International School Community Blog

Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Jakarta, Indonesia

Around the world, there are cities (like Jakarta) 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 city.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Jakarta, Indonesia

Currently, we have 32 schools listed in Jakarta on International School Community.

19 of these schools have had comments submitted on them:

Australian International School (Indonesia) (39 Total Comments)
Beacon Academy (Indonesia) (32 Total Comments)
British School Jakarta (73 Total Comments)
Gandhi Memorial Intercontinental School (203 Total Comments)
Global Jaya School (94 Total Comments)
Jakarta Intercultural School (86 Total Comments)
North Jakarta Intercultural School (118 Total Comments)
Sekolah Victory Plus (143 Total Comments)

Professional development allowance details.

“PD opportunities exist which is taken care of by the school…” – Gandhi Memorial Intercontinental School

“In-house PD done consistently. IB PD is based on needs and staff should take turn to get it…” – Global Jaya School

“Great PD opportunities as long as they align with the school’s destiny plan…” – Jakarta Intercultural School

“Everyone has gone through a ton of IB trainings over the last few years. There are some outside opportunities as well that Coordinators pass around and encourage people to attend…” – North Jakarta Intercultural School

Image by Abd Katon from Pixabay

School Campus

“SVP also has a brand new multipurpose gym but has not yet fitted the gym with equipment. Currently, the dance clubs and yoga clubs are enjoying using the new facility…” – Sekolah Victory Plus

“The Kemang campus is very green and small; great for the kids to get around…” – Australian International School (Indonesia)

“The new campus is purpose-built. The campus is 2.3 hectares. It is in the inner-city of North Jakarta. The neighborhood is a shopping and business district…” – Beacon Academy (Indonesia)

“Located in Bintaro, 7km southwest of Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, on a spacious, 18-hectare estate. There are dedicated areas for Primary, Secondary, and specialist studies, such as Languages and Performing Arts. The theatre complex includes two stages, a dance studio, and rehearsal and make-up rooms. BSJ is also one of the best-resourced schools in Asia for sports. There are five tennis courts; extensive grass and artificial playing fields; covered areas for games; and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The Sports Centre contains courts for basketball, volleyball, and badminton; a gym and weights room; and a dance studio…” – British School Jakarta

What types of budgets do classroom teachers/departments get?

“Very large budgets for faculties on the whole. School is looking at budgets coming out of covid and trying to ensure value for money. This will likely mean some budgets are decreased to the ‘right’ amount…” – British School Jakarta

“Budgets are within norms for classes and dept. of this size of an I international school…” – Australian International School (Indonesia)

“Each teacher gets 2mio rupiah to use how they want for their classrooms. Other, bigger purchases require approval…” – North Jakarta Intercultural School

“There is a huge budget for parties though not related to academics. No such budget is available for class teachers or heads…” – Gandhi Memorial Intercontinental School

Image by Iqbal Nuril Anwar from Pixabay

Explain how salaries are decided (e.g. is there a pay schedule? extra step for master’s degree? Annual pay raises? Bonuses?).

“Gratuity at the end of the contract. 2 months for a 2-year contract / 4 months for a 3-year contract. There is a pay step, there are annual rises, but you will not get it in writing as it is sensitive information…” – Global Jaya School

“No performance bonus. No annual pay rise. No transparent salary structure exists…” – Gandhi Memorial Intercontinental School

“There is a transparent salary schedule for all employees…” – Jakarta Intercultural School

“There is a salary scale, though the school owners, like many Indonesian companies, insist that it is kept top secret. An extra step for a Master’s degree…” – Sekolah Victory Plus

Average class size for primary and secondary. Describe any aide support.

“In the senior school (yrs 9+) the numbers are in the late teens. Some subject areas have very small classes…” – Beacon Academy (Indonesia)

“In primary and secondary, class sizes are normally around 20…” – Australian International School (Indonesia)

“24 max in the secondary school with lower class sizes in many subjects and lower class sizes for DP where the aim is 12 or fewer at HL and 16 or fewer at SL…” – British School Jakarta

“Many students exit. Less numbers now in each class. The class size is between 10 – 24. If the number of students in a class exceeds 24, the class will split into two classes…” – Global Jaya School

(These are just 5 of the 66 different comments topics that are on each school profile page on our website.)

Image by Febri Amar from Pixabay

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

Nine Reasons How International Schools Create a High Morale Amongst its Staff (Part 2)

“Morale and attitude are fundamentals to success.”
Bud Wilkinson

A school can be a complicated place. There aren’t many jobs where you surround yourself with hundreds of children every day!

But like any other place of “business”, a school needs to think about how they will keep their staff feeling good about where they work and how they are doing their job.  We all know that teaching can, at times, be quite stressful for the teachers.

