Every school year, a school always goes through some new changes or simply experiences new things that the staff is now required to do or complete. The changes could be related to the school’s curriculum, to some new professional development based on new initiatives, new building procedures (like fire drills), new mandatory training (like child protection), etc.
For many things (like ones actually dictated by the host country), they are mandatory and the admin simply just needs to fit those required things into their yearly meeting schedule. Combine those required things with the other things and initiatives that a school wants to do, it can make for a sometimes stressful school year for the staff (and admin!). Furthermore, balancing these new things with your normal planning work and actually teaching students can prove to be very challenging.
So what are some of these new initiatives that international schools are focusing on in recent years?
A number of international schools are having their staff work with the Managebac program. There are 57+ comments related to Managebac on our website.
It’s also fairly certain that your school is now or will very soon be going through an accreditation. ISC has 347+ total comments related to school accreditation on 247 international schools at the moment.
With regards to curriculum, it appears that a number of schools are doing training with the Common Core curriculum. There are 24 comments that are about the different schools taking on this in recent years.
And the list goes on…
What is a possible plan then for balancing all of these newly added things so that staff and admin don’t get too overwhelmed? As one ISC member wrote about working at United Nations International School (Vietnam), “the [needs to be a] conscious adoption of a “less is more” ethos.”
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of new things added at a school. Our members can share what current international schools are doing in this topic. There are a total of 567 comments (Sept. 2018) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of the 65 comment topics called – “Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.).”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“The use of Kagan cooperative structures is the focus for this year. The entire faculty had 2 days of training before the commencement of the school year with another session upcoming later in the year. The goal being student engagement. Most of the faculty have been receptive and are already using the structures in their classrooms…” – Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea) – 147 Total Comments
“The school just finished a multi-year curriculum initiative designed to put the entire Pre-K through 12th grade curriculum documents onto Rubicon Atlas. The school seems to focus most on literacy in the Lower School, innovation and design in the Middle School, and IB/AP in the Upper School. School-wide, there is a focus on Differentiated Instruction, but this takes different forms in different divisions. There is a new Head of School coming in for the 2018-2019 school year…” – American School of Paris (Paris, France) – 47 Comments
“The administration said they care more about kids learning English and Maths rather than any other subjects. What makes the school unique, seems independent of what they are pursuing; bring more local students no matter what their academic level is…” – Changchun American International School (Changchun, China) – 122 Total Comments
“Professional development this year has included IBDP two-day Category 3 in-school workshops on the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge. All staff also completed a Stewards of Children online course and a one-day first aid and CPR course…” – Tsukuba International School (Tsukuba, Japan) – 25 Comments
“The school has offered, over the past two years, very little in terms of professional development. There has been talk of a curriculum change to the Cambridge Primary Curriculum for September 2018…” – Cambridge School Doha (Doha, Qatar) – 57 Comments
“The school is just setting up a Professional Learning Centre to improve instruction and practice at the school first. The school has designated professional learning time on Friday afternoons and encourages professional development…” – YK Pao School (Shanghai, China) – 38 Commentscontinue reading
Of course, new teachers can try and organize some outings themselves, but it is nice when the school organizes some of it. The returning teachers and administration know the city better, and they can help facilitate some really fun parties and/or outings.
Most new teachers will not know so much of their new city/country, so the school could organize some day trips to nearby nature areas or special towns of interest. If the school doesn’t want to take to you too far away, they can easily host some events in popular local restaurants or fun places of interest.
Even if you don’t like the places the school takes you so much, it will definitely be an opportunity for you to bond with the returning staff members as well as the other new teachers. Bonding with new teachers is important. Typically, new teachers tend to bond most with each other and they become lifelong friends (even after one or both of them moves away). If you are lucky, there will be a number of new teachers that you will able to connect with.
Excellent international schools will definitely have a plan of events for all new teachers at the very beginning of the school year before the students arrive. A carefully planned week full of different events will definitely pay off as the new teachers will start their integration process on the right foot, thus making them enjoy their new surroundings and most likely do their best working at in their new school.
