Comparing the Schools and Comments

Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Guatemala

June 28, 2020

Around the world, there are countries (like Guatemala) 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.


Currently, we have 8 schools listed in Guatemala on International School Community.

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

American School of Guatemala (47 Total Comments)
Antigua International School Guatemala (14 Total Comments)
Colegio Interamericano de Guatemala (124 Total Comments)
Han Al American School (11 Total Comments)
The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya) (75 Total Comments)

Amount of Money Left to be Saved

“If you are very frugal or share an apartment you can save money. If you have debt or loans to make payments on, you will likely not save any…” – The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya)

“After you have been there a couple of years you get extra bonuses which help with saving money. Most teachers save between 5 and 10k…” – Colegio Interamericano de Guatemala

“Because my experience was minimal at the time I made $1,500 a month. I was able to save $500 a month…” – Antigua International School Guatemala

School Campus

“Building is old but in working order. Reparations are done in a timely manner. Pre-K classrooms are recently renovated, plans to renovate all classrooms in the future. Class sizes are standard. Teachers are mostly from North America…” – American School of Guatemala

“The school campus is basically small, but cozy too. There are four buildings where classes are held…” – Han Al American School

“The school is located on the outskirts of Guatemala City. The campus is on a steep site that goes uphill from the carpark at the bottom to the elementary school at the top. There is a lovely nature-scape play area, primarily for use by the elementary school, at the top of the campus. There are also plans in place for a new “Innovation Hub”, which will then allow the school to relocate Middle School classrooms and provide more space for project-based learning…” – The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya)

Housing Information

“There was no housing allowance provided by the school…” – Antigua International School Guatemala

“$300/month housing allowance…” – Han Al American School

“The school provides gorgeous apartments which are usually 2 bedrooms 2 bath got a single teacher. The apartment standard is high with many teachers commenting on how great their place is…” – Colegio Interamericano de Guatemala

Pension Plan Details

“Your first year, the school will match a measly 2% of your salary. Your second year, 3%. This continues to a maximum of 5%. Plan is through Raymond James…” – The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya)

“No pension provided, teachers are expected to save from their salary and use the gratuity at the end which is one money salary per year worked…” – Colegio Interamericano de Guatemala

Are the Expectations High of Teaching Staff?

“As a bi-lingual school, foreign staff members in elementary/early childhood have a large amount of planning because their Guatemalan counterparts teach for approx. 1/3 of the day. Some of this time is spent in mandatory meetings, some is self-directed planning time. Middle and high school teachers have more than adequate planning time…” – American School of Guatemala

“The staff had to have a club each term. It could be an academic, sport or art club…” – Antigua International School Guatemala

“Extra curricular responsibilities are minimal especially when comparing with other schools. MS teachers and HS teachers don’t really do extra-curricular, and the ones who do seem to always be the same few individuals taking on that responsibility…” – Colegio Interamericano de Guatemala

(These are just 5 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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Information for Members

16907 Total Comments in All the School Profile “School Information” Sections

April 25, 2020

As all International School Community members know, each of the 2147+ school profile pages on our website has four comments sections: School Information, Benefits Information, City Information and Travel Information.  Our members are encouraged to submit comments on one or all of these sections if they currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the past.

Example School Information page on Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea) – 172 Comments

It is important that we all share what we know so that we can in turn help other teachers make a more informed decision before they sign any contract! *Additionally, for every 10 comments you submit (which are anonymous by the way), you will automatically get one free month of premium membership added on to your account!  The more comments you leave, the more free membership you get!

So, what are the recent statistics about the School Information sections on all the school profile pages?  The current total number of submitted comments in the School Information section is 16907 (out of a total of 36283+ comments).

There are 24 subtopics in the School Information section on each school profile page.  Check out each one of these subtopics below and find out the total number of comments in that specific sub topic and an example comment that has been submitted there.

• Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus. (1594 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The school is set in 3 separate building, one being a 5 minute walk and the other across the road. Crossing the road is quite a safety hazard with the kindergarten class due to taxis over taking them whilst they are on the crossing and the local police not doing anything to monitor this. There is no proper play area and students are taken to local parks for lunch breaks, which is difficult when having to share with babies. No proper gym areas make p.e quite difficult.” – Canadian International School (Tokyo) (Tokyo, Japan) – 93 Comments

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• What types of accreditation does this school have? When is the accreditation up for renewal? Any religious affiliations? (1193 Total Comments)

Example comment: “It is a non-religiously affiliated school owned by a Christian affiliated college and operated on that campus. It is WASC accredited, but is not accredited by the Korean authorities and seems to be a limbo in regards to its local status.” –Global Prodigy Academy (Jeonju, South Korea) – 48 Comments

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• Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.). (781 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The school is discussing becoming IB and has implemented Teacher’s College Readers and Writer’s Workshop as well as whole language learning in the primary schools. Secondary schools do MAPS-based action plans to show and monitor student improvement and compare them to US students.” – American School of Torreon (Torreon, Mexico) – 64 Comments

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• Describe their hiring policies. Which recruiting fairs do they go to? How do they typically hire (e.g. face-to-face interview, Skype, etc.)? Are there any hiring restrictions mandated by the country? (1543 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Last year they were NOT hiring people with non-EU passports. Some positions that they had last year were local hires, even if the candidates weren’t the strongest of the CVs that they received. Most of this though is out of the school’s control and more the new/changing laws regarding hiring foreigners into the country.” – Southbank International School (London, United Kingdom) – 15 Comments

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• Describe school’s location in relation to the city center and to the teacher’s housing. How do staff get to school before and after school? (1462 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The school is located near one of the hub stations in Tokyo, with easy access by several trains and subways. The school also has two school bus routes. The school will help the teachers find housing if necessary, but it does not itself provide housing. A transportation allowance is provided to cover the transportation cost from home to school and back.” – New International School of Japan (Tokyo, Japan) – 30 Comments

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• Are the expectations high of teaching staff? Are there extra curricular responsibilities? Describe workload details. (828 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Expectations are high but the atmosphere is supportive. Staff are expected to undertake duties on a rota bais before and after school, at break times and lunch times. Staff are expected to run one extra curricular activity for one term per year. There is a decent amount of non-contact time at around 20% of timetable.” – Rasami (Thai-British) International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 75 Comments

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• Average class size for primary and secondary. Describe any aide support. (848 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Class sizes are very small. In primary, they are normally a combination of two grade levels (i.e. Grades 1 and 2 together) and about 16 kids with a teaching assistant. In secondary class size is smaller and can range from four to twelve per grade level.” – Hiroshima International School (Hiroshima, Japan) – 64 Comments

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• Describe language abilities of students at this school and what is the “common language spoken in the hallways”? Is there one dominate culture group? (1229 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The Thao Dien (Primary) campus in the expat area has students from about 20 countries. The TT Campus, Primary, Middle School and Secondary is mainly Vietnamese. Korean is the next largest student group. Very few students from Western Countries. Has a large EAL population.” – Australian International School HCMC (Vietnam) (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) – 19 Comments

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• Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, nationality, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate. (1268 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Primarily expat teachers, without any one nationality dominating things. When I left in 2011 there were teachers from Australia, Canada, US, UK, South Africa, Belgium, and Tanzania just within my department. Some teachers stay 7 to 10 years or more, while others just 2 to 4 years, as in most international schools.” – International School of Tanganyika  (Dar es salaam, Tanzania) – 171 Comments

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• What types of budgets to classroom teachers/departments get? (518 Total Comments)

Example comment: “budgets have been steadily dropping. Ownership slyly changed the school from a not for profit school to a for profit school, without notifying parents of the change.” – Makuhari International School (Tokyo, Japan) – 22 Comments

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• PARENTS ONLY – General comments from parents of students that go to this school (181 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The mastery system is open to the interpretation of each teacher, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.” – QSI International School of Dongguan (Dongguan, China) – 64 Comments

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• What types of sports programs and activities does the school offer? (701 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The school offers a wide variety of after school activities which are run by teachers. There is no extra pay for this. Teachers can choose which activity they would like to lead.” – International School of Koje (Geoje, South Korea) – 47 Comments

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• Name some special things about this school that makes it unique. (689 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The school has an excellent music program that frequently presents music and drama to the local community and other schools. Students in the diploma program seek out ways to serve the community needs.” – Oeiras International School (Lisbon, Portugal) – 183 Comments

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• In general, describe the demeanor of the students. (617 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The students are generally great, however there are no entrance exams or behavior requirements. The owners Tehmine and Stephan want to make as much money as possible. There definitely are no requirements to enter this school.” – Surabaya European School (Surabaya, Indonesia) – 20 Comments

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• Has the school met your expectations once you started working there? (342 Total Comments)

Example comment: “I’ve really enjoyed working at the school. I have always been able to approach admin if I needed to.” – The Codrington School (Int’l School of Barbados) (St. John, Barbados) – 70 Comments

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• What does the school do to create a harmonious state of well-being and high morale amongst its staff? (400 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The school has a health and wellness program where a lot of teachers connect and exercise together. Also, the PTO regularly hosts cocktail events after school. Plus there are scheduled tours and cultural events.” – Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia) – 69 Comments

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• Describe the technologies available at the school and how people are/are not using them. (485 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Each teacher has a PC (windows only. The printer server won’t talk to macs) and a smart board. However, the smart boards are not all hooked up or working so it’s a very expensive video screen. Slow internet. Nothing Google, youtube, or Facebook works in China.” – Tsinghua International School (Beijing) (Beijing, China) – 158 Comments

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• Details about the current teacher appraisal process. (306 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Get on your principal’s good side and you are fine. If they do not like you you will immediately get put on a corrective plan and ushered out. Just flatter the admin and you will be fine.” – Abu Dhabi International Private School (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) – 43 Comments

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• Is the student population declining, staying the same or increasing? Give details why. (460 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The number of students has increased. There is a waitlist for Year 6 now.” – UCSI International School Subang Jaya (Subang Jaya, Malaysia) – 11 Comments

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• How have certain things improved since you started working there? (242 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The one more important thing that changed for the positive, in around 2011-12, was the school initiated an 8000 RMB per year, per teacher, PD allowance. Before that there wasn’t an allowance. There was though PD for the DP teachers before that.” – Yew Chung International School (Shanghai) (Shanghai, China) – 30 Comments

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• How is this school different or the same when compared to schools in your home country? (178 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Well one thing that my school had in the United States was a coordinator for reading in the Primary school. I feel that CIS would benefit from having one of those. We need somebody to coordinate how the primary school teaches reading and someone to coordinate resources. Also, someone to help us have a clearer stop and sequence across the grade levels.” – Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen, Denmark) – 375 Comments

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• What controversies have been happening lately? Please be objective. (306 Total Comments)

Example comment: “The school hires foreign teachers but sometimes it is difficult for the teachers to integrate into the school. It is really a combination of moving to Chile and assimilating as a foreigner as well as the schools lack of support to receive foreign teachers. The administration has recognized this problem and is working to help future hires.” – Santiago College (Santiago, Chile) – 24 Comments

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• What insider information would you give to a teacher considering working at this school? (456 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Remember state school teachers are paid twice as much for half the work. All the locals are on waiting lists for Govt. schools but they are years (centuries) long.” – International School of Paphos (Paphos, Cyprus) – 123 Comments

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• How much curriculum development work are you expected to do? (Atlas Rubicon, etc.) (280 Total Comments)

Example comment: “A curriculum coordinator offers huge levels of support for this. During the current year, this load is heavy because of where we are in the accreditation cycle. High School has used Rubicon for a while. Lower School is just starting to use Rubicon.” – American School of Marrakesh  (Marrakesh, Morocco) – 29 Comments

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An Insider's Story

International School Design Teachers: An Insider’s Story

February 22, 2020

How it all started…

I was in middle school in the 1980s.  At this time ‘shop’ or ‘industrial arts’ was still being taught with wood, bandsaws, glue and sandpaper.  During my high school years things began to change in the ‘vocational’ teaching world. Computers were growing in popularity and had become more affordable.  I distinctly remember sitting in front of the green tinted screens typing in measurements and coordinates to create 2 dimensional drawings on an early version of AutoCAD.   Wow! How far we have come in 30 years! In high school I did the minimum to get by. I didn’t push or challenge myself very much. It just wasn’t that interesting to me. The only exception to this rule was during my “Tech Ed” classes.  My teacher, Coach Vander Velde, challenged me to inquire and question traditional ways of thinking.  

After graduation, I pursued a B.F.A. degree in TV and Radio Production.  After college I was hired to work at a local TV studio. I started working the ‘graveyard’ shift which involved taping satellite feeds, organizing broadcast files and so on.  I was making a bit more than the minimum wage. I asked myself, “Did I really go to college to just make a bit more than minimum wage?” An opportunity presented itself to me in the form of a Masters degree in Technological Studies.  This degree gave me the skills I needed to teach ‘vocational’ classes in middle and high school. I completed my student teaching and started a job in an urban high school near Atlanta, Georgia.  

I enjoyed teaching during my first year of teaching, but one afternoon, during my drive home, I heard an advertisement on the public radio station for teaching English in China.  Being that this was over 20 years ago, China was in the process of opening up to the rest of the world. I contacted the company and the following August I was headed to China for the first of many times since!  I taught at a university in Beijing for one year. That year I traveled all over China and caught the ‘travel bug’. After a two year stint back in the USA, I returned to China where I eventually landed in an international school and was introduced to the International Baccalaureate curriculum.  I taught ESL and ‘MYP Technology’. I realized then that teaching IB was a natural complement to the ‘inquiry-based’ teaching approach of vocational education.  

I have taught in several IB schools since then.  In all of these schools I have been involved in ‘Design’ teaching and planning.  One thing that I have noticed about young people is that whether I am teaching woodworking or 3D printing, students love to be hands-on!  Additionally, careers have changed so much over the past 20 years that teaching student ‘technology-related’ content is outdated. As teachers we all need to be teaching inquiry-based critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  The subject of “Design” is the perfect crossroads for all of these things to be taught, practiced and mastered. In the school where I currently work, the students are able to experience robotics, podcasting, filmmaking, 3D printing, digital photography, graphics design, digital illustration, architectural design, fashion design, laser cutting/engraving, website design, coding and programming, drone operation, electronic music production and so on!  All of this is within the Design curriculum.  

One of our soundproof recording booths
Drone photo of the campus
Inside the school TV studio
The laser cutter
TV studio control room
One of the many sewing machines
A couple of the 3D printers
Midi keyboard for making original music
One of our small tool benches

An average day…

On any given day I will teach between 20-50 students depending on the schedule.  Students will be in various stages of development working towards a completed design project.  All of our projects start with an investigation or inquiry into some sort of issue, situation or problem.  This should include an account of some sort of interaction with the client or target audience for the project.  The students will continue to follow the Design Cycle and provide evidence of their work throughout. Most of my day involves checking on equipment, supplies, and so on.  I have informal conversations with the other members of the department to see if everyone has the materials and access to the spaces that they need. Currently, the members of the Design department are content experts in programming, podcasting, filmmaking, photography, materials processing, Computer Aided Design (CAD), and textiles, just to name a few.  

How to get involved…

If a teacher has some experience with similar disciplines and wants to get involved in an international school teaching ‘Design’, then I would highly suggest doing it!  Make a list of your priorities, regions you would like to live and work in, salary range, among other things. It is ok to target schools that you are interested in as Design teachers are often difficult to find.  Whether the school uses IB, AP, Cambridge, or something else, there is always a ‘design’ equivalent course that can be taught!

Giving back to the professional community… 

Since 2008, I have been part of the IB Educator Network or IBEN.  This means that I have conducted school visits, served as a consultant to candidate schools, lead subject-specific workshops, and other various IB related events.  This involvement outside of school has been a key part in my professional development. I have met hundreds of like-minded educators that I am in regular contact with and we share best practices/project ideas with each other.  This keeps my own teaching exciting and relevant to my students.  

Jason Reagin is currently the IB Career-related Programme Coordinator and Department Chair of Design & Visual Arts at Chadwick International School in Incheon, South Korea.  He taught in the US, Bermuda and China prior to coming to South Korea. Jason’s passions include being a live-long learner, coffee drinker and a cinephile. He has experience in curriculum leadership and development in several different school ecosystems.  Connect with him on Twitter @diskon4no

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Blogs of International Teachers

International School Teacher Blogs: “Expat Heather” (A teacher who works in South Korea)

September 17, 2019

Are you inspired to start-up a blog about your adventures living abroad and working at an international school?

Our 48th blog that we would like to highlight is called Expat Heather: Teacher, Traveler, Writer Check out the blog entries of this international school educator who works in South Korea:

A few entries that we would like to highlight:

How to Start a Career as an International Teacher

“Many schools prefer to hire through placement companies such as International Schools Services (ISS) or Search Associates. These companies provide a database of both schools and potential candidate, and they also arrange hiring fairs around the world. You will need to pay a fee when you apply, and be sure to apply only if you meet the company’s requirements. Once accepted, you will have access to information about international schools, the salary packages they offer, and current vacancies…”

It is true. Many of the top tier schools still register with and search for quality candidates using the few recruitment agencies out there. The best part for the candidate is the access to the job vacancies that they post in their database. Though often the vacancies posted there can quickly become outdated, unfortunately!