When you are feeling good about your workplace and job performance, everyone benefits; namely the students, but also your colleagues and bosses. But when teachers are stressed out and with low morale about working at their school, typically nobody benefits.

Image by Steve Cliff from Pixabay

You can, of course, be in high spirits on your own doing. But it is important to feel valued by the whole school community as that plays a factor as well. Feeling like you are part of a team can help you stay optimistic at your school.

What, then, do international schools do to make sure their staff is feeling valued?

International School Community is full of thousands of useful and informative comments…48609 (11 September 2023) to be exact. We scoured our database of comments, and we found nine that stood out to us as being some of the coolest ways to show appreciation and boost staff morale.

9.  International School of Ulaanbaatar (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia) – 37 Total Comments

“We have events committees that all teachers are required to be part of. Some of these committees host whole school parties and events. We have our annual Winter Party and Tsagaan Sar (Mongolia’s traditional White Moon celebration usually in February). This past year the Athletic Director held a staff vs. student volleyball match after school which was a huge boost to our community…”

8. Singapore American School (Singapore) – 370 Total Comments

“The incredible WOW (Work on Wellness) team is constantly arranging outings, workshops, sessions, and activities to bring the community together and provide enriching experiences for staff (and often their family members too!) From Film Festivals to Art workshops to nature tours, meditation retreats, and nature excursions, there’s always something on offer. Most are free, some have a small charge…”

Image by Alfred Derks from Pixabay

7. American School of Madrid (Madrid, Spain) – 106 Total Comments 

“ASM offers staff the use of the school gym when students are not using it. There are also several offerings of events organized and advertised by staff members. These can be sewing classes, wine tastings, horseback riding days, attending a concert, etc. There are also whole school community builder afternoons once a month…”

6. Raffles American School
(Johor, Malaysia) – 37 Total Comments

“Firstly, each teacher has their classroom. We have a pantry and teachers’ lounge with a fridge, microwave oven, coffee, couch, board games, books, etc. for teachers to unwind and relax during their prep time or at the end of the day. In Secondary school, we have the Raptors award (along with a complimentary coffee voucher in Parents Lounge Cafe) given by the principal to an outstanding teacher of the week, then passed on from the winning teacher to another outstanding teacher of the week. We have a Social Club committee that will discuss, plan, and execute fun activities for teachers and staff. We also have Community Sports every Thursday run by either a Faculty member or a parent and participated by all – students, teachers, staff, and parents…”

5. NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 330 Total Comments

“In the secondary school there are “Friday Snacks” catered by the cafeteria every Friday morning during the break. (Sometimes subject departments also contribute to the “snack fest.”) Some teachers grab their snacks and run, but many take the opportunity to socialize with colleagues at the end of the week and take a quick pause in the day. At our Tuesday “nuts and bolts” meeting, there is always coffee and pastries for faculty. There are also coffee stations around the school with free coffee/sugar/milk/tea. I also think it’s a nice touch that fridges around campus are always stocked with milk so that if you do make your coffee, you don’t have to bring your own…”

4. QSI International School of Tbilisi (Tbilisi, Georgia) – 58 Total Comments

“We have two staff parties a year, often at fancy restaurants in the city. There is a social committee that supports the staff by giving new parents baby items and raising money in case there is a death in the family. New teachers are paired with old teachers as mentors. New teachers are treated to a tour of Georgia as part of new teacher orientation…”

3. BASIS International School Guangzhou (Guangzhou, China) – 22 Total Comments

“The school goes way and beyond to create a harmonious environment for teachers. They have happy hour every Friday afternoon, with a beer fridge in the teachers\’ lounge. This is locked for most of the week, except for Friday afternoons. The school regularly organizes social activities. Every Thanksgiving, the school organizes a retreat to some resort for a night and has a banquet, giving away high-value prizes. They throw a similar banquet for the lunar new year and give away many prizes…”

Image by alfbel from Pixabay

2. International School Luxembourg (Luxembourg)57 Total Comments

“There is wellbeing committee, a Ministry of Fun, social events around the holidays, new hire gatherings, and training for things like peer mentorship and mental health…”

1. American International School of Lagos (Lagos, Nigeria) – 52 Total Comments

“Every Friday during our WeLearn2 professional development meetings, there is coffee and cookies. Sectional meetings are occasionally used for writing report cards. The elementary principal sometimes passes out treats after a long day of work. The school hosts staff parties before the winter break and end of school, recognizing teachers who have worked at the school for several years…”

If you would like to share what your school does to create a high staff morale, log in to International School Community and submit your comments. For every 10 submitted comments, you will get one month of free premium membership added to your account!

