Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #34: Ms. Barbara Meinel Jacobs (A teacher at the Albanian International School)

December 15, 2015


Every so often International School Community is looking to highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight blog category.  This month we interviewed Ms. Barbara Meinel Jacobs:

RRona and meTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I’m from the USA, but I  have been involved in humanitarian work and teaching around the world since 1973. A close friend of mine was a Montessori teacher from Ireland and she had invited me to come to the UK to work with her. After 3 months I moved to Essen, Germany to set up a Montessori center for very small children. I had 3 little students: my 5 month old daughter and 2 boys, both 4 yrs old. One was German and the other was Finnish. Neither of them spoke English or each other’s languages, so I taught them in English 5 hours a day. They learned fluent English by the time my daughter was 11 months old.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

In March I moved on to Italy and from there got married, lived on a farm, and we traveled around Europe working with youth groups and setting up little Montessori/Preschools in Italy, France, and Portugal. This was just the beginning of our travels with our little growing family of six.

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.

Currently, I am teaching Preschool (EYFS) Albanian International School in Tirana, Albania. I’ve been teaching at this school since it’s conception in 2011. I started as Librarian sorting through 12,000 books and documenting their titles and authors. Then I taught English to the students that first year. The next year I started with the Preschool kids and have been involved in these ages ever since. I really enjoy teaching the littlest students of our school! It’s so much fun and exciting when they learn a concept, begin to speak English, make friends and discover something new about the world we live in.

My day begins at 4am. I wake up early so that I can think through the day, change any plans that may need to be changed and listen to calm music before I have to really get up at 6am. Then I leave the house at 7:30 and take a short walk to school.  

One of our favorite things to do during rainy season is to dance for our exercise/play time. Albania has a long rainy season of December through middle of June! It rains every day and it is cold. We keep the little ones inside so discovering “Just Dance Kids” on YouTube has been a life saver! The kids love dancing along with the figures on the screen and are now proficient dancers.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

A really funny thing happened to me last week. We had been preparing for the Albanian independence days celebrations at school. My kids were dancing and singing in Albanian for weeks in preparation for their show. On Saturday after the show I was walking down the street to the supermarket playing music in my head. Halfway home I realized that I was singing Albanian folk music instead of the usual music I play in my head. I’ve finally become Albanian! I’ve been here since 2010.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

One of the important things I look for when searching for an international school is whether there is much pollution (I have asthma), a safe environment, and they won’t mind my age or nationality.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Exciting, fun, new friends, challenges!

Thanks Barbara!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in the Eastern Europe like Barbara?  Currently, we have 105 international schools listed in Eastern Europe on International School Community. 54 of them have had comments submitted on their profiles. Here are just a few of them:

Pechersk School International (Kyiv, Ukraine)122 Comments
International School of Belgrade (Belgrade, Serbia)34 Comments
Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia)66 Comments
Wroclaw International School (Wroclaw, Poland)46 Comments
American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland)82 Comments
International School of Latvia (Riga, Latvia)33 Comments
American International School of Zagreb (Zagreb, Croatia)29 Comments
Anglo American School of Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria)28 Comments
International School of Azerbaijan (Baku, Azerbaijan)39 Comments

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Highlighted Articles

Making Friends Outside of Your International School is…

August 30, 2020


…HARD!

I don’t know about you, but I think making friends outside of your school community can be one of your biggest challenges when you live abroad.

International teachers hanging out in a bar

If you are an outgoing person, maybe it is a bit easier. However, if you are on an introverted side and also don’t know the local language, then you are up against a steep hill.

Either way, you could say that it is just safer and more comfortable to be friends with your colleagues at your international school. You usually have a lot in common with your colleagues as they also like adventure, share your love for traveling, and have the same vacation calendar as you.

But to get the most out of your international school teaching experience, the elusive goal of many international school teachers is to make some local friends, too.

Lonely expat on the street

If you don’t know the local language yet, then you are limited to the locals that are able to speak English (or your home language). Normally, these locals already have other foreigner friends and most likely have traveled internationally or had even lived abroad. These locals are easy to find as friends because you have a lot in common. For example, you probably have many places to go visit and hang out together in the city. If you are lucky, these locals are even available to do some traveling with you during your vacations.

