As an international teacher of color and proud TCK (Third Culture Kid), I often find myself being the only one or part of a minority group of teachers who are not the ‘standard’ international teacher, who fits the profile as ‘native speaker, western, and light-skinned’. The question that often arose in my mind and like-minded people is, “What does native speaker mean?” Does this question often relate to language skill, ethnicity, skin color or background? However, the more I pondered, observed and discovered in my experiences, this means more to the latter; which brings us back to the question of which became the result of skill vs ethnicity. Let’s begin to really unpack and dig deeper into this.
Many researches have shown that diversity in schools are beneficial to our society. With the growing migration and international job opportunities around the world, the demand for international education follows suit which created different schools of thoughts, philosophies, curriculums and practices; all driven to provide a holistic, enriching and global-minded education to children. However, the reality is that educators who are hired to be the ‘instructors’ and ‘role-models’ of these great elements of education are often lacking in diversity. Considering the fact that most international schools have a diverse population of students from all over the world, shouldn’t educators be represented by the same amount of diversity too? Where is the standard of being ‘internationally-minded’ and ‘multicultural’ represented in any given school? How do we rectify this and should we?
From my experiences teaching internationally, I have been blessed and also cursed at the same time. Some experiences really made me feel like I am a contributor and part of something great in education; trying to make a difference in this world by doing small acts and making changes as an educator who believes that education is a right for all children, regardless of wealth, background and geographical location. However, there were some experiences which made me feel small, insignificant, rejected and unwanted because of how I look like, speaking with an accent and my multi-cultural background. It became a chore trying to explain my background, identity and who I am as a person which affected my job as an educator as I felt victimized and paralyzed. I kept questioning myself, “Is this for real? Do all good educators have to be western, white and of certain look or speak a certain accent?” It made me insecure and unsure about my decision to continue pursuing a career as an international educator.
Fortunately, travelling and a passion for education helped me to continue my career as an educator which also sparked a fighting spirit and determination to change the way education should look, sound and feel like. It made me realize that there are many factors contributing to the lack in diversity of educators in international schools. These factors range from cultural expectations, norms, economic prosperity, societal needs, income levels, status and background, and even unfamiliarity with change or others outside the group. All these add to the definition on what makes a good international teacher which often relates back to the specification of ‘native speaker, western and light-skinned’ profile.
A few questions to extend and ask ourselves are, “How can we empower all educators to become the best teachers today?” and “Are we being fair to our children in giving them equal opportunities and knowing their identities through education?” Hence, diversity is KEY to develop global-minded citizens who will lead and run the world as our future. Start embracing, accepting and promoting diversity and equality today if we want a better tomorrow!continue reading
One time in Bangkok, I was walking around the streets by myself in the heat of the summer. By accident, I tripped and fell down on the sidewalk. After I got myself up, something felt extremely wrong. I walked around for a bit, but I didn’t know what was wrong and I started to panic.
I found a taxi and decided to have him take me to my hotel. At first, the driver said a price for the taxi ride. I would have paid whatever, but I immediately started crying. The taxi driver immediately lowered the price (I originally got the tourist price I guess) and became very worried for me.
I got to the hotel, but then immediately realized that I needed to get to the hospital ASAP. I got into another taxi and arrived at a local hospital in Bangkok. When I first got in, they helped me immediately (remember I’m still on my own and don’t know how to speak Thai). The nurses put me on a gurney, and then started to proceed opening my backpack. I got stressed about that and was getting confused. I found out later that they were putting my valuable things into a safe place. How nice! But the nurses didn’t speak English, so there wasn’t a way of knowing what was going on when it was happening.
I was seen quite quickly by a doctor or maybe even two doctors. The problem was that I had a dislocated shoulder (first time it happened to me). They put it back in its place. And even though I was drugged a bit, I had to be on my way. I sincerely thanked them all I hope, but years later I had thought to send a thank you note to that hospital for such a kind and helpful experience there.
After searching the keyword ‘hospital‘ using our Comments Search function on our website (premium access required), we found 210 comments. Here are 9 of them that give some insight into the hospital experience in different countries around the world.
“They are just now implementing a level of international health insurance so will have more information about that later. The current uses the local system which is all in Lithuanian so can make it difficult to get seen as you have to go to an assigned doctor (who speaks little English) and to an assigned hospital. It is very difficult without knowing Lithuanian.”