Making an International Move with Pets

Embarking on an international move to teach abroad, whether for the first time or when seeking a new location, is always filled with excitement and unknowns. Making an international move with pets can compound unknowns, and add anxiety. However, with some leg work and a good amount of patience, taking your pets when you move abroad is possible.

Researching the laws for the import of pets for the countries you are interested in is essential. You may find that the pet import rules are less stringent than you thought. On the other hand, the country you were interested in may make it extremely expensive, difficult, or, more rarely, even impossible to bring in your pet. For example, a few countries place strong restrictions on dogs coming in from other countries with a high risk of rabies, and a several-month quarantine may be necessary. For other countries, a rabies titer test may be required, and the whole process from vaccination to blood draw to test results could take months. With prior research, you can focus your time and energy on seeking jobs in countries where bringing your pet will be feasible. 

Additionally, it is necessary to learn about the housing options available to you. If you will be living in school-provided housing, do they allow pets? If not, will the school provide you with a housing stipend to seek out your own? If finding your own housing, reach out to your future colleagues or join local Facebook groups for the city you will be moving to for insights into daily life with pets there. Often, these groups can be sources for information such as which neighborhoods might be more dog-friendly, what cultural considerations to keep in mind, and recommendations for veterinarians, pet sitters and boarding facilities, etc. If you have a dog, also think about housing aspects. For example, is a single-family home or townhome with a garden a possibility? If you are in a high-rise apartment complex, will you be able to get your dog outside easily for walks or bathroom breaks?

The most nerve-wracking part of the international move process may be actually transporting your pet to a new location. Some airlines allow small dogs and cats to be carried onto the plane if they meet the weight and carrier dimension restrictions. Other airlines will not allow pets in-cabin due to cultural reasons or customs restrictions. Either way, if you have a larger pet, the pet will most likely need to travel in the hold as excess baggage or cargo. Typically, traveling on the same flight with your pet as excess baggage will be much more cost-effective than shipping your pet separately from you as cargo. You can make your pet more comfortable in its crate by gradually getting them used to spending longer periods of time inside it. Usually, it is necessary to book the pet ahead of time, as there are limits on the number of pets in the cabin and/or in the baggage hold each flight. Often you will need to make your flight reservation and then call airline customer service to actually book your pet onto your ticket/reservation. 

Moving with your pets can add a layer of complexity to an international move. However, with prior research and a great deal of flexibility, you can help ensure that your pet can join you on your next adventure abroad.

Getting ready to check in at the airline desk.
Long dog walks on the beach in Morocco.
A garden for the dogs at home in Vietnam.

This article was submitted by ISC member, Stephanie Shiers. She has over 10 years of experience teaching English as an Additional Language and Social Sciences in the USA, Morocco, and Vietnam. Currently, she is working as a High School Social Studies teacher at St. Paul American School Hanoi in Vietnam. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education.

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #7: Try to understand the host country’s perspective.

Try to understand the host country’s perspective.

It would be quite the task to encapsulate an entire country’s significant culture, or even try to boil it down to a few key points. The thing is when you try to define nationality, you resort to simply creating a stereotypical object, which might embrace everything, but really fails to bring out anything significant. It’s the illusion that we can create anything objectively.

But maybe it’s an ancient romantic hope that globalization hasn’t completely devoured us all, and then spit us out as these uniformed clones that all march to the same beat. But when you scratch beneath the surface, and look beyond the fact that we’re all listening to Adele, going to the movies and seeing Transformers #1001, or buying our clothes at H&M, maybe there’s this thing I call “country habitus”?

Habitus can be described as some kind of objective consciousness; how we react, how we think, or how we experience. It’s the significant! It is what describes and sets us apart, it’s our lifestyle somehow put into a template. Habitus is derived from French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and is usually used to summarize people into certain groups based on symbolic capital, which again is how we act based on our status and prestige in society. Can the same be transferred to a country?

To each other, international school teachers often talk about certain common traits in the various countries they have lived in or traveled to.  Albeit very generalizing and objectively, there might be truth to what we say sometimes. You often hear that Scandinavians are very happy people, that Germans are very pragmatic and industrious, or that Americans are much more hospitable than Europeans in general. These are of course very favorable traits, but maybe the traits change depending on who you are, maybe some think that the Scandinavians are very somber and dark, that the Germans are very stubborn and unwavering, and the Americans are ignorant and too self-absorbed. The thing is that you want to paint a good picture of yourself and showcase the best and most favorable traits, while still maintaining something significant. Your own country’s habitus.

We always somehow reflect ourselves in what we think we are, and what we definitely think we aren’t. We belong to a certain kind of culture, maybe only for a short period of time, and then move on. But in that culture we can reflect, feel we fit in, and feel a kind of cohesion, both as an individual and also as a people of a country. We bring our habitus with us wherever we go.

