Highlighted Articles

10 tips for my NQT self

October 10, 2019


As a new cohort of graduating teachers look forward to their first role as newly qualified teachers, I reflected on how mine was coming to an end and contemplated on advice I would have given myself at the beginning of mine and how I might have done things differently.

My A-level chemistry teacher on my first day of A-levels taught me and my peers a very valuable lesson and outlook, and one I still use today. “Close your eyes and imagine it is results day and you receive your brown envelope with your results in it. You’ve applied to the university you want, and they have given you a conditional offer, all you need are the grades. You’re so nervous and all your friends also have theirs and are opening their envelopes one by one. As they do, a wave of euphoria and excitement hits them as each is successful, but now it’s your turn. You open your envelope. As your eyes glance along the bold letters, instead of the same ecstatic emotions, you feel distraught because you, out of all your friends, are the only one who missed, and what makes it worse, by one grade. The realisation sets in that you are not likely to get in to your first choice, maybe not even second, or worse still, not at all. The summer of relaxation before heading off to university vanished by the thought of frantic phone calls hoping and praying that clearing will allow you in, but it is still no guarantee. You think to yourself, if only I had a time machine I would go back and tell myself to work harder instead of going out every Tuesday because its student night or play that extra hour every night of COD and instead study.

Now, open your eyes. You found the time machine and you’re here, back at the start where you can put those things right. I exaggerate for effect of course but the premise is the same. There are a few things, had I known, I would have done differently, or paid more attention to, which would have made my NQT year a little easier, not least for starting and maintaining good habits. So as we dive in, do not take these as things you must do or “another one of those teachers who thinks they know everything” but someone offering some gentle thinking points about what might make your NQT year, and beyond, a little less stressful.

1. Get to know the resource material

Most schools offer at least a 1-day induction. Some more and some offer PGCE students an early start at the school in June upon completion of the course. DO IT! I was unfortunate not to do this due to personal reasons (I got married instead) and had I known this I would have altered my wedding dates to allow me to attend the induction period at the very least. As a result, I started the academic year behind and it took me at least 7 weeks to get up to speed with the material, the schemes of work on top of other equally important bureaucracy areas such as behaviour policies, school policies etc. Our main job as teachers is to teach and if you are not comfortable with what you are teaching, everything else becomes much more difficult to understand and implement.

2. Get to know AND understand school policies

Aside from teaching you are expected to enforce and follow school policies ranging from behaviour management to meetings and duties. Naturally it will take some time to fully understand and feel comfortable and confident in following said policies as it is often much easier to understand once you see it in action. Try your best to think of every scenario and how you would deal with it. As you will likely be new in your school, the students will try you catch you out and push the boundaries. This is when they will find you if you know the policies or not and can set the tone for the rest of the year or longer. Read, read and read again and run through some scenarios in your head with how you would react and how you would deal with it.

3. Marking – there is no escape

There have been some improvements in recent years in terms of workload for teachers and one thing that has improved significantly is the quantity of marking. Though marking is immensely important, or I should say feedback, for student improvement, it can take up most of your time outside of the classroom leaving less time for planning and preparation. Each school will have their own marking policy and it is essential that you understand how the marking works and how often it needs to be completed. On top of this, it is important to understand HOW the marking is to be done and what notations should be used for the marking. I recommend making a timetable for yourself of which classes you will mark on which days and stick to it. A little marking everyday is much easier than no marking and having to do it all in one afternoon/evening. Your marking will also be more beneficial to the students as the marking time will be less each day so feedback will be more constructive than a standard comment.

4. Track and get to know your students

During my PGCE one of the tasks we were asked to do was to track three students. By this they asked us to find information on them (SEN, PP etc) and then keep a record of how they were doing whether that be BfL, scores, homework or just a few notes about students that stood out, both strong and weak. Though the actual task was monotonous and tedious, I realised in my NQT year just how useful it is to do this. Each school has their own set of students with their own personalities. It really helps to get to know your students, what makes them tick and what makes them bored. Additionally, track students who have a record of being stronger and weaker and try to support them as much as you can. Every student needs to make progress so ensure you use techniques (extensions, scaffolding, keywords etc) to allow ALL students to progress.