Related to recruitment fairs, check out our blog on this topic called: International School Recruitment Season: Recruitment Fair or Skype?
Times are changing for international schools teachers. Even though it is sometimes good to be registered with a recruitment agency, it is not necessary any more to attend one of their fairs.

Teaching at ISHCMC American Academy in Vietnam

“My classroom is sweet. There is a built-in projector that I use almost everyday – it saves a TON of writing and rewriting on the board. All the desks and chairs are pretty new and there are big windows that let in a good amount of light when it’s not cloudy. Thankfully, the English Department is on the second floor…”

There is a comment topic on our website called: “Describe the technologies available at the school and how people are/are not using them.’ There are 435 total comments that have been submitted in this comment topic on 100s of schools.

Here is an example comment that was submitted about Seoul Foreign School: “Macbooks; 1:1 for grade 4 and above. combination of macbooks and iPads in lower grades. Apple TVs in all rooms. Google Classroom and Seesaw used for student portfolios and assignments. There are 3 digital learning coaches that are employed to support tech integration but the system for this support is patchy and could be improved.”

How to Become an International Teacher

“There are scores of schools that are international in name, but what teachers often call a “true international school” is a school that enrolls students from a variety of countries. These schools tend to be located in major cities, diplomatic capitals and international financial centers. Students include ambassadors’ kids, expat kids, teachers’ kids and local children whose parents can foot the bill.

Other schools may be internationally accredited but enroll primarily local students. Teachers refer to this type of school as a “national” school, although both types hire foreign teachers. Some national schools hire only foreign-qualified staff; others hire most teachers locally but employ foreigners for certain subjects like English. The ratio of foreign to local faculty at schools can vary widely even within the same country or city.

Many dubious schools, who claim to be “international,” will also have neither an international student population nor any type of international accreditation. Be wary of these ones…”

There is a comment topic related to technology on our website called “Describe language abilities of students at this school and what is the “common language spoken in the hallways”? Is there one dominate culture group?” There are 1152 total comments that have been submitted in this comment topic on 100s of schools.

Here is an example comment that was submitted about Tarsus American College: “Turkish is the common language. The school’s goals speak about bilingualism, however, students speak Turkish, during your English instructed lessons and in the corridors. Teachers who are “supposed to be” bilingual converse with students in Turkish, so the only time students use English is when speaking with an expat. Notices mounted in Turkish, emails sent in Turkish. Weekly assemblies are in Turkish, as an expat one has to turn to a Turkish colleague or student and ask for a translation and many times announcements made in the assembly have an impact on the teaching staff.”


Want to work for an international school in South Korea like this blogger?  Currently, we have 130 international school teachers that have listed that they currently live in this country. Check them out here. We also have six members that is from this country.

* If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.

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Information for Members

12 Submitted Comments About the “Awesome” Parts of Working at International Schools

March 17, 2019

International School Community is full of tens of thousands of useful, informative comments…31058 comments (17 March 2019) to be exact.

Members are recommended to keep their comments objective on our website and share what they know about what it is like working at a specific international school.

We scoured our database of comments, and we found 12 that stood out to us as being some of the most interesting and useful ones related to the “awesome” parts of working at international schools from across the globe.

12. PARENTS ONLY – General comments from parents of students that go to this school. How was your child’s education and socialisation at the school?

“The preschool is fantastic. Teachers and assistants were excellent and our child learned a huge amount! One memorable field trip was to the local international airport where students visited the traffic control tower and got to role play…pretty awesome.” – MC School (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) – 49 Comments

11. Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.

“The new Middle School is up and running! It’s pretty awesome. Lots of open spaces, a rooftop terrace, an auditorium, big classrooms with whiteboard walls that you can write all over. Amphitheater is also very nice, great during the spring and fall for reading outside.” – American School of Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain) – 165 Comments

10. What does the school do to create a harmonious state of well-being and high morale amongst its staff?

“We just had three weeks of mindfulness, with lots of different classes offered, including free massage at school. It was awesome! School year begins with a Karaoke night, where everyone joins in, local expat, support staff, everyone, it is fun. There are staff spirit days, we just had an amazing Christmas party and THEN a Christmas lunch. There is a system for nominating who did a great job and the names are put into the hats for prizes. At the end of this term we all received a blue tooth travel speaker and a portable drink cup, everyone not just teachers, I like that. Plus everyone is just nice to each other at work, its is happy place” – KIS International School (Bangkok) (Bangkok, Thailand) – 296 Comments

9. Name your favorite restaurants, favorite places to go to and favorite things to do in the city.

“If you want to have some tasty dumplings, I suggest to go to Chao Chao Sanjo Kiyamachi. It is a small restaurant and full of tourists, but still the food is fast and good. There are so many temples/shrines to see here. Many of them are going up the nearby mountain side. There is such beautiful nature there with amazing trees everywhere. In the spring, it is awesome and in the fall it can be very gorgeous.” – Kyoto International School (Kyoto, Japan) – 55 Comments

8.Describe the city’s weather at different times of the year.

“It is the beginning of June at the moment and the weather can’t be any better. It is sunny and warm basically every day. It is awesome. You can go out and enjoy the outdoor areas of the city. The high is in the upper 20s during the day with minimal breeze in the air. You can definitely walk around in sandals and shorts/t-shirt. Though once the sun finally goes down (like around 10pm), then it is good to have a light jacket to wear or a long sleeved shirt if you are walking around the city.” – International School of the Gothenburg Region (Gothenburg, Sweden) – 6 Comments

7. In general, why are people staying at or leaving this school?

“Staying because some people find an awesome niche in Berlin’s counterculture, or because they’ve had kids here and they’ve set up a nice suburban life near school. Leaving because some departments have disorganized, antiquated approaches, or because the school can ask for too much at times (learning to set limits is important as an employee here.)” – Berlin Brandenburg International School (Berlin, Germany) – 80 Comments

6. Describe the technologies available at the school and how people are/are not using them.

“Each classroom in grades 4-5 has their own classroom set of ipads and own classroom set of Chromebooks. It is awesome!” – Anglo American School of Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria) – 49 Comments

5. Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.

“We have moved into our new building/campus. It is truly unbelievable. It is so huge! It can take like 20 minutes or more to walk from one tower to the other tower at the other end of the building. Being on the water is so beautiful. The sunrises and sunsets are just so awesome. With the big windows in every room, there is always a good view to look at. The kids are getting distracted by the huge ships docking and going past, so we’ll see how that continues or stops in the near future.” – Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen, Denmark) – 345 Comments

4. Describe school’s location in relation to the city center and to the teacher’s housing. How do staff get to school before and after school?

“The school has an awesome location in Seoul — 20 minutes from downtown, but there is tons to do in our own neighborhood too. Most teachers live in on-campus housing which is maintained by the school and quite nice. Walking to school from on campus housing takes about 5 minutes or less depending on which building you live in. One of the largest faculty housing units had to be demolished for the construction of the new high school (scheduled to be completed in 2018). Those faculty members have been displaced to the nearby Grand Hilton. The apartment units over there are quite nice and the school runs two shuttles from the hotel to school in the morning and in the afternoon (at different times). The hotel is about a 20-30 minute walk from school and a 5 -10 minute taxi ride. Many teachers also ride bikes or scooters from Hilton to school.” – Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea) – 147 Comments

3. Name your favorite restaurants, favorite places to go to and favorite things to do in the city.

“I haven’t been to many restaurants, but I like Rolly’s stake house. The atmosphere is awesome, food is great (they also have salads if you are vegetarian, but meet is main meal there 🙂 Also there is a really nice restaurant on Uetliberg, with the great city view, that is one of my favorite spots in Zurich. Also ride on the lake is really beautiful.” – Inter-community School Zurich (Zurich, Switzerland) – 69 Comments

2. Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.

“The school building location is awesome. The surrounding area is amidst a row of other like buildings, some residential and some other businesses. The whole area is quite nicely manicured in terms of gardens and the upkeep on the other buildings. It doesn’t necessarily look like an entrance to a school (the door to ICS), and there is just a small sign on the door letting people know.” – International Community School London (London, England) – 49 Comments

1. How is this school different or the same when compared to schools in your home country?

“The teachers at the American School of Asuncion are great and work really hard. In general, it appears that the foreign staff work harder and put in longer hours than local teachers, but this is one perception. There are lots of extracurricular activities offered after school for students: chess, sports, photography, newspaper, student council, etc. In the elementary, the workload is awesome! Primary teachers only have about 4 hours of contact teaching time with the students each day. The rest of the time for students is spent in Specials and Spanish class. Middle and high school also have apple time to plan lessons and take a break between classes.” – American School of Asuncion (Asuncion, Paraguay) – 145 Comments

If you have an interesting and useful comment to add related to the awesome parts at 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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An Insider's Story

International School Drama/The Arts Teachers: An Insider’s Story

January 24, 2018

In my earlier career in public schools in Alberta, Canada I was a Drama teacher. The arts always seemed to be under threat in the public education system, and in my experience Music, Art and Drama teachers always seemed to be fighting for their survival. We had thriving Drama classes and a popular extra-curricular programme at my school where students in Junior High and Senior High competed in Zone and Provincial Drama Festivals, but when I went to teach in Australia on a year-long exchange they cancelled the Drama programme to save money, and only the Art classes and the Band programme survived the arts cuts that year.


Teaching in Queensland, Australia for a year was an eye-opener as far as the arts went. Programmes seemed to be very well supported with excellent facilities and had far more to offer students such as many workshops in specialities like mime, street theatre and dance for example than the much more basic curriculums I was used to in Canada. The arts curriculums seemed to be very extensive and arts taken for granted as a part of an Australian school. After a huge well supported musical “Annie Get Your Gun” I returned to my school in Canada where we had no theatre and I taught Drama in a regular classroom, pushing aside the desks as needed.

I had to return to Canada and teach as an English teacher even though I wanted to teach Drama. For many students in my experience, the arts are vital to balance out academics and sports. All students need an opportunity to excel and be successful in something, and for many that is not their regular exam classes or a sports team. So the art teacher and I collaborated and kept the school productions going, a total of 25 Junior and Senior High shows over the years where students could act, sing and dance or work backstage, or designing the set. Students loved the opportunity to be creative, and often it was the behaviourally challenged students or those who didn’t quite ‘fit in’ in other classes that loved Drama the most. We continued to participate in the Zone Festivals winning many times, and what a treat it was to be in a real theatre! The highlight was going to the Provincial Drama Festival and winning Best Ensemble and raft of other awards for our huge production of “The Canterbury Tales.’


Before I left Canada I was chosen for a Commonwealth Teacher Exchange to the United Kingdom. I went to teach in beautiful Norwich, Norfolk and became familiar with the British National Curriculum at KS3 and KS4 in particular. In England I was exposed to the rigour of a Drama programme shaped around students completing exams for their GCSE’s. I liked in particular how Drama, Music and Art were all exam subjects with strict, demanding curriculums and the disciplines were treated the same as academic subjects. In Alberta, Canada the arts are not exam subjects and the curriculum is very much left up to the teacher. I left England after our huge whole-school production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” with much to think about.

The thinking led me to the Search Associates Recruiting Fair in London, England and a decision to work in International Schools. I accepted an offer to teach GCSE Drama and IBDP Theatre at one of the top British Curriculum schools in China. The school was expanding from the Junior School to a brand-new Senior School. Before I became a teacher I had done a degree in Technical Theatre and so I had a lot of input into the building of the brand new Black Box classroom I would be working in and the incredible state-of the-art Theatre. What a treat it was to work in such amazing facilities with such keen students and such small classes after public education! I was familiar with the GCSE Drama curriculum and put students through both the EdExcel and the Cambridge exam board. My top tip for teachers wanting to work in British curriculum schools is don’t apply unless you already know the British National Curriculum, and the requirements of at least one GCSE exam board. It’s a very steep (I would say almost impossible) learning curve if you don’t already come in with that knowledge. It was no problem that I had no IBDP Theatre experience. The school had an unlimited budget and was quick to send me for training for my Category 1 IBDP Theatre course and countless other IBDP workshops. It’s easy to do well and get good results working in this kind of environment. Don’t kid yourself though-the results and marks really matter to the students, the parents and the school and if you don’t deliver you’ll be out. My love of Theatre and the performing arts in particular was well supported here with productions of “Aladdin,” “Macbeth,” “Blood Brothers,” “Cinderella” and “Marriage Proposal” amongst many other class and exam productions.


In my current school in Singapore I’m in a different role. I am Head of Arts for the Secondary school. I supervise the Music, Visual Arts, Drama and Theatre programmes. I have six teachers working in the Arts Department. We are an IB World School and run PYP, MYP and IBDP curriculum. It’s important as HOD Arts to make sure we offer a balanced programme, no one art discipline can take precedence over another. Our students in Years 7, 8 and 9 all take all three arts classes. In Years 10 and 11 they choose one of the Arts disciplines to specialize in for two years and complete their exam ePortfolio of four assignments in Year 11. At the school we also offer IBDP Visual Arts and Theatre for two years. I teach some Drama classes and Theatre, but I am also given a lot of HOD time to manage staff, take care of the budget, ensure curriculum is being taught well, arrange standardisation and moderation of marks and a myriad of other responsibilities. I have my IBDP Cat 2 now and am an Examiner for the IBDP Theatre curriculum.

We run Arts Nights for the performing arts in each semester, as well as a school Talent Show. The Visual Arts puts up displays of art at these times as well as participating in the huge IN Exhibition of Visual Art from fifteen International Schools in Singapore as well as the IBDP Visual Arts Exhibition in the Spring. We run extensive co-curricular and extra-curricular activities for the students in the arts like bands, singing groups, drumming lessons and arts workshops. We are an International School Theatre Association School and run a lot of workshops through them e.g bringing the theatre company ‘Frantic Assembly’ in from the UK or Marco Luly- a Commedia dell’ Arte expert in from Italy. We run two Musicals a year, the Secondary Musical for Years 9-13 and the Primary/Middle School Musical for Years 3-8. The last four years we have done “Urbs, Urbis,” “Arlecchino and the City of Love,” “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, “ “A Christmas Carol” and currently with a team of ten teachers and over 75 students “Cinderella, Rockerfella.” All of our shows are performed in professional theatre facilities we rent in Singapore. All of this is such a pleasant change from fighting for the arts survival in a Canadian public school, and having to fight for every cent we wanted to spend. I wish I had gone to work in International Schools much earlier in my career, but better late than never!


This article was submitted to us by International School Community member, Sara Lynn Burrough. Sara Lynn Burrough has worked as a Drama/Theatre teacher for the past 38 years in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, China and Singapore. She has a BEd, an MEd, was a professional stage manager at the Banff Centre for the Arts and studied Technical Theatre at McGill University in Montreal. In Canada as a teacher she worked for many years for Northern Gateway Schools in Alberta, and during that time was selected for two teacher exchange programmes. Her first exchange to Australia was with Alberta Education and the Queensland Department of Education where she taught at Costessey High School, in Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast. Her second exchange was with the prestigious ‘League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers’ (LECT) where she was one of two Canadian teachers selected to go to the United Kingdom for the millennial year to the United Kingdom. The Queen Mother was the patron of LECT and as she was celebrating her 100th birthday that year Sara Lynn was privileged to attend the celebrations in London as an invitee. In 2013 Sara Lynn decided to teach in International Schools and attended the Search Associates recruiting fair in London, England. From there she went to Dulwich College in Suzhou, China to teach GCSE Drama and IBDP Theatre in the Senior School. After China Sara Lynn went to Singapore for almost five years as Head of Arts (Music, Visual Arts, Drama) at Chatsworth International School where she taught MYP Drama and IBDP Theatre.

Using our unique Comment Search feature on our website (premium membership access needed), we found 96 comments that have the keyword “Drama” in them, and 14 comments that had the word “The Arts” in them.

Here are some comments that shown a positive light on Learning Support programs at international schools:

“The school just celebrated its 50th anniversary and there are many banners around the school. The school in involved with the SITS programme which is a quality drama and arts programme for kids.” – Oslo International School (17 Total Comments)

“Stoke City FC just started this school year and there are several other “big” initiatives as well, mostly in music and drama departments.” – Western International School of Shanghai (312 Total Comments)

“It is limited. In primary there is futsal, while secondary usually has volleyball and basketball. Baseball is popular but it is not offered in any organised way. The school usually participates at the MUN conference in Kobe in February each year. Drama and arts offerings have increased in recent years.” – Hiroshima International School (64 Total Comments)

“The school offers no sports programs, and occasionally offers a drama Club to students, depending on teacher interest.” – Alexandria International Academy (78 Total Comments)

“Piloting the iPad initiative this year and also looking to expand the arts program with the addition of the multi-purpose hall that houses a mini-theater.” – Universal American School in Dubai (57 Total Comments)

“There are opportunities in the arts (dance, voice, musical instrumental, drama), a good number of sports offerings (climbing, competitive sports, etc.). Lots!” – American School of Dubai (98 Total Comments)

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Highlighted Articles

Keeping Up to Date With Policy and Practice at International Schools

October 2, 2017

Teachers, heads of department and principals in International Schools want to keep up with the latest in educational thinking – but given that they are often following curricula, policy and best practice set thousands of miles away from where they teach, what’s the best way to do it?


