The Journey to School

The Journey to School: International School Basel (Basel, Switzerland)

October 22, 2020


The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries at which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who works at the International School Basel (Basel, Switzerland), described the way she gets to work as follows:

The road to International School Basel in Switzerland

Getting out the door, I walk through a neighborhood in an industrial area, a low-rise concrete jungle. I walk past Decathlon, a fuel station, a building that doubles up as a mosque and a gym. They must have thought “Mensa sana in corpora sana”. This quirky place always brightens up my day when I walk past it. During summer, the hills in the distance are painted red by the rising sun. In autumn and winter, the mist is often too thick to even see the hills. Winter makes you wish you had a car; unless – like several of our teachers – you’re from the North of Canada and enjoy the “rather mild Swiss climate”.

The walk to the Dreispitz tram stop takes me 10 minutes at most, still I rush to tram 11 before realizing over and over again, that I shouldn’t have bothered because there’s a tram every 3-7 minutes. Very Swiss. As I get on the tram which takes me to ISB, I look for other teachers to talk to or chat with some students. When I’m alone, I stare out the window and watch how the landscape gradually becomes more rural.

The tram first passes the Reinacherhof tramstop right in front of the ISB senior school campus − where most of the teachers get off − before taking me to the Reinach Sud tram stop where I get off after exactly 16 minutes. While the tram heads off to its next stop at the ISB Primary campus in Aesch, I walk past a local farm to the Fiechten Middle school campus, which takes me exactly 4 minutes.

Unlike the other two campuses which are purpose-built for ISB, Fiechten is owned by the Swiss “Gemeinde”. The building looks very much like a Swiss protestant church and stands out because of its grey concrete walls and staircases. What is even more unusual is that the sound of the children’s footsteps is muffled by the carpet in the hallways and in the classrooms. Most teachers have plants and colorful displays to brighten up the place a bit.

The large windows and the view is what makes working on this campus worthwhile. Through my window, I can see the Goetheanum building in the distance. This is by far the most unique place in the area. It was founded in honour of Rudolf Steiner as a center for the Anthroposophical movement at the turn of the 19th century in a time when positivism dominated the natural sciences and humanities. People became aware of a growing interconnectedness between different parts of the world, cultures and religion. One of the main purposes of the movement was to create a new universal religion or philosophy which would incorporate wisdom of the major world religions. Rudolf Steiner conceptualized his teaching philosophy (used in Waldorf schools) based on the principles of Anthroposophy. The center has somewhat lost its function of ‘church’ but it is still a sanctuary for creative ideas. Today it offers theater and classical music performances, Steiner school training programs for teachers, art classes for kids, a bookshop (with books in a wide variety of languages) and a lovely tearoom which serves organic food. The entire hill is covered with buildings constructed in a similar architectural style.

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This Journey to School article was submitted to us by an ISC member.

What to know more what it is like to visit and live in Switzerland?  Out of a total of 33 international schools we have listed in Switzerland, 19 have had comments submitted on them. Here are just a few:

College du Leman – International School (85 comments)
Inter-community School Zurich (69 Comments)
International School Basel (131 Comments)
International School of Zug and Luzern (32 Comments)
Leysin American School (113 Comments)
Zurich International School (59 Comments)
TASIS The American School in Switzerland (32 Comments)

So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn one year free of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

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Comparing the Schools and Comments

Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Switzerland

May 8, 2017


Around the world, there are cities 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.

Some cities, though, have MANY international schools!  When that is the case, 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 city.

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Switzerland

Currently, we have 30 schools listed in Switzerland on International School Community.

