Comment Topic Highlight

Teacher well-being and high staff morale at int’l schools: How to get there.

January 16, 2022


We all want to work at an international school that is a positive working experience and where there is high staff morale.

High staff morale means that you are happy to go to work, all your basic needs are met (e.g. you have good benefits and you get paid well and on time), and you are excited to work together with other staff members, the admin, the students, and the parents.

But keeping a high staff morale at an international school is not as easy as one might think. There are many factors that can affect this. And with ever-changing staff and students, the strategy needs to be ongoing.

Internationals schools can create a harmonious state of well-being by putting time and effort (and probably money) towards a number of different areas. Some of these areas being: sending out care packages when times are rough (e.g. remote teaching), giving Happy Teacher’s Appreciation Day notes/gifts, providing free (really nice) lunches and opportunities to relax with friends and colleagues, offering a well-organized onboarding process, etc.

But it is not just the admin that has the responsibility to do these things to promote a harmonious state of well-being, the other stakeholders can also play an important role in this effort.

Some international schools have a Sunshine Committee that provides a number of positive things to staff and also hosts events/parties throughout the school year. Even parents can offer different things to promote high staff morale like holding teacher appreciation buffet lunches on special days.

Each international school is on its own journey with creating a harmonious state of well-being amongst its staff. Before taking a job at an international school, it might be a good idea to find a way to ask about the current state of staff morale, why it is that way, and what is the school doing to address this topic.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of staff morale and well-being. In this comment topic, our members can share what their experience has been working at various international schools around the world. There are a total of 510 comments (January 2022) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers on this specific comment topic (one out of the 68 in total) called – “What does the school do to create a harmonious state of well-being and high morale amongst its staff?”

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“Morale is good at the school currently even though we have had a roller coaster of both face-to-face and online learning due to the rise and fall of Covid. Teachers have been given shared planning time and we meet weekly on Wednesdays (early dismissal for students) as a staff to work on both professional development and other school/staff priorities…” – The American School of Kinshasa (Kinshasa, Congo (DRC)) – 84 Total Comments

“The school tries to place an emphasis on a work and life balance. It is trying to promote a healthy working community. With almost all the staff living on campus, this is very much needed as there can be a working all the time feeling and that you are always at work. The Christmas holidays is a welcome break after a long semester…” – Keystone Academy (Beijing, China) – 143 Comments

“The staff has pretty high morale, and that is shown again and again at the end of the year climate survey. The middle school tends to be known as the happiest division. The school has been working to increase wellbeing by adding wellness options (fitness, culture, fun activities) at each PD day, allowing mid-day workouts in the school gym, mental health days in addition to sick days, and a surprise Thanksgiving bonus this year…” – American International School of Budapest (Budapest, Hungary) – 73 Total Comments

“There is a wellbeing committee that is allowed to host wellbeing days. But this feels artificial when we aren’t structurally creating an environment where wellbeing is sustainable. Teachers with more than 5 preps (sometimes multiple preps in the same class), teachers who have obligatory after school contacts year-round, teachers who are chided for taking mental health days, not hiring enough teachers to support the programs, and acquiescing to demanding parents to change courses/grades/teachers. Not the conditions for wellbeing…” – Shanghai American School (Pudong) (Shanghai, China) – 197 Comments

“Last year they provided a masseuse and a free one hour massage to all staff who wanted it. They also gave Christmas ornaments to teachers and presents to kids. There are staff BBQs, pool parties, trivia nights, and more…” – Schutz American School (Alexandria, Egypt) – 61 Comments

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Comment Topic Highlight

New Comment Topic: How Progressive is your Host Country with Regards to Recycling?

July 29, 2021


Let’s hope that all of our host countries recycle in some way. If they do, then certainly the ways they do it will be different and interesting, and also affect the international school at which you are working.

Many international school teachers are interested in living a sustainable life in a country that supports that lifestyle. Not all countries are the same, of course, and they are unable to put their current focus on recycling. For some international educators, this might be a deal-breaker.

If your new host country does recycle, figuring out how your host country recycles is another thing. If the directions or letters you receive are in a language you can’t read and understand, then it can definitely be a challenge. But asking around your international school, and maybe even calling on your neighbors can help.

What will you be able to recycle when living in your new apartment building or house? Will you be able to recycle plastic, metal, batteries, glass, bio waste, carton, paper, etc.? If you can recycle these things, how easy will it be to do just that?

Maybe you pay some sort of a deposit when you buy something at a store that comes in a plastic bottle. Then you need to find the place where you can return these bottles and get your deposit back (sometimes it is the same store). In other countries, you don’t pay a deposit and thus all your plastic bottles might just go into one big garbage bag. In both cases, there might also be people going around to different dumpsters and garbage cans around the city looking for those recyclables and doing the recycling for you.

