New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A sit-down with an admin to go over each part of your contract

April 24, 2015


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #14: A sit-down with an admin to go over each part of your contract

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Contract details can be easily overlooked. They are not overlooked because you are not interested in them (because of course you want to know ALL the details when you are in the initial stages after being offered a contract), but because there are too many fine details to fully understand everything you see.

Contracts can also be easily misunderstood. Maybe you already “read” the contract, but it would be safe to say that you would not completely understand everything you “read”.  International school teaching contracts definitely contain parts that are using language you may not be familiar with. If it contains parts that are specific to the rules/laws of the host country, then it is very possible that you might not be so familiar with that jargon in terms of what a certain part is really trying to say.

Another reason that contract details could be easily overlooked is that you also might be looking at the contract with rose-colored glasses; meaning you are just focused on the more positive aspects of the contract instead of the parts that might actually give you cause for concern.

There might even be additional things that are NOT on your contract that you are entitled to. For example, in Denmark you are entitled to take off a certain number of days to be with your children, but it might not necessarily be spelled-out for you in the contract. Good idea to ask around or have an admin tell you about these entitlements straight away during new teacher orientation.

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So, if an admin did sit you down and went through your contract sometime during the new-teacher orientation, it would be nice if they went over the follow parts:

Duties and responsibilities – Making it clear what you need to do is exactly what all new teachers want to know. Sounds simple, but they can be easily forgotten to be explicitly explained to you. Admin might think the duties and responsibilities that you will have will be implied or learned about by talking with your colleagues.  Of course, if that is the case, new teachers often find themselves just learning about these things last-minute!  Also, it is good to know up front what is required of you so that you don’t feel obligated to do the extra things an admin might ask of you.

School year and work day – It is important to know how many work days that you in the year; well you can look at the school calendar for that.  But what about what is required of you for each day of the week?  Maybe you need to arrive 30 minutes before school starts and 30 minutes after school ends.  Some days you might be required to stay longer for meetings, which days are those?  Are the meetings optional? Some international schools are doing that now.  All important details to know before you get caught not following those rules.

Workload – How nice to sit down with somebody who can give you an honest picture about how much you will be expected to work. How many reports will you need to write each year and how often will they be sent out to parents?  Even more important is how do the reports look like?  Writing multiple reports in a year definitely increases your workload.  The admin could also give you an honest picture of how much the other teachers are putting in extra hours.

Other parts of the contract you would most likely want to discuss with your admin are salary, retirement, housing benefitssettling-in allowance, insurance, curriculum duties, etc.

So, does your international school set up a time for your to thoroughly discuss each part of your contract?  Please share your experiences!

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Luckily on International School Community we have a new comment topic that specifically addresses this issue of getting reimbursed.  It is called: Details about the teaching contract. What important things should prospective teachers know about?

We have 23 comments so far in this topic on our website since it is so new. Here are just a couple of those comments:

“Read your contract carefully. do not sign an unsigned contract. contracts signed by the teachers have been changed and then signed by the owner. If you have issues with the owner his first and only reaction is to tell you to take him to court where he will happily drag the case out to cost you a lot of money.” – 
Makuhari International School (Tokyo, Japan)23 Comments

“They reserve the right to interpret, change, manipulate dates, avoid transparency when dealing with staff regarding their contracts. A teacher that recently left at the start of the year discovered there were several things in the contract that actually conflicted with Japanese labor law. Fortunately for them, they consulted with an attorney and were able to avoid paying a one month penalty for leaving on short notice. By the way they left because they lost several thousands of dollars due to mistakes the school made regarding visas that they were unwilling to rectify.” – Seisen International School (Tokyo, Japan)51 Comments

If you currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the recent past, share the information and details about the contract that you have at your school. You can find easy access to all international schools on our Schools List page.

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We also have a useful Comment Search page. Using a keyword search of ‘Contract‘, we found 160 comments.  Here are a few comments from those results:

“This has changed a LOT. Flight in and out at the end of contract. No mid-contract flights. No settling-in allowance; it is a repayable loan. Lunch is free.” – Phuket International Academy (Phuket, Thailand)43 Comments

“The school will help with negotiating a contract if you don’t read Spanish. Your apartment will either come with a phone or you’ll use your cell phone. Cell service is cheap, usually less than $15 US a month, data plans cost more. Be careful with smart phones because they are easily stolen.” – The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya) (Guatemala City, Guatemala)40 Comments