5. Get to know your school’s focus for the term and year

There are a plethora of areas that schools can focus on and each school is different. Some schools focus on classroom environment and management, some on teaching and learning and others on the tasks surrounding it. All schools will have some form of CPD and twilight session to address all of these, but most will identify their weakest and try to improve them. Knowing what areas are being targeted helps you to understand the current ethos of the school and drive with all colleagues in the same direction. It also helps you when completing your official observations as it shows your observer you are paying attention to what management are wanting to focus on and that you are taking the CPD sessions seriously.

6. Don’t get lost – finds your rooms

This isn’t a make or break but can lead to unnecessary stress at the start of term. In all schools I’ve been to, students like to think they are on control without being in control. They like to know that there is always someone else they can ask if they don’t know something. If you are asking students how to get to rooms, some students can get a bit confused and it may even harm your respect, particularly with the older students. It’s not the end of the world, but if you are constantly asking students, then it can have an impact. Get to know your rooms, how to get there from your previous room and what the layout is. This will help with room transitions so your start of lesson is as punctual as possible to cut down on classroom disruption as possible and knowing the layouts will help you organise your seating plan as early as possible to avoid classroom disruption.

7. Who are the specialists?

All teachers will have some expertise in one area of teaching or more. Find out who these people are and what their specialism is. As an NQT you are expected to find more answers on your own so seeking out those who are more experienced could not be more important at this stage. If you are struggling with classroom management, as many teachers do, find out who is the expert. Ask them to sit in your lesson and to find out what you could improve. If you are struggling of thinking how to teacher a certain topic, find out the subject specialist and quiz them, or better still, observe their lessons to see how they engage their students. Questioning is a major focus currently. Seek out someone who is great at questioning students and having discussions.

8. Get to know your colleagues

In my first school I didn’t see my colleagues outside of school save for a wedding. I regret this looking back because I would have enjoyed my time a lot more had I made the effort to get more comfortable with my colleagues. I may have asked more questions and progressed more so as a teacher. There were some great teachers in the department so use them, both for professional advice and social relaxation. The usual Friday drinks at “the library” are there for a reason so go, enjoy yourself and moan to your hearts content so the people at home don’t have to listen.

9. Reflect, reflect, reflect

The PGCE does a great job of getting teachers to become reflective. This becomes especially important as you enter your NQT year and beyond as there isn’t someone who is observing you most lessons and telling you where you need to improve. It is important than from the outset you assess yourself and think about common weaknesses over a series of lessons. One suggestion could be to keep a diary and write a few notes after each lesson/day about things that what went and things that didn’t. This will help you really understand areas of strength and weakness. Once your NQT year is complete, you will have yearly appraisals where you set your own targets and to meet them you need evidence. This relies on you knowing what our weaknesses are and how to overcome them which requires you to know yourself as a teacher.

10. And finally, enjoy it!

Your NQT year is very important because it helps you to understand yourself and how to become an independent teacher. The career you have chosen is a very rewarding, challenging and exciting career. One with many prospects and benefits, both personally and professionally. This is your springboard for a (hopefully) long, happy and successful working life. Enjoy it, set out with the mindset you wish to continue with and try, though it may seem difficult at times, to relax, destress and remember why you got into teaching.

I hope these 10 suggestions help you enjoy a more productive and less stressful year. In my experience, my PGCE year was more stressful though not all teachers have the same opinion. Just remember, you’ve done it before, you can do it again.

This article was submitted by International School Community member, Steven Simnett.

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Comment Topic Highlight

What is the dream Professional Development model at an international school?

October 4, 2019


We are lucky working at international schools. In comparison with working at public schools in some of our home countries (USA, for example), we are typically getting more opportunties to go on our own professional developement adventures, and very interesting and unique ones!