To meet locals who don’t speak English and have a very tight-knit group of friends, let’s say, is a different story. To befriend the locals is typically easier if you have a partner or spouse that is also a local. If that is the case, then you have “a ticket in” to those exclusive groups of friends. Having these kinds of local friends really can give you the “VIP level” on the experience of the city and country that you are living in. These locals know what and where things are happening. International school teachers without these types of friends typically miss out on a number of cultural events and are left without a deep insight into the local lifestyle.

Expat friends talking

One of the ultimate events in your friendship with a local is to be invited over to their house, even better – for a meal. It can be that you invite a local to your house for dinner multiple times before finally, the stars align and they invite you back to their place. If you are at your international school for only two years, that might not be enough time for this to happen. Building this kind of relationship usually takes longer than that.

What is your experience with making friends in your host city/country? Logon to ISC and share what you know by submitting some comments on your school’s profile page.

When using the keyword search feature (premium membership required), we found 143 comments about friends. Read below a few that are connected to making friends outside of your international school.

Comments about Making Friends

“Leysin is a small mountain village and as a result, the community is limited. There is a definite LAS bubble and most of the staff spend time outside of work with each other. It is rare to meet and become friends with people outside of the school community unless you have worked here for many years. It isn’t easy being single here, but the lifestyle is worth it if you love the outdoors and the mountains. It is a quiet village and a great place to live if you don’t like the city.” – Leysin American School (113 total comments)

“I find my Albanian friends quite generous: they always fight to pay the bill in a coffee shop but also for lunch. It is a local tradition though, and keep in mind that, if you want to keep your friends close to you, next time will be your turn. It is important to understand quickly these cultural habits as it will allow you to make good friends. One thing that it is generally badly perceived is to be stingy in friendship.” – Albanian College Durres (111 total comments)

“The locals are very friendly and accommodating. We recently went on a one-day trip with a local tour company. As the only foreigners, we didn’t have much company at the beginning but we found out the locals on the trip actually spoke a very good level of English. By the end of the day, we made friends with many of them!” – Khartoum International Community School (153 total comments)

“Lots of people learning English in Saigon and they will all want to practice with you. Learning some Vietnamese helps with bonding and making local friends but generally, a lot of people speak or are learning to speak English.” – Renaissance International School Saigon (52 total comments)

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Top 10 Lists

10 Consequences of Covid-19 on International Schools around the World

May 8, 2020


The vast number of international schools around the world are still closed and doing some kind of remote learning. It has truly been a challenge for these schools to adapt and adjust to this new way of teaching.

The pressure has been on the school’s administration to organize a clear plan that will follow the local government’s rules and guidelines. These administrators strive to clearly communicate to all stakeholders given the very short amount of reaction time to put the new ways of working in place.

When using ISC’s unique Comment Search feature (Premium Membership is needed), we found a number of comments that had the keyword Covid in them. Here are 10 comments that show some implications of Covid-19 on these international schools:

1. Peking University Experimental School (Jiaxing) (51 total comments)

“School communication has always been a struggle for the school, particularly for the foreign hires who generally hear things last. During the distance learning program due to Covid-19, this had huge repercussions in the trust of the school. Ultimately however the school eventually came to good decisions that people were happy with….”

2. American International School Dhaka (110 total comments)

“The school is currently going through the accreditation for NEASC and IB/PYP. This process may be delayed due to Covid-19…”

3. Doshisha International School Kyoto (134 total comments)

“DISK is working on accreditation with WASC, They were to do the initial visit before the end of this year, then Covid-19 messed it up. We expect them in September. Due to Covid-19, we extended the closure of campus to May 11. Learning is still taking place online…”

4. Copenhagen International School (375 total comments)

“Because of Covid 19, our school has been doing remote teaching for many weeks now. But after only 4 weeks, the Danish government has ordered that kids aged 0-10 should go to school (MS and HS still have remote learning, probably until the end of the year). The Early Years and Primary School sections are now teaching in person again on campus, but we have so many new rules and guidelines that we must follow. We are calling it “emergency learning”. One rule is that there can only be 10 kids per classroom because we need to have kids sit two meters apart and to limit the number of adults the students interact with. That in turn requires more teachers to teach a grade level, so the drama, art, music, etc teachers are now all classroom teachers teaching. It is very full on!”

