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International School Community News v2011.01 – 10 May, 2011

v2011.01 – 10 May, 2011
The first International School Community newsletter has arrived!  First of all, we would like to thank all our current members for their support so far.  Many thanks go out to all those members that had a part in the development of this website.  International School Community strongly encourages for members to leave comments and submit their votes on the schools they currently work at or have worked at in the past.  We also encourage you to take a minute to update your member profile so that others will be able to network with you more easily.  Enjoy being an active member on this website and help yourself and others to continue on in the “International School Community.”


Current Promotion: All new members that sign up will automatically receive a free 1-month subscription of premium membership.  If you are already a member, you can still benefit from this promotion.  Just sign-on and click on the My Account tab and then the renew your subscription link.  Use the coupon code “1FREEMONTH” on the payment page, and you will automatically receive the free 1-month subscription of premium membership.  Make sure to forward this newsletter to your friends and colleagues so that they can also benefit from this promotion.

Recently updated schools (more):

  • Shekou International School (Shekou, China)
    “The campus is very beautiful, lots of nature. Many of the teachers live within walking distance from the school and have views of the ocean…”
  • Graded School Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
    “Many other teachers choose to live in the trendier areas and take the school bus to work or combine public transportation with taxi rides (shared with other teachers)…”
  • Benjamin Franklin Int’l School (Barcelona, Spain)
  • Shanghai Community Int’l School
    (Shanghai, China)
    “There is one campus that is in Pudong and one in Puxi. From both campuses it takes about 30-40 minutes to get to the center of the city (to the Bund area)…”
  • Seoul International School (Seoul, South Korea)
    “The school uses current practices such as readers and writers workshop, and provides training if necessary in these areas. Teachers are required to stay until 5 on Mondays so a lot of this work can be done then.work can be done then…”
  • Hong Kong International School
    (Hong Kong, China)
  • Columbus School Medellin (Medellin, Colombia)
    “The school is basically on top of a mountain…”
  • American School of Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)
    “Once you have your residency card, you are totally covered (within Spain) by the public healthcare system and everything is free…”
  • Shanghai Rego International School
    (Shanghai, China)
    “I have a housekeeper come and clean my apartment and do my washing/ironing 2 times a week for 5 hours total. I pay her 15 RMB an hour…”

Recently added schools:

Requested schools to be reviewed:

Recent blog entries:

Site Stats
Current members: 49
School profiles: 719
Surveys: 2
Blog entries: 27
Pictures: 10
Posted comments: 71

Member spotlights:
Clare Rothwell
“I enjoy the way students of different cultural backgrounds play together and include each other in games in spite of communication challenges.”

Christy Niemeyer
“It all started on New Year’s Eve 2003. I was talking with someone at a party whose sister was teaching in Malaysia. This person was telling me the exciting and lucrative life her sister was leading by working internationally…”

Website updates:
•The whole sign-up process has been revamped.
•The recently updated school profiles feature has been improved. Comment tidbits and map feature added.
•The map feature can now be enlarged on the school profiles pages.
•The survey section is now available to non-members.

Uploaded photos:
  Shanghai Rego International School (city section)
 American School of Barcelona (benefits section)

New Survey Topic:
Which area of the world would you prefer to work in?

Vote here!

Member spotlight #4: Noah Bohnen

Each month International School Community will highlight one of our members.  This month we interviewed Noah Bohnen:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?
I am Canadian, born in Toronto Ontario.  I have been teaching for 13 years, mostly MS, mostly math/science.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?
I had taught for 4 years in Peterborough, Ontario and my wife, who is also an international teacher, suggested that we do a stint overseas.  We loved the travel and adventure so much that we are still on the road 9 years later.

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.
The Columbus School, Medellin Colombia.  Colombia is truly a gem.  Having traveled to over 50 countries, there is no place quite like it.  When we were there, there were still very few tourists and you really felt like you were on a cultural frontier.  The people are some of the kindest and happiest on the planet.  I still have very close Colombian friends with whom I keep in contact.  The school itself is one the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen.  It is on top of a mountain, with views of the city.  Its facilities are incredible.  The staff is young and a lot of fun.  The teaching can be challenging, but the workload is very manageable.