“Airfare for initial contract to Panama and departing flight for end of contract(typical initial contract 2 years). When renewing contract “home leave” flight per yearly renewal as well as renewal bonus. You can also ask for the funds from your annual ticket so you can use towards the “summer” travel you wish.  Settling in money of $1000 (all), moving allowance between $500 (single) and $750 (dependents/family). When leaving said to also get some “departing” relocation money, your “retirement fund” of 1.5% annual salary school sets aside for you per Panama Law, and money for your airfare if wishing to buy your own ticket.” – International School Panama (Panama City, Panama)38 Comments

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: Learning how to get reimbursed and meeting the business office staff

August 23, 2014


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #13: Learning how to get reimbursed and meeting the business office staff

dsc2574 It takes so much money to move yourself from one place to another.  Now add in the fact that you are shipping boxes and whatnot half way across the world, and the cost just gets higher and higher. Many times, international school teachers need to pay for these shipping costs upfront.  Hopefully you are getting an relocation allowance (not all international school offer this though) as there are also many other things that you will need to pay for upfront (e.g. the flight, extra baggage, visa costs, etc.).  It is a tough time financially, that’s for sure.

When you finally get to your new school in your new country, you almost want to make a beeline to the business office to immediately get some of your money back!  It is not that easy though at a number of international schools. Helping new teachers get reimbursed should be as easy as pie, but at For-profit schools (for example), it can take a loooong time and much paperwork to get your money back.

There are two ways to get reimbursed at an international school: the easy way and the hard way.

The easy way of course is the preferred way.  You go in, hand in a receipt/reimbursement form, and then you either get paid right there in the local currency (e.g. cash) or they make a bank transfer that is made to your local bank account and you either receive that money that same day or the next day.   You might say that the goal of all international schools should be to make sure that getting money back to its teachers is as easy and as quick as possible.

To also make things easy, the dream would be that somebody would take you to the business office and introduce you to all the 75913596_8c93673710_zimportant people in the business office, all within the first week at work. Word of advice: go in with a huge smile on your face and your hand extended out to shake everyone’s hand, also remember to say many thank yous and make some friendly conversation to get to know the staff more personally.  Because every month or so, of your first (and second, third, etc.) year, you will be walking into that business office wanting some money or some assistance with a number of financial issues, and you will need to have a good relationship with these guys. So make sure that somebody is there during your orientation to get you started on the right foot with the business staff.

The hard way to get reimbursed is every international school teacher’s worst nightmare.  You don’t want to be worrying about getting money back from your new international school (or even worrying about getting your salary paid on time!).  It is stressful that’s for sure.  Also, it can distract you from doing your job at times. In some countries though, it is not the school’s fault that makes getting reimbursed a difficult task.  The country itself can have certain laws and regulations that make the reimbursement process a difficult one for expats. It can be very confusing to some new teachers, so how nice if there is straight-away somebody that will “show you the ropes” during new teacher orientation.

The business staff play a huge part in the wellbeing and staff morale of an international school. Knowing the business staffs’ names and getting introduced to them as soon as you start working there can really have a positive effect to your experience starting at your new school. Also, make sure to take a few notes during your orientation week/days about how to get reimbursed for things the correct way at your school.

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Luckily on International School Community we have a new comment topic that specifically addresses this issue of getting reimbursed.  It is called: What is the process of getting reimbursed for things?

We have 2 comments so far in this topic on our website since it is so new:

American International School of Lusaka –
“Pretty basic. Show receipts, get paid. Flights can be a bit of a hassle in terms of dealing with the business office and its interpretation of “cheapest, most direct.”

Western International School of Shanghai –
“All receipts must be kept and submitted with a filled out form to the director who then signs and returns them to the finance office. From the day of leaving the forms at the director’s office it might take 4-6 weeks to see any money back.”

If you currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the recent past, share the information and details about getting things reimbursed. You can find easy access to all international schools on our Schools List page.

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So, does your international school have an easy, confusing, or difficult way of getting reimbursed for things?  Please share your experiences!

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A tour of your new campus

May 6, 2014


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far. m

Must-have #12: A tour of your new campus

2011011213443129777  Before you even interview with an international school, a perspective teacher is definitely scouring the school’s website for pictures of the campus (among other things as well!).  During the interview you even take some time to ask some questions about the campus and its facilities.  The school might even have a neat video that some of their students made, showing off each part of the campus.  After the interview you still want to know more and can’t wait to actually see the campus in person; as we all know too well, pictures can at times be deceiving.