5. Zurich International School (49 total comments)

“Students in EC-Grade 5 are using Seesaw as the primary platform for learning while students in 6-12 are using Google Classroom. This has been very helpful in transitioning to online learning due to the Covid-19 situation…”

6. Western International School of Shanghai (466 total comments)

“Pretty much all PD cancelled when Covid 19 hit. Even those that could have been rescheduled…”

7. American International School (Vietnam) (153 total comments)

Covid-19 has put teaching online. Added costs of increased electricity use and wifi upgrades (if required) must be born by teacher. One school in the vicinity has provided a bonus to its faculty for this increase in costs…”

8. Albanian College Tirana (20 total comments)

“New principal is hardly at school and doesn’t know teachers. In every critical situation (earthquake, Covid-19 closure) director was the first one to leave the country and ‘manage from distance’…”

9. Khartoum International Community School (142 total comments)

“As of March, 2020, KICS has switched to online learning/teaching as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a bumpy transition, especially as it happened right at the start of the spring break, which is why some teachers and families are out of Sudan…”

10. Hoi An International School (41 total comments)

“Salaries for primary and secondary teachers have been cut to 80% during the Covid-19 shutdown even though teachers are expected to teach their full course load. IB PYP candidacy was abandoned…”

ISC would like to hear from you! Log on to ISC today and submit a comment about the consequences of Covid-19 on your international school. You can submit your comment in the School Information section under the comment topic “Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.).”

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Comparing the Schools and Comments

Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Albania

February 15, 2020


Around the world, there are countries (like Albania) that have more than one international school. Many times there is an American school, a British School, and an international school that uses an international curriculum.

The big question always is…how do the comments about each school compare to each other?

This blog series looks at comparing some of these comments, all coming from international schools in the same country.

Albania

Currently, we have 6 schools listed in Albania on International School Community.

4 of these schools have had comments submitted on them. Here are some that have the most submitted comments:

World Academy of Tirana (41 Total Comments)
Albanian International School (32 Total Comments)
Albanian College Tirana (12 Total Comments)
Albanian College Durres (103 Total Comments)

Amount of Money Left to be Saved

“You can save around 1000 to 1500 Euros each month depending on your lifestyle. Traveling around the region is quite tempting, so you will have to prioritize if you really want to save some money or explore the world…” – Albanian College Durres

“Extremely easy to save money. Restaurants and local hotels are not expensive…” – World Academy of Tirana

School Campus

“In south of city, owner just bought a field in front of school for student play…” – Albanian College Tirana

“The school has serious safety concerns. The railings could easily fit a small child through them. The ceilings on the main floor have collapsed. There is a pool in the basement without proper ventilation. The only outdoor space for the children to play is on the roof and it is woefully inadequate…” – Albanian College Durres

“The school moved to its current 4-storey building in 2015, with a purpose-built Science Laboratory, Design workshop, Permaculture Garden, multi-functional Sports Court, Gymnasium, Visual Arts studio, Dance Studio, Music Studio, two Libraries, Cafeteria and Bistro…” – World Academy of Tirana

Housing Information

“Housing is provided by the school. Value is 300E per month. Staff pays their own utilities, cable, internet, etc…” – World Academy of Tirana

“Housing allowance is 400 Euros per month for a single teacher…” – Albanian College Tirana

“Housing allowance ranges from 300-400 Euro’s per month depending on single status and number of dependents…” – Albanian College Durres

Sample prices for food, transportation, average hourly rates for a housekeeper, etc.

“Prices much lower than surrounding countries…beer in local restaurants range from 1.2 E to 2.5 euros…” – World Academy of Tirana

“To take a taxi from within the center of the city, it will cost you around 350-450 LEK. Quite cheap! Going out for food will probably cost you around 1600-1700 LEK for two people, and that includes a few drinks and appetizers…” – Albanian International School

“Housekeepers prices vary. Some expats pay 10,000 Leke per month for a housekeeper visit 2 per week…” – Albanian College Tirana

(These are just 4 of the 66 different comments topics that are on each school profile page on our website.)

If you work at an international school in Albania, share what you know. Consider becoming a Mayor for unlimited free premium membership!