The Lincoln School, Buenos Aires.  This is the type of school where people typically stay 6+ years.  A true international school where English is the lingua franca.  The school is a lovely place to teach and work.  Resources are good and the kids are keen to learn.  Buenos Aires is a very nice place to live and raise a family with a ton to do, and abundant clean food, air and water.  The travel opportunities in Argentina are excellent, particularly if you are a fan of the outdoors.

Describe your latest cultural encounter in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
I was supervising a school dance and when I started teasing some Latino 7th graders about which girl they were going to dance with, they calmly told me 4 or 5 names and added, “Meester, we aren’t Canadian, so we aren’t afraid to dance with girls.”  Lost that one!

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
1. Living situation.  Housing, safety, medical, services for families, etc.
2. Opportunity for professional growth
3. Is it a true international school?
4. Potential savings

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
1. Rewarding
2. Different
3. Adventurous
4. Dynamic
5. Unpredictable

Thanks Noah!  If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code  to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

To stare or not to stare, that is the question!

Of course, if people look physically different from you and your own culture group, stare.  It’s natural, right?  Everyone does it, no matter where you live or where you are from….I think.  However, some culture groups have made a choice to believe that staring is not culturally acceptable and frown upon their people who stare.

On the other hand, some culture groups LOVE to stare and go as far as to interact with the person they are staring at to take a picture with them.  How strange it is to want to take a picture with a complete stranger?  (I think I’ve done it 1000s of times.)

The fun part is the more people that you are around, the easier it is to stare at them.  How cool it would be to get to know what everyone in the group is thinking.  Maybe that is why we stare.  It’s because we want to know more about them.  How embarrassing though when the person you are staring at looks back at you?? Most times you just look away as fast as you can like you were never staring, but they know you were.  People never say anything though, especially if you are staring at someone while you are traveling in a foreign country.  That’s what happened to me with this woman in Belgium.

There is one person you can stare at though, and it is a baby.  They are the masters of staring.  I don’t know why, but they sure enjoy staring at me specifically, and not always with a smile on their face.  I feel very comfortable to stare back.

Let’s just admit it. All people everywhere must stare.  So, don’t get so worked up when you get on a bus in India and there are 100s of eyes on you.  Soon, you will be the one staring at the locals when you get off and walk into the spice market.  I mean who wouldn’t stare at this couple dancing in the park?

Go ahead and share your staring stories.

Great website – The International School Teacher

My friend told me about this relatively new website back in November 2010.  It is called The International School Teacher.

It is a forum/social networking/information gathering website designed for the international school teaching community.

Parts of the website I like:

International Schools
How can one increase their chances of getting a job?
Get married… and to someone who’s not only good looking, but also teaches! No really, if you happen to be what is referred to as a teaching couple, then you are indeed much more marketable. If a professional club were to sign a striker and get a defender in the mix… Schools do indeed kill two birds with one stone when hiring couples. Also, for many schools in cities where housing is an issue, they simply can’t afford to provide single teachers with their own housing.

As much as I don’t like to constantly hear people and schools say this, it just might actually be true.  A school does “save” money by hiring a teaching couple, and they do kill two birds with one stone.  I don’t really believe though that married couples are more “stable”  I’ve seen many couples leave after 2 years (even 1 year one time) at schools I’ve worked at.  One reason they leave early is because they find out their salary is sometimes not covering all their expenses (I’m referring to a school on the Mediterranean for example).  Sometimes, one member of the couple is not completely satisfied working at the school because the school really wanted to only hire their partner and have placed the other member in a position they don’t 100% enjoy or find fulfilling.

What you really love about your host country
I really appreciate this section because it highlights the positive aspects of our lives as international school teachers, something International School Community strives to do as well.  No matter where you are living in the world, there are always things that you enjoy and reminding yourself of those things is a very good idea sometimes (especially when you go through all the different stages of culture shock).  Here is an excerpt of one of the member’s reasons for why they like living in Cyprus:

– I can drive forty minutes from my house in one direction and be in the beach. I can drive forty minutes in another and be in snow.
– Large, luscious lemon trees in my yard
– Ottoman, Greco-Roman, and Venetian architecture

Check out the rest of the website here.