The wealth of resources available on the internet is the obvious starting point, but the problem is how to filter out the best resources.

In the twenty or so years that I’ve been involved in publishing educational materials, I’ve come up with the following ways of keeping in touch.

  1. Get regular updates from reliable, trustworthy sources who do some of the searching and filtering for you. My list is below – form your own and keep reviewing it so you know you’re getting good quality information (and not too much of it).
  2. Form a research group with colleagues. This could be in the form of a book group, picking a recent educational title and discussing it in a local cafe, an online discussion group, or a more in-depth action research group within your school, with neighbouring schools or online. There are plenty of ‘how to’ guides online – try this blog as a starting point.


  1. Try to find some local events to visit so you can network with colleagues and hear directly from researchers. The researchED group, for example, runs events all over the world – upcoming events at the time of writing include New York, Toronto and Amsterdam as well as their longer-established UK events. They are teacher-led, research-focused and very, very popular.

My list of policy updates

These are the best policy updates I’ve seen and the ones that I find most useful. This is a UK-flavoured list as that’s where my experience lies, and I know many of you teach a British or British-influenced curriculum; it would be great to hear from US curriculum colleagues as to where you would go for similar advice.

  • The Education Endowment Foundation research update service.
  • The Education Policy Institute newsletter (sign up on their home page or follow them on twitter via @EduPolicyInst).
  • Schoolsweek and its editor Laura McInerney (on twitter as @miss_mcinerney).
  • UK government policy announcements are also very useful – you can sign up to them by first searching on this page then entering your email address.
  • Steve Besley’s Policy Watch.
  • Global education news alerts from the OECD.

I hope you found this useful – and if you have a spare 5 minutes and have experience teaching primary in an International School, I would also appreciate it if you could help me out on a research project that we are doing into the various international primary curricula and fill in this quick survey – many thanks in advance.


Sam Derby is a Director of Oriel Square Limited, a strategy and publishing consultancy specialising in education. Find out more here.

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Information for Members

What Makes Your International School Unique?

June 9, 2015

Each international school is unique, that’s for sure.

Of course, many top international schools of the world have unique qualities that make them special. However, let’s not forget about all the other international schools (big and small).  Even for-profit international schools have cool things to offer that maybe non-profit schools are not able to have.

What then are these unique qualities?


Some international schools have a unique make-up of students. They are from over 80 or more different countries, all coming together in a perfect, diverse blend. The students are also super kind and considerate which make classroom management a non-issue.

An international school can also be unique for the extra-curricular programme it offers.  Maybe it has a newly constructed olympic-sized pool with an effective and inspiring staff of swimming teachers.  The school might also be the only one that offers unique sports like fencing with a fully functioning fencing facility.


Many international schools dream of having their own garden. Especially one that the students can tend to during break or class-lesson times.  This garden can also be unique because the school kitchen can incorporate the newly picked food into their menu.

Another unique quality about international schools could be related to the teachers themselves. Maybe they have the perfect set up for effective collaboration to happen (we all know that many international schools don’t have this luxury). Additionally, the teachers have ample planning time to create inspired lessons.  The director maybe even has carefully selected new teachers to join the teaching community that fit very well into the school’s mission and vision.


A unique quality that many teachers seek out is a school that is well-resourced.  Having all the materials and equipment is definitely a dream come true, especially when working at an international school.  A school that has well-established connections with getting materials ordered and delivered in a timely manner is not an international school to overlook when recruiting.

And the list goes on and on of the unique qualities that international schools can have.

It is important to celebrate the good things about our schools. These good things can inspire the students and staff to do their best and bring the community closer together in the school’s vision and mission.


Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to the unique qualities of international schools, so you can stay the most informed as possible. It is called: “Name some special things about this school that makes it unique.

There are a total of 313 comments in this comment topic (June 2015).  Here are a few that have been submitted:

“KICS is bringing a concept of 21st century inquiry-based education to a country very much in need of such access. It isn’t a school for every teacher though. Teachers who do well are motivated by this vision. They also need to be into educational technology for learning. If they arent then they can struggle.” – Khartoum International Community School (Khartoum, Sudan) – 65 Comments

“The physical facilities of the school are excellent. The technology infrastructure is really good. It is a one-to-one programme with new Macbook airs from grade 5 to 12. The size of the school enables a lot of varies extra curricular activities which would be hard to support in a smaller school.” – American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland) – 29 Comments

“There is a very welcoming environment at all levels. Anyone can walk around and sense the positive “vibe”. Often we get remarks that, though the school is not small, much of the social ‘feel’ is indicative of traditionally small schools (e.g. friendly, open, welcoming, etc.)” – International School of Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – 84 Comments

“Well because of the dream of Eugenia, the director of the school for 20 years, there is a strong sense of multi-lingualism in the school. This school is leading the way in terms of language policy.” – The Bilingual School of Monza (Milan, Italy) – 27 Comments

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Top 10 Lists

Top 10 reasons to stay longer than four years at an international school

May 18, 2015

Many international schools ofter 1-2 year initial contracts for new hires. But does that mean that most international school teachers leave after that initial contract?

We all know some teachers do exactly that. They leave after 1-2 years of working at their new international school. The reasons they leave are varied, and many of those reasons are out of their control.

It is true, though, that some international school teachers leave too soon. Leaving too soon can be good or bad, depending on your situation.  But maybe, just maybe there are very positive things that can happen if the stars align for you to stay longer than four years.

So, what are the Top 10 reasons to stay longer than four years at an international school? Maybe you can relate to some of these!

#1 – You get more fluent in the local language.

Sometimes it is hard to get yourself to attend language classes when you first arrive. It is difficult giving up two evenings of your work week to go to these classes. Waiting a few years until you are more established into your new life in your host country is sometimes a better option for some international school teachers.  Although it is not the case with everyone, staying longer in the host country will also provide you with more authentic opportunities to acquire new words and phrases.  You never know when you will learn your next new words, but if you provide yourself with more opportunities and put yourself in more situations with the local people, you will certainly learn more of the host country language.

#2 – You make more long-lasting local friends.

In so many countries, it is down right a challenge to make local friends. Many international school teachers just find friends among other international school teachers at their school. The reason being that it is sometimes scary and nerve-racking to get yourself out there and meet the locals. Additionally, you got to get yourself out and get to know A LOT of locals too because we all know that you can’t be everyone’s friend that you meet.  You have to meet a lot to find a few good ones.  You don’t always find a good match every time you are out and about in your host city.  Also, locals don’t necessarily want to invest their friend-time with foreigners that are going to be leaving in a year or two. If you are staying around, that makes you more desirable in terms of friendship material.


#3 – You save more money.

Your first and second years at an international school can indeed be costly ones. You need to buy so many things (excuse me…did somebody say IKEA?) for your new home.  You also make some stupid purchases during these first few years when you don’t know the best places to go and get the best deal.  The longer you stay could equal the better savings in your bank account, especially if your international school is giving you a great salary with excellent benefits. Why leave when you’re potentially making the most money in your teaching career?!

#4 – You get to do more special projects at your school.

When you first start at an international school, you are just getting your feet on the ground. Because everything is new, you typically stick to doing what you know and that’s that. You are still doing a good job, but you find it a challenge to start any special projects.  After your third and fourth year, you have more ownership in the school. Being more familiar and comfortable with your international school allows you to be more creative and make some of your ideas come true. Once you have built a strong trust, after a couple of years with your administration and the PTA, they will then support you in these new ideas.  The key is to keep the ideas and inspiration flowing. Here is one special project idea as an example: why not get beekeeping started up at your school?

#5 – You build stronger collaborative partners at work.

Some research related to co-teaching in schools state that it can take a good two to three years to get to a high level of collaboration.  You need time to build those collaborative relationships, and sometimes one to two years is not enough.  Also, if you stay at an international school for longer than two years, you also get to know your colleagues better, both professionally and on a personal level.  All of that teaching at a specific international school then is time well-spent, as it will only strengthen your collaborative relationships.


#6 – More time for more of your home country family and friends to visit you. 

Why is it so hard for some of your family and friends to get their act together and visit you?  The fact is that many of those friends and family need time to plan. They need time to save their money, find the right time to visit you, and get the time off of their work. Many people are simply not able to figure that all out in one to two years. By the third and fourth year, the stars will align for some of them to finally visit you.  What a shame if there is a missed opportunity for your friends and family to check out a potential new place in the world!  The best part is that they won’t even have to pay for a hotel or guide services as they will have your place to stay at and you to happily show them around.

#7 – You get more time to travel around your host country and visit all the spots you’ve been wanting to see.

During your holidays, it is easy to forget about checking out more of your host country. Indeed, you are too busy planning to see the other countries that surround your host country.  If you are not on a tropical island, buying a ticket to one sounds more appealing then just staying in your host country.  Even if your host country is a small one, there are still countless cities to go visit.  The more you see of your host country, the better appreciation you have for it.  You learn more about your host country culture as well and how the locals are living in different parts of the country.  Traveling around to more parts of your host country also helps to you feel more like a local too because you know more about them and their culture.

#8 – You get to make your home more yours.

It takes awhile to make a home your home. In some countries, you are placed into a furnished house/apartment. Making other people’s furniture your furniture takes time. If you move into an unfurnished place, then you must buy stuff to put in there. If it is new, then that stuff also takes time to then make your home your home.  Sure, some international school teachers ship their own furniture to their new host country and they need less time to cozy up to their new surroundings, but a home is indeed more than just furniture. It takes time for memories to be created in your apartment/house.

#9 – You get more time to eat out at your favorite restaurants and find new ones that open up.

It is the best feeling to go out for dinner in your host country. Going out and enjoying really tasty food at your favorite restaurant, yes! What a shame to find that one place after a year, and then leave the following year. And then if you leave after only two years, you are maybe not there enough to check out the new ones that pop up. Then you hear from your ex-colleagues that they are still going to your favorite restaurant and you get those seconds thoughts of did I leave that city too soon?

Screenshot 2015-05-18 22.27.33

#10 – You finally get to see and work in your school’s new, amazing, purpose-built school building that it finally made.

We have all worked at international schools that have a grand plan to make a new building. If you have had this experience, then you know for sure that two things happen: either the new school building just simply never gets built or that is does get built but only after years and years of planning and waiting. Staying longer than four years gives ample time for you to actually get the chance to work in this new, amazing building!

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Top 10 Lists

Top 10 reasons how you know you are NOT working at a top-tier international school

March 28, 2015

We all wish that our next international school will be in the “top-tier” of all the 6000+ international schools out there around the world.  For you will have the perfect salary, the perfect position, the perfect boss, the perfect housing allowance, etc.

Well even though the idea of working at a top-tier international school sounds wonderful, the reality is that no international school is perfect, that’s for sure.  On the other hand, we suppose it is true that working at a top-tier school will more likely be a better and more satisfying experience for you.

Each international school is on their own journey towards greatness. The most important thing to know then (when considering a job to work at an international school), in what part of their journey will you be starting?  Is that international school moving at a steady pace towards improvement or will it be at a very slow pace (or worse, stalled, and heading in a downward spiral)?


What are the Top 10 reasons how you know you are NOT working at a top-tier international school? Maybe you can relate to some of these!

#1 – You don’t get paid on time. 

Fact. You can’t focus on doing your best teaching if you are not getting paid on time. Some international schools (for-profit ones most likely) do not pay its teachers until two weeks or more after the original pay-date. Slowly losing trust in your school to pay its staff on time will definitely affect its ability to be top-tier.

#2 – The interview process leaves you confused and full of questions.

There is nothing worse than being very interested in working at an international school and then left being underwhelmed after the interview with them.  The administration appear to not be very well organized.  Maybe they do not know the specific details about the position for which you are interviewing.  When interviewing, obviously you need to have all your questions answered because this decision you might make is a big one.  You want to leave the interview satisfied that they have answered all your questions and concerns.  Curiously, sometimes the interview goes super fast, and the school seems to be willing to hire anyone breathing (another red flag); which gets you wondering if you indeed really are a good fit for this school or are they misleading you just to fill a vacancy.


#3 – The business office is a nightmare-of-a-place you dread going.

Losing trust in your international school is the definite deal-breaker. Arguably, the most important room in the school is the business office. For it is a fact that they are in control of all your money.  If you are not getting reimbursed for things in time, you lose some trust. You lose even more trust if the business office staff is very mean to you and does not seem at all interested in helping you resolve all things related to your money, in a timely and respectful manner for example. If you are a bit scared to go into your international school’s business office (because of multiple previous experiences of disappointment and stress), then you know your school is not in the top-tier.

#4 – The student enrollment is falling rapidly.

Losing students can be a very natural event at an international school caused by things completely out of the school’s control (i.e. global recession, big businesses moving out of the area, etc.).  But if your school has students leaving for nearby international schools, it might be falling out of the group of top-tier schools in your area.  Parents know very well which international schools, in a specific city, have the best reputation. If the parents are extremely upset with the experience they are having with your school, they will start finding alternative options for their children. The less students a school has, sometimes will affect the number of unique services they can offer. Which, in turn, leaves the school falling down a into a downward spiral of student enrollment because of a growing bad reputation.

#5 – You have a very non-existent new-teacher orientation experience.

When you arrive at your new post, everything needs to be just-so for you to get started off on the right foot. If the international school does not have a plan for welcoming and orientating new staff, these teachers will be full of stress. Getting settled in as quickly as possible is every new teacher’s goal. If the school does not offer a planned and structured new-teacher orientation programme, it will be left with teachers who cannot focus on doing their best in the first few months of starting at their new school. Top-tier schools know what new teachers need in the first couple months and have a plan on how to help them minimize stress of culture shock to the new school and the new country.


#6 – There isn’t equal pay for teachers working in the same position.

International schools need a plan on how they will pay their teachers and staff. Unequal pay for people doing the same job is just not fair. Top-tier schools have a clear pay schedule that is understandable and transparent.  Teachers know when there is unequal pay amongst the staff, and this feeling of inequity causes them to have a negative impression on how these financial aspects are handled. International schools that want to be top-tier ones realize that paying local staff a different salary and offering them less benefits is not good for staff morale and the overall wellbeing of all stakeholders.

#7 – Your administration hires people that don’t match the school’s philosophy and mission.

How frustrating when your director does the hiring for the whole school, even when they do not have a clear idea of the positions they are trying to fill. In smaller international schools, typically the director is the only one going to the recruitment fairs. Top-tier international school directors know better how things work in their primary, middle and high school sections. They know how each of those diversion runs and the personalities of teachers that work in those divisions. Finding a good match for working with your current staff should be a top priority. Top-tier schools ask the right questions to try and figure out to their best ability if the candidate will be a good fit for the school’s current philosophy and mission. Non top-tier international school miss the mark completely and will hire anyone who vaguely fits the position’s requirements.

#8 – The school starts countless new initiatives all at the same time.

Top-tier internationals have a clear plan on how they will organize new initiatives.  They will not do so many at once as they know that causes the staff too much stress because of all the changes they will experience.  Top-tier international school also have administration that stay for four to six years (or longer), which allows for better deployment of the proposed initiatives. All new initiatives need see-through and consistent monitoring and evaluation. We all know the non top-tier schools out there that pile on the new initiatives, leaving all staff angry and frustrated.

#9 – You lose money that the school was suppose to pay you.

Promises, promises. You would think that after signing a contract with an international school, they would honor it.  But at some schools, that is not always the case.  Many schools offer a bonus payment for every year that you have worked there.  The catch is that they will not give you that money until after your final year of working there.  You are not working at a top-tier school if you are worried about getting the money that was promised to you.  There are international school teachers out there who have to wait over a year to receive their bonus money.  Even scarier, there are other teachers who never got their bonus money.


#10 – Your international school completely closes down a year after you leave it.

It is unlikely a top-tier international school will close down. Many times they are huge businesses that are very well organized with many stakeholders with a vested interest in the success of the school.  Unfortunately, there are some of us that have worked at these less desirable international schools that plainly just do not have their act together. To add to your embarrassment of working there for a few years, you find that the school has closed a year after you left it due to a high amount mismanagement. It happens. Its true that not all schools can be as successful and long-running as top-tier schools. But do you really want to work at an international school that does not have their act together with a haphazard management style?  We think not.

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Highlighted Year for Int’l Schools

International schools that were founded in 1949 (Taiwan, Yokohama, Geneva & more)

February 27, 2014

Random year for international schools around the world: 1949

There is much history in the international teaching community.  We have international schools with founding dates of 1838 and 1850 and we also have many, many international schools with founding dates in the 21st century.  The numbers of new international schools are increasing for sure.