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Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Tirana, Albania (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

October 20, 2017


Traveling Around: Tirana, Albania

Can you relate?

tirana

  • Driving through Albania gorges and valleys with beautiful nature to get to Tirana.
  • Visiting a local olive oil factory “Shkalla” and buying some extra virgin olive oil directly from them.
  • Passing by Albanian International School at the Southern entrance to the city.
  • Practising one’s patience navigating through Tirana’s traffic and the narrow streets.
  • Walking down the marble-paved boulevard towards BLLOKU, the place to be in Tirana.
  • Staying at a private, secluded hotel isolated from the traffic noise – Hotel Panorama.

tirana

  • Experiencing the variety of cuisines available locally, mostly Italian, but also Spanish, French and the local Albanian.
  • Taking taxis to get around the city and only paying 2-3 EUR for each ride. Though it is important to note that the city is a very walkable city.
  • Being treated with great service at one of the best rated restaurants in the city of Tirana – Era. They have a strict no-wifi policy. They say that the best unlimited internet connection is friendship!
  • Checking out the main market and realizing immediately that the locals don’t shop there. Though the market has had a makeover recently, it appears as if there aren’t enough buyers that want to go there. Maybe the prices are too high?
  • Having a decadent ice-cream cup in an upscale Italian chocolaterie and finding that the menu, though very beautiful with pictures, was all in Albanian. It is really difficult to try and understand most Albanian words, even if you know a number of languages. Luckily, the servers were more than willing to help us out.

tirana

  • Meeting up with the sister of one of our friends from our host country. Not knowing her beforehand or her boyfriend, it was a risk. But a good evening was had as we actually had a lot to talk about from politics to languages to history to food, etc.
  • We had rented a car here, but quickly decided that we were not going to drive to different places around the city because of the “crazy-like” driving from the locals. It really seems like if you don’t know the local “rules” of the road, it will be very tricky and potentially dangerous for you!
  • Enjoying the perfect weather every day. I mean it was a sunny and the just right temperature every day here. How lucky the people are that live here! Living on the Mediterranean definitely has it’s perks!

tirana

  • Looking at the buildings here are so interesting. Though it is true some of the buildings look a bit run down and falling apart, the local artists have made these buildings into works of art. They draw really clever patterns or drawings on the facades of the buildings that make them look very beautiful and interesting to look at.
  • Being amazed by the streetlights here. The whole pole holding up the traffic light was actually a light itself! So when the light turned red, the whole pole turned red and the same for the other colors.
  • Walking around the recently rebuilt park with the artificial lake and seeing many people, young and old enjoying the beautiful weather in October.

tirana

Currently, we have 107 international schools listed in Eastern Europe on International School Community. 57 of them have had comments submitted on them. Here are a few of those schools:

Albanian International School (Tirana, Albania)19 Comments
International School of Azerbaijan (Baku, Azerbaijan)39 Comments
QSI International School of Sarajevo (Sarajevo, Bosnia)18 Comments
Anglo American School of Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria)49 Comments
American International School of Zagreb (Zagreb, Croatia)29 Comments
International School of Brno (Brno, Czech Republic)25 Comments
International School of Estonia (Tallinn, Estonia)22 Comments
Britannica International School Budapest (Budapest, Hungary)19 Comments
International School of Latvia (Riga, Latvia)33 Comments
American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland)89 Comments
Wroclaw International School (Wroclaw, Poland)46 Comments
Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia)68 Comments
International School of Belgrade (Belgrade, Serbia)59 Comments
Pechersk School International (Kyiv, Ukraine)122 Comments

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock.  Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give you 6 free months of premium membership!

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Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Sofia, Bulgaria (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

July 20, 2017


Traveling Around: Sofia, Bulgaria

Can you relate?

• Passing by a house that had a whole car in its front yard as a lawn decorative item!
• Going through a city market, not a big touristy one, and enjoying all the little shops there; had a great “conversation” (many language barriers) with one store owner/worker about her honey, jams and nuts.
• Checking out the biggest city park in Sofia and realizing how amazingly big it was. There were also some martenitsas tied to a number of the park’s trees. Didn’t know what those were, but now I know; interesting tradition.
• Having a nice walk through the downtown area of Sofia and running into some of the most beautiful buildings on a nice sunny day!


bulgaria

• Walking through the city neighborhoods and spotting a really cool local bird that was grey but with fluorescent blue markings on its wings.
• Seeing a bunch a stray dogs and cats lounging around all the streets and sidewalks.
• Watching a local group of little school kids and their teachers walk in line together as they go along their field trip for the day.
• Smelling the amazing smells of a local bakery. Geez, how could you not stop and check out their goods?!

bulgaria
• Choosing one of the many day trips that I could have taken and doing it with 4 strangers and having a great time.
• Checking out the nearby mountains, thinking that there would be some green nature and then finding out that it was all snow still there.
• Being immersed in a completely silent place surrounded by beautiful trees and nature.
• Challenging myself to walk up a steep mountain incline, getting to the top and enjoying the view!