“Try to understand the host country perspective”. When we arrive at our next international school post, we all come with our own perspective, our own upbringing, and our own culture. It’s very easy to dismiss others as being brought up the wrong way or having a culture that we don’t really understand at all, and thereby find useless or unnecessary. There’s a certain prestige in being elitist or being charitable, and having the sense that you contain and understand all traits. Bob Dylan once wrote: “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.” Back in the 1960’s we assumed people were more open-minded and free-spirited, since then a lot has changed. This world has been through a lot, and maybe the distance between us has grown both smaller and wider. There is a huge difference between everyday life in South Africa and Scandinavia, maybe we all make status updates on Facebook and poke our friends virtually, but how we live, and how we are raised are still very different.

It may take some time for international school teachers to observe the host country.  To find and then understand the multiple perspectives of the host country is a challenging task.  After a two-year posting at an international school, you are bound to know more than when you first arrived there.

So objectivity or an Archimedean point may not completely exist. If we sat down with an entire country’s people and asked them to come up with one significant trait of themselves, it would probably be impossible.  And why even try to minimize an entire nation’s rich culture, just to make it more accessible? International school teachers encounter new perspectives every day, and what is the easiest way to deal with these? Emphatically!

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member. Check out the rest of the 10 Commandments of Relocated Overseas here.

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools #1: A Trip Around the City

In this blog series, we talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation program at an international school.  A new teacher orientation program can really play a very important part in your start at your new school, in your new host country.

Must-have #1: A Trip Around the City

A friend just told me that there is a hidden rule amongst international school teachers, and that is that you shouldn’t accept any visitors to visit your new home in your new host country within the first six months of living there.  I suppose that is true in some ways and not true in other ways. 

One time I did have a friend visit me during the first three months.  It was actually their first time out of their home country, so it was an important event in this person’s life. At the time, I don’t remember thinking, “Oh, this person shouldn’t visit me right now because I haven’t lived here for at least six months.”  I do remember thinking though, “How cool my friend is coming to visit me!” I disregard how horrible and ineffective I might be as a host for them.

We actually had a good time.  One pro of having a good friend come to visit you within the first three months is that you get to do some exploring of the city together.  One con though is that after one to two years of living in some place, you obviously then know better all of the cool and really fun places to bring people; places that you definitely didn’t know about during the first three months.  Isn’t it all about impressing your friends with your wonderful new city when they come to visit?!

So, back to the topic at hand. Should your new international school be organizing a trip around the city for all their new teachers?  The answer is YES! 

Sure, you could organize this trip yourself (for example just hop on the local tourist bus….see picture), but it is indeed a nice gesture when your new school does this for you (and possibly pays for the tourist bus fee).

It is great when your school does it because your school is the one that knows best how to do this kind of exploring around the city…because they have been living there longer than you!  Also, you might be in a country where you don’t speak the local language.  Your new school could bridge that language gap for you and the other new teachers that have started with you.  Additionally, it is possible that your new city might have not joined the whole touristic bus phenomenon that has “plagued” many of the big cities around the world just yet (though many do believe it is a great way to familiarize yourself with a city and to effectively get around the city…in a fast-like way…and also in a cost-effective way).  If this is the case, then getting around your new city via the metro system and/or bus system might prove to be a bit stressful depending on the city you have moved to (e.g. reading Chinese characters on the bus instead of seeing any bus numbers on it).  If the school can help be a “tour guide” for one day, they can show you all the ropes about getting around the city; thus preparing you to do it yourself next week (e.g. the bus you need to take to get to the big grocery store).

One international school I worked at organized a scavenger hunt for the new teachers that year.  All the new teachers were put in teams of three and were given a list of tasks to complete which involved doing a variety of things around the city.  Each group actually got different lists of things to do.  I think the different lists were so that the other teachers could see the other things that you could do in the city (for it would take too long for one team to do them all in one day).

There was a PowerPoint presentation later on at a whole staff meeting of the teams’ photos from the hunt.  It was very fun to go around the city with two other new teachers.  The individual tasks involved going to specific places of interest in the city, but they also involved finding places that you might go to as a real person living there (i.e. the post office) and completing a task at these places (i.e. buying a stamp). Of course, it was a great bonding experience too.  It was also very fun and funny to watch the presentations.

So, yes.  I hope all international schools around the world have incorporated a trip around the city for their new teachers in their new teacher orientation program.  If you work at an international school right now, we invite you to leave a comment about if your school provided you with a trip around your host city when you first started working there. Search for your school here to submit your comment!