Utilizing the database of the 1611 (25 February, 2014) international schools currently listed on International School Community, we found 7 international schools that were founded in 1949.  Here are a few of those schools that also have had comments and information submitted on them on our website (excerpts about their founding are taken from the schools’ websites)

Taipei American School (Taiwan, China) – 11 Comments


“Our school has a rich history. Taipei American School first opened its doors to eight students on September 26, 1949 in the basement of a seminary. The civil war between Chinese Communists and Nationalists caused many missionaries and business people to flee mainland China for Taiwan. This influx caused the school to grow rapidly and forced it to move to a new facility as enrollment reached 120 by 1951.”

American School of Asuncion (Asuncion, Paraguay) – 58 Comments


“Asa did not have school buildings when it started, instead, teachers went  to students’ homes to teach them. In 1949, most U.S. children were doing the us Calvert correspondance courses supervised by their parents. Later on, students started to meet at the YMCA.”

Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia) – 18 Comments


“The Anglo-American School of Moscow, founded in 1949, is an independent, coeducational day school in northwest Moscow that offers an international educational program from Pre-Kindergarten (4-year-olds) through Grade 12. The Anglo-American School is chartered by the American, British, and Canadian Embassies in Moscow through the aegis of a School Board.”

Nishimachi International School (Tokyo, Japan) – 7 Comments


“Nishimachi International School was established in 1949 by the late Tane Matsukata on the family property in the Azabu area of Tokyo. She had recently returned to Japan after seventeen years in the U.S., where she received her education and spent the war years.

Check out the rest of the international schools listed on International School Community and check out their histories as well!  We have over 1610 international schools that have profile pages on our website.

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Discussion Topics

The new seasoned international school teachers have arrived at your school…and they won’t stop complaining!

November 6, 2013 year, they come streaming in, fresh, bright faces, full of potential and wonder! They bring with them the hope of change, growth and new ideas.

Then they open their mouths and the dreaded phrase comes out, maybe at lunch or during a casual conversation, the phrase that immediately fills you with dread because you know what´s coming next, ¨well, at my last international school…¨

New Teachers.

I was one of them. Twice. And I know myself being 100% at fault for being that person, that teacher who constantly compared and contrasted this international school to that international school, this city to that city, these benefits to those, etc…

I´m surprised I was able to make friends at my new school with how much I droned on about my last school in Singapore! How anybody could stomach sitting with me at lunch, I don´t know!

When I was asked to guest write this article this was the first idea that popped into my head. Maybe it´s because school has only been in session a little over 6 weeks and I’m still hearing the harping voices of new teachers about their last international schools and cities. I understand that these people were hired for a reason, they´re bringing experiences, wealth of knowledge and resources from their previous schools to help our school. But there has got to be a better way with which they decide to share this information!


Here are top 10 annoying things New Teachers say (though it is partial to my current international school, I´m sure some people can relate!)

At my last school…

1. We got paid more and had better benefits

Well that´s too bad, maybe you should have inquired more into the package here!

2. The students were more respectful and not as loud.

Maybe it´s time to brush up on your behavior management skills and routines!

3. All the parents and children spoke English

You´re a teacher, it´s your job to teach the children English, as for the parents, figure it out, I´m sure there is a treasure trove of translators at your school!

4.  We were a Mac school and all the teachers got Ipads. Plus, the facilities were great

I wonder if people actually research into where they get their new jobs or where they are moving to?

5. Lunch is so gross and oily

Can´t really complain about a free lunch with unlimited salad, fruit and yogurt.

6. Everyone was friends and did everything together.

That´s because you probably worked together for two or more years and built that friendship, friendships aren´t built in a week during orientation. If you want to be more social, take initiative and plan something!

In my last city/country…

7.  It wasn´t such a long commute to get to the school

Buy a car or moto then, or maybe even try biking to school!

8. We had Health Care Benefits and the doctors all spoke English.

Hey, so do we….and it´s FREE! As for the language, maybe try learning it!

9. This city is so dirty and smelly.

Where else can you live that has a beach, city and mountain within a 10 mile radius?

10.  Everyone spoke English.

Then why would you ever move to a non-English speaking country?

While we all hold our last international schools and previous placements (most of the time!) in a higher light and we try to hold on to those fond memories and experiences, New Teachers need to remember that things mustn’t have been all peaches and cream at their last school or placement, there had to have been reasons why they decided to leave, there had to be reasons why they chose to move to their new school/country…and those are the things that we ALL need to focus on.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: Tessa McGovern.

(Originally hailing from Connecticut, but a true New England-er through and through, I was born to two fun loving Irish folks who instilled the love of culture, tradition and travel at ripe young age. I spent the majority of my childhood traveling back and forth between the US and  Ireland/England, visiting family and thus began my life abroad.  After graduating from Springfield College (Massachusetts) and with a bit of luck, a colleague recommended a job in Singapore, which in turn started my International Teaching Career. After a few years in Singapore, it was time to head somewhat closer to home and I landed a job at the American School of Barcelona, teaching 4th and 5th Grade, where I´m currently at.  Food, traveling, reading, family/friends and football (Gaelic) are the few things I can´t live without!)

Have a discussion topic you’d like to share on the IS_Community blog? Want to earn free premium membership to our website? Contact us here if you’d like to become one of our next guest authors.

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Traveling Around

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

October 30, 2013

Traveling Around: Florence, Italy

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Can you relate?

• Trying to speak Spanish (because of a lack of Italian) and thinking that you will easily be understood.
• Paying in Euros, but still thinking in U.S. Dollars.
• Using websites to find the best places to eat at, then arriving to those places only to find that they are too expensive for your budget.
• Roaming around and trying your best to avoid the hordes of tourists everywhere.
• Walking up a grueling 400 some steps to get to the top of the Bell Tower; and being awarded with an excellent view of the city (on a really nice day as well).
• Enjoying the warmer temperatures and appreciating them, knowing that the average temperature where you live is much lower at this time in the year.
• Staying at a cheap, but very unique and cool, bed and breakfast.
• Going shopping in a nearby grocery store, outside of the city center, with the locals…wishing that many of the products were being sold in the grocery stores where you live.
• Searching for the “best” italian pizza only to find just average tasting pizzas instead.
• Taking the time to visit some museums, appreciating the important art history of the area.
• Finding it a challenge to get your daily schedule to coincide perfectly (better) with the sometimes frustrating opening times of the local restaurants.
• Thinking that it was a cheaper option to eat at the Mc. Donalds for a quick bite to eat, only to find out that the prices were WAY above what you are used to…for a fast food place!
• Checking out the pretty amazing outfits of the senior citizen community of Florence.
• Making a mistake by diverting our walk a bit to check out an outdoor market, with the hope that it would have some unique items and not be so touristy….wrong!
• Forgetting to take advantage of our hotel room’s balcony to really take in our location and surroundings.
• Regretting not getting out of the city to really check out the countryside of Tuscany.

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Currently we have 31 international schools listed in Italy on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on them:

International School of Bologna (15 Comments)
International School Florence (10 Comments)
International School in Genoa (10 Comments)
• American School of Milan (13 Comments)
• Bilingual European School of Milan (19 Comments)
• Sir James Henderson School (7 Comments)
• The Bilingual School of Monza (8 Comments)
• The English International School of Padua (12 Comments)
• Ambrit-Rome International School (7 Comments)
• American Overseas School of Rome (5 Comments)
• International School of Trieste (9 Comments)
International School Turin (15 Comments)

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at 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 6 free months of premium membership!

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Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #27: Sudha Sunder (An international school educator currently working in UAE)

August 31, 2013

Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Sudha Sunder:

SSunderTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I am originally from India, living and working in Dubai, UAE, for the last 19 years. So UAE is sort of ‘home’ to me.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

I took a career break from an Indian school at which I worked for 6 years in the UAE. I left the school because I wanted to pursue further education and hence applied for part-time positions in various schools in Dubai and was offered a part-time position in an international school in Dubai (Universal American School in Dubai). I have remained in this school for 7 years now and moved from being a part-time teacher to full time teacher, to Department Head to ICT and Curriculum Coordinator; and currently holding the position of the Staff Development Coordinator. It has been a steep learning curve professionally and personally for me. I am currently a certified curriculum consultant in concept-based teaching (Lynn Erickson) and offer curriculum consultancy workshops in many international schools in the region and hence get to meet and work with a diverse range of international teaching staff.

Having said all of that, moving from a national system of education where students are “disciplined” from questioning the teacher in the name of “respect” ( at least when I was a teacher in the 90s – and agree that much has changed now) an international school environment was very challenging for me and my initial days were very draining.  Often times, in the early days of my international teaching career I have drawn solace on the fact that I was not a ‘permanent’ teaching staff and that my tenure was part-time. But I somehow wanted to make it work even for the short time. I turned to reading literature on international education and read avidly. During this time my admissions into the doctoral program at the University of Bath came through. My first assignment was about “teachers as reflective practitioners” that looked at my transition from teaching in a national system of school to an international school.

I give below some excerpts from the study:

What is my concern?

The classroom atmosphere and student interaction in my newly inducted environment in an international school concerned me. I was experiencing myself as a living contradiction (Whitehead 2006), because as a teacher I felt it was my primary responsibility to create a positive learning environment in the classroom and yet I was denying them the opportunity to do so (or at least that is what I thought).  Little did I realize the classroom management techniques in a multi-cultural environment are so different from schools where students are from the same nationality, particularly in the Indian system.

Why am I concerned?

I am concerned because as a teacher, it is essential for me to sustain and derive my joy in teaching. Students’ apathy bothered me.  A deep sense of dissatisfaction as well as a strong conviction that it was possible to make a positive change inspired me to become a reflective practitioner.

What kind of evidence can I produce to show why I am concerned?

I narrate below one classroom incident that raised my awareness of how my values were being denied in my practice, whereby I was experiencing myself as a “living contradiction” (Whitehead and McNiff, 2006).

Situation 1:

Date: Sunday, October 7, 2006.

(In the Middle East, Sunday happens to be the first day of the working week)

A project assigned to the students is explained with the help of a Power point. During this explanation, most students are talking to each other, some are painting their nails, and others detached and disengaged.  This overall atmosphere makes it difficult and de-motivating for the few students who are trying to focus attention.  At the end of the ten minutes of introducing what students are supposed to do, I ask them if they have any questions.

(Response) Student A: “So miss, what are we supposed to do?”

(Reaction): The whole class breaks into laughter, chaos and commotion follows. Some students slyly glance at me to comprehend my reaction.

The above scenario is common in most classes, perhaps with different questions at the end: highly non-contextual or insignificant such as:

Me (at the end of explanations): “Any questions?”

B: “Miss, may I go to the washroom?”


C: “Nice dress, miss!”

In my previous teaching experience in the national system of education, students could be addressed easily as a single class or a group and the student-teacher relationship was highly disciplined with the teacher holding a lot of ‘power’. Students were often well behaved and  wanted to learn more from teachers and the interaction with teachers was highly respectful.  The current situation puzzled me. Where was I going wrong? I was not a “new” teacher. I had been teaching for 7 years! Before dismissing the current situation as “student apathy”, “indiscipline” and “disinterested in learning”, I realized this situation demanded a deeper understanding through critical analysis and reflection.

Turning into a “reflective practitioner” helped me realize that teaching in international school setting need to go beyond “Power Points” and that Power Points are often “Power Pointless” unless they can engage the students and provoke their thinking. Teaching in international schools demand paying significant attention to the fact that students are from various cultural backgrounds, and teaching and learning require differentiation strategies and project based learning wherein every student is engaged and challenged. I am not saying these are not applicable to national system of schools. But in my experience, I do think in national system of schools much of the learning is “controlled” in the name of “discipline”. This does not happen in international schools. Teachers have to move from being “sage on stage” to a “knowledge facilitator” at all times. “Respect for the teacher” is something that cannot be demanded and has to be earned in an international school setting. And if that happens, trust me, the students are the most adorable and fun to work with and more importantly they help you grow, as each day, each hour, they will challenge you. Flexibility and being a “life-long learner” is the key to success. Again, I am not saying these are not essential in national system of schools – of course they are- just that they are highly imperative in international  school settings due to the diverse multi-cultural student body found in such schools.

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.

This is my first and only international school experience (but a valuable and enriching one indeed!) [at Universal American School in Dubai]. Having been in this school for seven years and it has been a very rewarding experience and a huge learning curve for me. It has helped me grow as an individual and as a professional. I have drawn on experiences in the school for every single of my doctoral assignments and currently working on my dissertation which again in a Case Study at the school.

The school I work at is a very warm and friendly place where individuals who are willing to go the extra mile are truly valued and the relationship amongst staff very collegial. With over 75 different nationalities being represented in the teacher and student body combined, one can imagine that each day is a new cultural learning experience, that shows we are so very diverse culturally, yet the same as human beings.

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

1. A Korean student of mine (Grade 8) came to me very upset one day. She was upset because she sat in her History class for weeks together learning about this “new Greek philosopher – a name she had never heard of before” until that morning when she had realized that her teacher had been talking about none other than the Greek Philosopher, Socrates. The way in which her teacher from Australia was pronouncing the name “Socrates” was entirely different from how she had heard it being pronounced in her school back home in Korea, and it took her weeks to realize this!!

2. We have a board that hangs on the door of our English Department that says: “ENGLISH DOES NOT BELONG TO ANYBODY- it is a medium of communication and it belongs to anyone who wishes to use it!”

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

I think most international schools call themselves “international” without any depth to the meaning of the term. I specifically say this in schools that call themselves “international” yet have a significant and sometimes 95% of staff from the western world. I truly question the notion of “internationalism” is such schools and would certainly not want to work in such a school as I am not convinced that the learning experiences there would be of ‘international’ dimensions. There is some very interesting literature published on this (see Canterford 2003). So the first think I would look for is how “international” is the school in terms of its multi-cultural population. On the same lines, I would also want the school to respect every nationality equally as I truly believe that unless there is strong “nationalism” in each one of us the “internationalism” we pose will be empty and shallow.

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

Culturally enriching, questioning true internationalism.

Thanks Sudha!

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 United Arab Emirates like Sudha?  Currently, we have 29 international schools listed in Dubai on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:



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Discussion Topics

It is time to say goodbye to your current international school: getting rid of your things before the big move!

June 15, 2013

lostluggagebhpIt is sad to say goodbye.  Even more so when you are an international school teacher.  Goodbye new country, goodbye new teacher-friends, goodbye new local friends, goodbye the excellent local cuisine and your new favourite restaurants, etc. And let’s not forget….goodbye to some of your possessions.

At this time of year you already know the teachers for whom it will be their last year working at your current international school.  There is almost a stage of denial that you go through.  You don’t want them to leave for many reasons, some personal and some work-related. On the other hand, you might be quite content with them leaving!

Whether you want them to go or not, international school teachers have to plan and think about a lot of things when they decide to leave an international school.

Selling your things: Some international schools have an end-of-the-year flea market where leaving parents and teachers can bring their stuff to sell.  What a great way to get some money for the things you won’t be taking with you.  If there isn’t an organized flea market, some international school teachers use Facebook and Craigslist-type websites to sell their things.  You can also get in contact with the new hires that will be arriving in the fall to see if there are a few things that they would like to buy…as there will be probably many things that they will need.


Giving away your things: Sometimes it is not worth the ‘hassle’ of trying to find people to which to sell your things. In the international school teaching community where you’re at, you will always find others that will take your unneeded things!  One time I received 2-3 boxes of things (that I didn’t ask for) from a parting teacher, and there were some really nice things!  Also, it is fun to give away your things, and it leaves a little bit of you with them. One time I took out all the artwork in all the frames in my apartment. Then I had my good friends choose a favorite picture that I had taken during my time there.  I blew up the chosen pictures and put them into my frames (can’t always take big frames with you when you move anyway!).  It was a nice gift to give to them as it came closer to my last couple weeks before my official moving date.

Taking your things with you: If you are lucky, your next international school will have some shipping benefits.  You can use that money to send most of your personal belongings to your next location.  Some international schools don’t have that benefit though, so make sure to get all the details. If you are even luckier, your current school will also have some shipping benefits for leaving teachers as well (Double the money!).  Sometimes international schools have a date that if you formally resign before that date, you will be eligible to receive another baggage/shipping allowance.  In the international school teaching world, it appears it pays to plan ahead then.  I have never used a formal, professional moving company, but many do.  At first, it doesn’t seem like you have a lot of things to move (especially if you are living in a furnished apartment), but then as you start packing, the number of boxes always always seem to multiply!

We have a comment and information topic (in the Benefits tab section on all of our school profile pages) directly related to shipping/moving allowance.  It is called “Detailed info about flight, shipping and settling-in allowances. Any other benefits (e.g. free lunches, etc.)?

Here are some other example comments and information that our members have submitted in this topic:

“You get up to 2000 Euros to use for a moving allowance. You also can get 2000 Euros (interest free loan) if you need some extra money for a “settling-in allowance”. No flight allowance, though the school does pay for your first flight there. (1000 USD for people in Europe and 1500 USD for overseas hires).” – 

“Moving allowance is around 450 Euros. They will pay for your airfare to get there, but there is no annual flight allowance. The school gives you a lunch allowance as well, around 126 Euros a month.” – 

“Moving allowance provided is 1200 USD for singles and 2300 USD for teaching couples.” – 

“The school pays for your flight, visa costs and a shipping allowance of 500USD…but no shipping allowance when you leave. You also can pay for lunch at a nominal cost. Tuition is covered for two dependents but you still have to pay for transportation and food costs which is approximately 230,000 COP per month.” – 

If you know about the shipping and baggage allowance details of the international school you currently work at or have worked at in the past, log-on today to share what you know!  For every 10 submitted comments and information, you will automatically receive one free month of premium membership added to your account.