bulgaria

• Finding a really little Mexican restaurant on one of the streets in Sofia (didn’t eat at it), a kind of restaurant that looks like a food truck but was actually part of the nearby buildings. You could only order through a window.
• Checking out the main market in Sofia and deciding what I wanted to buy. I ended up going to a local lavender farmer and buying two jars of their lavender honey.
• Shopping in Sofia is great because the price of certain produce and products is so cheap!
• Enjoying the fact that I can read most Cyrillic letters and some basic Russian, so I wasn’t so in the dark when confronted with an important street sign or store sign for example.

bulgaria

• Seeing certain produce items (omg, the tomatoes) that I can get in my host country, but not as tasty as these ones looked! Feeling very jealous of the expats living here.
• Noticing that some of market stands had a really long line of people wanting to buy their specific produce. The locals know who to buy from I guess!

bulgaria
• Going to an out-of-the-way restaurant, walking in and realizing nobody else was there. Started talking to the owner and worker and learning about their lives and the life of the restaurant. Great, unexpected cultural exchange.
• Deciding to take a short cut to get to a certain place while using Google Maps, but only to realize I was getting myself into a bit of a dangerous area for walking pedestrians (really close to a fast highway).  Making it out safe, and happy because I found a really cool spot to take a picture of some graffiti.

Currently we have 106 international schools listed in Eastern Europe on International School Community. 55 of them have had comments submitted on them. Here are a few of those schools:

Albanian International School (Tirana, Albania)19 Comments
International School of Azerbaijan (Baku, Azerbaijan)39 Comments
QSI International School of Sarajevo (Sarajevo, Bosnia)18 Comments
Anglo American School of Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria)49 Comments
American International School of Zagreb (Zagreb, Croatia)29 Comments
International School of Brno (Brno, Czech Republic)25 Comments
International School of Estonia (Tallinn, Estonia)22 Comments
Britannica International School Budapest (Budapest, Hungary)19 Comments
International School of Latvia (Riga, Latvia)33 Comments
American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland)89 Comments
Wroclaw International School (Wroclaw, Poland)46 Comments
Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia)66 Comments
International School of Belgrade (Belgrade, Serbia)59 Comments
Pechersk School International (Kyiv, Ukraine)122 Comments

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock.  Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give you 6 free months of premium membership!

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Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Ukraine (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

January 26, 2017


Traveling Around: Ukraine

ukraine
Can you relate?

• Listening to the local radio stations in our rental car and laughing at the unbelievably rapid speed of the disclaimers at the end of each advertisement.
• Getting a Thai massage in the best rated massage place in Kiev, good price too!
• Eating at a Georgian restaurant (delicious food!) and enjoying watching the Ukrainian tables next to us and how they (very often) toast to each other so that they can drink for alcohol.
• Staying at probably one of the nicer hotels in the city. The pool/spa was in the basement of the hotel and was decorated like a tropical tiki-style holiday.

ukraine ukraine

• Visiting one of the main markets in Kiev and getting crazy high prices from the stall workers, tourist prices, though in the end scoring a huge jar of local honey for only like five Euros.
• Spending the night eating at a really posh restaurant in Kiev and trying out some very unusual teas and very unique appetizers and entrees; very good quality food in Ukraine!
• Driving around the city center in our rental car and actually doing it without any issues, so many people (even locals) warned us that the driving in Kiev was dreadful and dangerous. Not the case for us.
• Trying to talk in English with the locals and encountering many confusing conversations and misunderstandings. Though both parties kept a positive and friendly, fun-loving attitude in the process.
• Going from eastern orthodox church to eastern orthodox church to eastern orthodox church to eastern orthodox church to eastern orthodox church, well those are the most ornate and beautiful buildings here. Though to be honest the other buildings have pretty amazing architecture and design as well.
• Scoring some really cool local beauty products for really cheap prices at a very nice organic grocery store in the city.
• Making an outing to find the statue of the motherland. Man, this HUGE statue is so cool. I think all cities should have something like this. I was in awe of it.
• Watching the local Ukrainians take groups pictures of their family and friends and finding it hard to find one where even one person was smiling in the picture.

ukraine ukraine

• Loving our tour of the city and then on the last day finding a really cool part of the city where there was a new development of houses, but the houses were style to look like how they looked long ago. Very cool, want to go back and see more of that part of the city.
• Making it a point to visit the local, famous chocolate shop in the center of the city. The locals loved this place! Roshen. But I actually also loved another chocolate shop called Lviv Handmade Chocolate. Now that stuff was delicious!

