business soon.
Teaching internationally has been great for us. We’ve had a few heartbreaks, but, overall we have been able to save money, travel, and every day brings a new experience. We have been to most of the countries in Asia, and some amazing places in them. We speak Bahasa Indonesia, so, when we see something interesting, we can ask questions. One of our delights in Surabaya was just walking through the villages behind us, and talking to the locals.
We’ve had a lot of funny experiences, and no really dangerous ones. For example, we were on a boat up river in Kalimantan, after visiting the orang-utan sanctuary, when the boat broke down, 50 km from the port. We literally hitch-hiked with a passing fisherman. Enroute to Tibet, we stopped in Chengdu, in China. We caught a taxi to a restaurant recommended in a guide book. Half-way there, we realised that we didn’t have the hotel’s card, so we had no way of knowing where to go back to or how to communicate it to anyone. After dinner it took us two taxi rides and a 1km walk before we recognised a landmark.
International schools are funny places – some are excellent. Also, the “true” international schools now make up only a fraction of the places in which you can teach internationally and in tougher economic times, in Asia, at least, they have increasing numbers of local students anyway. Overall the positives tend to outweigh the negatives. Our philosophy is that we want to make a difference, so that working in host-country schools that offer IB programmes is our preference. Not everyone is comfortable in these sort of schools, but they are the places that give real insight into other cultures.
Many people like to teach overseas for the change in locale. That is a factor for us, but it is more about the sort of school we work in. For us, working in IB schools has been fabulous. We have been to most of the regional conferences over the past ten years and have met so many talented, committed people. We get to visit schools and help teachers do it better. In the process, we keep learning something new about education most days.
One thing I would recommend is to get everything in writing and even then, depending on which country you are in, it doesn’t matter any way if someone decides to be unpleasant. If you are prepared to “roll with the punches”, while sticking to your principles, then teaching internationally can be amongst the best things you can do in education.
In 5 words: adventure, culture, education, difference, satisfaction.
Make sure the check out Andrew’s website which tells more about the services he currently offers to international schools.
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Want to work for an international school in Guangzhou like Andrew? Currently, we have 8 international schools listed in Guangzhou on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:
• American International School of Guangzhou (12 Comments)
• Guangzhou Nanhu International School (4 Comments)
• Alcanta International College (6 Comments)
• Guangzhou Huamei International School (5 Comments)
• Clifford International School (8 Comments)
• The Affiliated High School of SCNU (8 Comments)