14 of these schools have had comments submitted on them. Here are a few that have the most submitted comments:

Inter-community School Zurich (61 Total Comments)
International School Basel (41 Total Comments)
International School of Lausanne (19 Total Comments)
International School Zug and Luzern (32 Total Comments)
Leysin American School (69 Total Comments)
John F. Kennedy International School (25 Total Comments)
Obersee Bilingual School AG (22 Total Comments)
TASIS The American School in Switzerland (32 Total Comments)
Zurich International School (25 Total Comments)

Hiring Policies

“I interviewed with them over Skype about 2 years ago. The administers were really nice and it was more of a dialogue rather than a list of questions. There was an issue with moving my application forward because of the new visa application restrictions imposed on the school. Thus being from the U.S. in this instance was not an advantage in the hiring process. Their follow-up communication was pretty good though; which was done via email.” – Zurich International School

“I was hired through Search Associates. But I’m pretty sure they recruit with other agencies too.” – TASIS The American School in Switzerland

“The school does go to the London fairs, but like the previous common mentioned, they do look for teaching couples before hiring single teachers. There are also new visa restrictions underway limiting the number non-EU students and staff that can work at/attend the school.” – Leysin American School

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School Campus

“The High School is on a purpose-built site on a small industrial estate. The Primary School is in an old chalet/convent with some newer buildings added on. The Middle School is on the same campus as the Primary and was purpose-built a few years ago. Surrounding area is open country.” – International School Zug and Luzern

“ISB is split onto two campuses, with pre-K to Grade 5 being on one and Grades 6 to 12 being on another. The school is expanding even further, opening a third campus for Grade 6 next year. The school building is great. New building, large classrooms with beautiful views of the countryside and plenty of whiteboards and interactive boards. The Grade 6 to 12 campus also has a new all weather outdoor soccer field.” – International School Basel

“There are a number of buildings that make up this campus. The buildings were made within the last decade, make mostly of reinforced concrete. The secondary building is pretty nice. There are a number of floors and many classrooms with big windows. It can get a bit noisy in the common areas. The cafeteria is pretty big, where the students eat lunch. That same cafeteria can be divided into a 1/3 for teachers to hold meetings.” – Inter-community School Zurich

Housing Information

“Housing is expensive. Rent, utilities and medical insurance is well over half my salary.” – International School Zug and Luzern

“There is a housing allowance/benefit, but it is taxed. A number of staff live in school owned buildings. If you have friends/family come to visit you, there is a building that can house them for free or for only 10 CHF a night. It is a simple/barebones room “hotel”, but it is nice of the school to offer this benefit. The rooms have heated floors as well.” – Leysin American School

“No housing allowance.” – International School Basel

“Housing options vary but tend to be 1-2 bedroom apartments (some within dorms). Dormitory Parents earn 20,000 CHF additional. Most expats may rent subsidized apartments through the school. These include furnishings, utilities, DSL and cleaning service for on-campus apartments.” – TASIS The American School in Switzerland

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Health insurance and medical benefits.

“You pay for your own health insurance, and for a family it can be up to 1000 chf per month.” – Inter-community School Zurich

“Health Care is incredibly expensive, because your insurance policy covers nothing under your deductible ($500 for full-time teachers/admin, $600 for kids, and $2500 for traveling spouse/part-time staff. This is after paying almost $600 a month in insurance payments for our family of four.” – TASIS The American School in Switzerland

“Not provided, all out-of-pocket with different levels of insurance available.” – International School Basel

“Health care is very good, but expensive. You could expect to pay between 250 – 450 USD per month insurance. Taxes are low, so this is a factor to consider. All workers in Switzerland are obliged to take out a private insurance, but for the standard package this includes all pre-existing conditions.” – International School Zug and Luzern

(These are just 4 of the 65 different comments topics that on each school profile page on our website.)

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

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The Journey to School

The Journey to School: Leysin American School

March 25, 2016


The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who works at the Leysin American School (Leysin, Switzerland), described his way to work there as follows:

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I love waking up in the morning here in Leysin. The mountains are always there to greet you, and they are indeed spectacular at which to look. There can be some fog in the morning, but that can dissipate as the day gets warmer. The spring is starting right now, so there can be many days of wonderful, warm sun.