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of new teacher orientation plans/events. Our members can share what current international schools are doing in this matter. There are a total of 107 comments (August 2018) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of the 65 comment topics called – “Where did the school take you in the city when you first arrived? What were some staff outings/party locations?”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“We often hang out around campus or downtown on the weekends, but many people like to use the Arex to go to some of the cool spots in Seoul. Many of us go for picnics in Lake Park or down to the Canal Area for visiting noraebang (singing room) or bars. There really is quite a lot to do in Cheongna and new places are going in all the time. Several faculty members like to go play screen baseball and screen golf.” – Cheongna Dalton School (Incheon, South Korea) – 60 Total Comments
“Most of the staff parties and gatherings each year, when not on campus, are held at the high-end hotels in the area. There are a few Indian restaurants that also seem to be popular among the teachers, so the parties often end up going back there after a year or two of somewhere else.” – NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 242 Comments
“New faculty were invited to dinner in town one night and to the directors’ home another night, which was intimate and nice. There was another faculty gathering at the director’s house soon after school began, and a holiday party in December.” – International School of Stavanger (Stavanger, Norway) – 44 Total Comments
“In the first week, we were taken to Taygaytay to Lake Taal for lunch. As well as this we were taken to one of the school’s service partners which is an orphanage. Trips to a cash and carry store and markets are also arranged in the first week. The divisional principals will have a social gathering at their homes for new staff and the superintendent hosts a welcome back BBQ.” – International School Manila (Manila, Philippines) – 71 Comments
“No city tour. It’s all administrative and logistic arrangements; a meeting with the principal, on campus, where you will be told when you need to submit your Scheme of Work @ curriculum planning. Next, you will be taken on an apartment hunting adventure by a HR personnel.” – Raffles International Christian School (Jakarta, Indonesia) – 42 Comments
“They had a get to know you party. Old members of staff came and you got to know people. They also took us to Carrefore and Ikea when we first got there with a coach. This is helpful when you’ve just arrived and you’re trying to figure your life out. They also take you to get a bank account set up and take you to the required medical.” – Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 368 Commentscontinue reading
Eating out and finding a really tasty restaurant in your host city is the best. Such delicious local food (or ‘expat food’ cuisine) to be had! While not all local restaurants will be the best, there are sure to be some excellent ones. Typically you find these out from the veteran teachers at your school. They’ve been there awhile, so they are the best ones to let you know where to eat out at. And if the cost of living is low where you are, you might just find yourself eating out all the time (see How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #2: Go out to eat all the time!)
There are also just your favorite things to do in the city. Maybe it is taking a jog around the corniche if you live in a city in the Middle East. Maybe it is going to a posh bar downtown where a lot of expats frequent, like the Bund in Shanghai, China. Maybe it is just a quiet park that you like in Western Europe where people go to just relax and enjoy the clean air and surrounding nature (and people watch). The best part is you don’t know your favorite things to do in your host city until you arrive. You could say this aspect is one of the more exciting part of living abroad and teaching internationally.
Another cool thing to do in your host country and traveling around and exploring the different places it offers. If you like the mountains, hopefully you will live not too far away from one that you go to do on the weekend (let’s say if you live in Zurich). If you like the sea, maybe there will be a nice coast that you can take a local bus to (let’s say north of Barcelona). Enjoying your day at the beach can be a great getaway from your sometimes busy life at your international school. In China, they have these really beautiful water towns. Many international school teachers in Shanghai are bound to have a favorite water town that they frequent every so often.
So many favorite things, so little time. Especially if your plan is to only stay 2-3 years in your current host country, it is good to frequent your favorite places and often! Soon enough, you’ll be moving away to live in your next location and you’ll certainly miss all of your current favorite things! (see Going back to a place you once lived – I almost cried!)
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of your favorite host country restaurants, places and things to do. There are a total of 394 comments (May 2018) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of 65 comment topics called – “Name your favorite restaurants, favorite places to go to and favorite things to do in the city.”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“Cheongna it is pretty easy to get to the famous Hongdae area of Seoul. The area has tons of restaurants, cafes, bars, street food vendors, and live performances. In Cheongna itself, there are new places opening all the time. Current favorites are Roy’s (a Mexican place), Wembley’s Bar, Chicken & Beer, Big Grill (a Korean BBQ place), Texas BBQ, and Hans Craft (craft beer pub). For activities, many teachers like to use the boats in Lake Park or go for a picnic. Many teachers enjoy mountain biking and hiking on the nearby trails. Screen golf and screen baseball are fun activities and of course noraebang (singing rooms).” – Cheongna Dalton School (Incheon, South Korea) – 42 Total Comments
“Oslo has an amazing fjord. Its cheap and plenty of little islands can be got to for the normal cost of your monthly T-Bane card. There are fantastic restaurants – but you will need a mortgage before going out for a good dinner here. Skiing and hiking are cheap or free and we spend our summers picking berries in the forests and winters skiing or skating. Its a paradise in truth.” – Northern Lights International School (Oslo, Norway) – 28 Comments
“Zurich is definitely a city worth walking through. Ambling through the narrow lanes of the old town is a treat. Pop into either the Fraumunster church to see the stunning Chagall windows or walk to up the tower of the Grossmunster church, or walk into the cript of the Water Church. On a nice day a short boat ride (Kleine rundfahrt) which starts at the main boat docks near Burkliplatz is worth the time.” – Zurich International School (Zurich, Switzerland) – 33 Total Comments
“Tianjin is a very beautiful city with lots of canals and urban parks and greenways. It is incredibly flat. There are two lakes next to school and expat teachers live in apartments around the lakes. It is a wonderful location for running and exercise in all seasons of the year.” – HIKSVS International School (Tianjin, China) – 30 Comments