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Video Highlight

Video Highlight: American Creativity Academy (An international school in Hawalli, Kuwait)

May 28, 2013

There are many international schools to work at in Kuwait!  How do these schools stand out from each other?

American Creativity Academy (in Hawalli)

We put two videos in this video highlight, as the concept for these videos was part of a project that the students at this school were given…we imagine. (A third one can be found here.)

It is a great idea; a challenge project for IB/High School students to create a marketing video for the school.  There is not really a more appropriate stakeholder at the school to make a project like this.  The students’ perspective about the school they are attending is probably one to listen to with regards to thinking about school identity and school improvement.

The kids look a bit nervous in the videos!

The sports fields look on the newer side.  You can see the shadow cast over that one place for soccer as it most likely gets very hot during the day when students would be playing there.

The lovely blue colour of the sides of the buildings seems to make it stand out, in good way.

How nice that they have a canteen in the auditorium/multi-purpose room.  Not all international schools have that!

The ending of one of those videos is very funny with some students helping another student slide down the hall.

Did not see many of the other teachers and students of this school of 2650 students…they must have filmed after school hours.

Currently on we have 19 international schools listed in Kuwait with 5 of them being in the city of Hawalli.  Here are a just a few of them (The number of comments and information that have been submitted for each school is listed to the right of the link to each school.):









If you know about what it is like working at one of these international schools in Kuwait, log-on today and submit your own comments and information.  For every 10 comments you submit, you will receive 1 month of premium access to International School Community for free!

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Blogs of International Teachers

Blogs of international school teachers: “Tech Transformation”

July 9, 2012

Are you inspired to start up a blog about your adventures living abroad?

Our 20th blog that we would like to highlight is called “Tech Transformation.”  Check out the blog entries of this international school teacher who has lived and worked abroad for many years, 24 of which have been at international schools in Europe and Asia so far.

A few entries that we would like to highlight:

Having a Reputation

“Some international schools have a great reputation – everyone on the international school circuit has heard of them and would love to work there.  Some of these schools never even have to go to a job fair to recruit new teachers – teachers are applying to them in droves and by this time in the school year they have already chosen the teachers they want for the next school year.  Recently some friends of mine who applied to one of the top schools in Asia told me that there had been over 3,000 applicants for the 50 new jobs that were being created as their school opens a new campus.  Clearly schools such as these are in the favourable position of being able to recruit the very best teachers from around the world.

Today I’ve been thinking about what gives those schools a good reputation?  Obviously it’s because their teachers are out there promoting all the good things about the school, it’s because they are known for giving their teachers fantastic opportunities for professional development, it’s because the schools are progressive and seen as being “cutting edge”, it’s because the salary and benefits package is extremely attractive, it’s because teachers feel valued and it’s because all students, regardless of ability, seem to thrive and do well there.”

“Top tier”, “A, B, C, D schools”, “That is one For-profit”, etc. We all have heard these phrases (and more) as international school educators talk about international schools, especially about international schools you are considering to work at.  I suppose it might be true that the “top” international schools don’t even go to the recruitment fairs, but I do believe a lot of them do.  The ones that don’t might indeed have a really good reputation.  They might be getting so many applicants applying to them without them even looking.  I have overheard though from one administrator at one of these “top tier” schools that they are thinking that they do need to “show up” at a fair every now and again so that the “good name” of the school will still be in everyone’s mind.  Thus it could be to the international school’s benefit to stay visible to stay “top tier.”

And this blogger has hit it on the T, the reasons she gives for the good reputation are correct.  Why don’t all international schools strive to be all of those things?  I know the teachers there would want that to be there goal as well.  And I think that is what she is getting at….it is not just the international school that should strive for this, but the teachers as well.  I bet it is most because of the teachers at an international schools that have helped the school to get its good reputation.  So, the key word then for this to happen is: inspiration.  Inspire yourself and your coworkers and maybe your current international school will soon be in that “top tier” list if it isn’t there already.  Sometimes it is a fight to achieve this high reputation, and probably also a challenge (albeit an exciting and motivating challenge) to keep your school in the top.

Experience -v- Quality

“When I started in international education, in the late 80s and early 90s, there were a small number of “top” international schools that were developing the IBO programmes that are used by many international and private schools around the world today.  In general these schools could take their pick of candidates – they received hundreds of applicants each year and often one of the requirements for working in these schools was that the candidates had to have a minimum of 2 years of experience of working in international education.  And to get that first experience in international education, they had to have worked for a minimum of 2 years in their home country too.  Therefore in general any teacher who was offered a job at these schools would have had a minimum of 4 years of experience, and often many more in a variety of international schools.”

I don’t know if this is always true, but it definitely plays a big factor in the consideration of your application.  Networking plays a factor into getting placed at a top tier school as well (knowing someone who knows someone).  Also luck and timing play a factor (being available for a late hire in June versus in February during the recruiting season.  And finally it is so important that you are the right “fit” for the position at this “top” international school.  I have heard many times that if you are just simply the right fit, then these other “requirements” (e.g. two years of experience working in international schools) for the position generally can be pushed aside. 

Many international school teachers new to this community don’t have experience with the PYP curriculum.  Consequently there a number of these teachers wanting to work at one of the many international schools using the PYP.  Many established PYP schools are saying to these candidates at recruitment fairs that they look for a minimum of two years of PYP experience to be considered.  Should these teachers give up then on their dream to work at a PYP international school?  Certainly not.  I have a friend who tried for 2-3 years trying to land a job at a PYP school (without previous PYP experience).  Finally, they got an interview at a top international school in Europe.  Even though there were other candidates with PYP experience interviewing for the position, my friend got hired instead.  There were definitely other factors coming into play versus just saying no to a candidate that didn’t have the “required” two years of PYP experience.  You never know what might happen when you apply at an international school that’s for sure!

Check out the 1230+ international schools that are listed on International School Community here and check out what teachers are saying about the “top” or “not top” international school they currently work at or have worked at in the past.

Check out our latest submitted comments and information about these schools here.

If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.

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Overview of an Int’l School

Overview of an int’l school #3 – Ak Lu’ Um International School

November 27, 2011

How great that each international school is unique!

In this overview of an international school, by Michele Kinnon, we would like to highlight Ak Lu’ Um International School in .

Currently there are 18 international schools listed in Mexico on International School Community.

Making a choice about a child’s education is perhaps the most important decision a parent is faced with. All children have different needs and interests and investigating all of the educational options available is crucial to finding the school that is right for each child. Over the past decade, the educational options for families living on the Riviera Maya have increased exponentially. While just a few years ago, parents seeking a quality private learning institution for their children were limited to two or three options, there are now nearly a dozen schools to select from with even more opening their doors every year. All of the schools vary in their methodologies, student demographics and facilities. Several of the newer campuses offer tremendous sports facilities and opportunities for students to participate in a variety of competitive sports. Parents looking for a more holistic learning environment may now look to one of the region’s Montessori or Waldorf inspired schools, the most innovative being the Ak Lu’um International School located in Playa del Carmen.

Fundacion Ak Lu’um A.C., the Riviera Maya’s only not for profit privatized school was created in 2006 by educators Siobhan Bowers and Gabriela Nunez. This Waldorf initiative employs a Heart, Head and Hands approach to education and Learning through the Arts methodology is used to teach curricular subjects such as Math, Science and Social Studies. In addition to the nationally standardized curriculum required by the Mexican Government (SEP), children are taught art, music and environmental studies complimented the facilities of the self sustaining jungle campus established in 2008. Students maintain a garden and raise chickens, harvesting the organic eggs for use in the school’s kitchen, and participate in a myriad of activities designed to stimulate not just their minds and bodies but their hearts as well. Ak Lu’um School is completely bilingual welcoming students from all over Mexico and across the globe.

Parents with special needs students will also now find a viable option for their school age children. The Waldorf trained teachers successfully integrate physically and developmentally challenged children into mainstream classroom settings, providing a safe and inclusive learning environment where each child is encouraged to reach his or her potential. Currently, 36 percent of the student population is on full scholarship support, ensuring that qualified families are not excluded simply because of their financial position. Parents whose children are receiving tuition assistance are asked to participate in the daily operations of the school, making a valuable contribution with their time and skills.

Ak Lu’um’s non-profit status allows for financial support from corporate and individual donors. Contributions go to expand and improve the physical campus, increase the curricular and extracurricular activities and allow more local children to be admitted on scholarships. This year Ak Lu’um has been chosen as the recipient of funds raised by Taste of Playa International Food Festival. Funds raised by Taste of Playa, scheduled for September 5, 2009, will provide clean and safe drinking water for the students, teachers and volunteers at Ak Lu’um International School for the 2009/2010 school year.

Each of the area’s private schools employs multilingual administrative staff members who welcome questions and visits from parents and can guide new families smoothly through the admission process. With all of the educational options available to families on the Riviera Maya, there is certain to be a school that is a match for your child, one that will support his or her individual interests while providing a well balanced curriculum. Look for a school where your child will be challenged and stimulated and you will help them pave their own road to success.

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Blogs of International Teachers

Blogs of international school teachers: “Tip of the Iceberg”

October 18, 2011

Are you inspired to start up a blog about your adventures living abroad?

Our 9th blog that we would like to highlight is called “Tip of the Iceberg.”  This international educator seems to be quite experienced in the international school community, having worked at international schools since 2001.  Check out the blog entries of this international school teacher who is now working in Singapore at United World College South East Asia.

Entries we would like to highlight:

My Journey to Work

“I was kindly tagged by Kim Cofino in this blog meme of sorts, (via Jess McCulloch) which involves documenting how you get to work. It’s an interesting one, because I love seeing the diverse lifestyles of my friends around the world – check out the journeys of Kim, Jess & Clint, by way of example.  The journey starts at the elevator, where my son Griffin (more often than not wearing only PJ top & underpants) waves us all goodbye. Scarlett, Miles & I love this part, because he makes us smile as we leave.”

This photo journey idea is a great one!  It has the staff at International School Community very interested in trying it out ourselves.  How great if we all shared our journeys with each other.  For sure that would help prospective teachers get a better idea of what life is like traveling to and from the teachers’ homes to the international school they work at.

Lessons from outside the ballet class

“One (Singaporean) parent said she had found the perfect school for her daughter. I was intrigued! Her criteria? The teachers had been teaching at the same school for over 20 years.  I know fabulous teachers (as I’m sure you do) who have been teaching for more than 20 years, and I do not mean to take anything away from them. I also know fabulous teachers who are only just beginning their careers, and I feel the Mum who judged a good school by the fact that the teachers had been there a long time was missing the boat.  Longevity does not necessarily equal a good teacher.  Longevity at an international school doesn’t equal a good teacher either! The cynic in me might think (upon hearing a teacher has been at the same school for 20 years), what’s the package like at THAT school?”

Great topic to think about.  Indeed, what was the package like at the international school where teachers stayed for 20+ years?  All the international school teachers that have been at the same international school for more than 20 years have of course married a local….maybe staying for such a long time doesn’t appear to be the result of wanting to reap the wonderful benefits of a benefits package.

*If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.

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Highlighted Year for Int’l Schools

International schools that were founded in 2002 (China, Mauritius, Egypt, etc.)

September 25, 2011

Random year for international schools around the world: 2002

Utilizing the database of the 889 international schools currently listed on International School Community, we found schools that were founded in 2002 (excepts about their founding are taken from the schools’ websites):

The International School of Macao (Macao, China)

“TIS was established in 2002 to provide a Canadian curriculum and accreditation to local and expatriate students. English is the primary language of instruction.
TIS opened with an initial total enrolment of 58 students on the campus of Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) in 2002. By 2006, the School had grown to over 500 students and had become accredited with the Alberta provincial (Canada) government. Students graduate from TIS with an Alberta High School diploma that is accepted in universities around the world.”

Northfield International High School  (Port Louis, Mauritius)

“Northfields International High School (NIHS) is a privately owned secondary school situated in Mapou, district of Pampelmous in the north. From its small beginnings in 2001 NIHS has now over 280 students.”

Canadian International School of Egypt (Cairo, Egypt)

“The Canadian International School of Egypt (CISE) opened its doors on September 15, 2002.  It is the first Canadian school certified by the Ministry of Education of Ontario in Egypt and the Middle East.  The Egyptian initiators of this project chose the Province of Ontario, Canada’s most populated province, to provide the curriculum and most of the teaching staff for the school.”

Al Jazeera Academy (Doha, Qatar)

“Al Jazeera Academy opened its doors to students in September 2002. It is a modern international educational institution which comprises three separate schools within a single campus to cater for all students from Preschool to Year 13.”

Vale Verde International School (Burgau, Portugal)

“After the acquisition of a property suitable for the conversion of a school in 1997, the De Beer family developed the idea to fruition.  In 2002, Vale Verde International School was founded following years of investment required to bring the buildings in line with Ministry of Education requirements.”

International Montessori School of Prague (Prague, Czech Republic)

“The International Montessori School of Prague (IMSP) was established as a private school in 2002. It was originally located in the Blatenska campus of Prague 4. IMSP started with 16 children in two classes : Toddler (1.5 – 3 years), and Primary (3 – 6 years).  In September 2003 the school was moved to a much larger facility in the Hrudickova campus of Prague 4. That school year we started with three classrooms: one Toddler, one Primary, and one Elementary.  In 2005 a second Primary class was added, so now IMSP had 4 classrooms: Toddler, Primary 1 and Primary 2, and Elementary. In 2006 the Primary program extended its afternoon component with Yoga, Music and Movement, Arts and Crafts, and Czech languge and culture.”

Logos International School (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

“Logos opened its doors in September 2002 with an enrollment of 58 students ranging from pre-kindergarten to grade seven.  At that time,Logos consisted of a single renovated house and an adjacent empty lot where a basketball court and small swimming pool were soon built.  Since that time,Logos added an additional grade level each year.  In the spring of 2008,Logos held its first graduation ceremony for 13 seniors.  Logos’ brand new campus consists of a basketball/volleyball/hockey court,athletic field,playground,library,cafeteria,2 computer labs,2 science labs,multi-purpose assembly room,and a swimming pool.  All of the classrooms are air-conditioned and equipped with essential teaching tools.  Our new facility is twice the size of our former location. We are very excited about this new provision.”

New Zealand International School (Jakarta, Indonesia)

“On 14 April 2003 Mr. Chris Elder, Ambassador of New Zealand to Indonesia, officially opened the School and the enrolment reached 35 students. The school grew quickly, and in August 2004 space was secured at LPPI, The Banking Institute, on Kemang Raya, to house the Senior Secondary Students. Since that time our enrolment has steadily increased in all aspects. The growth had the effect of moving expansion plans ahead of schedule; the search for additional premises has been an exciting time.”

Bromsgrove International School (Bangkok, Thailand)

“From the vision of the school founders Riza Sripetchvandee and Ian Davison, a new school was opened in 2002 under the name of Windsor International School and ownership of Windsor Education Co. Ltd. The School was constructed at Soi 164 Ramkhamheang Road, Minburi, in Eastern Bangkok. Over the course of the next two years pupil numbers grew steadily.  A new building was opened in September 2004 to meet the demand from Early Years students. In April 2004, the School became affiliated to the prestigious and world famous Bromsgrove School UK and changed its name to Bromsgrove International School Thailand (BIST). Bromsgrove School UK was founded over 450 years ago and is a leading co-educational independent day and boarding school for some 1,500 pupils and is situated in the English Midlands and provides a first-class education with excellent facilities and resources, as well as enjoying considerable distinction in Sport, Music and the Arts.”

International School of Wuxi (Wuxi, China)

“International School of Wuxi (ISW) is part of the International Schools of China (ISC) – an organization that, for the last 20 years, has offered academically excellent programs to meet the intellectual, physical and emotional needs of students.”

International Community School (Atlanta) (Atlanta, United States)

Kongsberg International School (Kongsberg, Norway)

“Kongsberg International School is a non-profit foundation established in 2002 by Kongsberg Gruppen ASA, FMC Kongsberg Subsea AS, Kongsberg Automotive ASA and Kongsberg Nærings- og Handelskammer (Chamber of Commerce and Industry). The school opened its doors in August 2003. The purpose of the school is to serve Kongsberg and its surrounding communities by providing a high quality international education for students, based on the International Baccalaureate Programme (, using English as the principal medium of instruction. Although many of our students are Norwegian, a growing international community in Kongsberg and Buskerud has provided enrolment of students from over 22 nations.”

Access International Academy (Ningbo) (Ningbo, China)

“The AIAN student body is comprised of students from over 20 different nationalities.  Faculty members are predominantly from the United States.   The teacher-pupil ratio is approximately 1:4, which promotes individualized instructional practices.”