“Health insurance is great and comprehensive. You’ll be provided with a list of fully covered hospitals and dentists and those that are co-pay. The hospitals are great. I’ve not had any bad experiences.
When I had a dental emergency I paid up front and was able to claim it all back.”
“The insurance is quite good in Maracaibo and in the USA. The doctors are trained, but hospitals are not equipped to serve patients right now. The price for medical care has increased by 10 fold in one year. It is a terrible situation for Venezuelans and foreigners who get sick.”
“Albert Einstein Israelite hospital is considered one of the best in South America and is located in the same neighborhood as the school.”
“Health insurance works ok. Most hospitals for foreigners have a direct billing accord with the insurance. More hospitals are getting built at the moment and there a few very decent expat hospitals but they are also money making machines. Local hospitals are ok but can be a very different experience.”
“Insurance is great. That said, most go to Bangkok or Singapore for yearly check ups and anything requiring a knife. Used a local hospital for PT and found it very ineffective. Okay for stitches or advice on passing a kidney stone. Super cheap MRI and X-rays. AISD has a on-site clinic that most use for colds, flu, dengue, vaccinations, etc.”
“Local hospitals [in Bangkok] vary – government hospitals usually have good doctors working off their government college loans; private hospitals are quite flash and many have decent reputations. International hospitals can be quite pricey, and while their reputation may sound great they can sometimes not provide the same value for service as the private and government hospitals.”
“School covers AETNA insurance. It is worldwide coverage EXCLUDING the USA. Local hospital is conveniently located near school. HR and Operations is very helpful to support new employees on any medical issues, even accompanying to the hospital if needed to support translation. You can generally find hospital staff who speak fluent English. Signage is bilingual. All health providers are located under the roof of the “hospital“”
“We currently have international insurance through Clements. I’ve been very happy with them. When my child was in the hospital, all that was required from me was a quick call and then they negotiated the payment with the hospital‘s accounting office. Doctor’s fees are quite reasonable in Japan, so for most charges, I pay cash and then have the reimbursements put through to my USA bank account. I am able to make my claims through an app on my phone and it is wonderful and quick. Reimbursements usually come within 2 weeks or so.”continue reading
International School Community is full of tens of thousands of useful, informative comments…35536 comments (2 Feb. 2020) to be exact.
Members are recommended to keep their comments objective on our website. In one of the 66 comment topics, they are encouraged to share their experiences interviewing with international schools. How did it go? Was it easy to get? Recruitment fair or Skype? What did you have to do? Was the experience positive or less than ideal?
We scoured our database of comments, and we found 12 that stood out to us as being some of the most interesting and insightful about each school’s interview process.
“Interviews are usually handled via Skype by the Head of School. HR manages the hiring process very well. Faculty recommendations for new staff are heavily considered.” –North Jakarta Intercultural School (99 total comments)
“GIS uses renowned recruiting agencies and also posts its vacancies in its website. Candidates must send their CVs and educational statement to:
email@example.com . Initial contact is done via email, inviting candidate for skype/ whatsapp interview. Should they pass this phase, then they are interviewed by the educational consultant. Once both parties are happy, a letter of engagement is sent and visa process which is taken care of by the school is initiated. Teachers must have a fully qualified teaching degree and at least two years experience. The school is committed to offer PYP training.” –GIS – The International School of Sao Paulo (22 total comments)
“I had a very positive interview experience, yet no job offer. The process was fast. I applied one day and the next was called for a skype interview. The next day I interviewed for a second time. No restrictions that I am aware of.” – Veritas International School (3 total comments)
“I was interviewed by skype, first with 2 persons from my department, nearly a month later there was a 2nd interview with the school director.