“One of my personal favorites is a nice place in Paragon called Midtown. They have a large menu with a lot of traditional Thai dishes and a few international options. Some of their spicy dishes are fantastic (if you can handle Thai chili peppers).” – NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 242 Comments
“We just went to Bait Al Luban near to the Corniche Mutrah. The food there is delicious! It really seems like they use fresh ingredients and things made there are done to a really nice perfection. Another favorite restaurant that we’ve been to is in the Wave area. It is a Lebanese restaurant that’s called Zahr El Laymoun. We got some hot and cold mezza dishes and every single one was so tasty. Will definitely be going back to these places soon.” – American International School of Muscat (Muscat, Oman) – 34 Commentscontinue reading
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of has your international school met your expectations once you started working there. There are a total of 202 comments (January 2018) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of 65 comment topics called – “Has the school met your expectations once you started working there?”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“At first, I was not impressed with the high rate of misbehaved students (because the school advertises that there are “no behavior issues” in the school. However, once the school year got underway, I have watched how teachers have reflected on their management routines and changed them accordingly. I have come to love working at this school because I see students learning and engaged in their work. I also appreciate the camaraderie among the faculty and staff. However, the thing that I did not expect was getting paid late.” – Beijing BISS International School (Beijing, China) – 67 Total Comments
“During my interview it was clearly described what I was getting into and what was expected from me. I have been at the school three years now and look to stay on longer.” – American International School of Rotterdam (Rotterdam, Netherlands) – 52 Comments
“The educational provision of the EYFS and Primary departments has improved rapidly in the 15 months since their establishment. It is now a well organised school and everyone is moving forward together. I could not envisage the progress being so rapid when I started. Currently the school exceeds my expectations.” – Varee Chiang Mai International School (Chang Mai, Thailand) – 65 Total Comments
“Exceeded- I’ve grown a lot as an educator and the collaboration with my colleagues has really pushed me to try new things and think more deeply about my own practice.” – International School of Brussels (Brussels, Belgium) – 31 Comments
“The interviews were extremely realistic and did not deceive in any way. The school was far better than expected.” –Woodstock School (Mussoorie, India) – 58 Comments
“The school definitely exceeded my expectations. It’s such a wonderful place to work at. Teachers , students and office staff really live and work in harmony.” – British International School of Stavanger (Stavanger, Norway) – 24 Commentscontinue reading
At some international schools, 1/4 or 1/3 of their current teachers decide to let their school know that they will be moving on at the end of the school year. Though it is not the case necessarily at other international schools that have a lot of local hires. Those with lots of local hires generally tend to have teachers that want to stay there for longer periods of time because they have more ties to the local country (e.g. they are married to a local, etc.).
Regardless of the personal situation of the teacher, another big factor that guides a teacher’s decision to stay or leave is the school itself. For example, the school might be losing student numbers as of late. Fewer students mean less demand for all the teachers on the current staff roster, meaning some need to go whether they like it or not. Maybe even the school has decided to alter or eliminate the staff children benefit (to have them attend the school for free). And the list goes on…
There are of course even other factors that come into play that affect this big decision that a number of teachers need to make around this time of the year. One of these factors is that the school has decided to move in a direction that doesn’t match your teaching philosophy any more. Staying at a school that doesn’t match you and your teaching style can be a serious concern leading you to search for other positions in school that better suit you.
The biggest factor to stay or leave might just boil down to money plain and simple. If the school isn’t meeting your needs financially any more, there are many more that probably will.
So that questions is for you is why are YOU going to stay or leave your current school? It might be one of these reasons listed above or a combination of these and other even other reasons.
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of staying or leaving, so you can stay the most informed as possible. There are a total of 145 comments (November 2017) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of 65 comment topics called – “In general, why are people staying at or leaving this school?”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“People are staying because they are mostly not getting better job anywhere else and peoples are leaving because of the rude behavior, Less salary, false promises, promotion of wrong candidate, lack of resources and overloaded routine.” – Indus International School (Pune) (Pune, India) – 43 Total Comments
“Staying because the campus is nice, supply and PD budgets are generous, students are overall courteous and engaged, and because Berlin rocks. Leaving because salaries are too low, and some departments are more disorganized than others.” – Berlin Brandenburg International School (Berlin, Germany) – 52 Comments
“Staying: Turnover is low. In my opinion people are staying because the school climate is generally very positive – it is a happy place to work. The school has generally got its act together (curriculum, policies etc) very well so there are structures in place to make teaching positive. It is a vibrant, stimulating place to work. Japan is a lovely place to live. Leaving: The cliche is single females find it harder to date in Tokyo and that could be a reason to leave. The school’s pay is OK and the school’s reputation is good and growing but the pay is not as great as some other big name schools. People leave as they get the experience and then are drawn to the lure of $$. This is especially the case of teachers in their late 40’s looking for a pension.” – Tokyo International School (Tokyo, Japan) – 69 Total Comments
“People stay a long time because the pay and benefits are great, the city is very livable, the cost of living is low and the classes are not too large.” – Anglo-American School of St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg, Russia) – 38 Comments
“The overall package is hard to beat and the staff are not overworked. Combined with minimal classroom management requirements due to small class sizes, DISK really is a great place to work.” – Doshisha International School Kyoto (Kyoto, Japan) – 92 Comments
“If you survive your first year most teachers stay on. The first year is a challenge, especially if you are late arriving (a common issue because of how long it takes to get a visa).” – Tsinghua International School (Beijing) (Beijing, China) – 121 Commentscontinue reading