Singapore International School (Indonesia) (Jakarta, Indonesia)

“With the help of international consultants, SIS was able to redesign, construct and eventually turn an “abandoned” clubhouse into a school that is the talk of the town, in a housing complex of Bona Vista, South Jakarta. Located in a quiet neighborhood bordering the elite Pondok Indah real estate, the School is only two minutes from the Outer Ring Road making it accessible from many parts of Jakarta. The SIS complex boasts of an open, airy concept amidst lush, contoured gardens. In Bona Vista, SIS is able to enjoy all the amenities in this complex and this includes a competition-sized pool, soccer field, basketball courts and tennis courts. After a busy construction schedule, SIS finally opened its doors in its new complex in January 2002 with bigger classrooms and better facilities. The enrollment today includes a student population coming from at least 25 different nationalities.”

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Discussion Topics

Is Your Host Country Safe?

April 2, 2019

Nobody wants to live in a place where they feel unsafe. It doesn’t matter if you are a man, a woman, a gay or lesbian person, a person of color, a physically challenged person, a senior citizen, etc., you definitely want to live somewhere you can you feel safe in your environment and surroundings.

It is unfortunate, but not every city in the world is considered a safe place for everyone. But I think people would be surprised to find out which cities are making the lists of top 50 safest cities in the world.

If you haven’t been to a certain city in the world before to check it out yourself, then there can be a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about that place. People tend to revert to using stereotypes to describe the places that they haven’t been to before. Surely your mom has said this to you before you move to or even travel to a specific country: ‘oh, I’ve heard some bad things about that place. Make sure you are safe there!’, but most likely your mom is just getting her information from her local newspaper, for example. Maybe your mom is just referring to a story she heard about that city 10, 20 even 30 years ago! And of course, some of that information might not actually be true and cities can and do change over time.

After having visited many cities in many countries in the world, people will realize that every place has nice people that live there. Even if there is a small lack of safety at the moment, the fruit seller is still selling her/his fruit. Meaning that life goes on as normal, in most cities in the world, regardless of most recent events.

Besides war, we unforutnately consistently see episodes of terrorist attacks on a number of cities around the world. And they are happening everywhere, any place and any time. It would appear impossible to avoid living in a place where there is a 0% chance of a terrorist attack.

“The political unrest has subsided and feel very safe. However, It seems that many people get frustrated with politics between the National school and the International school. The National school has control of everything and it has a negative impact on day-to-day working conditions at the International school. If the International school was independent of the National school, I feel, it would be a tremendous place to work. Many people, however, simply get tired of trying to work with such limiting parameters imposed by the National school.” – MEF International School Istanbul

In some cities, often found in developing countries, you might find yourself living in a compound or a building with some level of security. Living in a building with a guard can be a new experience for many international school teachers. You might also find yourself living in a city where you will see high walls with barbed wire surrounding each building as you drive to and from your home to work. Not everyone wants to look at that every day. Even though it gives you a feeling a being safer, it doesn’t give the best feeling that you are constantly reminded of the fact that you seem to be living in an unsafe city.

“Many of the buildings, stores and houses will have fences around them with barbed wire. There are also police couples walking around the downtown area of the city all the time. Though these things keep you safe and feeling security, it doesn’t have the most cosiest feeling as you go around the city.” – American International School of Costa Rica

When you live abroad in a new city, you want the freedom to explore and walk around your new city. As you spend more time there, you will find out the ‘right places’ that you can walk around in your new city. Most people would prefer to walk around freely without any worries, but it is always good to aware of your surroundings as you do your exploring.

“Compared to many Latin American cities I have visited or lived in, Santo Domingo is safe. You don’t have to look over your shoulder all of the time if you stay in the right parts of the city. You can exercise in a park without worrying about getting mugged. Of course you shouldn’t flash money and expensive jewelry around but with common sense it’s not hard to stay out of trouble.” – MC School

Many of us are used to having our own car in our home countries. However, a smaller percentage of us own cars while living abroad. It might be that we view cars as an unnecessary expense in our expat lives, but it also might be that it would be unsafe for you to drive there in your host country. Maybe you would be the unsafe person on the road as it might also be that you are unfamiliar with the local way of driving and that the roads are not very well maintained.

“The best way to make the best out of your stay in KL during your contract it to buy a car and drive around. Driving is really safe, roads are well signaled and the quality is very good. Considering that Malaysia is a relatively small country in terms of territory, it is possible to visit all states and major cities during weekends and have fantastic road trips with gorgeous views.” – Fairview International School

In the end, international school teachers want to move abroad and have a goal to start a new life exploring a new country and getting immersed in a new culture. Thinking of all the factors that come into play with regards to feeling safe while living abroad, achieving this goal can prove to be a difficult talk. But with great cities improving and becoming safer all the time, there are more and more good options for us international school teachers for our next move!

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Highlighted Articles

Story Journey As a Pathway to Global Citizenship

October 16, 2019

It was a privilege to speak at the Council of International Schools Conference in Melbourne recently. The educators committed to educating for global citizenship and an ethical world, were inspiring.

Didactic teaching, while worthy, will have many students repeating the dictums that they have been taught, without understanding, empathy and/or application. When the students work out their ‘truths’ and how they interpret them, then it becomes lasting. By inviting young people to become fellow travellers in story, it enables them to empathise, explore, identify, question and understand, situations outside their experience. They become emotionally involved, recognising their own value while challenging prejudice, racism and intolerance.

Increasingly children’s and young adult literature is tackling issues of social justice in areas as diverse as emotional disorders, family relationships, autism, epilepsy, anorexia, learning difficulties, cancer, war, racism, the plight of refugees, environment, world issues.  There are powerful children’s books that have opened dialogue for social justice from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon with its sensitive exploration of Asperger’s syndrome and acceptance of difference to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne exposing racism, the outcome of a world without moral responsibility and the redemptive power of friendship.

Young people read differently to adults, where if story touches to them, they will read and re-read that book, testing it against their developing value system. Fiction that addresses ethical issues such as bullying, inclusion, disability, racism, multi- culturalism, gender identity, feminism, peace, sustainability, diversity, through relatable story is a powerful way to create empathy and action for positive change.

Ethical issues are deeply personal for me. My parents were refugees who went though war, communism, the ultimate in power abuse. They were targets, bullied and vilified, not registering as human. We know about the Cambodian Killing Fields, Armenian genocide, the Anfal genocide of the Kurds, Rwandan genocide, the Holocaust. But we cannot fully comprehend those huge atrocities. We see, are horrified, but they often are outside our experience, of interest, but what can we do about it? People feel powerless, shocked, close their eyes, maybe donate some money, send some clothes. These stories of victimisation are too big, too foreign, make us turn away, as we go about our lives.

But there’s a way to relate, to engage, to get under the skin of everyone. It’s through the small stories of ordinary lives. My son Jack, is one of those small stories. ‘I Am Jack’ is his fictionalized story, when he faced school bullying. 

Jack’s a great kid, funny, inventive, smart, a deep thinker, a good but annoying brother. He has great mates, supports his grandmother, wants to be like his Grandad, helps his mother. JACK is your son or daughter. He’s you or your mate or the neighbour or a kid in your school or someone you know. His family is yours, mine, ours. A mix master family with its quirkiness like all our families, in our mix-master communities with all the permutations of what makes up  family today.

Jack didn’t understand how he ended up targeted, isolated, bullied, until it wasn’t funny anymore. He was afraid, powerless, victimised.  It was a hard journey to win against bullying, but he did with the support of family, school, community.

JACK invites you into a real home, family, community, life. Narrative truth can be powerful story and everyone loves JACK – our everyman – who takes bullying into your heart and makes you shout ‘no’. When Jack and his Vietnamese mate stand up together and lead the school, teachers, parents, kids, neighbours, everyone to stand up.

How do I make JACK’s world yours? I’m a tricky writer. I draw unsuspecting readers into the familiar, the safe, with humour and narrative, until they’re captured emotionally, crying, laughing, angry, heroic, until JACK’s story is theirs.

The four ‘I Am Jack books’ invite critical thinking about bullying, blended families, aging grandparents, bush fires, multi-culturalism, community,  terrorism, social responsibility within the safe and familiar context of family and community.

There are outstanding middle grade authors, whose books take readers into these areas. Authors include the classics such as the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis to books by Jackie French, David Almond, Jacqueline Wilson, Kate Di Camillo, Lois Lowry, Philip Pullman, Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo.

Young adult novels are edgier than middle grade, reflecting that perilous journey between childhood and adulthood. They are a time when identity is fragile, communication high-risk. It is a time of spiritual, sexual, emotional searching, friendship, peer group power, leadership, gender, dependence-independence in that journey for identity.  There is a wealth of extraordinary authors who take young adults on this journey from the classic ‘Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger to the verse novels of Ellen Hopkins,  the teen novels of Cath Cowley, Meg McKinley, A.J.Betts, Neil Gaiman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Markus Zusak, ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins.

In my YA novels I tackle the tough issues of search for identity, driven by extraordinary characters like JACK, who are ordinary too, like us. Despite the tough challenges, my books always offer hope. I have issues where YA books offer despair as the outcome. Adolescents are smart and filled with ideas, but  have little experience of dealing with life. Story can take them into the darkest places. However there must be pathways out, so they can embrace their talents and address their world and the global world. The line I wrote in my YA novel ‘The Cave’, still moves me deeply:- ‘war is not brave, but men can be brave in war and in life.’ (The Cave, Chapter 13, page 141, HarperCollins)

Finally, what is the role of picture books in working towards global citizenship? The multi award winning picture book author/illustrator Mo Willems writes:

‘We create our work for children not because they’re cute, but because they’re human beings, deserving of respect.’ 
― Mo Willems

There are so many picture books that provide a quick rhyme, a rollicking jaunt, cliched themes with predictable outcomes. They are fine, but when you find the gems, they will enrich those very young readers to create a world that is filled with possibilities, ideas, exploration. Who can bypass ‘The Giving Tree’ by Shel Silverstein with its ethical question of what is unconditional love or unconditional selfishness? Or the books of Oliver Jeffers, David Wiesner, Munro Leaf, Julia Donalson and Axel Scheffler, Maurice Sendak. In my picture books I am driven by my commitment to partnering children as they face the world in those early years of development.  ‘Ships in the Field’ is autobiographical as my family found home and hope in a new country, while ‘Gracie and Josh’ is about the bond of siblings despite the challenges of illness. ‘Elephants Have Wings’ embraces mindfulness and pathways to peace. I have had enormous pleasure from the endorsement of Good Vision for Life and Vision Australia, for ‘The Boy in the Big Blue Glasses’ which within the ambit of pirates, play, friendships, raises the issue of sight impairment and self and group acceptance of difference.

International Schools are at the forefront of creating global citizens and leaders of the future, as we seek to create an ethical world.

I will end with an endorsement I received for my YA novel, ‘Butterflies’ which still makes me emotional. I spent two years researching and writing ‘Butterflies’. Speaking at the World Burn Congress about the power of ‘Butterflies’ to provide succor and hope to burn survivors, families and community, was one of the great moments of my life. ‘Butterflies’ was written for all those who face the challenge of teenage years and coming out as warriors for an ethical world.

Dr Hugh Martin OAM

President of the Australian and New Zealand Burn Association and

Head of the Burn Unit, The Children’s Hospital Westmead, Sydney.

Every survivor has a story. Often the story is of interest, and even more often instructive. “Butterflies” is the story of a burn survivor, and is both interesting and instructive. It explores the complex areas of the emotional impact of a burn on the individual and family while giving insight into the world of hospitals, patients and doctors. It traces the development of the personality from insecurity and relative isolation to a healthier level of self esteem that enables the individual to form balanced relationships with family and friends. It shows how the inner person can triumph over a preoccupation with surface scars and know that basic values of commitment, caring and trust are more important than the texture of the skin.

‘Butterflies’ has relevance outside the narrow circle of burn survivors and their families. It shows the ebb and flow of emotions that affect us all, particularly in the transition between childhood and adulthood, and how parenting and family life make these bearable.

Those of us who are involved in the world of burns know how survivors need help from time to time, but slowly develop a depth of character and an inner strength which is rarely seen in others. Like tempering steel, the process of passing through the fire helps make a person of exceptional quality. “Butterflies” captures these subtleties for the reader, and gives a stunning insight into a difficult topic.


Paper: Butterflies: Youth Literature as a Powerful Tool in Understanding Disability

In 2015, I was deeply honoured to be awarded a Lifetime award for Social Justice through my body of works for young people, by the International Literacy Association.


This article was submit by guest author, Susanne Gervay OAM.

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Teachers on the Move

Teachers on the Move – Writing Applications

January 25, 2019

There are no guarantees in this world, you could be the best teacher, highly qualified and experienced, write an amazing application, and still not achieve an interview.  Here is the deal – there is no simple answer to the question: ‘What do recruiters want to see on your resume?’ But there are some simple truths.

In this day and age, administrators are busy people, school life is demanding on a day to day basis, then there are development plans and wait – recruitment??  The popular schools receive thousands of on spec applications, all year round. Some schools use HR to filter them, others use agents, often even a combination of factors. So, for example, I know for a fact that I didn’t make a short list because I didn’t have a particular qualification, even though I can do that job better than most people with the qualification.  Why? Because a locally employed HR person had a checklist. I would never have been hired by a particular school in Turkey if I hadn’t met the recruiter in person. I had the wrong qualification for Turkey specifically, but they made it work, because they met me and believed in me. So applications can only do so much. I will write another post on networking soon.

Here’s another truth (sadly) – Nationality counts, as does first language.  This is not always up to the school, it is often an immigration restriction by the country and these change all the time, so do your homework, don’t waste their time applying where they can’t hire you anyway.  This also applies to age, many countries do not allow teachers to work over 60. Don’t blame the schools, there is nothing they can do about it.

Third truth: when wading through a pile of applications at the end of a very full day, administrators are hoping for simplicity, clarity, and personality.  That’s where you can gain an edge. I have read thousands of applications, honestly most of them are awful. It is sad to report, based on my coaching experience, that often the best people are presenting themselves badly while others are just really good at presentation.  If you do nothing else; find a friend who gets lots of interviews and compare your paperwork. But the following advice applies across the board:

Avoid repetition – recruiters don’t want to read the same information in your cv, your letter and your philosophy statement.

Resume/CV length Some people say one page, I say that’s really difficult unless you are 25, so two pages are fine, but not more, and no cheating with extending footers and margins, we can tell!

Keep cv statements short and focussed – my pet hate is seeing long straggly sentences in the Experience section. Bullet points people, bullet points!  Not ‘have been instrumental in developing IEP for students’, rather ‘developed IEPs’. Besides anything else. this shows you can synthesise and also have some consideration for a tired administrator!  

Do include Extracurriculars – there are many schools looking for a volleyball coach or a drama enthusiast to help organise shows. It also shows that you’re looking to contribute beyond the classroom.  

Do include recent professional development – we like to know you are a life-long learner and your PD also indicates your professional interest.  But nobody cares about that workshop you took in 2007. Recent!

Letter length – one page, ONE!

Letter content – depends – if the school has asked for a philosophy statement then you don’t need to include your educational beliefs in your letter, if you are applying via a site where you have a detailed profile, you don’t need to include too many background details.  Use common sense.

Always mention where you saw the job. I don’t advocate for on-spec applications, unless you know someone at the school or have met an administrator.

Always mention what interests you about the school, be specific!  Always mention how you can meet the job specification. If you can’t, please don’t apply.

Always synchronise any description of your pedagogy, beliefs, experience with something you know about the school, use their key words. This shows that you have done your research and thought about how you would support the forward movement of the school.

Share a personal passion, the best schools are seeking passionate educators!  Reflect on what you have learned on your journey, or if you are just starting out, what you are hoping for or looking forward to.  The best schools hire teachers who understand the learning journey. More than that, they love people who are real.

Finally,  write a well constructed letter.  If I read another letter where all the sentences start with I or my, I am going to have a blue fit!  I would not accept this from a Grade 4 student and a decent administrator will throw such a letter in the bin,  Sentence diversity shows that you can support language development which, believe me, is highly sought after. So unless you are one of the 103 highly sought after Physics teachers in the world, learn to write a decent letter, or have someone help you. I’ve turned around more applications than I can count with that simple strategy.

One of my coachees told me recently ‘this is hard work’. Yes it is, and it is good that it is, it is a test of your capacity and commitment. Our job is not an easy one, heads want to know that you can measure up to their requirements.  Remember, the best schools are looking for the best people, it is competitive out there, you need to show your best side. But remember you can do all this and there are a myriad reasons why you aren’t selected, team balance, school diversity, someone who is a known quantity. If you want assurance, marry a Physics teacher. Otherwise breathe. Go back, read carefully, edit profusely, and all the best luck with your search. There are more schools than educators, keep calm and positive. Be yourself and you’ll find a match.

Kirsten Durward is the PYP Coordinator at KIS International School in Bangkok.  With leadership experience in 5 schools, she has been reading applications and coaching teachers for many years.  She enjoys supporting educators to make successful transitions in a myriad of ways. You can find her on Linkedin or through the facebook group ‘Teachers on the Move’.