But it all depends on the international school you are working at, of course. Some international schools offer a fair amount of money to each teacher as a personal professional benefit for them. Other international schools don’t have a PD budget at all for teachers to access, and barely offer any in-house PD sessions for their staff.

Some teachers new to international schools can be in for a bit of a shock when your principal/coordinator offers to send you to Kenya or Malta for a required training that the school needs to have you complete (let’s say if your school was located in Eastern Europe). Can this be really true?

On the flip side, other international schools will offer that same or similar training to you in-house. Is one better than the other? Well, it is not so exciting to just stay at your current workplace to get that training. Although there might be some benefit to working with more of your current colleagues and possibly even will some teachers from nearby schools that have sent them to your school to get that training as well.

The debate is (or has it been decided now?) what is the best way to train their teachers and for the teachers to get the best professional development?

Some people say that ongoing professional development is the most effective, and one-off PD sessions and workshops are not the most effective.

But getting PD is not all about improving your teaching skills and learning better teaching strategies. It is also about networking. Getting to know teachers that have a similar role to you in a similar setting even can really be some of the best PD experiences. It is more what is happening in between sessions that can be quite inspiring and thought-provoking.

Not all PD needs to cost an amazing amount of money either. If you find a school that is doing something you are interested in at the moment, but doing it at a higher level than your current school, it can be some of the best PD to just go and do a planned/structured visit to that school. You might even find out about this school through some networking you may have done at a conference you once attended.

But it all comes down to money, really. Some international schools have a lot of it, and share it out as much as they can to support and train their teachers. Other international schools (and not just for-profit schools) would rather not spend that much money on PD for their teachers and ‘save’ it for other things.

If there isn’t a specific PD allowance benefit for each teacher and you need to apply to receive an allowance, then there are bound to be feelings of inequality. Some teachers will surely be getting their PD requests accepted more than other teachers, and that might be the sense people are having throughout the school (causing low staff morale for some). Maybe some favoritism comes into place, whether that is actually happening or not. One clear benefit of doing PD in this manner is that the school most likely will be spending less money.

If a school willing to let their teachers follow their own paths of learning, will the school only allow their teachers to get trained in things the school wants them to do, or will the school just shut off all opportunities for their teachers and make it basically impossible or really undesirable to even ask for some financial support in getting a PD experience?

Many teachers might agree that the dream school situation is that there would be a specific PD benefit in the teacher’s contract. It is their money to use for their own professional hopes and dreams as a teacher. It is likely that the teacher’s current school and students will benefit from that teacher’s PD experience, but even if it doesn’t directly have that effect, it will help that person grow as a teacher; and probably that teacher’s future school work places will benefit.

On ISC we have a comment topic related to this topic in the Benefits Information section on the school profile pages. It is called: “Professional development allowance details.” There have been 512 comments submitted in this comment topic on 100s of international schools from around the world. Here are just a few of them:

“Very good PD, in my opinion. At least one pertinent course per year (usually with IB). However, it is currently required that these be in-country.” – Qatar Academy (Sidra)

“Over the course of the academic year, the school funds a select number of teachers to attend Professional Development seminars by the International Baccalaureate.” – Aga Khan Academy Mombasa

“Teachers are not given a PD fund. If there is a PD that a teacher is interested in, he/she will have to apply for it at least a month ahead and wait for approval. Out of the 5 teachers that I know who applied for PD fund, only 1 was approved.” – SMIC Private School

“Great PD allowance. I believe it’s about $1200/year. As well, admin will help teachers find and enroll in opportunities nearby and a bit further out. I’d say it’s excellent.” – Shekou International School

How is the PD benefit at your international school? Please login to our website and share what you know!

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Information for Members

ISC now has over 2100 international school profiles listed

September 29, 2019


At International School Community, we now have over 2100 international school profiles listed on our website!