Selecting an international school: Tip #5 – Does the school have a clear primary language of instruction?

What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are there similar reasons why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  Many international school teachers are teaching couples that have children.  There are also international school teachers who are married to a local and have children too.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend?  This blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #5 – Does the school have a clear primary language of instruction?

In most international schools, the primary language of instruction is English (although there are French, German, and other primary-language-focused schools), but it is best to confirm this (especially at the preschool and kindergarten level).

This a good question on a few levels and a good understanding of the layers surrounding the language of instruction and how it is implemented within an international school context need exploring. On the surface, most prospective new teachers and parents would feel a strong measure of confidence just knowing that English is the primary mode of instruction and that the school uses a Western country of origin in the name (British School of…, American School of…), and that the school has past some form of accreditation, which to a parent mostly means the school has been checked and measures up to a credible standard and English language would undoubtedly have played an important role in the process. All of the aforementioned in many cases would suffice most parents’ concerns.

However, in Thailand, for instance, a school is officially pronounced ‘international’ when it meets at least a 60% non-Thai student base. Unfortunately, many international school intake numbers reflect a much greater Thai national student roll. (Thailand is just one example; this goes for any ‘international’ school in any country where the bulk of the student body is made up of students from the country the school is in.) If this is the case, even though the primary language of instruction is English, students may find getting to know others who come from another primary language base quite challenging. Even within the classroom, when English is often the only language ‘allowed’, if the greater number come from a country other than an English-speaking one, much of the student conversation reverts back to the home language. Once out of the classroom, students automatically revert to their native tongue and an English-speaking student can easily be left out of friendship groups, study groups, and other aspects of school, like team sports, which may end up not being pursued even if it was a passionate option a student may have been involved in previously. Developing good peer groups with shared interests is absolutely vital for students moving to international schools, especially if the one they are moving to is their first.

Some schools have tried coming up with ‘English-speaking policies’ that could stipulate English as the only language spoken on campus.

  • Difficulty number 1: teachers become policemen; they endlessly approach students telling them to speak English only; much like trying to enforce a dress code whereby boys are to always have their shirts tucked in.
  • Difficulty number 2: students who continue to be caught not speaking English can begin to view this exercise as a way to annoy certain teachers (they love to watch some get all red-faced and look as if they are either going to implode or explode, or both), or it can become a way to show a measure of rebellion.

Students may even begin to view English punitively, negatively, as something they have to do which can mean a negative outlook on education as a whole impacting concentration, learning, and formative assessments. There is much empirically-based written about this and the debate rages on – to what extent should the English language be promoted throughout a school? The Australian Government of Child Services advocates, as one example, that home languages should be encouraged and actually help fortify classroom learning when the primary language is English. The difference is in the teacher’s ability to differentiate individual student needs.

Some international schools (selective ones) may try to defer this rationale by claiming they have strict admission criteria but if the student population numbers are home-country lopsided the outcome is certainly going to follow, to some measure, what is stated above. It is just a natural way students will gravitate towards.

Some international schools (Shell or other gas and oil company-owned schools) are non-selective as they are primary education facilitators for the children of their employees. Shell schools are primary curriculum-based so English language acquisition and delivery is almost seamless; young learners pick up language nuances almost effortlessly. However, this is not true for older students moving to English language-based curricula. Some parents are so keen to have their children in an English-speaking school that they forget to take into consideration their children’s ages. I have personally interviewed Algerian parents who enrolled their almost 17-year-old son in an international school using the national curriculum of England. The lad knew no English. His Arabic turned out to be good but his French was below average. Because of limitations the school could offer, he was only able to take GCSE Arabic and French lessons, and Maths, which he really struggled in. The fact that the language of curriculum delivery was English had almost no benefit in this case.

My advice, interview the school, ask about student ratio intake numbers and definitely ask for other parents contact information. Parents need to take into consideration their child’s needs by closely monitoring and analyzing their educational progress and language proficiency ability both in the home language and in English. Learning in English, like any language, has to be understood from a multi-layered perspective, not from osmosis; physical presence does not equate to language proficiency and successful grade scores.

Teachers scoping out new international schools to work for would do well to get a clear picture of how English is used in the context of the international school in question. Sometimes this does not become clear until INSET before the next academic year begins but after all the effort made in moving and uprooting your family for an international school experience, it is worth making sure as many bases have been explored before signing not only for your own work satisfaction and professional development but for the sake of one’s family’s happiness and stability. An international school experience can be a beautiful thing but I have also met many others who would disagree and won’t touch it again with a 10-foot barge pole. It’s not a vacation, it’s an investment. Assignment: Does the school have a clear primary language of instruction?