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Highlighted Articles

Widening Education Accessibility Through Experiential Learning International Programs

November 6, 2018

International Programs

(Students participating in Knovva Academy’s Model G20 Program accept their awards on the final day of the international experiential learning program)

While so-called traditional teaching methods focus on structured lectures and readings that prepare students for testing, experiential learning, on the other hand, focuses on learning by doing. With this method, tests are often replaced by a reflection period where students evaluate their own decisions and outcomes. Here, success isn’t necessarily defined, but determined more by what learners take away from the experience.

Before it was a staple in educational verbiage, experiential learning was something that everyone had …well, experienced – but may not have been able to define. Before Jedd Cohen, Knovva Academy’s lead academic curriculum designer, earned his M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, he recalls dabbling in experiential learning before he could attach a name to it. “In 4th grade, we did a mini-society where we elected government and we had a marketplace where we made and sold things. It was very exciting to think about what I wanted to sell and make,” he said.

He credits his mini-society in helping him and his classmates learn about the basic principles of economics, how democracy works, how elections were run and even the art of persuasion at such a young age.

While Jedd sees the value in this teaching method, he also sees a place for traditional teaching and believes that experiential learning is complementary but not replacive. At Knovva Academy Jedd and his team of academic designers have worked for nearly 4 years to develop the perfect mix of the two methods with their Model G20 Program. The program, which started in Boston and now reaches high school students all over the world, combines a G20 simulation event with a full curriculum that reinforces and builds key competencies, theories, and practices that students will use during the final summit, the true experiential component of the program.

Now that there’s a name attached to this learning style, a new generation of teachers who took note of their own experiential learning growing up are looking for ways to bring it into their classroom for their students.

“Students really want this, they are tired of being fed this idea that you learn and then your life starts. That’s just not how the world works and they’re getting wise to this and want experience,” said Marth McMorran who also holds an M.Ed. from Harvard School of Education and is the lead online course creator for Knovva Academy.

While it’s clear that experiential learning is a valuable tool for students, many schools and teachers are unclear on how to work it into their classroom. “Most schools are trying to adapt to all the 21st-century education goals and are trying to produce global citizens. They all want to do that, but whether or not they can logistically do that is part of the question,” Jedd notes.

International Programs

A Model G20 student works on his position paper during a workshop portion of the experiential program.

Since teachers don’t always have the time resources, freedom or energy to give their students access to this influential method, 3rd-party programs are becoming a valuable tool to educators. Knovva’s Model G20 Summit program offers teachers access to an international learning platform and can be fully integrated into classroom curriculum thanks to its inclusion of self-supported online classes that ready students for the experiential part of the program. The whole program enables students to think outside their own box and gain new perspective as they analyze and act on certain situations using the information they learned in class.

“Teachers have been planning their whole class around this program, and now we’ve been able to support them by creating an easily integrated lesson for the classroom,” said Benson Chang, Knovva Academy’s global co-founder. With the Model G20 now in 9 different countries and international classrooms, Jedd, Benson, Martha and the rest of the Knovva Academy team are sure to inspire a whole new generation of experiential learners and global leaders.

This article was submitted by guest author Rachel Lemieux, Marketing at Knovva Academy. Knovva Academy is an international education organization based in Boston, Massachusetts. Through our comprehensive online and experiential learning ecosystem, we nurture students’ ability to think critically and engage with real-world challenges. We want to see a world where young people are empowered to pursue their own actualization personally, academically and professionally, while engaging the world with a committed sense of social and global responsibility.

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Top 10 Lists

8 Reasons International Hires Get Nervous When Turning Into a Local Hire

May 22, 2016

Oh, the bountiful benefits that foreign-hired teachers get!  You are treated like royalty in comparison to teachers that get hired locally. But these “royal” benefits often don’t last forever.  International schools across the globe have policies in place that say once you past a certain number of years working there (e.g. let’s say five years is the average), your foreign-hired benefits are over.

Now there is no need to worry if you leave before this change happens. But if you like the school and the city/country you are living in, you might find yourself getting nervous about this transition into locally hired status.

Eight Reasons International Hires Get Nervous When Turning Into a Local Hire


1. Good-bye to your annual or biennial flight benefit
The best part of going back home for a visit is not paying for that flight! Some schools just give you a set amount, others will buy your flight for you (in economy class, of course). Either way, you are not paying what could be upwards of EUR 1500 just to get back to your homeland every year. But the longer you stay in your host country, the more likely the school you are working at might think that your current country is your new home. If that is the belief, then that might be the reason international schools eventually take away this benefit.

2. No more extra payment each month that foreign-hires get
Some international schools give an extra payment to all foreign-hired staff each month. It is meant to be a marketing tool that schools use to attract quality foreign-hired teachers. You can get very used to receiving this extra payment in your salary each month. This extra money can be used as your rent money or your travel money. If you are clever, you will use this extra payment and put it into some type of investment (see Top 10 Tips to Build a Solid Retirement). After some time though, say goodbye to seeing this extra payment in your monthly pay-slip.

3. Now you need to move out of school housing and start paying your own rent
It is not always ideal to be living in school housing, but it is definitely ideal when your school is paying for your rent and part or all of your utilities. But as you gain more seniority at your school, the more and more new teachers arrive. Some schools will limit the number of years you can receive their housing allowance benefits (e.g. the new teachers require your school housing unit). As you near to the end of this wonderful benefit, it’s best to make a plan to if you are to continue renting somewhere else or maybe even buy some local property.


4. Leaving benefits go away or are diminished
It is nice to know that when you ultimately leave a school that they will help you with moving some of your things and buy your flight back to your home country. Locally hired staff often don’t get this benefit when they finally decide to move on, maybe to another international school for example. At some international schools, if you give enough notice before you decide to leave, they will let you continue to receive the leaving benefits. But at others, you will be on your own when you finally decide to leave after you become a local hire.

5. You slowly turn into the locally hired teachers that you maybe scoffed at when you first arrived
You probably said to yourself, I’ll never be like them. Foreign-hired teachers often get too comfortable in their status as foreign-hired and think they’re on the top of the world.  They look at locally hired teachers and think “why would anyone ever want to be locally hired!?” Meaning that if you are locally hired, you don’t get all those extra benefits. But after some time, foreign-hired teachers slowly are turning into one of them. It is not all that bad being on a local contract, and many, if not all, teachers will survive that transition.

6. You start to take part in some low staff morale thoughts
When you are losing some benefits, even though you have put in years and years of effort to do the best at your job, it doesn’t feel good inside. It is confusing to be losing money as you gain seniority at your school, a bit disheartening. Your professionalism will be tested during this transition, but typically it won’t be that damaging. Nice though to talk with other teachers at your school that have recently gone through that same transition into locally hired status to get their advice.  The loss in benefits might not be as dramatic as you are obsessing about.


7. Am I going to stay here forever (like 30+ years)!?
You never know when you will move on to another international school. Many SISTs (see Top 10 Character Traits of a Seasoned International School Teachers) will changes schools every 2-5 years. Once you get to six years of working at a school, you are definitely turning into more of a local hire. Other teachers with locally hired status at your school have been there maybe 10, 20, or even 30+ years!  It can be a bit nerve-wracking to think that you will never work at another international school in the world. There are so many countries to live in and schools to work at!

8. Will I have to pay full tuition to have my children attend my school?
One of the best benefits for teachers with children is that you typically don’t have to pay for tuition (if your want your children to attend the international school you are currently working at). Often this benefit is that the school will pay for 90-100% of your children’s tuition. At some international schools, tuition costs parents and companies 10s of 1000s of EUR a year. Locally hired teachers don’t regularly receive this same benefit for their children. They might receive a reduced rate of 50% if they are lucky, but many do not receive any financial support for their children’s tuition.


Of course, many say that international schools should just give equal benefits and equal pay for all teachers at their school, regardless of whether they were foreign hired or not. It doesn’t create the best school climate anyway. But this concern of wanting to save money wherever possible, the “tradition” of having this disparity will continue in many international schools all over the world.

This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author and International School Community member. If you would like to submit an article as a guest author, email us here. All guest authors receive six months of premium membership to our website!

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Video Highlight

Sell Your Crap. Pay Off Your Debt. Do What You Love.

April 12, 2015

TED talks are pretty awesome. This one caught our attention because it is reminiscent of the life of an international school teacher.

Living in your home country, sometimes you can get caught up in materialism. You want to get your own big house. You want to get your own nice car. You want your own cool, huge television in your living room…along with all the other things in and around your house.

After “buying” all of those things, though, you might find yourself in some debt, like the guy in the TED talk. Living your life in debt, the credit card companies and banks are taking away a bit or most of your freedom.  Not the best way to live your life.

Screenshot 2015-04-12 17.16.41

But as an international school teacher, most of that materialism goes away. Some of us do not want so many possessions anymore in our lives. For the more possessions you have, the more you have to move to the next country! Kidding aside, our priorities seem to change to a different path.

There is a shift from wanting to be materialistic to wanting to get more experiences; the more experiences, the better!  We also want more freedom; more freedom to do what we want with our lives. Additionally, we want to go traveling more, to get more of those experiences; to explore the cultures of the world firsthand.

On a foreign-hired benefits package, we are now allowed to be more in control of our money situation. International school teachers are able to pay off those debts that we had in our home countries.  Furthermore, we can finally start to have some savings that we were not able to do so easily in our home countries. We can now make plans to use our savings to buy those big things without having to be in debt.

Screenshot 2015-04-12 17.14.39

Having the freedom to live our lives without always worrying about the bank and credit card companies is a dream that can actually become a reality in the world of international school teaching.

Of course not all international school teachers have the same result when they decide to teach abroad, but many of us do. It all mostly depends on what school you work at, in which country and what benefits package you have.  You also have to set personal and financial goals for yourself/your family (like the guy in the TED talk).  Once you have made some goals, you can work hard to achieve them.


We have a comment topic on our school profile pages. It is called – “Average amount of money that is left to be saved.” Knowing this information ahead-of-time will be one of the most important things to know when considering working at an international school.  Here are a few of the hundreds of comments that have been submitted in that comment topic:

“Relative in accordance to lifestyle and discipline with savings. There should be no problem saving 20,000 for those who enjoy their comforts of house cleaners and the weekend visits to Western restaurants. For those a little more attentive to how they spend their money, it is possible to save over $40,000 as a single teacher each year.” – Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea)45 Comments

“They match a certain amount of the retirement funds that you put away. I personally save about $800 a month, though I have a wife and two kids to support.” – KIS International School (Bangkok) (Bangkok, Thailand)61 Comments

“As a family of four on a single salary we managed to save about $20,000 USD in two years. However, it all depends of course on how frugal you are. Traveling in Japan is wonderful but trains and accommodation are expensive.” – Hiroshima International School (Hiroshima, Japan)64 Comments

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Top 10 Lists

Top 10 reasons for wanting to move back to my home country (USA)

February 24, 2015

Many of us have been out of our home country for many years (check out our Seasoned International School teachers post).  Sure, we love our international school teaching life, and there are many reasons to continue that life. If the school is inspiring, stay. If the benefits are great, why not stay. If the travel opportunities are awesome, definitely stay!

Like all good things though, they are bound to come to an end.

But why would an international school teacher move back to his/her home country? There are different reasons for everyone because everyone is coming from a variety of situations and circumstances. With that in mind…what are the Top 10 reasons for wanting to move back to my home country? (USA) Maybe you can relate to some of these!

Screenshot 2015-02-24 22.29.51
#1 – I want to have the experience of living as an adult in my home county (I was 24 with I left).

Some teachers leave to start their international school teaching career straight out of university, which means you are between 21-24. If you leave your home country that early in your “life after college”, there is not much time to enjoy the pleasures of being an adult doing adult things.  For example, leaving at 21 doesn’t leave too much time for you to save up enough money to buy a house.

#2 – I am tired of being a foreigner and need a break. I may go out again after a year or two.

It can be quite exciting when everything is new and different, but it can also be draining on your day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year to year life while living abroad. Of course the longer you live somewhere, most things become routine and normal. However, it doesn’t mean that you completely forget your life back home. Sometimes you just want to go back and remind yourself of all the things you missed or forgot about.

3294589793_45af18de38_z#3 – I miss my friends.

You can make some great friends in the international school community, especially the ones that started the same year as you did.  The friends you make while living abroad are truly your family away from home.  The friends from your home country are unique though and super important to you. Not being able to see them can be quite difficult at times. Usually you only get to see your home-country friends once a year if you are lucky. Many times when you set up a time to see them, many other old friends are there too…not leaving you enough quality time to catch up on everything. How nice to have all the time in the world to hang out with your friends if you are back living in your home country again!

#4 – I am tired of people saying hateful things about my home country to my face as soon as they meet me.

You really learn a lot about your home country while living abroad. You get to hear, first hand, the multiple perspectives people have related to where you are from. Not all the things they say to you are positive though, making you feel bad and pensive. If you are from an area that has a negative stereotype attached to it, you end up constantly hearing it, after you meet new people and mention your home country to them.  Over and over again, you need to explain to these people how you are not like that stereotype and teach them about your experience.  It can definitely get a bit irritating.

#5 – I want a garbage disposal again.

It is all the conveniences of your home country that you start missing. The list of things you miss can be a long one!  There aren’t many countries that have garbage disposals as a standard feature in a kitchen.  Because of this, I miss them.

4241390495_635818a2b6_z#6 – I want to be able to walk into one store and buy everything I need.

If you are from the United States, then you know what a Super Target is. Now it has everything that you would need to buy for your weekly shopping.  For those of us that don’t want to spend extra time shopping in multiple stores to get everything we want, the idea of just going to one store to get it all done sounds great. Living in your host country, you don’t know where things are most of the time (the language barrier comes into play here as well). Back home, you are an expert on knowing where to go and what you can get there.

#7 – I want to see my country, travel around and really experience it.

Many of the veteran international school teachers have been traveling around the world like crazy. Traveling is a top priority for many of us. Once and a while you see a movie or a tv program and see some pictures of your home country that are stunningly beautiful. You wonder why you never went to that stunning place when you were living there. Going back home might just give you a better opportunity to explore more of your homeland; a nice way to re-appreciate where you came from.

#8 – I want to do a proper Halloween.

You can try and celebrate your home-country holidays while living in your host country, but some things just won’t be the same  to how you would celebrate them back home. Halloween is one of them.  Some countries try and celebrate a few of your home-country holidays (like Halloween), but some are just not comparable to how your home country would celebrate them. Being surrounded by many houses again, all with their light on to welcome trick-or-treaters, can be just the thing to know you are back home to your roots again.

#9 – I want to experience the weather that I grew up with again.

Not many places in the world have exactly the same weather as the place in which you grew up. Sure you can try and experience what it is like to live in a tropical location (like Singapore), but being hot and sweaty every time you go out of the house can get tiresome.  You can also check out the weather living in a colder climate (like Moscow), but having endless cloudy days of freezing cold weather in the winter is enough for you to wish you didn’t live there.  Going back to the weather you grew up with can be just what the doctor ordered.

#10 – I want to be able to turn on the tv and be able to understand most channels. 

You can go for years without turning on a tv while living abroad. If you don’t understand the local language very well, you know that you won’t be able to understand or follow many of the tv programs anyway.  It’s true that you can get all the news and information you want from the internet, but it is nice though to have an option where you just turn on the tv and surf the channels (like how you used to do when living back in your home country).

This top 10 list was submitted to us by a guest author and International School Community member who is from the United States.

All guest authors to our blog get six months of free premium membership to our website.  Email us if you have a top 10 list idea and would like it to be highlighted on our blog as a guest author.

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ISCommunity Newsletters

October 2014 Newsletter: Browse All Comments for Free!

October 5, 2014


October 2014 Newsletter: Browse All Comments for Free!

Check out our latest newsletter here.

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Top 10 Lists

Top 10 things you need to figure out when moving to a new country

September 11, 2014

Nekropolis [2014]

Moving to another city is always a stressful thing. Stress can make us forget even the essential necessities that we need to settle down. Here’s a useful to-do list for all the newcomers:

1. Get your local ID and tax number

Getting or updating your documents is something to be made a top priority, as this can prevent you from doing many things on this list, such as opening a bank account or access the local healthcare.

2. Choose your doctor/dentist

Street dentist

Secure your health first. In countries where the public healthcare is available, you need to pick a personal doctor to whom you will be going first when something’s wrong with your health. Ask your colleagues at work to recommend a good dentist who wouldn’t rip you off.

3. Pick a bank

This is so much fun for some people, like myself. I love comparing conditions and benefits that banks are offering, but it is also of great importance. Check if the bank is offering all the services that you need, and what are their conditions on transferring the money back to your home country. Believe me, you want to do your research before you sign a bunch of papers without reading the “fine print”. Nobody wants to go through all that administration twice.

4. Find the best ways to commute

Ask around what are the common ways that people commute in your new city. What is the availability of the public transportation? In some cities bicycles and taxies are more popular than dated trams or busses that are circulating around. Use the Internet routing tools such as Google Maps to find the best way to get to work, gym or your favorite green market.