So you finally arrive in your new city and country. Hopefully the director picked you up from the airport and personally dropped you off at your new apartment.  You get settled-in as much as you can in the first few days and then it is time to go to your new school for the first time.

A few questions though, how do you even get to your new school?  Maybe somebody in the business office comes to your apartment complex to drive you to your new school (how nice is that?!?).  Maybe you are with a small group of other new teachers (who also live in the same apartment building) and you get directions on how to use public transport to get to the school campus.  You might even be greeted by a staff member in person at some predetermined location in the city and then you and a group of other new teachers take a walk to the school.

fc3f0c098c43a3e9250b63a57dce5723Finally you are at your new school!  After the initial shock on seeing the campus for the first time and getting introduced to tons of important people at the school, you take a deep breath and get ready to really see the campus.

It is typically one of the first things that you do as a new teachers, get a tour around the whole campus and grounds. Who is doing that?  It could be the director himself/herself that leads the tour; nice to have the person who hired you to be the one to do that.  It might also be your immediate boss who does the tour, or it might be a staff member who has been ‘elected’ to be the official welcomer of the new teachers (I put elected in quotes because sometimes this staff member is just volunteering their time and not always getting paid!).

2TrackNeighborhoodWith your jet-lagged eyes, it is finally time to take everything in of your new school.  Is it well-manicured or old and falling apart?  It is easy to quickly judge things as you going around to the different areas of the campus (maybe they are skipping over some parts to not scare you too much!).  It is hard not to compare everything to your last school.  If luck is on your side, most things at your new school will be way better than your previous one!

Then the tour is over and live goes on.  Soon the new campus becomes very familiar to you and thus you feel super comfortable again and can get yourself into the swing of things as you start your teaching.  Could it be that a nice school campus tour gets you starting off on the right foot for your first year there?

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Luckily on International School Community we have a comment topic that specifically addresses the issue of the school campus.  It is called: Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.

We have had a total of 606 separate comments in this topic about a number of international schools on our website.  Here are just a few:

Zhuhai International School –
“The school campus is really interesting and different. It’s in a building, originally built as a hotel, on a nature reserve island, 15 minutes north of the outskirts of Zhuhai city. The pluses: It’s got fabulous outdoor/natural resources – huge outdoor playing areas, a track, an enormous banyan tree, plenty of space, and good-sized classrooms. The minuses: no gym or large meeting space indoors, 3, soon to be 4 floors with only stairs. But if you like a laid back, open environment, surrounded by nature, you’ll love this campus.”

Buena Vista Concordia International School –
“Beautiful, purpose-built school in the Buena Vista area of Bao’an. All buildings in the residential/commercial area utilize an American Southwest theme with brown and orange being the main color scheme. School has full indoor gymnasium, outdoor soccer pitch and track, space for art and music, as well as four large lab areas.”

American School of Guatemala (Colegio Americano)
“Large campus, park-like setting with beautiful tropical landscaping. K-12 so each section has a different are (Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, High School). Located in a high-end area of Guatemala City (still lots of traffic) but on campus you would never know you’re in the middle of a city.”

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So, does your international school give a tour of the campus straight away to all the new hires?  Please share your experiences!

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: Beginning-level host country language classes.

August 11, 2013


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #11: Beginning-level host country language classes.

class_veroniqueAt times there is nothing worse than the feeling of not know how to communicate with the people in your community. Many of us decide to move to countries where we do not know the host country language.  It is impossible for people to know every language spoken in this world, especially really local languages that are not even possible to learn in universities in your home country.  Additionally, most international school teachers don’t choose countries to live in only where they can speak the language (though some definitely do, which makes sense).

We all know that English is now being spoken in many countries now.  Maybe even all of them have some percentage of the local community that can speak English (especially the younger generations).  Even if there are many people that speak English in your new host country, it is clear though that knowing the local language is very important. If you know at least some of the host country language then you will be able to be clearer with the local people you have to interact with and have less miscommunication that might lead to tense culture shock moments for you. It is also important to start learning the local language because of how language is directly tied to knowing more about their culture.  And that is what this international school teaching experience is all about, learning more about and appreciating the different cultures of this world.