The last 5 schools to be added:

Colegio Americano Menno (La Mesa, Colombia) – 0 Comments
The Village School (Houston, USA) – 24 Comments
The International School @ ParkCity Hanoi (ISPH) (Hanoi, Vietnam) – 1 Comments
The Escola Internacional del Camp (Salou – EIC) (Salou, Spain) – 0 Comments
PaRK International School (Lisbon, Portugal) – 0 Comments

The top 5 schools with the most members:

American International School in Egypt (Main Campus) (New Cairo City, Egypt) – 25 Members
Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen, Denmark) – 24 Members
International School of Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – 22 Members
International School Manila (Manila, Philippines) – 21 Members
Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 18 Members

The top 5 most viewed schools:

Colegio Granadino Manizales (Manizales, Colombia) – 37232 Views
American International School of Budapest (Budapest, Hungary) – 19338 Views
American School of Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain) – 2735 Views
Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen, Denmark) – 2593 Views
International School of Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – 2553 Views

The last 5 schools to have something written on their wall:

International School of the Hague (The Hague, The Netherlands) – 63 Comments
International School of Helsingborg (Helsingborg, Sweden) – 13 Comments
World Academy of Tirana (Tirana, Albania) – 21 Comments
Colegio Roosevelt Lima (FDR) [The American School of Lima] (Lima, Peru) – 28 Comments
Renaissance International School Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) – 23 Comments

But check them all our yourself!  Get answers to your questions about the international schools you are interested in by clicking on the geographic region of your choice.  It’s a great way to learn about different international schools around the world and gather information!  

International School Community has the following 2110 international schools listed on our website (last updated on 29 September, 2019)

Results: (184) Countries, (797) Cities, (2110) Schools, (33366) Comments

Asia (207)

Caribbean (39)

Central America (45)

Central/Eastern Europe (114)

East Asia (309)

Middle East (282)

North Africa (65)

North America (108)

Oceania (31)

SE Asia (322)

South America (98)

Sub-Saharan Africa (172)

Western Europe (318)

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Information for Members

How many comments are there in each of the 66 Comment Topics on ISC?

September 22, 2019


We have 66 comment topics on our website in 4 main categories: School Information, Benefits Information, City Information, and Travel Information.

ISC now has over 33000 comments that have been submitted on over 1100 international schools from around the world. Basic and Premium Members can access all of these 33000 comments for free on our Browse All Comments page.

After almost 9 years since our inception of ISC, which of the 66 comment topics are our members submitting into the most? Take a look below at all of our comment topics with the total comments submitted in them at the end of each one. Some of our most popular topics that have over 1000 comments are related to: School building, Accreditation, Hiring policies, School location, Language abilities of the students, Kinds of teachers/staff, Salary, Housing, and Allowances.

School Information Comment Topics (23):

• Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus. (1467 Comments)

• What types of accreditation does this school have? When is the accreditation up for renewal? Any religious affiliations? (1105 Comments)

• Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.). (690 Comments)

• Describe their hiring policies and procedures. Share your interview experience. Any hiring restrictions? is there a particular curriculum experience required? How about single parents/number of dependents sponsored? (1456 Comments)

• Describe school’s location in relation to the city center and to the teacher’s housing. How do staff get to school before and after school? (1371 Comments)

• Are the expectations high of teaching staff? Are there extra curricular responsibilities? Describe workload details. (761 Comments)

• Average class size for primary and secondary. Describe any aide support. (780 Comments)

• Describe language abilities of students at this school and what is the “common language spoken in the hallways”? Is there one dominate culture group? (1156 Comments)

• Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate. Is there a native English speaker or nationality requirement? Is it LGBT friendly country/school? (1196 Comments)

• What types of budgets do classroom teachers/departments get? (475 Comments)

• PARENTS ONLY – General comments from parents of students that go to this school. How was your child’s education and socialisation at the school? (164 Comments)

• What types of sports programs and activities does the school offer? (643 Comments)

• Name some special things about this school that makes it unique. (654 Comments)

• In general, describe the demeanor of the students. (565 Comments)

• Has the school met your expectations once you started working there? (314 Comments)

• What does the school do to create a harmonious state of well-being and high morale amongst its staff? (362 Comments)

• Describe the technologies available at the school and how people are/are not using them. (437 Comments)

