Highlighted Articles

Coronovirus Outbreak: How an International School in Beijing Was Prepared for this Crisis

February 27, 2020


As an educator in China this is a crazy time! I am an Elementary School teacher at a well established international school in Beijing. I couldn’t be more pleased with how well this crisis has been handled by our school board and administrators!

We were all leaving for CNY when the Novel Coronavirus outbreak was occurring. At that time I was relieved to be staying in Beijing with my kids, and not traveling.

Four days into holiday we were informed that we would not be returning to school until Feb 17, and that learning would commence On-line at the end of CNY on Feb 3.

Quickly many teachers that were traveling cancelled their return flights and chose to stay where they were or travel home. Those of us in Beijing made quick decisions about wether to stay put or go somewhere else. In Beijing many public venues had closed, all tourist locations closed, ski areas, movie theaters and hotels began to close. As a mother with children, I did not want to stay in my apartment for weeks with nothing to do, so made a quick decision and flew back home the next day.

Our school uses a lot if on-line platforms for learning and sharing student learning, such as blogs, and moodle for older students. We already had an on-line teaching policy and tips document in case of school closures due to weather or pollution. This gave us a platform to begin on-line learning right away.

Most teachers quickly shifted from vacation mode to teaching mood well before Monday’s start date. Our IT support was in contact with reminders for guidelines and assistance to access. Our Media specialists quickly redistributed our subscription to online resources and shared out what could or could not be utilized for online learning. The lists of don’ts was daunting at first, as we are limited to things all families can access in China.

The school conducted a community survey, in part due to government requirements and in part to know more about the access for our students. From this, we were informed that approximately 50% of those who responded were still in Beijing and 50% were spread around the world in all time zones imaginable. The original policy was that teachers needed to be available during school hours in Beijing regardless of where they were, but thus just was not realistic or doable. Some teachers in the States and Canada were battling a 13-16 hour lag. This policy soon changed to holding some hours during school hours and offering our available hours to students, so they can access us when needed and according to times suitable in different time zones.

As a teacher in the elementary, we have been successful in connecting with some of our students with FlipGrid for morning greetings and provocations to our units. FlipGrid has been helpful for mini lessons and individual support to students with specific learning needs. Almost all teachers have been meeting with groups of students via Zoom, where teachers offer 2-4 time options so students can participate with one in their time zone. Epic Books has been a great resource, as we can send links to specific sets of book related to our UOI or learning topic. RAZ kids has given students access to reading practice at their level and teachers can track which students are accessing this as a resource. Older ES students are using IXL and our younger students are accessing Mathletics. We are trying out some additional on-line learning tools, to see what works best. We have also taken advantage of our school’s subscription to Brain Pop and Brain Pop Jr.

We have also used Zoom as a platform for all of our collaborative and planning meetings. All groups of teachers: grade level, single subject, leadership, and support services have been required to touch base and meet on a weekly basis. This week the school is setting up online Teachers Teaching Teachers meetings on Zoom, so we can learn additional tips about different tech and online teaching tools and resources.

Our school is known for being a highly collaborative school, and this experience has highlighted this aspect in a new way. Teachers are really working in teams, not in isolation to support our learners.

The school has recently informed us that we will be given a 3 week notice of the commencement of school, to be determined by the Chinese Ministry of Education. As the Chinese government is requiring all individuals to undergo a self quarantine for 14 days following travel, week 1 of these 3 weeks will be for returning to Beijing. They are replacing our spring break with this week 1 of return and there will be no online learning during that week. The following two weeks, while in quarantine, we will continue on-line learning.

Most of us are missing our students and the routine of our daily lives, so eager to have this date announced by the Ministry if Education, though appreciate their need to stop the spread of the virus and their desire to not put students in any harm!

This article was submitted by an ISC member currently working at an international school in Beijing, China.