Then again, there might be an easy way to recycle most of the things you are using, but you just haven’t figured it out yet. Years can pass with you not recycling the best way that you can in your host country. Once you find out the way, then you might feel a bit stupid that you haven’t been doing it that way since you first moved there!

The ways your host country recycles might be a bit inconvenient for you (or really easy!), but once you get it to be part of your new routine of living there, then it is typically a snap to recycle all the time.

At ISC, we are really curious to see how progressive your host countries does with recycling. Login today and share what you know. The new comment topic is located in the City Information section of all school profile pages.

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Comment Topic Highlight

Student Populations at International Schools: Are they Increasing or Declining?

June 27, 2021


It is a catch 22. If the student population is increasing, then you might have one or more of the following: the maximum number of students (or even a few more) allowed in each classroom, the need to build a new school building (which can take years and a lot of headaches), the school gets more money to pay for teachers and other things, etc…

If the student population is declining, then these things might happen: teachers might be made redundant, the school stops funding certain programs and decreases various budgets, maybe a better education for students as the student-to-teacher ratio might be lower, etc…

But this is the life of an international school and they should be prepared to adjust to the different waves of their student population.

Many of these waves are caused by outside forces, most recently the COVID 19 pandemic. The pandemic caused many families to relocate due to lost jobs or many companies to close their sites in the country.

So international school teachers need to be aware of these waves and be prepared when they go up and down.

When you first arrive at the school, they might be in a wave of increasing student population. Things are going great. Budgets for teachers are ample and ready to use. PD opportunities off-campus are available for teachers to apply for. And most importantly, teachers are getting paid and on time.

After a few years at this school, the student population could easily be declining and teachers could be experiencing quite a different situation.

Before taking a job at an international school, it might be a good idea to ask about the predictions about the future of their student population.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of maternity benefits. In this comment topic, our members can share what their experience has been working at various international schools around the world. There are a total of 538 comments (June 2021) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers on this specific comment topic (one out of the 66 in total) called – “Is the student population declining, staying the same or increasing? Give details why.”

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“Our population has been relatively consistent over the past few years. We did not lose as many students as we had anticipated during the height of the Corona pandemic…” – International School of Zanzibar (Zanzibar City, Tanzania) – 67 Total Comments

“Student enrollment has slightly increased over the past few years. The reputation of the school in the community for the past 40 years combined with its connection with ARAMCO has helped maintain its enrollment numbers…” – Dhahran Ahliyya Schools (Dhahran, Saudi Arabia) – 103 Comments

“Increasing! Due to covid-19 border closures and the simple fact that Vietnam is much safer than, say, the US or Canada. There has been ample effort to market the school as per the HoS’s partner designs. There is no waiting list and the doors are opened to any and all that are able to come…” – American International School (Vietnam) (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) – 212 Total Comments

“Growth has been slight but steady for a number of years. Enrollment is dependent also on the oil, gas and mineral industries, and they can fluctuate. There were expectations of rapid, high growth recently, but that all changed with the pandemic. In the summer of 2020 the school lost 45% of its enrollment. Some of that has come back as of December, but we’re still down 33% from where we expected to be…” – American International School of Mozambique(Maputo, Mozambique) – 45 Comments

“Student population increased significantly since the school moved to their own building. However, since March 2020, the student population has declined because of Covid-19 situation. Mostly, the parents of the preprimary students are reluctant to attend online classes and seemed to have decided to take a year break and see how things go in 2021…” – Australian International School (Dhaka) (Dhaka, Bangladesh) – 25 Comments

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Comment Topic Highlight

Giving birth while teaching abroad: what are the maternity benefits like?

February 21, 2021


It’s true. International educators are having babies while working at international schools around the world.

But is it better to have your children back in your home country or while living abroad?

It depends maybe on what the maternity benefits are, and let’s not forget also about the paternity benefits.

Many international schools are obliged to follow the laws of their host country. Other international schools decide on their own benefits.

You are lucky (really lucky!) if your host country gives you even better benefits than your host country. It is nice to know that you are living in a country that truly values paid parental leave.

But then again, having a child in your host country often means you are having children away from your close family like your parents and your brothers and sisters. You want them to be a big part of your child’s life, and so do they. It is nice too when they are around to help out and help raise the child.

The fact is many international school teachers have babies while living abroad and have experiences that are both positive and negative. If you are planning to have children while working abroad, then it will be beneficial to do a bit of research ahead of you moving there.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of maternity benefits. In this comment topic, our members can share what their experience has been working at various international schools around the world. There are a total of 170 comments (February 2021) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers on this specific comment topic (one out of the 66 in total) called – “Details about the maternity benefits of the host country and school.”