• Details about the current teacher appraisal process. (277 Comments)

• Is the student population declining, staying the same or increasing? Give details why. (414 Comments)

• How have certain things improved since you started working there? (222 Comments)

• How is this school different or the same when compared to schools in your home country? (157 Comments)

• What controversies have been happening lately? Please be objective. (281 Comments)

• What insider information would you give to a teacher considering working at this school? (416 Comments)

• How much curriculum development work are you expected to do? (Atlas Rubicon, etc.) (259 Comments)

Benefits Information Comment Topics (20):

• Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year? (1237 Comments)

• Details about the staff housing or the housing allowance. If there is no housing allowance, how much are rent costs and utilities? (1234 Comments)

• Average amount of money that is left to be saved. Describe the survivability for a family of four on one salary. (643 Comments)

• Detailed info about flight, shipping and settling-in allowances. Any other benefits (e.g. free lunches, etc.)? (1115 Comments)

• Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals. (947 Comments)

• Ways to make extra money (tutoring, after-school activities, etc.). (410 Comments)

• Information about benefits for teachers with dependents. Describe the childcare in the area. (737 Comments)

• Professional development allowance details. (507 Comments)

• Pension plan details. (588 Comments)

• Describe your experience bringing pets. (240 Comments)

• Explain how salaries are decided (e.g. is there a pay schedule? extra step for masters degree? Annual pay raises? Bonuses?). (522 Comments)

• How do the school’s benefits compare to other international schools in the area/city? (313 Comments)

• How is the school calendar? Is there ample vacation time? (492 Comments)

• What are some things that you need to buy/pay for when you first arrive at the school that you didn’t know about beforehand? (262 Comments)

• Details about the maternity benefits of the host country and school. (129 Comments)

• What is the process of getting reimbursed for things? (166 Comments)

• Details about new teacher orientation. (194 Comments)

• In general, why are people staying at or leaving this school? (292 Comments)

• Details about the teaching contract. What important things should prospective teachers know about? (199 Comments)

• Information on trailing spouses. Can they work under spousal visa (also availability of work) or is it possible to live only on one salary? (35 Comments)

City Information Comment Topics (17)

• Name your favorite restaurants, favorite places to go to and favorite things to do in the city. (552 Comments)

• Locations in the city geared towards the expat lifestyle (grocery stores, bars, etc.). (490 Comments)

• Sample prices for food, transportation, average hourly rates for a housekeeper, etc. (491 Comments)

• Detailed info about lifestyles: singles vs. couples, gay vs. straight, nightlife vs. quiet and big city vs nature. (392 Comments)

• Languages of the host city and the level of English spoken there. (502 Comments)

• Sample activities that you can do around the city? Including ones that you can do with a family (children)? (357 Comments)

• Describe the city’s weather at different times of the year. (549 Comments)

• Places, markets and stores where you can find really good deals. (256 Comments)

• Describe a funny culture shock moment that you’ve had recently in this city. (115 Comments)

• Where did the school take you in the city when you first arrived? What were some staff outings/party locations? (156 Comments)

• What is the best part of living in this city for you? (243 Comments)

• What advice can you give on how to set things up like internet, phone, experience dealing with landlord, etc.? (200 Comments)

• Tell your experience moving your items to this city. What company, insurance policy, etc. did you use? (81 Comments)

• Tell about your experience with the local banks and dealing with multiple currencies. (208 Comments)

• What are some locals customs (regarding eating, drinking and going out, family, socializing, etc.) that you find interesting for expats to know about? (146 Comments)

• Tell about your experiences in the local grocery stores. What can you get or cannot get? Which ones are your favorites. (182 Comments)

• What is the most challenging/difficult part of living in the city? (237 Comments)

Travel Information Comment Topics (6):

• Sample travel airfares from host city airport to destinations nearby. (355 Comments)

• Describe proximity of major airport hubs to the city center and give sample taxi, train, subway and/or bus fares to get there. (496 Comments)

• Popular travel websites to buy plane tickets or tours that are popular for expats living in the city and/or country. (240 Comments)

• Places to travel to outside the city by bus or train. (454 Comments)

• Are there many teachers that travel during the holidays? Where are they going? (290 Comments)

• What are the airports like in this city? (arriving, departing, shopping, customs, etc.) (332 Comments)
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Blogs of International Teachers

International School Teacher Blogs: “Expat Heather” (A teacher who works in South Korea)

September 17, 2019


Are you inspired to start-up a blog about your adventures living abroad and working at an international school?