Currently we have 105 international schools listed in Eastern Europe on International School Community. 54 of them have had comments submitted on them. Here are a few of those schools:

Albanian International School (Tirana, Albania)19 Comments
International School of Azerbaijan (Baku, Azerbaijan)39 Comments
QSI International School of Sarajevo (Sarajevo, Bosnia)18 Comments
Anglo American School of Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria)28 Comments
American International School of Zagreb (Zagreb, Croatia)29 Comments
International School of Brno (Brno, Czech Republic)25 Comments
International School of Estonia (Tallinn, Estonia)22 Comments
Britannica International School Budapest (Budapest, Hungary)19 Comments
International School of Latvia (Riga, Latvia)33 Comments
American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland)82 Comments
Wroclaw International School (Wroclaw, Poland)46 Comments
Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia)66 Comments
International School of Belgrade (Belgrade, Serbia)34 Comments
Pechersk School International (Kyiv, Ukraine)122 Comments

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock.  Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give you 6 free months of premium membership!

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Information for Members

A Member Spotlights Summary: We have had 35 highlighted members so far!

March 26, 2017


Since we started our website back in February 2011, we have had a total of 35 member spotlight articles highlighted on our blog. Thanks to all 35 members who have participated so far!

Learning more about our fellow international school teachers can be very enlightening, inspiring and also quite interesting!

Who were the 35 members that have been our members spotlights so far you ask?  Well they haven’t all been teachers, some have held other positions either in a school setting or in a field of eduction with also a connection to international schools. Others had prior experience working in international schools. Here is the breakdown of what job titles they have:

International School Teachers: 25
Staff Development Coordinator: 1
International school directors: 4
Curriculum coordinator: 1
Principal: 1
Veteran international school teacher: 1
International School Consultant: 1
Members of an international school board of directors: 1

There are 6 parts to the questionnaire that all member spotlights fill out:

• Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?
• How did you get started in the international teaching community?
• 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.
• Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
• What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
• In exactly five words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

It is pretty amazing the amount of experience and useful information that our member spotlights have provided in their answers to these six parts.

So, how did all of our members answer this part of the questionnaire: In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

• Living life full of energy
• Culturally enriching, questioning true internationalism.
• Beautiful, soul satisfying, enriching, enlightening and delightful.
• Eye-opening, educational, humbling, challenging, fulfilling.
• Successfully making a positive difference!
• truly rewarding challenging and capability enhancing.
• Discovery. Rewarding. Engaging. Relationships. Awesome.
• Opportunity for growth, an eye opener.
• Exciting, inspiring, educating, challenging and fulfilling.
• Adventure, culture, education, difference, satisfaction.
• Open-minded, Professional, Dedicated, Discovery, Fun
• Transforming, Exciting, Challenging, Embracing, Engaging
• Make the best of it.
• Challenging, enriching, frustrating, reflective, confirming
• Exciting adventure of a lifetime!
• Fantastic Educational Humbling Expanding Gratifying
• The job of a lifetime.
• Challenging,  invigorating, demanding, breathtaking , fun!
• Hard work, but immensely rewarding.
• Stimulating,  unpredictable,  addictive,  inspiring, challenging.
• Fascinating, exciting, lucrative, wide-ranging and addictive!
• Eye opening, cultural, well paid, opportunity, life changing.
• Exciting, interesting, enlightening, educational and unique.
• 1. Rewarding 2. Different 3. Adventurous 4. Dynamic 5. Unpredictable
• Full of variety, rewarding, challenging.
• Rewarding, eye-opening, fun, flexible, and ADDICTIVE
• The opportunity of a lifetime.
• Lifelong learning at its finest!
• Rejuvenating, Creative, Innovative, Culturally Rich
• The novelty never wears off!
• Exhilarating, Challenging, Adventurous, Broadening, Inspiring
• Enriching, adventurous, challenging, rewarding, limitless.
• Exciting, fun, new friends, challenges!