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An Insider's Story

International School Design Teachers: An Insider’s Story

February 22, 2020


How it all started…

I was in middle school in the 1980s.  At this time ‘shop’ or ‘industrial arts’ was still being taught with wood, bandsaws, glue and sandpaper.  During my high school years things began to change in the ‘vocational’ teaching world. Computers were growing in popularity and had become more affordable.  I distinctly remember sitting in front of the green tinted screens typing in measurements and coordinates to create 2 dimensional drawings on an early version of AutoCAD.   Wow! How far we have come in 30 years! In high school I did the minimum to get by. I didn’t push or challenge myself very much. It just wasn’t that interesting to me. The only exception to this rule was during my “Tech Ed” classes.  My teacher, Coach Vander Velde, challenged me to inquire and question traditional ways of thinking.  

After graduation, I pursued a B.F.A. degree in TV and Radio Production.  After college I was hired to work at a local TV studio. I started working the ‘graveyard’ shift which involved taping satellite feeds, organizing broadcast files and so on.  I was making a bit more than the minimum wage. I asked myself, “Did I really go to college to just make a bit more than minimum wage?” An opportunity presented itself to me in the form of a Masters degree in Technological Studies.  This degree gave me the skills I needed to teach ‘vocational’ classes in middle and high school. I completed my student teaching and started a job in an urban high school near Atlanta, Georgia.  

I enjoyed teaching during my first year of teaching, but one afternoon, during my drive home, I heard an advertisement on the public radio station for teaching English in China.  Being that this was over 20 years ago, China was in the process of opening up to the rest of the world. I contacted the company and the following August I was headed to China for the first of many times since!  I taught at a university in Beijing for one year. That year I traveled all over China and caught the ‘travel bug’. After a two year stint back in the USA, I returned to China where I eventually landed in an international school and was introduced to the International Baccalaureate curriculum.  I taught ESL and ‘MYP Technology’. I realized then that teaching IB was a natural complement to the ‘inquiry-based’ teaching approach of vocational education.  

I have taught in several IB schools since then.  In all of these schools I have been involved in ‘Design’ teaching and planning.  One thing that I have noticed about young people is that whether I am teaching woodworking or 3D printing, students love to be hands-on!  Additionally, careers have changed so much over the past 20 years that teaching student ‘technology-related’ content is outdated. As teachers we all need to be teaching inquiry-based critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  The subject of “Design” is the perfect crossroads for all of these things to be taught, practiced and mastered. In the school where I currently work, the students are able to experience robotics, podcasting, filmmaking, 3D printing, digital photography, graphics design, digital illustration, architectural design, fashion design, laser cutting/engraving, website design, coding and programming, drone operation, electronic music production and so on!  All of this is within the Design curriculum.  

One of our soundproof recording booths
Drone photo of the campus
Inside the school TV studio
The laser cutter
TV studio control room
One of the many sewing machines
A couple of the 3D printers
Midi keyboard for making original music
One of our small tool benches

An average day…

On any given day I will teach between 20-50 students depending on the schedule.  Students will be in various stages of development working towards a completed design project.  All of our projects start with an investigation or inquiry into some sort of issue, situation or problem.  This should include an account of some sort of interaction with the client or target audience for the project.  The students will continue to follow the Design Cycle and provide evidence of their work throughout. Most of my day involves checking on equipment, supplies, and so on.  I have informal conversations with the other members of the department to see if everyone has the materials and access to the spaces that they need. Currently, the members of the Design department are content experts in programming, podcasting, filmmaking, photography, materials processing, Computer Aided Design (CAD), and textiles, just to name a few.  

How to get involved…

If a teacher has some experience with similar disciplines and wants to get involved in an international school teaching ‘Design’, then I would highly suggest doing it!  Make a list of your priorities, regions you would like to live and work in, salary range, among other things. It is ok to target schools that you are interested in as Design teachers are often difficult to find.  Whether the school uses IB, AP, Cambridge, or something else, there is always a ‘design’ equivalent course that can be taught!

Giving back to the professional community… 

Since 2008, I have been part of the IB Educator Network or IBEN.  This means that I have conducted school visits, served as a consultant to candidate schools, lead subject-specific workshops, and other various IB related events.  This involvement outside of school has been a key part in my professional development. I have met hundreds of like-minded educators that I am in regular contact with and we share best practices/project ideas with each other.  This keeps my own teaching exciting and relevant to my students.  