Our 48th blog that we would like to highlight is called Expat Heather: Teacher, Traveler, Writer Check out the blog entries of this international school educator who works in South Korea:

A few entries that we would like to highlight:

How to Start a Career as an International Teacher

“Many schools prefer to hire through placement companies such as International Schools Services (ISS) or Search Associates. These companies provide a database of both schools and potential candidate, and they also arrange hiring fairs around the world. You will need to pay a fee when you apply, and be sure to apply only if you meet the company’s requirements. Once accepted, you will have access to information about international schools, the salary packages they offer, and current vacancies…”

It is true. Many of the top tier schools still register with and search for quality candidates using the few recruitment agencies out there. The best part for the candidate is the access to the job vacancies that they post in their database. Though often the vacancies posted there can quickly become outdated, unfortunately!

Related to recruitment fairs, check out our blog on this topic called: International School Recruitment Season: Recruitment Fair or Skype?
Times are changing for international schools teachers. Even though it is sometimes good to be registered with a recruitment agency, it is not necessary any more to attend one of their fairs.
T

Teaching at ISHCMC American Academy in Vietnam

“My classroom is sweet. There is a built-in projector that I use almost everyday – it saves a TON of writing and rewriting on the board. All the desks and chairs are pretty new and there are big windows that let in a good amount of light when it’s not cloudy. Thankfully, the English Department is on the second floor…”

There is a comment topic on our website called: “Describe the technologies available at the school and how people are/are not using them.’ There are 435 total comments that have been submitted in this comment topic on 100s of schools.

Here is an example comment that was submitted about Seoul Foreign School: “Macbooks; 1:1 for grade 4 and above. combination of macbooks and iPads in lower grades. Apple TVs in all rooms. Google Classroom and Seesaw used for student portfolios and assignments. There are 3 digital learning coaches that are employed to support tech integration but the system for this support is patchy and could be improved.”

How to Become an International Teacher

“There are scores of schools that are international in name, but what teachers often call a “true international school” is a school that enrolls students from a variety of countries. These schools tend to be located in major cities, diplomatic capitals and international financial centers. Students include ambassadors’ kids, expat kids, teachers’ kids and local children whose parents can foot the bill.

Other schools may be internationally accredited but enroll primarily local students. Teachers refer to this type of school as a “national” school, although both types hire foreign teachers. Some national schools hire only foreign-qualified staff; others hire most teachers locally but employ foreigners for certain subjects like English. The ratio of foreign to local faculty at schools can vary widely even within the same country or city.

Many dubious schools, who claim to be “international,” will also have neither an international student population nor any type of international accreditation. Be wary of these ones…”

There is a comment topic related to technology on our website called “Describe language abilities of students at this school and what is the “common language spoken in the hallways”? Is there one dominate culture group?” There are 1152 total comments that have been submitted in this comment topic on 100s of schools.

Here is an example comment that was submitted about Tarsus American College: “Turkish is the common language. The school’s goals speak about bilingualism, however, students speak Turkish, during your English instructed lessons and in the corridors. Teachers who are “supposed to be” bilingual converse with students in Turkish, so the only time students use English is when speaking with an expat. Notices mounted in Turkish, emails sent in Turkish. Weekly assemblies are in Turkish, as an expat one has to turn to a Turkish colleague or student and ask for a translation and many times announcements made in the assembly have an impact on the teaching staff.”

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Want to work for an international school in South Korea like this blogger?  Currently, we have 130 international school teachers that have listed that they currently live in this country. Check them out here. We also have six members that is from this country.

* If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.

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