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“BFS follows Korean law which allows female employees up to 90 consecutive days of maternity leave, 45 of which must be taken after childbirth. Male teachers may take up to 15 days of paid paternity leave and an additional 15 days of unpaid leave following the birth of their child…” – Busan Foreign School (Busan, South Korea) – 9 Total Comments

“From July 2020 onward there will be the possibility for partners to take six weeks of almost-fully-paid leave. If you are employed when you get pregnant you are entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave (zwangerschapsverlof). This is true even if you’re self-employed! You are also allowed to decide when you start your leave. However, make sure you tell your employer a minimum of 2 weeks before you intend to take your maternity leave in the Netherlands! Taking your maternity leave in the Netherlands can be done at any moment from 6 weeks before the due date (34 weeks of pregnancy). However, in all cases, it is mandatory to take leave by week 36 (4 weeks before birth). Also, leaving at least 12 weeks of maternity leave after the baby is born. In special cases (eg. premature birth) the leave starts counting from the moment of birth…” – The British School in the Netherlands (The Hague, Netherlands) – 66 Comments

“Women’s maternity leave is still 12 weeks at 80% pay. As of this year, there is a 5-day paternity leave for male teachers, which can be distributed throughout the leave with permission from the division head….” – Zurich International School (Zurich, Switzerland) – 62 Total Comments

“After your first year, the school provides 3 months of paid maternity leave. Leave starts from the day of birth, or earlier if you choose. Paternity leave is 3 days, and follows the same guidelines…” – Bandung Independent School (Kota Bandung, Indonesia) – 120 Comments

“Right now, it is 10 weeks maternity leave for the female and the male getting 3 weeks paid leave. The 10-week leave can sometimes be extended without pay dependent on the discussion with HR…” – Shanghai American School (Pudong) (Shanghai, China) – 106 Comments

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Comment Topic Highlight

Which type of climate do you ideally look for when living abroad?

July 16, 2020


Many people would love to be living next to the Mediterranean Sea. It truly has one of the most perfect climates. Not too cold in the winter, and nice, very warm in the summers (not to mention a lot of sun!). However, not all of us are so lucky to work at an international school there. Plus, typically the salary and benefits are lower there, so that is not ideal.

Do you think to rather take a job in Moscow, Russia? You can probably make a lot of money, but you will need to be prepared for a cold, dark and snowy winter for many months.

How about a stint on a tropical island like Curaçao or the Bahamas? Many teachers are curious about the island life, but some who take jobs there don’t last for more than 1-2 years; too isolating and hard/expensive to even get off the island.

As we’ve stated before, when you search for jobs at international schools, you will need to consider a number of factors like: money, career, location, love life, weather, etc. These are all pretty important when deciding to live abroad, but which ones are more important than the others for you?

We can only be so lucky to find a place that meets our wishes in all the factors, but that rarely happens.

So, if you had a few offers to work in different cities and countries around the world, would you prioritize the city that had the most ideal weather and climate for you? Maybe after working for 10-15 years in a cold climate, you will finally choose the school that is on the Mediterranean Sea!

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of the host city’s weather year round. In this comment topic, our members can share what their experience has been working at various international schools around the world. There are a total of 604 comments (July 2020) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in this specific comment topic (one out of the 66 in total) called – “Describe the city’s weather at different times of the year.”

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“In general the temperature is very temperate. The monsoon is long and will last from July- October. Winter is also cold with January being the coldest month. The school is generally closed for a good part of December and all of Jan so that you miss the worst of the cold…” – Woodstock School (Mussoorie, India) – 142 Total Comments

“Generally speaking, the weather is very pleasant in Shenzhen. August (when new teachers have just landed) tends to be sticky and hot so be mentally prepared for that but it gets better in Sept/Oct. January tends to be the coldest, and can go down to as low as 7 at night. In other words, you need a variety of clothes…” –
International School of Nanshan Shenzhen
(Shenzhen, China) – 88 Comments

“Doha is hot and dry. The weather is intensely hot in May, June July and August. Sept tends to be humid and October and November tend to have a few wet or cloudy days. The temperature then eases for the winter period. December is often 20-25 daily and around 15-20 at night which can feel quite chilly. January and February stay quite cold but the heat begins to return in March and April…” – The English Modern School (Doha) (Doha, Qatar) – 75 Total Comments

“Spring is short, maybe 2 months, same for autumn. The weather in these seasons is lovely. Summer is from May to September and it is HOT. Humidity will be 90%+. You will want to leave in the summer and you have to use AC throughout these months. Winter is 3 months and can be cold. Air quality usually declines during the winter and the wind direction changes and blows the pollution down from Beijing. I have an electric blanket on my bed as most apartments only have AC for heating and it is expensive and ineffecient….” – Lycee Francais de Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 38 Comments

“The weather is pretty great year-round. Rainy season lasts from May-ish until November time, but largely this only affects the evening with large thunderstorms etc. Outside these months, you can rely on weeks of no rain, lots of sunshine etc. Even in rainy season, the days are usually sunny and hot…” – Edron Academy A.C (El Colegio Britanico) (Edron Academy A.C (El Colegio Britanico) – 14 Comments

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