The whole process lasted about 2 months.” – Euroamerican School of Monterrey (10 total comments)
“Each interview comes with a demo lesson. The main purpose is to see if you click with the kids and can get their attention. The second main criterion is that you must be able to not be teacher-centered. Basic.” – Assumption College Sriracha (47 total comments)
“Hiring is done through direct applications as well as through Search Associates. First interview is with the head of school (which they call “principal” here), followed by a second interview with the head of section (secondary, primary, or little KICS). No hiring restrictions I’m aware of, even age limit doesn’t seem to be a problem, although I’m not 100% sure on that one.” – Khartoum International Community School (116 total comments)
“If you want to apply to NIST, prepare for it well in advance. Whether you go through ISS-Schrole or Search, have all your docs ready to upload and make sure your referees are ready to submit their recommendations online. There’s also a recorded safeguarding interview that you’ll have to complete as one of the final steps if you’re being considered for a position, so think about how you would answer questions related to that area.” – NIST International School (298 total comments)
“The complete hiring took a pretty long time. I went through 4 interviews and had to do a very extensive background check. Make sure you apply with plenty of time. The interviews were pretty nice, people seemed always friendly and requested a live demo lesson.” – The Village School (24 total comments)
“Religion is not discussed in hiring, except to ensure that potential staff members have read and are in agreement with their open and inclusive Religious Life policy. Interviews are far more focused on teaching (newly adopted MYP/DP means they’re looking for those with experience) and whether the active lifestyle (walking up and down the hilly campus) would be a good fit. Single parents would do well here; with a large of number of staff kids and the school’s activities, there would be a community of support.” – Woodstock School (128 total comments)
“Once shortlisted, an applicant will be scheduled for a panel interview that consists of the headmaster, principal, assistant principal, and head of department via Skype. HR will contact the successful applicant with a job offer. Age restrictions have been relaxed.” – TEDA Global Academy (85 total comments)
“CMIS advertises openings on the school website and TIE online. interview process is fairly direct, generally consisting of 2 to 3 interviews with section administrator and then the school superintendent.” – Chiang Mai International School (24 total comments)
“I just interviewed with this school over Skype. There was the first interview with the actually staff that you would be working with, and then a follow up interview with the Principal/Head of School. Each interview lasted around 50 minutes. Just a note to consider, Singapore/the school doesn’t allow for non-teaching partners to get a work visa. They will need to get a work visa themselves if they want to work there, or they can also sign up and register a company (which I guess is easy to do and cheap) and then they can do work there.” – Nexus International School – Singapore (54 total comments)
If you have interviewed at an international school and know first hand knowledge about their interview process, log in to International School Community and submit your comment. For every 10 submitted comments, you will get one month of free premium membership added to your account!continue reading
“Taking a year on” is what principal Nichole Schmidt called the time away from her international school position in the article “Taking a Year.” Schmidt, with her husband and sons, packed up to travel around parts of Africa for a ten-month adventure. Isn’t it more inspiring “to take a year on” than needing to take a year off?
What about retirement? In “The Power of Time Off,” Stefan Sagmeister shares his scheduled year off every seven years to work on projects he is unable to pursue during his regular year. Sagmeister breaks down a worker’s lifetime into nearly 25 years of learning, 40 years of working, and for those lucky enough to live to the age of 65, 15 years of retirement. Why wait for retirement?
What follows are a few opportunities available to U.S. citizens to take a year on while staying abroad.
Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching: U.S. American primary and secondary teachers interested in making a move to overseas schools, but not ready to commit to an initial 2-year contract can apply for short term (2-6 weeks) or semester-length programs (3-6 months). As part of the program, teachers can pursue individual projects, conduct research, take courses for professional development and actively share their experiences with local teachers in schools, teacher training colleges, government ministries, and educational NGOs. To review eligibility criteria: https://exchanges.state.gov/us/program/fulbright-distinguished-awards-teaching-us-teachers.
Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program is a year-long professional development opportunity open to primary and secondary school teachers interested in developing skills to prepare students for a competitive global economy.
For those trained to teach English language learners, the U.S. Department of State sponsors the English Language Fellowship and Specialist Programs. This role advertises a new challenge or a life-changing career move for TESOL trained teachers to teach in new contexts and gain unique international experience. https://elprograms.org
Peace Corps Response positions are open to U.S. Citizens with significant professional experience, not just former Peace Corp Volunteers. Positions vary from 6 to12 months, may have a language requirement, and include position titles such as educational specialists, special education advisors, deaf education specialists, environmental education teacher trainer, health facilitator, literacy coordinator, e-learning specialist, math education or science instructor, primary education curriculum and design specialist, and more. Visit for more information: https://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/response-openingshttps://www.peacecorps.gov/volunteer/response-openings/.
I took a “year on “working as a TEFL Teacher with Fulbright Taiwan. To learn about this opportunity, visit here.
A few months into my year on, I have to say I do miss some things: the academic calendar, full salary, and benefits, connecting with fellow international educators, and the bonds that come from working with students in the classroom.
What I am gaining this year is an opportunity to provide teacher training to local teachers and frequent travel opportunities as I give workshops at various schools in Taiwan. While not working, I have had the chance to pursue other interests, such as writing more as I spend less time grading.