Jason Reagin is currently the IB Career-related Programme Coordinator and Department Chair of Design & Visual Arts at Chadwick International School in Incheon, South Korea.  He taught in the US, Bermuda and China prior to coming to South Korea. Jason’s passions include being a live-long learner, coffee drinker and a cinephile. He has experience in curriculum leadership and development in several different school ecosystems.  Connect with him on Twitter @diskon4no

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Comparing the Schools and Comments

Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Albania

February 15, 2020


Around the world, there are countries (like Albania) that have more than one international school. Many times there is an American school, a British School, and an international school that uses an international curriculum.

The big question always is…how do the comments about each school compare to each other?

This blog series looks at comparing some of these comments, all coming from international schools in the same country.

Albania

Currently, we have 6 schools listed in Albania on International School Community.

4 of these schools have had comments submitted on them. Here are some that have the most submitted comments:

World Academy of Tirana (41 Total Comments)
Albanian International School (32 Total Comments)
Albanian College Tirana (12 Total Comments)
Albanian College Durres (103 Total Comments)

Amount of Money Left to be Saved

“You can save around 1000 to 1500 Euros each month depending on your lifestyle. Traveling around the region is quite tempting, so you will have to prioritize if you really want to save some money or explore the world…” – Albanian College Durres

“Extremely easy to save money. Restaurants and local hotels are not expensive…” – World Academy of Tirana

School Campus

“In south of city, owner just bought a field in front of school for student play…” – Albanian College Tirana

“The school has serious safety concerns. The railings could easily fit a small child through them. The ceilings on the main floor have collapsed. There is a pool in the basement without proper ventilation. The only outdoor space for the children to play is on the roof and it is woefully inadequate…” – Albanian College Durres

“The school moved to its current 4-storey building in 2015, with a purpose-built Science Laboratory, Design workshop, Permaculture Garden, multi-functional Sports Court, Gymnasium, Visual Arts studio, Dance Studio, Music Studio, two Libraries, Cafeteria and Bistro…” – World Academy of Tirana

Housing Information

“Housing is provided by the school. Value is 300E per month. Staff pays their own utilities, cable, internet, etc…” – World Academy of Tirana

“Housing allowance is 400 Euros per month for a single teacher…” – Albanian College Tirana

“Housing allowance ranges from 300-400 Euro’s per month depending on single status and number of dependents…” – Albanian College Durres

Sample prices for food, transportation, average hourly rates for a housekeeper, etc.

“Prices much lower than surrounding countries…beer in local restaurants range from 1.2 E to 2.5 euros…” – World Academy of Tirana

“To take a taxi from within the center of the city, it will cost you around 350-450 LEK. Quite cheap! Going out for food will probably cost you around 1600-1700 LEK for two people, and that includes a few drinks and appetizers…” – Albanian International School

“Housekeepers prices vary. Some expats pay 10,000 Leke per month for a housekeeper visit 2 per week…” – Albanian College Tirana

(These are just 4 of the 66 different comments topics that are on each school profile page on our website.)

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

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Highlighted Articles

Shut Down Due to Health Emergency: Four Stories from International Schools in China and Vietnam

February 9, 2020


We all seem to know somebody in the international school community that is being affected by the health scare in Asia connected to the Coronavirus.

But how are those international schools coping with this situation? What are the teachers’ responsibilities? Where are the teachers doing the online teaching? Which technologies are they using? What is the overall feeling of the situation from all stakeholders? How was the organization of it all?

Here are four stories from four different teachers at international schools in China and Vietnam:

International School of Tianjin

In the days leading up to the Chinese New Year break, there was awareness and increasing concern about the new virus in China. A lot of masks were being worn at school and some students were talking about it with a degree of concern. The virus quickly became a national issue and by the third day of the break, on January 28, we were told that school would be closed until at least February 17. During the holiday week our school let us know that we would be implementing an online learning structure. Leadership teams met and outlined what this would look like in order to continue to provide a rigorous curriculum but not overwhelm the students and parents. In elementary school our primary platform is Seesaw, which the students had already been using all year. We are maintaining the daily schedule as much as possible (i.e. if your class has PE on Monday, the PE teacher would send an assignment on Seesaw that day). Homeroom teachers are expected to send out a morning message with daily assignments by 9:00 each day and be available for the entire work day providing feedback to students. The secondary school is following a similar model using Microsoft Teams and Managebac to share content and assignments.