Types of International Schools – Do you know how many there are?

Check out this article about all the different colours and varieties of international schools.

Types of international schools that are listed in the article:

  • original expatriate
  • broadly international
  • local international
  • bilingual
  • state school teaching

Highlights of the article:

– “We often find that teachers considering working abroad get quite confused by the breadth and range of international opportunities out there. It’s hard enough to consider working in another country in another culture, but it’s complicated further by the fact that there are different types of schools serving different populations. When you are at home, you know instinctively which is a posh, academic school versus one that serves, say, children with special educational needs. Internationally its not so easy.”

– “You are unlikely, for instance, to get an invite to attend a local wedding when working at one of these schools.”

– “We find these schools in areas with a high influx of foreigners such as the UAE, Singapore and China and these schools are more of a melting pot.”

– “At most of these schools you will still get a mix of children but more than half will be locals.”

What a great resource for information related to international school teaching – http://www.teachanywhere.com/default.aspx

“The Amazing Race” of International School Teaching

“If only my life could be like The Amazing Race!” I say that to myself all the time.

I can’t stop watching this show as it is like all my dreams coming true.  How cool would it be to travel around the world (for free), do amazing challenges with your teammate and interact in a very interesting and meaningful way with a variety of different cultures?

Many of my international teacher friends watch this show religiously. Why? Because I think we are attempting to do “The Amazing Race” in our lives abroad every time we book a flight for our next trip.  The international educator’s life is one step closer to the life of an Amazing Race contestant.  Luckily, we have more money and more vacation time to go on more trips.  Living in the United States, I was lucky to travel internationally once a year (and it was more like every 2-3 years).  Because of that fact, it will be some day when I decide to go back to live there.

Here are the countries that The Amazing Race has been to so far:

Who cries during the finale, when the winning team is running towards the final pit stop mat?  Actually, I get emotional at the end of any of the episodes; when the last team explains what traveling around the world with their teammate has meant to them.  I do like traveling by myself, but there is something quite special experiencing another language and culture in a foreign country with a good friend or your life partner.  I personally have some great memories about many of my trips that I have taken with friends.

The unfortunate thing is that the vast majority of us will never get to be on the Race itself while living abroad.  You need to be currently living in the U.S.  Also, you need to be able to leave your job for 2-3 months, and that is just not possible for most of us working at international schools.

How cool to meet someone though who has actually been on The Amazing Race?  I actually have met somebody (who is currently an international school teacher) who was on the Race!  It was the The Amazing Race though in Belgium.  She got in 2nd place!


Blogs of International School Teachers (#1 – “an adventure of a lifetime…”)

Your first job at an international school and starting your new BLOG…

I did it.  When I got my first job at an international school, I definitely was inspired to start up a blog about my adventures living abroad.

Our new category on the International School Community blog is “Blogs of International School Teachers.”  Check out the experiences of another teacher from the moment they signed the contract to what they are writing about after 3 years working abroad.

Our first blog that we will highlight is called “an adventure of a lifetime…” found here.

Entries we would like to highlight:

After signing the contract
“So what am I doing… I know don’t be surprised! I am moving to Guatemala City for the next two years to teach at the American School of Guatemala….”

Finding out more about the position
“I found out this week that I will be teaching 3rd grade next year in Guatemala. I am very excited about this for many reasons….”

The official goodbye
“Friends and family! I leave in 3 days!! AHH! I am very excited! I have had a wonderful time with all of my friends and family over this last month. It has flown by, but I am ready and I know that I am supposed to make this move to Guatemala….”