While the opportunities shared may be limited to U.S. Citizens, what opportunities are out there to other nationalities?
Sagmeister, Stefan. “The Power of Time Off.” TED, www.ted.com/talks/stefan_sagmeister_the_power_of_time_off#t-206460.
“Taking a Year.” Taking a Year | The International Educator (TIE Online), www.tieonline.com/article/2375/taking-a-year.
This article was submitted by ISC member Ellen Johnston. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact here her. Check our her other submitted article on the ISC blog here – The Journey to School: Tarsus American College (Turkey),continue reading
You probably had a wonderful, relaxing summer vacation. Weeks of hanging out with your best friends and other seasoned international school teachers around the world can truly be most stressless time of the year.
It is exciting and fun to get back to school though and catch up with your colleagues (or get to know the new ones). Even when the kids start and lessons begin, there is still a good feeling in the air.
But after this honeymoon period of 2-4 weeks, the stress starts to creep in for at least some international school teachers.
So many factors come into play that might cause stress. Maybe the administration has some back-to-school initiatives and some new demands for the teaching staff that are overwhelming the staff. Maybe some of your students’ parents have been filling your inbox with messages that require prompt replies as you are also preparing the next day’s lessons. Maybe even you are meeting with your new teaching team and the discussions aren’t going so smoothly about how you plan be working together this year as everyone appears to have slightly different working styles.
And the list of stress-inducing factors goes on and on…with no real solution in sight.
On the positive side, many staff at international schools do work hard to try and reduce the stress levels of its staff. During the teacher inservice days, some international schools are, for example, taking some time to run whole staff yoga/breathing/stretching sessions. Taking a moment to meditate and connect to your inner-self can truly be a good daily practice to incorporate.
Other international schools cater a back-to-school BBQ for the whole staff during the first few weeks of schools. Relaxing, eating and chatting with your colleagues in such a way can really create the right climate for a more relaxing environment at work.
International schools should be mindful of planning in these types of things to help reduce stress in staff. Not just at the beginning of the school year, but maybe throughout. Additionally, it is important for staff to keep a health work/life balance as well when school is in session. “All work and no play….”
The big question always though is “what would a dream school do?” Is there such a thing as a stress-free life for a teacher working at an international school? Some schools are getting it right it seems, so it is definitely possible to reduce at least some level of stress.
Using the ISC’s unique Comment Search feature (premium access required), we found 58 comments that have the keyword stress in it. Some international schools have good news to share about how they helping teachers to reduce their stress. Other schools are struggling to achieve similar results. Here are just a few of the comment results:
“SLT mean well, but it’s gone past the point where it’s possible to get morale back to where it should be. Most teachers are fed up, stressed and over-worked.” – Smart Vision School (41 total comments)
“With the hiring of the new Lower Primary Principal and Associate Principal, morale has completely turned around in this division (K1, K2, G1, G2). So much is happening to create a positive and happy atmosphere. Many teacher requests to alleviate their stress/work load have been honored (less ad-on activities, meetings…just a reduction to the overall schedule). Also, once a month principals do an activity with an entire grade level so teachers can have that time to meet, or do work. (The kids also really know the principals). Once a month, principals host a gathering on a Friday after school. Whenever, this division has had a particularly busy day or week, our Principal stops by our rooms to check in and tell us to ‘go home’. 🙂 Let’s hope the morale can improve schoolwide.” – Hong Kong International School (136 total comments)
“It’s a true non-profit school. Board is not breathing down your neck. In some ways, it’s quite relaxed (no one is inspecting your lessons, usually.) In others ways, there’s unnecessary stress (poor communication, some teaching loads piled too high.)” – Berlin Brandenburg International School (80 total comments)
“There are 2 days for new teachers to attend at the beginning of the school year, before the other staff return. Given the complexities of the school, this is inadequate and can be a stressful experience for new staff. There are no social niceties or outings organised for new staff, who basically are expected to hit the ground running.” – College du Leman – International School (85 total comments)
“This is one of the biggest stressors at the school. The finance department can be very demanding and expects all forms to be filled out perfectly. It is not uncommon for teachers to have to fill out reimbursement forms multiple times, including getting signatures from 3-4 different admins depending on what is being reimbursed. Get used to hearing the term ‘fapiao’ used a lot. If you don’t have the correct one you won’t get reimbursed. It usually ends up working out for teachers, but the process can be quite rough.” – UWC Changshu China (38 total comments)continue reading