It has been more work than everyone anticipated, but it has also been nice to be able to connect with students. As parents we are also working with our own children and it has been good to create some structure in their day as the time away from school stretches on. The situation is ongoing. We are far from Wuhan, but there have been a number of cases reported in our city. There is not a formal quarantine but movement is very limited and we are under a lot of pressure to stay indoors at all times. The police are outside taking temperatures and collecting information. As of right now it is likely that the school will stay closed for several more weeks and there is a lot of uncertainty. We are hoping for a resolution of some kind to this crisis and we look forward to getting back to the familiar routines of a normal school day.

American International School in Shanghai, China

I work at an American International School in Shanghai, China. We received an email about starting E-learning lesson on Feb. 3rd and to contact our administrators if we had questions. The email stated to follow our daily class schedule and post a mini lesson video of no less than 15 minutes for each subject taught. As an EAL teacher in primary for different grades, I’ve had to make reading, writing, phonics, and handwriting videos. The email also had a long list of expectations for teachers such as assignments with deadlines to be uploaded on our grading website, students must work for 30 minutes and give feedback. However, little to no support has been given on the IT side of e-lessons, other than contact your supervisor for questions. Edmodo was the only platform suggested to use where someone could support you with it, but we were told to use any platform we preferred which led to parents getting bombarded with messages to sign up to Edmodo, Seesaw and others. I only chose Seesaw because my collaborating teachers were using it, and I wanted to make it easier for my students’ parents.

The two biggest problems we are facing with our E-lessons is not being allowed to use Google technology due to its restrictions in China and most parents not having a VPN. Second one was how to upload videos of 15 minutes in Wechat when it has a five-minute limit. Our school’s official Wechat group went blasting with messages about condensing videos using different websites, different APPs, and etc. Nothing concrete on these APPs with specific tutorials on how to get set it up in a few days to start running e-learning. These links were all helpful however we needed time for E-training, which we haven’t receive in 3 years that I’ve been working there. Luckily for me, I had received classes on using technology in grad school.

I think my school’s expectations are unrealistic due to parents and teachers being stranded all over the world due to CNY holidays and not having access to reliable internet. I was vacationing in Boracay, so I did my lessons with an IPad and my IPhone. Yes, I am without a laptop making this a headache for me. I also have limited or unreliable internet access. Also, you can’t expect the same teaching as the classroom when not everyone has internet, web knowledge or skills, nor the time to sit through a regular day schedule of videos, which include videos for math, science, reading, writing, Specials subject (art, P.E., etc), and foreign language for K-5. Parents spent a long time setting up accounts, learning how to navigate one, two or three APPs. In all honesty, it was hell for teachers, parents and students. I’ve been working around the clock answering questions from parents.

One parent said it best when he voiced his frustrations “Parents can’t teach children. We are not native speakers nor teachers.” Think about the difficulties one of my student’s parent is facing having to login to different APPS and instructions from all teachers for her three children. Can you imagine the series of videos they have to watch daily for each kid? She is beyond frustrated because she’s in the pharmaceutical industry, so she’s still working during the day and has to come home to help her children.

You see I’m happy to learn as I’m doing e-lessons, but I wish my school was more realistic and practical with their expectations. Although I think handwriting is important, I don’t think under these circumstances we need to have e-lesson. I’ve only been focusing on reading and writing and that’s all I can do for now. That’s all more than enough for parents to handle. They are not trained teachers to assist their kids specially in grades K to 3 where children have a shorter attention span and are not yet independent learners. I can teach in a video, but can students be expect to sit through six videos of 10-15 minutes from all their teachers? 