Though many teachers (including myself) can easily walk to school, a number of teachers decide to drive their car on some days because they have other responsibilities after school that requires driving.

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If I walk, then I can get to most school buildings within 3-12 minutes. It is not bad at all and it is a good way to get your heart rate up a bit being that everywhere I need to get to is always at an incline. You need to walk up tons of steep driveways and tons of stairs both inside and outside of the school buildings while working at this school.

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I love this time of the year. There is still some snow on the ground, but it is melting away pretty fast, since much of Leysin is facing the south. Just a few weeks ago, there was a snow storm that dumped A LOT of snow on the ground. Because of the warm sun, you can see trails of melted ice water going down the streets and into the drains. There is a crisp and fresh feeling in the air when you breathe (and you breathe heavily at times depending on how much you have to climb up and if you are having a chat with a fellow coworker).

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This week there was sun every day. The sun is so bright and it feels great on your face. The buildings on campus really light up when the sunlight shines through the windows. I especially like older building on campus, in the main hall. The stained glass windows in the sunlight look so beautiful!

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As you walk along the streets that connect all the campus buildings, you need to keep an eye out for cars and buses. There isn’t always a lot of space for pedestrians and the cars can appear fairly quickly around the corner as they jet up and down the mountain side.

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In one of the other main buildings, there is a cafeteria that also has a great view of the mountains across the valley. How lucky our students and staff are to have this view while eating their lunch and/or dinner!

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As you walk around campus, especially going to work, expect to see many other staff members (and their children) as well as many students. Everyone is usually with a smile on their face though, and kindly greets each other. It is like one big family here sometimes!

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Living in Leysin is definitely not for everyone. But when thinking about the journeys to work at other schools I’ve worked at across the globe, Leysin has a pretty easy and beautiful one.

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This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author and International School Community member.

What to know more what it is like to visit and live in Switzerland?  There are 12 international schools in Switzerland that have had comments submitted on them:

International School Zug and Luzern (Baar, Switzerland)32 Comments

International School Basel (Basel, Switzerland)37 Comments

SIS Swiss International School Basel (Basel, Switzerland)11 Comments

Int’l School of Geneva – La Chataigneraie Campus (Founex, Switzerland)7 Comments

International School Geneva – Campus des Nations (Geneva, Switzerland)17 Comments

International School of Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland)19 Comments

Leysin American School (Leysin, Switzerland)58 Comments

TASIS The American School in Switzerland (Lugano, Switzerland)32 Comments

John F. Kennedy International School (Saanen, Switzerland)25 Comments

Inter-community School Zurich (Zurich, Switzerland)44 Comments

International School (Zurich North) (Zurich, Switzerland)5 Comments

Zurich International School (Zurich, Switzerland)25 Comments

So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn one year free of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #9 – Does the international school properly deal with disciplinary problems?

April 1, 2013


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at an international school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about how well the international school deals with disciplinary problems?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose an international school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #9 – Does the school properly deal with disciplinary problems? Some international schools, unfortunately, are lax on discipline, and problem children and their disruptive behavior can adversely affect other children’s learning.

4 -- Parent's Orientation at Ashmah Int.School Parents and teachers have so many considerations to ponder when selecting an international school!  Naturally, questions abound regarding the academics, the co-curricular and extra-curricular offerings, class size, accreditation, teacher quality, and the list goes on.  So what about discipline?

Discipline is an essential element for children to experience school success.  Without it, there is a compromised climate for learning that can eventually resemble chaos.  No one wants their child to learn in that type of environment.  Usually questions regarding school discipline policies and procedures can be answered by a school administrator or by reviewing the international school’s handbook and/or website.  In most cases, parents and teachers will find the procedures school personnel follow and the resulting consequences for a litany of offenses.  How well that is implemented will partially determine the effectiveness of discipline in that international school.