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member:  Sheldon Smith (contact him here – shelaomily@yahoo.com or visit his BLOG at http://shelaomilyblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/)

On International School Community all school profile pages have a topic in the School Information section that specifically addresses the language ability of the students and the “common language” spoken in the hallways (1491 total comments to be exact – August 2023).  For example on the American School of Milan‘s profile page there have been 2 comments submitted so far on this topic:

If you are an international school community member currently working abroad, please log on today and submit your comments and information about your school’s accreditation status.

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and become a part of our over 26000 members.  Many of our current members have listed that they work at over 1,200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about an international school’s accreditation status and get firsthand information about how the accreditation process is going for them.

The Journey to School: Cedar International School (British Virgin Islands)

The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who works at the Cedar International School (32 total comments), described the way he gets to work as follows:

The road to Cedar International School in the British Virgin Islands

Pastel pinks, oranges and blues line the sky as the sun rises above the lush green mountains. Another epic set of waves rolls over the perfectly sculpted reefs with not another soul in sight. Am I dreaming?!

This is how many of my days start in the British Virgin Islands (aka BVI, aka Nature’s Little Secrets). 

After my 1-2 hour morning surf, I’ll quickly rinse off at home, or just with a bottle of water if I’m pushing it for time.

The drive to school from the West Side (Best Side) of the island takes around 30 minutes. For the most part, I’m cruising down the 2 lane, pothole-scattered west side highway enjoying views of the many small US and British Virgin Islands. Verdant hills dramatically meet crystal clear turquoise water accompanied by a bright full rainbow. Charter boat tourists sail by just meters from the side of the road at times. Sipping my banana smoothie, windows down, music playing and appreciating the stunning natural beauty that surrounds me. 

There are often locals hitchhiking for a ride into town which can provide some interesting connections and conversation to start the day. Plus with all the steep hills and battered cars on the island, you never know when yours will break down and you’ll need a hitch yourself. 

Goats, cows and chickens blocking the road, someone stopping to chat with a mate or the seemingly endless roadwork can make it feel quite slow, but that’s what island life is all about. 

Once I’ve passed through town with very minimal traffic it’s time to turn down the dirt road to the staff car park.

I’m welcomed by many friendly faces and frothing footballing students. Time for my morning coffee and to sculpt the minds of the next generation. 🤙

155595-linebreak

This Journey to School article was submitted to us by an ISC member.

What to know more about what it is like to visit and live in the Caribbean?  Out of a total of 39 international schools that we have listed in the Caribbean, 24 have had comments submitted on them. Here are a few of them:

Lucaya International School (30 total comments)
The Codrington School (International School of Barbados) (126 total comments)
Somersfield Academy (44 total comments)
The Bermuda High School for Girls (41 total comments)
MC School (60 total comments)
The Ashton School of Santo Domingo (21 total comments)
Saipan International School (38 total comments)
International School of Port of Spain (31 total comments)

So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn one year free of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

11 International Schools that are Close to Nature (Part 2)

Many of us international school educators would ideally like to teach abroad and also have close access to nature.

Escaping into a forest or a big green park can often reset our minds and bring our stress levels down to manageable levels.

Some international schools are already directly in nature (see part 1 of this series here). Maybe they are in a forest or right next to a water source, or maybe they are just in a city center that has a number of very green parks.

But not all international schools are in cities that have easy and quick access to nature.

Some cities do have a few trees lining the streets and also a few small parks scattered around, but often the number of buildings outnumbers these two things. And if you look closely, there can even be a layer of dust/dirt on the leaves making the green look more like a brownish color!

Even if there is not a lot of nature in the city center itself, it is still important to note that it can be worth it if you can find some nature close by via public transport or car.

Having access to a number of day trip options that go into nature can really be a selling point to working in a certain city and country.

Nature is important to many of us international educators, so it is necessary to ask around and do your research before making a decision to relocate.

Luckily, ISC was designed to help international school teachers find the information they are looking for. Using the Comment Search feature (premium membership needed), we found 265 comments that had the keyword “Nature” in them. Here are 11 of them:

Philippines

“Usually there’s a calendar that exists for everyone (including new teachers) to do at the start of school during inset (called PAC – planning and collaboration) week. This will be a mix of things in school (sports, arts etc.) to eating out in restaurants at different times of the day in different venues (breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner etc.) and trips further afield to golf courses, nature reserves and other places depending on which staff volunteer to run them.” – The British School Manila (42 total comments)

Singapore

“The incredible WOW (Work on Wellness) team is constantly arranging outings, workshops, sessions, and activities to bring the community together and provide enriching experiences for staff (and often their family members too!) From Film Festivals to Art workshops to nature tours, meditation retreats, and nature excursions, there’s always something on offer. Most are free, some have a small charge.” – Singapore American School (362 total comments)