These 35 members have a wealth of knowledge about working at a number of international schools. Maybe you have worked at an international school that they have worked at as well?!  Here are just a few of the schools that they either currently work at now or have worked at in the past:

• Cebu International School  – 7 Comments
• Xiamen International School (Xiamen, China) – 25 Comments
• Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 222 Comments
• Benjamin Franklin Int’l School (Barcelona, Spain) – 66 Comments
• Universal American School in Dubai (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) – 17 Comments
• Thai-Chinese Int’l School Bangkok – 21 Comments
• American International School in Egypt – 62 Comments
• International School of Tanganyika – 145 Comments
• Mahatma Gandhi International School – 3 Comments
• British Early Years Centre (Bangkok, Thailand) – 10 Comments
• American School Madrid (Madrid, Spain) – 54 Comments
• Frankfurt International School & Wiesbaden (Frankfurt, Germany) – 13 Comments
• Albanian International School (Tirana, Albania)19 Comments
• British International School Moscow (Moscow, Russia)11 Comments
• Stamford American International School (Singapore, Singapore)47 Comments

Thanks again to everyone who has participated in the Member Spotlight feature on our blog so far.

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here at editor @ internationalschoolcommunity.com.  All highlighted members receive 1 free year of premium access to our website!

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Top 10 Lists

Top 12 Most Controversial Comments Submitted by Our Members

October 26, 2015


International School Community is full of thousands of useful, informative comments…14691 comments (25 Oct. 2015) to be exact.

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Members are recommended to keep their comments objective on our website, and sometimes they need to share how it really is working at their international school.

We scoured our database of comments, and we found 12 that stood out to us as being some of the most controversial.

12. In general, why are people staying at or leaving this school?
The management is largely ineffective and there is no clear goal for the school overall. There are no lines of communication between administrators and teachers, and not even within departments at the same school. There is very much of an “every man for himself” attitude. The pay is good enough to make some people stay for a while because of that. – Cambridge International School (Cambridge, United Kingdom)9 Comments

11. Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals.
“Most of the third tier International Schools (which PAIS is one of) will just pay the bare minimum legal requirement, as a box-ticking exercise to be able to say their teachers are covered. In reality the insurance is little more than a joke, teachers have shared anecdotes of actually getting laughed at when showing their card at a hospital. This is endemic across many, many schools here. With that said, PAIS’s teacher insurance program is not the absolute lowest, there are worse ones, but not by far.” – Pan Asia International School (Bangkok, Thailand)16 Comments

10. Pension plan details.
“There is something not at all right about the pension plan. No one understands it. Very little information is given. No other international schools in Germany use this dodgy system. The director used to be a banker and so he knows how to manipulate the system I guess. It’s a very insecure feeling.” – Metropolitan School Frankfurt (Frankfurt, Germany)36 Comments

9. Average amount of money that is left to be saved.
“Hong Kong is no longer the “Golden Goose”, with rent increases and the peg to the US eating away much of the previous savings potential. I worked at the Hong Kong YCIS when the accommodation packages were being negotiated with staff. Previously, the school provided small and basic accommodation but it was conveniently located (Wanchai, Sai Kung, Tai Po). They warned expats at the time about going to cash allowances, since the rents at the time were at a very low point (1999). Now they have almost tripled, and the cash allowance won’t even cover half the cost of the same flats the school used to provide.. Careful what you wish for, I guess.” – Yew Chung International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China)17 Comments

8. Details about the staff housing or the housing allowance.  If there is no housing allowance, how much are rent costs and utilities?
“Housing is a contentious issue. Most housing is either at elementary campus (older apartments, flood-prone), Twiga Apartments near the secondary (nice new apartments, but with a high population density and a LOT of children), Regents Estate (older apartments a bit of a way from both campuses. Used to be nice, but need better maintenance). There is a new building going up at elementary campus, consisting of fairly small 2 bedroom apartments. The school has committed to investing quite a bit of money to improve the older elementary housing and bring it up to standards and flood proof them. However, options are still limited and especially new teachers end up “at the bottom of the barrel”. Dar es Salaam in general has notoriously high rental prices.” – International School of Tanganyika (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)141 Comments

7. Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year?
“There is no tax in the UAE so what you earn is yours. It is VERY expensive to enjoy the UAE however, so don’t get too excited about a salary which would be attractive in your own country’s equivalent money. The school pays you each month, but it is often paid late (could be up to a week late!) and there’s nothing you can do about it. The UAE law states that ALL teachers should be paid a minimum of 12,000 dirhams, however Wesgreen pays most teachers way less than this and instead pay the fine to the ministry of labour (which is considerably less than paying staff members the correct wage!). Take my advice and DO NOT ACCEPT LESS THAN 10,000 DIRHAMS! The school will try to pay you as least as they can and you will be upset when you speak to another teacher in the same department doing exactly the same job earning 2 or 3 thousand more dirhams than you! This happens a lot! Men seem to get paid more than the female staff (doing exactly the same job) and passport holders of certain countries seem to get paid more than other also. Even if you think you will be fine earning 8 or 9 thousand, wait until you see the price of a decent food shop, or a normal meal out or a few drinks in a bar etc. etc. it is VERY expensive to enjoy Dubai!!!” – Wesgreen International Private School (Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)23 Comments