As schools create Mission statements that often include phrases like “preparing students for the 21st century” or “meaningful roles in society”…suggesting the inter-personal development of the student in addition to the academic excellence every parent and teacher expects, but they also need to ask for explanations of how that is accomplished in that international school setting.

This level of questioning brings us to a more complete cycle for discipline.  The procedures discussed earlier are “partially effective” because they represent control from the outside in.  Rules are written, procedures are outlined, and consequences are administered with varying levels of fidelity and consistency.  That is the tricky part of traditional discipline programs—they can include judgment and some cases just are not as clear as others.

Given those facts, schools can expand their focus on discipline to include inner disciplinary development.  This might be brought about through special Character Education programs that can be implemented or in the case of a religiousinternational-schools-good-choice-1 school, certainly through a spiritual lens.  This is what I call value-added discipline.  It is transformational compared to traditional rules and consequences that are based on outside controls.  International schools can function at a highly effective level when both approaches are in place.  From this combined approach, children are doing several things that are life-changing:

• They are examining their own actions and taking responsibility.
• They discuss situations with a teacher, mentor, or adviser.
• They learn how to change/manage their own behavior.
• They develop a deeper appreciation and respect for others and their surroundings.
• They develop problem-solving strategies that transfer well for a lifetime.
• They come to know their own personalities and can work effectively with people they encounter.

Effective value-added discipline programs depend greatly on an investment in each child by a responsible adult, consistent mentoring, and positive connections between family and school.  The rewards are beyond measure, however.  When parents happen to discover this holistic approach to discipline, seize the opportunity!  It is a jewel that shines for a lifetime.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: Mary Anne Hipp (contact her here – mahipp@suddenlink.net or visit her Blogspot – http://mahipp.blogspot.com/)
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On our website we have a related topic in the School Information section of each school profile page that discusses the issue of the students’ demeanor at each school.  It is called “In general, describe the demeanor of the students.”  Our members have submitted over 70 comments and information in this topic on a number of different international schools listed on our website.  Here are just a few of the comments and information submitted in this topic:

“ISD is a primary school, with children ages 3-12. The school’s buddy program pairs the older children with the younger ones, so that the pre-k and kindergarten classes become very comfortable with the big kids. Since most of the children are expats, they are very friendly to newcomers and take changes (such as new students arriving and students leaving) in stride…”
– International School of Dublin (8 Comments)

“Whereas it cannot be described as a school for the gifted, DAS does have an exceptionally large number of gifted students. Whereas students with negative attitudes are definitely there – as everywhere – expat teachers regularly remark about their enjoyment of the teaching-learning process at DAS because of the eagerness of most of the students to learning…”
– Dhahran Ahliyya Schools (60 Comments)

“The students are students. Just like anywhere else you have some who are there to learn and some who are not. You have some that you have a rapport with and some you do not. In general these are funny kids who like to tease and like to get to know you as a person and as a teacher. And just like any kids, in the beginning they will test you to see what you are made of. Stay strong, don’t let them see you sweat and you will be fine…”
– Colegio Granadino Manizales (43 Comments)

“Pretty good for the most part, although overall respect and tradition of bowing was going out the window. Some cheating on homework and other areas. Very humorous and fun to teach, save for a few small groups who needed to be expelled for cheating, threatening teachers to try to change a grade, setting fires in the bathrooms, smoking, swearing, skipping school, hiding in the wedding hall to sleep, going over to the dark gym to snog and make out, sneaking in beer during school events, stealing school property…etc. Most of these violations were done by a small group of boys and girls who must have had special status with the school or principal…”
– Indianhead International School (14 Comments)

“They are pretty rich and spoiled, mostly. Their priorities include shopping, partying and traveling. Studying might be next, but most students don’t stay for more than one or two years. The students I enjoyed the most were either in the dorm I was responsible for or on yearbook staff (which was also my responsibility)…”
– TASIS The American School in Switzerland (29 Comments)

If you are an International School Community member with premium access, log on today and submit your own comments about the students’ demeanor at the international schools you know about!