An International School in Ho Chi Minh City

On the Saturday before the school was supposed to open after the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, the school sent an email to staff and parents saying they intended to keep the school open during the Coronavirus outbreak, outlining the enhanced health and safety measures the school would implement. Less than an hour later, the Vietnamese government announced that the virus was an epidemic and all the local and international schools decided to close soon after. Such is life when you live in a country where the government is less than transparent – executive decisions seem to come at short notice, and all schools and administrators can do is adapt as best they can.

As teachers, we all know that death, taxes, and faculty meetings are the unchanging staples of life. As such, even though the students are away, we have faculty meetings three days a week. We enter the campus one at a time, as a guard checks our temperature and directs us to a giant bottle of hand sanitizer we must use before entering. We are updated on the situation on the ground and how it affects school. We meet about students of concern – who’s not doing their remote work, who didn’t bother to check their email until Tuesday, etc. We also discuss strategies for remote work. Everyone uses various online platforms and is happy to share success stories and advice. This is the silver lining of the whole situation: while remote learning is a bit dull if you actually enjoy engaging with students as individual human beings, it’s a great opportunity to experiment with different types of learning platforms. I’m using Edpuzzle and Flipgrid for the first time – I’m not sure if I would have the time or inclination to test them in normal circumstances, but I’m happy to test them out in hopes that I can use them again when everything returns to normal.

United World College Changshu China

When I accepted an offer to work in China I was never to expect that something like the outbreak of Corona virus would happen. However, I consider myself to be the virus free, being in self quarantine for the last 12 days without showing any symptom of infection.

As for the next week, I am required to start teaching online. What does it mean in terms of my effectiveness to share knowledge with students in few classes (different subjects, years and levels)? To be honest, the difference in comparison to my usual days when in school is not so significant (in theoretical terms). As since the beginning of this school year, we have been required to explore and use opportunities of digital learning. My usual working day (for the last few days) starts around 9am and I work, both with teachers and students for the next few hours (read, until I start getting that feeling that my brain will explode). I am relying on Microsoft Teams as the school follows the official Chinese politics and does not welcome Google classrooms. The initial stage of working with Microsoft Teams (this is not an advertisement!) may seems confusing as you can create as many Teams (groups and classes) as you want but soon you may realize that you may be overwhelmed with the amount of messages which keep on getting higher. Students are being required to learn about services of Microsoft Teams on their own while teachers have received some support in that. This basically means that in theory I can use any teaching platform which fits to my current needs, but in reality I have to communicate lessons and instructions on Teams and Manage back only. I am also using Wechat for a quick communication with students.

What I am also currently surviving is the feeling of panic as I have students from six different continents in my classroom and I must reach all of them. I am currently planning our virtual timetable and that seems to be the biggest challenge that we are currently facing (as I must offer face to face instructions). For the last 24 hours I was trying to reach students across the globe, to determine their time zones and assure them that they will have enough knowledge and skills to take the final exams.

In terms of strategy, what to do, how to deliver lessons, I can no longer rely on lesson plans being planned for our classroom space as they emphasize the value of activities much. Now I am trying to find text and create written assignments which would force them to read, think, analyze and construct their responses. In terms of what to do for summative assessment, well, as for now, that is science fiction. I am counting on their honesty when doing formative assessment (though I still aim to use Turnitin).

All in all, the sense of panic is still being strong as I don’t fixed timetable and I am rushing to plan lessons for five different teaching programs,. There is a feeling of fear in me too as some of my students are in cities which were locked down more than two weeks ago and their chance for survival depends only on their willingness not to leave their apartments.

To finish this story, I am still learning how to deliver completely effective virtual classes but I have delivered my first teaching instructions already (in the virtual space which reminds to those of countless forums). I am spending much of my time in calling students wherever they are, to assure them that we can go through this situation and that no one of them will be damaged in terms of their knowledge acquisition.

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Discussion Topics

The Interview Process: Insight into 12 international schools on what they do

February 2, 2020


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.

1.

“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)

2.

“GIS uses renowned recruiting agencies and also posts its vacancies in its website. Candidates must send their CVs and educational statement to:
principal@issaopaulo.com.br . 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)

3.

“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)

4.

“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)

5.

“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)

6.

“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)

7.

“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)

8.

“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)

9.

“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)

10.

“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)

11.

“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)

12.

“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!

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