6. Are the expectations high of teaching staff? Are there extra curricular responsibilities? Describe workload details.
“The workload on paper looks amazing…but the lack of organization, the reactive nature, covering classes as a substitute, poor communication, confusing expectations all tend to destroy ones ability to focus on what’s best for the kids like planning and implementing really great lessons k-12.” – Seisen International School (Tokyo, Japan)51 Comments

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5. What does the school do to create a harmonious state of well-being and high morale amongst its staff?
“Note: About the male principal–he was sleeping on the job!! While the rest of us teachers were putting in over 40 hrs a week–he would sleep every afternoon. He deserved to be fired! When he and the Head teacher would come into our classrooms to visit–they would yell at us in front of the students–very de-moralizing! I’m so glad those people don’t work at our school anymore! AND–the students and parents were happier after they were fired!!  The female principal took too many “free days” and her husband who was teaching French, had failed to do a good job. They left after a professional French teacher from the University of Tirana came and did an assessment of the student’s learning abilities. The students had ALL failed the test!” – Albanian International School (Tirana, Albania)19 Comments

4. What insider information would you give to a teacher considering working at this school?
“Do not join this school if you are expecting to be treated professionally by the upper management (above principal level) Feedback from the Director responsible for Quality Control is non-existent. Do not believe anything you are told as it can bechanged at the last moment on a whim.” – United Private Schools (Muscat, Oman)7 Comments

3. What controversies have been happening lately? Please be objective.
“An endless list of controversies. All teachers on different pay scales and contracts (causing division amongst staff). A Managing Director who tried to cut staff holidays and pay, and then allegedly assaulted a staff member. The introduction of teaching some subjects in German, causing teachers to feel demotivated and concerned about their jobs, as well as a great deal of parent dissatisfaction” – Berlin British School (Berlin, Germany)31 Comments

2. Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.).
“International schools must comply with new ministerial decree The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | May 23 2014 | 10:38 PM Share The Education and Culture Ministry says that international schools must make adjustments to their curriculum as stipulated by a new ministerial decree issued on April 23. Education and Culture Ministerial Decree No. 31/2014 on the cooperation and management of foreign education institutions with Indonesian education institutions stipulates that educators at international schools must be registered with the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry and the Education and Culture Ministry, Antara news agency reported. Furthermore, the Education and Culture Ministry’s director general of early childhood education programs, Lydia Freyani Hawadi, said that teachers at international schools must also be proficient in Indonesian, as stipulated by Manpower and Transmigration Ministry laws. She explained that they must be proficient in the language because Indonesian students studying at international schools must take four compulsory subjects: religious studies, Indonesian language, history and citizenship studies. “The teacher’s education must be suited to the subject they teach,” Lydia told reporters on Friday. A school’s curriculum must also be adjusted to national standards, and foreign students must be taught cultural studies, she said. Furthermore, Lydia emphasized that international schools could not be fully owned by foreign stakeholders, as the law stipulates that foreigners can only own 49 percent of a school. The school must also be able to prove that it has enough capital to run the school for the next six years. “Most importantly, there will no longer be ‘international schools’. They must change their names,” she explained. Lydia said that the ministry had held talks with 44 schools to discuss the new ministerial decree, adding that a majority of the schools did not have any accreditation. If a school does not comply with the ministry’s demands, the school management could be sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined Rp 1 billion (US$86,000) under Law No. 20/2003 on the national education system. (fss)” – Surabaya International School (Surabaya, Indonesia)54 Comments

1. Details about the teaching contract. What important things should prospective teachers know about?
“Read your contract carefully. do not sign an unsigned contract. contracts signed by the teachers have been changed and then signed by the owner. If you have issues with the owner his first and only reaction is to tell you to take him to court where he will happily drag the case out to cost you a lot of money.” – Makuhari International School (Tokyo, Japan)22 Comments

If you have an interesting story in your school that you would like to share, log in to International School Community and submit your comments. For every 10 submitted comments, you will get one month of free premium membership added to your account!

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