International School Community Member Spotlight #22: Laurence Myers (An int’l school teacher working at International School of Kuala Lumpur)
February 28, 2013
Tell us about your background. Where are you from?
I am originally from Athens, Greece with a father from the US and a mother from Greece. I was born and raised in Athens, Greece and attended a small international school (TASIS Hellenic International School, now International School of Athens). I have been teaching for 19 years internationally and have loved every minute of it!
How did you get started in the international teaching community?
For me teaching internationally was almost an extension of my life as a student. As I went to an international school as a child I found the cross-cultural connections at such schools to be right up my alley. Of course, as is often the case, my inspiration came from my teachers and professors, the most powerful of which was that of Kostas Gabriel who presently teaches in Chennai. He was an inspiration in believing in myself as a child and I found that, when deciding on a profession, this also provided me with an impetus to assist students in similar circumstances. I also had some good friends who showed me the way, most notably Ralph Barrett who presently teaches in Abu Dhabi. Following their footsteps, and my heart, I was able to fit right in when professional life came calling. After a couple years of teaching internationally I was hooked. The job offers the perfect combination of discovery and self-reliance with the added dimension of dealing with simply wonderful kids!
Which international schools have you worked at? Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.
I began my teaching at the same school I attended as a child, TASIS Hellenic International School. It was, and still is, a small school with much character and a small but very dynamic student population. It was here, as I took my professional baby steps, that I learned that students are often waiting for an opportunity to see the world in different ways. I taught both social studies and physical education at TASIS.
Following TASIS, and a short stint back in the US to receive my M.A., I taught for five years at Colegio Nueva Granada in Bogota, Colombia. For me this was an eye-opening experience. Like the Greek community, Colombians are open and really want to know about you as a teacher. I found this connection fascinating and discussions with my students in economics and government endlessly rewarding. The country of Colombia too, which had a shady reputation at the time, was a simply beautiful place to be! Despite the media and the difficult political situation the travel opportunities there were tremendous and I still find that, in so many ways, Colombia is home for me as well. I am also happy to be connected to Colombia through my wife, who has been by my side since those days at CNG. 🙂
My next stop, where I presently work, was the International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was here that my professional self was able to succeed in ways that I never imagined possible. ISKL’s professional development opportunities and the support that they offer their teaching staff allows for many teachers to become great leaders in their own right. Though the expectations are high, so too is the sense of professional community. Collaborative, supportive and engaging ISKL has given me the opportunity to broaden my understanding of teaching and learning. It is in Malaysia that my two daughters were born and so our connection to Kuala Lumpur will be life-long.
Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
In Malaysia it is customary to point with the thumb and not the index finger. As our daughters are quite young trying to get them to remember to point this way is sometimes difficult. Traditionally we point, as most do in the west, with our index fingers. At one point when we went to a restaurant our daughter was pointing at something and we were overly concerned about what that might say about our cultural empathy. We tried very hard to get her to change her finger and were embarrassed to fail miserably. When we went over to the table and sat down to talk about it our daughter told us to look at the next customer, a Malaysian woman, who had just walked in. Sure enough, she was indicating things to the staff using her index finger. My daughter was vindicated and I quieted down recognizing that customs often change as cultures diffuse. Where we are often overcompensating in order to fit into the local culture, the members of that same local culture might be happy to use western gestures and norms.
What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
As I have matured in my teaching, and as my family situation has changed (ie. single to married to having children) so too has my outlook on what is important in a job. When I was younger, of course, my impression of travel opportunities and cultural experiences was primary, as well as the reputation of the school. Now that I am older with a family I suspect that my next teaching post will be a bit closer to home and one where our children can also have a positive learning experience. It should be a school that allows me personal and professional challenge but also provides children with a well-rounded educational experience.
Specific thoughts on a new position (when that happens):
Is it in a safe location?
Does the school promote whole-child philosophy?
Does the school’s administration support teaching initiatives?
What is the “personality” of the school and does it fit in with our own?
Does the school support an environment of caring for people and for the environment?
In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Discovery. Rewarding. Engaging. Relationships. Awesome.
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Want to work for an international school in Malaysia like Laurence? Currently, we have 23 international schools listed in the Malaysia on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:
• Garden International School (19 Comments)
• International School of Kuala Lumpur (55 Comments)
• Nexus International School (18 Comments)
• International School of Penang (Uplands) (9 Comments)
• Dalat International School (6 Comments)
• Mont Kiara International School Kuala Lumpur (8 Comments)