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and automatically get 7 free days of premium access. You will become a part of our over 2200+ members.

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Discussion Topics

Teaching and living in “The World’s Happiest (And Saddest) Countries” – According to Forbes

January 4, 2012


According to this Forbes article, the top 10 happiest countries are: “Joining Norway and Australia in the top 10 are their neighbors Denmark, Finland, Sweden and New Zealand. Equally small and civilized Switzerland and the Netherlands are also up there. Rounding out the top 10 is the United States at 10th and Canada (sixth).” There are many international schools in most of these countries, offering many opportunities for international school teachers to live very “happy” lives, or so it would appear…

Imagine a beach, warm white sand, water blue and transparent, a nice cabin right by the water’s edge, maybe a nice cabana boy or girl, serving you cool drinks and then some… It’s like a picture perfect postcard, and it just might exist out there in the international school teaching world, all included, semi-secluded, your own private paradise. Happiness among happy people. Perhaps the happiest people of the world, living daily life happily.

Maybe you should scratch that, because according to the Legatum Prosperity Index of 2011 that place is so far from the description above, because that place is Norway; yes the place of cow bells, handball, snowy hills and cheese, the recipe for happiness. Or perhaps more accurate, Norway scored big in the combined ingredients that are: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital.

So the people of Norway have a good economy (this of course is thanks to a Danish minister who gladly gave away the Danish oil, but then again according to rumor he was drunk so…). They have good ideas and know how to transform them to reality, and of course cash in. They have a government freed from scandal and corruption. They’re highly educated, have good health, feel safe and feel free. They’re social and solidarity. All combined a happy people.  Who wouldn’t want to live there and work at an international school there? There are currently 9 international schools listed in Norway on International School Community.

You really can’t disagree that those ingredients listed might make you happy, if you can cross check all of them, you’re successful, rich, and smart and have enough surplus to care about other people. But defining happiness is more than just looking at the bank account or how healthy you are. How about values that can’t exactly be calculated or an international community somewhere that is very warm and supportive to you living there?  What defines personal freedom and social capital? What’s the percentage of divorces? How often do you go to church? What about culture?  And for international school teachers, what about the amazing professional community at an international school somewhere (anywhere) that is very rewarding for you? Having an amazing professional community at your work can definitely make most teachers extremely happy no matter where you at living…you do spend most of your time at work (most of the time).

Besides the international school itself, if you have to move to another country would you look at the economy of that specific country or is it the more soft values? Are the happiest people really happy people, and does that guarantee happily ever after? Of course things aren’t that black and white, which of course makes list like the one mentioned above quite redundant. So what’s really point?

Is there anything to learn from a list like this Forbes’ article


It’s maybe just following that gut feeling, and try experiencing it yourself. Otherwise it’s like wanting to read a book and then watching the movie adaptation instead, it’s not your vision.

There are different definitions of happiness, from happiness being a sweet little puppy, delicious chocolate, so maybe it’s all in between, it’s education, it’s economy, it’s Ferris Wheels and ice cream on a Sunday, it’s love and freedom, it’s good ideas and sleeping late after New Year’s eve. Maybe it’s a cabin or the beach or a small wooden house in the Norwegian Alps? Maybe it’s the people you meet and the chances you take, experiencing life yourself, instead of being blindsided by some list.

These are the things we look for as international school teachers, and we are definitely looking for happiness in our lives, especially when we can be quite far away from old friends and family.

If you want to know what life is like working at an international school in the “Top 10″ become a member of International School Community.  International School Community members represent the following international schools: The International School of Helsingborg, TASIS The American School in Switzerland, International School of Stavanger, Copenhagen International School, American School of the Hague and The British School of the Netherlands.

As a member you are able to send these members a private message and get the answers to the questions you may have about life as an international school teacher there. Networking made easy!

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