So, the answer is easy. Just go and take some classes. Prospective international school teachers might be surprised though that many of us just don’t do it.  And there are many reasons why we skip the opportunity or chance to attend those classes.  One reason might be that you just simply don’t know where to go.  If your school is there to help you find these classes (or even pay for the classes for you…as some international schools include taking classes in their benefits package), then that can really help you find your way to sign-up sooner than later.  Another reason you don’t attend language classes is because you just figure that you don’t have the extra time to take them. It is a big time commitment to dedicate one or two evenings of your week to go and take language classes.  A third reason might be that you are just not interested or ready to take on a 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th…) language in your life at that point in time.  A fourth reason is that you might think that you can easily just get away with speaking English your whole time living there.  And if you are planning on only staying two years, you might justify to yourself that you won’t really even be in that country long enough to really need to know the language. There are probably even more reasons why we don’t take these language classes!literacy_pic1-550x257

If you are interested in ‘taking the plunge’ and find that it is a good match for you go and take some language classes, how nice if your new international school is there to guide you to where to take them (during your new teacher orientation programme).  Your school and the people that work there might have some trusted references on schools/classes you can attend…and for the most reasonable prices.  In some countries though, the host country actually offers free language classes to new immigrants to their country, and your new school should be able to help you in how to sign-up for those since they probably have many new teachers each year wanting to do just that.

Even though we all have good intentions to learn the host country language when we first move to a new country, it is a fact that not every international school teacher follows through with this.  Many international schools have teachers that have been there 5-10 years or even longer and they just know the very basic of vocabulary.  Being that the majority of their day is going to be in English, many teachers just get into a routine of not communicating in the local language and end of not effectively learning it.  With all the possibilities of downloading or streaming tv programmes and movies in English on the internet, some teachers’ time after a whole workday in English becomes a WHOLE day of speaking, listening, reading and writing in English.

There are many success stories though. Just as many teachers there are who don’t effectively learn the host country language, there are many that do. They find (make) time to take the classes, they look for local friends to talk to in that language, they pick up the local newspaper to try and read that every day, they sit next to the host country language teachers during lunch time to get in a few more minutes of local-language speaking practice, etc. It is ultimately up for each international school teacher to choose their own path in how they will learn or not learn the language, and having your school there to support and guide you in the right direction can be very helpful!

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So, does your international school help new teachers to get beginning-level host country language classes?  Please share your experiences!

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: Getting access to the internet AS FAST AS POSSIBLE!

May 30, 2013


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #10: Getting access to the internet AS FAST AS POSSIBLE!

368470-10-tips-for-troubleshooting-your-internet-connectionYou arrive in a new country and things are just crazy for you, everything is crazy.  Living in your new apartment or house without any internet access set-up is probably going to get you to the tipping point of your new-teacher craziness.

Please schools (the ones that help teachers find apartments or have new teachers move into school-owned housing), the best thing you can do to help out your new staff is to think ahead and somehow get the internet set up in their houses…before they arrive or VERY soon after they arrive.

Well we cannot say that having the internet is more important than clean drinking water or getting running electricity to your place, but it is definitely in the top five things that you would most like to have set up immediately after your arrival.

Getting the internet set up in another country can go very smoothly in some more developed countries where you can speak the local language, but getting the internet set up, on your own, in a country where you don’t speak the local language can prove to be one of the top most stressful moments for you after your arrival.  Maybe the internet company has an employee who can speak in English forinternet_installation you, but their English might not be at the fluent level that you are desiring!

Let’s not forgot though how much trouble there can be trying to get the internet set up in your home country.  Things can be less than ideal there as well, and it can take weeks sometime.

If only somehow international schools could help out their new expat teachers just a tiny bit more with regards to their forthcoming internet crisis.  The solution is simple: somebody in charge of new teacher orientation gets access to the new teacher’s flat and after calling the local phone/internet company, get the internet all set up and ready before the teacher arrives.  That solution doesn’t seem to be happening though at most placements.  Another solution is to set up a time that a local employee at the school can help call the phone/internet company for you to set up the time for them to come to your house (of course, in the local language!).

Once your internet is finally set up, at least some of your stress will be alleviated. Then you can finally check your email, contact your friends and family, download your favorite home country tv programs, and get updated and post an update on Facebook (unless you are in China that is without VPN access!).

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Hopefully too you are living in a country where they are known for having very fast internet!  If you find that your internet is very slow, don’t forget to ask your phone/internet company about the specifics of their package options.  In some countries there is actually an option to pay more for faster internet.  Better to know that sooner than later, after a year or so of torturing yourself (and unfortunately getting used to) with slow internet.

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So, does your international school help new teachers get access to the internet AS FAST AS POSSIBLE!?  Please share your experiences!

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