Zambia

“Lusaka is also surrounded by nature. There are a number of national parks and reserves nearby, where you can go on safari, hike, or camp.” – International Community School Lusaka (21 total comments)

Slovakia

“I like Bratislava because there are some hills and mountains nearby. Slovakia has some really nice nature and mountains not too far away from the city center. The city center does have some ok sized parks, but they don’t look the best (especially in the winter). On a recent sunny day, there were a lot of people hanging out next to the Danube which looks really cozy and relaxing that day. People were also jogging along the side of it…not really on a path, but more of a dirt path.” – The British International School Bratislava (9 total comments)

Colombia

“The community provides access to two outdoor pools (one family pool and one Olympic-sized pool), a gym, basketball courts, soccer fields, tennis courts, and a baseball field. There is also a small nature reserve across from the residential area where you can take walks. There really isn’t a whole lot to do here, but staying active is easy if that is important to you.” – Colegio Albania (75 total comments)

France

“Bucharest remains rather traditional in terms of LGBTQ community, although there are a few places to go. Straight nightlife is fairly abundant. There are also some great nature opportunities not far out of the city.” – International School of Bucharest (76 total comments)

Germany

“We just spend a nice, sunny fall day walking around The English Garden. It is so big and lots of nature to enjoy. The trees had such beautifully colored leaves, and it didn’t even seem too crowded on the day we went.” – Munich International School (5 total comments)

Austria

“Vienna is very well positioned in the center of Europe so cities like Bratislava, Munich, Belgrade, Ljubljana are in close proximity. Also, Austria offers a wide range of sightseeing opportunities, from lakes, amazing nature, and mountains.” – Vienna International School (119 total comments)

Japan

“Quiet, family-friendly, and has a lot of green space to enjoy nature.” – Okinawa International School (85 total comments)

Estonia

“The nature here is great. There are big parks here with huge trees. Right now it is spring and the parks and the trees around the city look super beautiful.” – International School of Tallinn (48 total comments)

China

“There’s lots of space to walk, ride bikes and have fun at a children’s playground. The beach is also near, and wonderful green nature with palm trees and wildlife.” – Harrow Haikou (39 total comments)

How is the nature around your international school? Share your comments here.

From Senior Leadership to Homeroom Teacher: Embracing the Journey

Almost a year ago, I found myself heading back to the school where my international teaching career began in Cambodia. When I left this school in June 2018, I was leaving a senior leadership post for an ed-tech role at a large IB school in China. At the school in Shanghai, I worked with over 190 adults, and the culture was truly international. My job was a dream, and I collaborated with an amazing team to grow the department to the success it is today. However, the lockdown in March 2022 changed the course I had plotted for myself, and it was at this time that I put my family and my well-being first and decided to leave.

Fast forward to July 2022, and I found myself back in an entry-level position as a homeroom teacher, with a responsibility for ed tech. This was a hard pill for my ego to swallow. However, I was back at the school that I loved, working with established educators in a culture that embraced collaboration at a different level. In the beginning, I thought that I would have a bunch more time, but I underestimated how much work a homeroom teacher does. You see, I had been out of the classroom for 7 years. Although I still taught, it was middle and high school, and then for only 4 hours per week at the most! Now, I was teaching all day, every day with grade 5 students. It was overwhelming, but also hugely rewarding. The relationships I built with those amazing kids were awesome, and I was reminded every single day why I got into teaching back in 2004. I found myself working late nights and weekends again so that I could help my students realize their potential. Having said that, and although time was even more precious now than before, I still needed to push ahead with some side projects outside of my schoolwork.

The first thing I did was to restart the master’s program I paused during the lockdown. Aside from scheduling myself time each day for reading, this was fairly straightforward as deadlines (which I need to stay motivated) are set by the university. My next challenge was to remain connected with the tech circles which I had worked hard to become part of back in China, through the ubiquitous WeChat groups that exist there. I tried to break into the tech circles in Phnom Penh but found that it was too difficult and gave more easily like I would like to admit. I did continue hosting PudPD, as I had done in Shanghai for the previous 4 years, meeting some awesome international educators from across the city. Now, I needed to pursue something tech related, that would keep me on top of current trends, and enter ISTE.

Back in August 2022, I had the chance to apply to become an ISTE evaluator. I thought this was in line with increasing tech presence, so I applied and got accepted for the training phase. Over the next few months, I and a group of other hopeful evaluators met with the fabulous ISTE team to learn how to evaluate portfolios. I learned a lot about grading as well as getting to see the amazing work that educators across the world are doing to empower their students. After 3 months of 430am meetings, and practice grading portfolios, I was accepted as an ISTE evaluator. As such, I could now apply to become an ISTE trainer, which I jumped at!