5. Pick your favorite grocery store

We are spending a too big chunk of our lifetime shopping for groceries to waste it in some dump hole that looks like warehouse. Surely, from time to time it is worth going to these places to get a good deal on some products, but you want to be enjoying your shopping at a nice place. Try it, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

6. Get the new clothing and furniture

IKEA girl ~

Moving to a new place is an excellent excuse to get rid of the clothes and the furniture that you always secretly hated. If your new city has IKEA or H&M, that’s great, but try to find out where locals are buying their clothes and furniture. Buying at those stores will make you immerse yourself in the local way of life.

7. Choose a hairdresser

Everyone needs a hairdresser. Ok, almost everyone. There are still the ones and twos of people whose hair trimmer skills are good enough for a self-haircut. But everyone else needs a professional to do it. Since the prices of their services can vary significantly, investigate before you are sorry.

8. Involve in learning the local language

Going to these classes is a good way to meet other expats and expand your circle of friends. Plus, it makes your everyday life much easier. In case that you already know the local language, I suggest you involve in learning a new language or a craft, or join a cause or a club, (e.g. a drama club, pet rescue centre).

9. Ask people about the cheaper ways to get stuff

Flea markets, thrift stores, used bicycle auctions, local bidding websites can save you some money that you can use for a day trip around the city or going to that amusement park that everyone is talking about.

10. And don’t forget to find your asylum

Find a special place where you can get yourself on a date time-to-time. It can be a restaurant, a café, a park or just a bench in your neighborhood. But having that one spot that you love is really important to have, wherever in the world you are.

MadCity: Indie Cafe


This top 10 list was submitted to us by a guest author and International School Community member.

All guest authors to our blog get six months of free premium membership to our website.  Email us if you are interested in becoming one of the next guest authors on our blog.



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For the Newbies

How Do I Get into International Education #2: How Do I Find That Coveted Position? (Part 1 of 2)

September 20, 2013

Teachers Wanted

“Be All That You Can Be Doing All You Can Do”

Live in exotic places, Experience all the world has to offer….

U.S. Military 1980-2001

Sounds great, huh? Actually, this is excerpted from the marketing campaign of the U.S. Military, but there are some really good comparisons to be drawn.

Ok, so you have read and analyzed the first article and you have decided that in fact, you have what it takes and that a career in international education is for you. Congratulations! It is, without a doubt, everything that you imagine, and more. No doubt, it will be different than anything you have experienced before. This article will focus on the nuts and bolts of how to make those first contacts, get your name out there and get the interviews. It will give you some specific details on where to look, what to look at and for, and how to evaluate what you see. There has been no effort to include all possible resources, but it should give you a strong start and those leads will open other leads.

I´ve got my papers!

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 9.55.30 AMYour first step, as with any career move, is to gather the necessary documents. At this point, it is worth mentioning, that when you land that job and move thousands of kilometers from your home country, if you need another document or another copy of a document, it is likely to be a monumental process that might involve an expensive trip back home, so to avoid that, if it is possible, get two or maybe three copies of all of your documents. The documents that you will most certainly need include an up-to-date CV or resume. Official copies of your birth certificate, teaching certification(s) / license(s), university diploma(s) and transcripts. Criminal background checks are also a requirement. Depending on your country of origin, this may include not only federal, but state, province or regional reports. The background checks are typically easy and inexpensive to obtain in your home country. Another important thing to note is that once you enter your international career, be sure that if you are planning to leave a country, you also get a background check from that country as well. Although you are likely to need official copies of all of your documents to present on arrival, you should have electronic copies as well, because most of the services mentioned below and many schools, will want electronic copies before considering you for a position. Many countries also require a medical report. This is unique to each country, so once you are offered a contract, your school will give you the specifics of those requirements. If you plan to drive in that country, you may need an international driver´s license and / or a copy of your complete driving record.

Regarding authenticity of documents, different countries have different rules regarding how long they consider a document valid, for example, even if your birth certificate says it is valid for one year, some countries may only accept it for six months. The same is true for background checks, driver records, etc., so keep that in mind as you prepare for the transition. Regarding authenticity, most countries accept as proof of authenticity, an Apostille. The process varies depending on your home country. For example, in the U.S., the process is to have your document(s) notarized, then take them to the Secretary of State for your state, who will then Apostille the document. In essence, this means that the notary has certified the document as an official copy, and the Apostille is proof that the notary has the legal authority to do so. If you are in a country that is not a signatory to the Apostille agreement, typically, the procedure is to obtain the official document and any documentation that may be available from the issuing agency, and take those things to the embassy or consulate, in your home country, of the country you will be moving to. They will then be able to authenticate the documents. Assuring that you verify the procedure and what your new country will accept, will save you many headaches and potentially significant expense. One additional set of documents that is beneficial is letters of reference and / or evaluation reports from previous employers; or if you are just graduating, letters of recommendation from your professors will suffice.

“Show me the money jobs!” (Jerry McGuire 1996)

Once you have your documents together, the next step is to find out where the jobs are. There are hundreds of businesses who offer their services to help you find a job. Your process begins by finding a reputable service that meets your needs and produces results. Depending on whether you hold a TEFL certificate or a government issued teaching certificate, which typically requires a minimum of a bachelor´s degree, extensive teaching practice and exams, you will find different services to fit those needs.

educ29-rdv-tmagArticleTwo of the simplest and least expensive option for becoming aware of the openings by subscribing to mailing lists, electronic publications, such as: TES Connect, TIC Recruitment Although this is a very easy and inexpensive option, it is extremely popular. An international school director recently reported to me that for one teaching position, he received more than 3600 applications. Word-of-mouth is another great way to network and identify openings, but they don´t always produce results. The challenge here is to be in the right place at the right time.

Most international schools are members of organizations that provide recruiting services and / or school accreditation. These organizations screen and process applications and provide a forum to connect teachers wanting jobs with schools needing teachers. The most common agencies are: The Council of International Schools, International School Services, and Search Associates COIS does not charge teachers a fee to place their CV or to attend their recruitment fairs. ISS and Search Associates both charge an annual membership fee. An advantage of these services is that they will work with you to create an online profile and verify your records. Your profile is searchable by their member schools. Schools know that teachers using these services have already been pre-screened. Additionally, they host recruitment fairs in various locations around the world. You can select the conference(s) you wish to attend and it will give you an opportunity to talk with many schools under one roof. A disadvantage is that interviewers generally interview a large number of applicants every day, and if you do not really stand out, it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Opinions vary among teachers ranging from a great opportunity to a meat market. They are; however, obviously successful, so it is an option to consider.

A bit of insider information here is that just as you are competing for those “prize” locations and schools, the schools are competing for the top candidates. That means that in practice, if a school identifies candidates they are really interested in, they are asking them to meet “before the conference starts.” In essence, what that means is that the conference starts a day early for many.

Stay tuned next month for part two of this article!

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 4.34.33 PMThis article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: John Brown
(John has held both administrative and teaching positions for over 20  years, with the last five being in international education. He is a well respected presenter at regional, national and international education and technology conferences as well as a consultant, who has helped set standards in teacher training and assessment, use of technology in the classroom, curriculum development and effective management practices. A graduate of Tarleton State University in Texas, USA, with graduate studies at North Texas State University and Texas Wesleyan School of Law, he is currently teaching IB Psychology and Spanish at an international school in Portugal. His current projects include development of an online tutoring system for Spanish, consulting on development of a National Language Policy for the United States, and research into the effects of early language learning on brain development. You can contact John at

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Discussion Topics

Discussion Topic: The people are so nice here! (A thought while traveling) Is everybody in the world really that nice?

March 26, 2013

While traveling to a new place, you are bound to have many encounters with the locals.  Being that you probably don’t know everything there is to know about a country and its language and culture before your trip, it is always an exciting adventure exploring and interacting with the people who live and have grown up there.  The first time that you arrive in a foreign country, one that you have never visited before, you become very aware of each little encounter you have with a local.


From the taxi driver who brings you from the airport to your hotel to the first cashier that you meet at the nearby corner market (when you stock-up on some drinking water), you start to make new connections to help you figure out or better understand the new culture that you are now experiencing.

Do you ever find yourself saying to your friends/family…”The people there were so nice.” ?

Granted you might be on a trip somewhere where the local people aren’t nice, in your eyes, but as an experienced traveler that seems to be a rare occurrence.  If you have been to many countries and experienced numerous cultures firsthand, then you have probably seen the pattern for yourself: around the world…everyone does indeed seem to be nice!

So, you must be wondering, why are all these people in the world so nice?

It just might be that you are interacting with a local (who you later think is soooo nice) whilst experiencing a personal culture shock moment.  For example, when you are lost in a foreign city and you ask people for help/directions.  Most people in countless cultures will go out of their way to help you find your way.  And not just the person you originally asked for help, but soon there are other passersby that join in to help you out as well!  Surely after that encounter with the locals, you will be thinking “boy these people are so NICE here!”

Another culture shock moment for you will happen at some local grocery store.  While you are shopping around, not having a clue how to read the ingredients labels or even realizing what some of those strange food products actually are, a local employee (or even a local customer) will start to interact with you. While they are asking you if you need any help, you realize that the local person can speak a little bit of English.  The employee then starts to show you around the store, answering any specific questions about some products you are interested in buying.  After you make your purchases and leave the store, you might be thinking “that store worker was so helpful and nice helping me out in English!”

It is possible that during these potentially embarrassing and stressful moments during your trip, when a local comes in to “save the day” and bring some clarity into your day’s travel, your brain starts to make conclusions that everyone in this country is so nice.  And what a great thought about the world!  Of course when you get the chance though to sit down and have a longer chat with a local at a cafe or something, you then find out that the he/she might just think the opposite of his/her own people.  He/She might be thinking that the people in the city are not always so nice!

Of course, being that you will only interact with less than .1% of a country’s people during your trip, you cannot necessarily say that all people there are nice.  The people you see during your trip are just a glimpse really of all the people you would encounter if you actually lived there.

It is very possible that these people you do have encounters with are nice to you for other reasons, not just only because of the kindness of their heart.  Maybe they have money on their minds.  As a taxi driver, you might want to be nice so that the tourist will call him/her later when they want to go back to the airport.  As a store worker, you need to be nice to customers so that they will stay longer in your store and hopefully buy lots of things.


But it is not just money that can make people be nice to you, it might be because they want to leave a good impression about themselves and their country.  Some countries don’t have the best reputation or high status in the world, so the more the people show their nicest side to you, the better image that you will have about their country and tell your friends about their country (maybe your friend might want to make a trip there as well).

There are other reasons for sure.

The big question then is if those locals (from the country you are traveling to) go and make a visit to YOUR home country/city.  I wonder if those locals will think YOUR people are so nice and welcoming!

If you have a culture-related story to share about your experience living abroad, send us a message here and we will see about getting your story as a guest author on our International School Community blog!

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Highlighted Articles

Author Bio for Eithne Galleghar and Bibliography

December 7, 2012

Some Endorsements for Oxford International Early Years: The Glitterlings.

Ofelia García

“The polyglot Glitterlings may come from two stars left of the moon, but on earth, where young multilingual children are being educated, this English language program gets five stars. Gallagher takes these very young multilingual learners of English on a journey of expansion in which English exists in connection with their own home language and the languages of others in the classrooms. Through the power of the polyglot Glitterlings, Gallagher challenges the children not only to enter the English language universe, but also to listen to others, to become polyglots, and to feel proud and secure in their multilingual ability and recognize it in others. Based on the latest research on language learning, the interlingual approach of the Glitterlings’ books helps young children appropriate the new linguistic features of English in relationship with those they already possess, building a strong foundation for their own language and literacy development, as well as supporting the multilingual planet in which we live.”

Ofelia García

Professor in the Ph.D. programs of Urban Education and of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Fred Genesee

“FINALLY! A series that celebrates and promotes children’s multilingual/multicultural backgrounds as a foundation for promoting the acquisition of English. There is growing research evidence of rich and dynamic inter-relationships between multilinguals’ language and cultural competencies. But, for too long, books for children have ignored these critical links. This beautifully-illustrated series fills this gap and provides lots of helpful suggestions for turning classrooms into multilingual/multicultural ones. This series will move classrooms in exciting new directions as teachers and students make connections between the languages and cultures they already know and English.”

Fred Genesee

Professor Emeritus Psychology Department McGill University


Asher, J. (1982) Learning another Language through actions: The complete teachers’ guidebook. Los Gatos CA: Sky Oaks

Baker, C. (2004) A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J. (2008) Foreword to Equal Rights to the Curriculum: Many Languages One Message. By Gallagher, E. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Cummins, J., & Early, M. (2011) Identity Texts. Chester: Trentham Books

Cummins, J., & Early, M. (2015) Big Ideas for Expanding Minds. Canada: Pearson.

Fleer, M. (2002) Socio-cultural assessment in early years education: myth or reality? International Journal of Early Years Education, 10(2), pp. 105-120.

Gallagher, E. (2008) Equal Rights to the Curriculum: Many Languages One Message. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Garcia, O. (2009) Bilingual Education in the 21st century: A global perspective. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell

Hamayan, E. (2010) Separado o together? Reflecting on the Separation of Languages of Instruction. Soleado, Winter 2010, pp. 1-9.

Hamayan, E. (2012) What is the role of culture in language learning? Pp. 47-49. In Hamayan E., & Freeman Field, R. (eds.) English Language Learners at School: A Guide for Administrators. Philadelphia, PA: Caslonters.

Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading (2nd ed.). Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited Inc.

Lee, D. M., & Allen, R. V. (1963) Learning to read through experience (2nd ed.). New York: Meredith.

Saville-Troike, M. (1984) What really matters in second language learning for academic achievement? TESOL Quarterly, 18, pp. 199-219

Skelton, M. (2002) Defining ‘international’ in an international curriculum. In M. Hayden, J. Thompson and G. Walker (eds) International education in practice. London: Kagan Page.

Extracts from Oxford International Early Years, The Glitterlings Teacher Resources, Eithne Gallagher and Miranda Walker Oxford University Press, 2015

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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

TEN COMMANDMENTS OF RELOCATING OVERSEAS: #10 – Do not allow negative comments and attitudes to darken your outlook.

April 3, 2012


10. Surround yourself with positive people. Do not allow negative comments and attitudes to darken your outlook.

It is hard to stay positive, but when culture shock is at its worst, it is very easy to slip.  Sure the other new teachers at your school (and the veteran ones) have a lot to say to you about the host country and culture, but you just might find yourself joining in with them. Commence the inevitable negative thought process!

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller

It is hard to know exactly about the meaning behind those negative comments from your coworkers (or from yourself).  Are they saying those things because that is just what you do and say when you are an expat, even if it is said like it is only a joke?  On the other hand, people say things as a joke under stressful times and there is usually much truth behind their negative comment.

Some things are small and people are easily quick to be negative about it.

“Why do I have a pay this media tax? I never had to pay this in any of the other countries I’ve lived in.  I don’t even have a TV.  I refused to pay this stupid fee!”

“Seriously the internet in this country is so slow. You can’t even access Facebook and Youtube here.  Now I have to pay for a VPN service, which usually makes my internet connect even slower!”

“Nothing is open around here.  Good luck finding a store open after 18h here.”

“Arg! It is so dirty here.  I open the windows to my apartment and one hour later the floors are covered in a thin layer of dust.  I can’t want to move back to a country that is cleaner!”

There are many more things to talk negatively about when living in another country.  We forgot too, under the influence of culture shock, that there are many negative aspects to living in our home country as well (e.g. getting a cable service repair person to come to your home to fix your internet or cable).  People complain and obsess about negative aspects of their lives in their home countries too.  But some might say that is your country so maybe you are “allowed” to say negative things every once and awhile about your own culture and way of doing things.  Is it different or the same then when living abroad?  When you are in a host country, the country is your “host.”  Certainly, we all would agree that you should try and be gracious to your host.

Some things though are NOT small, and can be quite important in relation to your life abroad.

“Be ready to not get paid on time.  Last year, we didn’t get paid until three weeks after the salary payment date! Why don’t we get paid on time?  There is nothing we can do about too.”

“The building management in our apartment complex steals our money.  They are giving us bills that are way more expensive than the locals that are living in our building.”

“I have been waiting for six months to get reimbursed for things that I purchased for the school!  I am also waiting to get reimbursed for my flight allowance….for LAST YEAR!”

“My last schools didn’t have this much work to do.  It is unbelievable about much I have to work at this school.  I don’t know if I can handle working until 19:00 every day after school!”

When there is something negative related to your home, your salary or your money (in general), then it is very easy to be sensitive to these situations.  Maybe then you are allowed to voice your concerns (i.e. be a bit negative).  Hopefully though there is something that you can do about it; get your school administration involved, the local police, etc.  Also, it is important to remember that these things might be temporary as well, inconveniences that will pass after a few weeks or months.

“Don`t be trapped by Dogma – which is living the results of other people`s thinking.   Don`t let the noise of other`s drown out your own inner voice.   And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs.