International School Community Blog

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools #1: A Trip Around the City

In this blog series, we talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation program at an international school.  A new teacher orientation program can really play a very important part in your start at your new school, in your new host country.

Must-have #1: A Trip Around the City

A friend just told me that there is a hidden rule amongst international school teachers, and that is that you shouldn’t accept any visitors to visit your new home in your new host country within the first six months of living there.  I suppose that is true in some ways and not true in other ways. 

One time I did have a friend visit me during the first three months.  It was actually their first time out of their home country, so it was an important event in this person’s life. At the time, I don’t remember thinking, “Oh, this person shouldn’t visit me right now because I haven’t lived here for at least six months.”  I do remember thinking though, “How cool my friend is coming to visit me!” I disregard how horrible and ineffective I might be as a host for them.

We actually had a good time.  One pro of having a good friend come to visit you within the first three months is that you get to do some exploring of the city together.  One con though is that after one to two years of living in some place, you obviously then know better all of the cool and really fun places to bring people; places that you definitely didn’t know about during the first three months.  Isn’t it all about impressing your friends with your wonderful new city when they come to visit?!

So, back to the topic at hand. Should your new international school be organizing a trip around the city for all their new teachers?  The answer is YES! 

Sure, you could organize this trip yourself (for example just hop on the local tourist bus….see picture), but it is indeed a nice gesture when your new school does this for you (and possibly pays for the tourist bus fee).

It is great when your school does it because your school is the one that knows best how to do this kind of exploring around the city…because they have been living there longer than you!  Also, you might be in a country where you don’t speak the local language.  Your new school could bridge that language gap for you and the other new teachers that have started with you.  Additionally, it is possible that your new city might have not joined the whole touristic bus phenomenon that has “plagued” many of the big cities around the world just yet (though many do believe it is a great way to familiarize yourself with a city and to effectively get around the city…in a fast-like way…and also in a cost-effective way).  If this is the case, then getting around your new city via the metro system and/or bus system might prove to be a bit stressful depending on the city you have moved to (e.g. reading Chinese characters on the bus instead of seeing any bus numbers on it).  If the school can help be a “tour guide” for one day, they can show you all the ropes about getting around the city; thus preparing you to do it yourself next week (e.g. the bus you need to take to get to the big grocery store).

One international school I worked at organized a scavenger hunt for the new teachers that year.  All the new teachers were put in teams of three and were given a list of tasks to complete which involved doing a variety of things around the city.  Each group actually got different lists of things to do.  I think the different lists were so that the other teachers could see the other things that you could do in the city (for it would take too long for one team to do them all in one day).

There was a PowerPoint presentation later on at a whole staff meeting of the teams’ photos from the hunt.  It was very fun to go around the city with two other new teachers.  The individual tasks involved going to specific places of interest in the city, but they also involved finding places that you might go to as a real person living there (i.e. the post office) and completing a task at these places (i.e. buying a stamp). Of course, it was a great bonding experience too.  It was also very fun and funny to watch the presentations.

So, yes.  I hope all international schools around the world have incorporated a trip around the city for their new teachers in their new teacher orientation program.  If you work at an international school right now, we invite you to leave a comment about if your school provided you with a trip around your host city when you first started working there. Search for your school here to submit your comment!