This process was much more difficult, as we had to train with existing trainers online. I found it quite daunting as well, as I was delivering content that I had not created. It required a lot of visualizing the ISTE criteria and anticipating what questions might come my way. I was also training adults that I had never met, which outside of speaking at conferences, was a new experience for me. I found it difficult to build rapport online, but such is the reality of online work. All of the training I was doing really built up my appreciation for andragogy and a newfound appreciation of the complexities of adult learning.

I always find vacation time a chance to find space to reflect on what I am doing and where I am going, and spring vacation was no exception. During this break, I decided that whilst I was loving teaching with my fifth graders, I needed to work towards getting back to a similar role to the one that I had left in China. In that role, aside from being responsible for technology integration and coordination, I was also involved in the school’s gentle push toward coaching. So, I enrolled in a coaching course, run by the Instructional Coaching Group, which has been a real eye-opener for me and has served to remind me of where I hope the next chapter of my education life will be.

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.

International School Counsellors: An Insider’s Story

The road to becoming an international school counsellor typically involves obtaining relevant qualifications, gaining experience in counselling, obtaining relevant certifications, gaining international experience, networking and seeking mentorship, staying updated with best practices, researching and applying for international positions, being well-versed in safeguarding and child protection, and considering a Postgraduate Certificate in Education International (PGCEi).

To begin, obtaining a master’s degree in counselling or a related field is typically a requirement for becoming an international school counsellor. It is important to choose a program that offers coursework and training specifically tailored to working with students in an educational setting. Additionally, gaining practical experience in counselling, particularly with school-aged children or adolescents, through internships, volunteer work, or part-time positions can be highly valuable.

Checking the certifications or licenses required to work as an international school counsellor in your desired country or region is an important step. Research certification requirements, review educational prerequisites, consider additional requirements, seek guidance from professional organizations, and explore reciprocity agreements if applicable.

Gaining international experience is beneficial for aspiring international school counsellors. This can be achieved through volunteering or interning abroad, working in international schools, attending international conferences or workshops, collaborating with international organizations, or participating in study abroad programs.

Networking and seeking mentorship are valuable steps to take when pursuing a career in international school counselling. Attend conferences, join professional organizations, utilize online platforms, seek out mentorship opportunities, and conduct informational interviews to connect with professionals in the field.

Staying updated with best practices is essential for professional growth. Attend workshops and conferences, engage in professional development programs, read professional literature, join online communities, pursue advanced degrees or certifications, and seek supervision and consultation.

Researching and applying for international positions is crucial. Research international schools and organizations, check job requirements and qualifications, connect with recruitment agencies, network with professionals in the field, prepare application materials, and prepare for interviews.

Being well-versed in safeguarding and child protection is crucial for anyone working in a school counselling role. Stay updated with policies and regulations, attend training and professional development, establish clear boundaries, develop communication skills, collaborate with colleagues and support staff, document and report incidents, and engage in regular supervision.

Having a Postgraduate Certificate in Education International (PGCEi) can be an added advantage for someone pursuing a career in international school counselling. The program provides knowledge of international education systems, pedagogical approaches, and relevant skills for working in diverse cultural and educational contexts.

By following these steps, individuals can work towards becoming successful international school counsellors and make a positive impact on the lives of students in international educational settings.

This article was submitted by guest author and ISC member, Stephanie Jasvinder Kaur. Stephanie is a Counselling Psychologist with a passion for promoting mental health and well-being. With a background in psychology and extensive education, including a BSc in Psychology, a Master’s in Counselling, Ph.D. in Psychology, and PGCEi, Stephanie has gained a wealth of knowledge and expertise in her field.

Throughout her career, Stephanie has worked in private practice and international schools across Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. She has been recognized as a Mental Health First Aider and a Safeguarding Trainer, showcasing her commitment to creating safe and supportive environments. Stephanie is also trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Crisis Intervention Stress Management (CISM-I and CISM-II), DICES Risk Assessment, and Tuning Into Kids.

Stephanie’s contributions and impact extend beyond her work experience. Her Ph.D. research focused on Anxiety in Adolescents, examining coping strategies and the effectiveness of CBT. Through her research, Stephanie aims to enhance understanding and provide practical solutions to address anxiety-related issues among young people.

When she’s not working, Stephanie enjoys traveling with her family and indulging in reading. She is an active member of the International School Counsellors Association, where she collaborates with professionals in her field to promote the well-being of students.

For more information or to connect with Stephanie, you can visit her LinkedIn profile here – https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-kaur-green-phd-5a360831/