One of the first adventures in the host country
“The volcano was INCREDIBLE! Volcan Pacaya is still very active and we were able to walk up to the flowing lava…”

The first week
“My first week in Guatemala has flown by. Since I actually have some time to sit, relax and reflect I figured I would let y’all hear about my journey so far. I arrived on Monday July 2nd and was met by two men from the American School where I will be teaching. Luckily a nice man Rafael helped me get my 4 large pieces of luggage out to the car…”

Top 5 Reasons I like walking or taking public transport to get to places around a city instead of driving

Best and Worst Cities around the World for Public Transit

I found this article here on the Time magazine website.  The article actually turned out to be about cities in the United States.  You can look at the best cities for public transit here and the worst cities for public transit here.  The best city was Honolulu, HI; which I’ve never been to myself (though I really WANT to go there soon).  The worst city was Knoxville, TN; also another city that I haven’t visited yet (not on the top of my list of places to visit, but I’m always game for exploring more of the United States).

Now on to the rest of the world.  I’ve lived in 2 cities now on 2 different continents, and I must say that I completely rely on public transport nowadays in my life….and that doesn’t bother me one bit.  Barcelona vs. Shanghai.  One city beats out the other one though for more reliable and cheaper transportation.  You guessed it, Shanghai is the winner.  Though there is a lot of pushing in both cities, I’ve been impressed with Shanghai’s public transit.  Usually I only wait 1-2 minutes for the next metro train!

I’ve been without a car of my own for 5 years now.  I remember when I was living in the United States and a work friend of mine decided to go car-free.  I remember him saying to me, “I LOVE not having a car…”  And I remember me thinking, this guy is CRAZY!  We all know that most of the United States is lacking with public transportation.  Where I am from, you literally need a car or your are not going to be able to get anywhere.

Now I think just like my old work friend.  I don’t think I ever want a car again.  Disregarding the fact that you can save so much money by not having a car, I think I have actually lost interest in driving in general.

Top 5 Reasons I like walking or taking public transport to get to places around a city instead of driving:

1. Getting the chance to go into narrow alleyways where cars can go.

2. Looking over the shoulders of the people in front of you.  Boy did she have excellent handwriting.

3. Some walking paths can be very beautiful.  If you are in a car, you pass it by too fast.  If you are walking, you get to take it all in!

4. People watching in general.  Where is everyone going?  Where is this man going?  Who is he? Who is she?  In a car, you don’t have time to look at anyone.

5. Walking to the market that doesn’t have a car park or that is in the middle of a big city that cars can’t get to.  I love walking/taking a bus to my neighborhood market!

*Though I do miss one thing: listening to my favourite songs in my car and being able to sing very loud to them!

So, what makes International School Community unique you ask?

There are indeed a few other review and comment-based websites currently on the internet helping out international school educators gather information about international schools around the world.  However, International School Community is trying to take it to the next level.

So, what are some ways that make International School Community unique?

– A member is able to find real people that work at the schools they are interested in.  Integrated networking!  If a member lists a school that they currently work at or have worked at in the past on their profile, their name will show up in the Members of this School section on the school profile pages.  That means you now have a real person to contact that can answer your specific questions about the school!  Those other websites don’t allow for this type of of networking.

– You can search for other international school educators based on criteria.  For example, if you want to find where the EAL teachers are in East Asia, just search it on our website.  Again, networking has just become that easier!

– You can search for the international school based on your criteria.  For example, if you want to find a school that is in Western Europe, that teaches the UK curriculum and that is in a city less that 750,000 people.  You can do just that using the search feature on our homepage!  Finding the right school for you is possible on International School Community.  We don’t know another website that currently has that kind of search power.

– International School Community is organized. Finally, now you can find the information you want, easier and faster. For example, if you want to know more information about the housing allowance, just go to the Benefits section.  If you want to more about school grounds, just look in the School section.  Other websites put all the school, benefits, city and travel info all in the same section which takes longer to find the information you are looking for.

– Our website focuses more positive and really useful information sharing.  All schools have good and bad aspects.  International School Community allows for members to leave truthful, firsthand information no matter if it is good or bad.  We have structured all of our questions to not allow for our members to rant on and on about certain aspects of the school.  The more controversial topics are put in the voting sections, where members are only allowed to vote.

These 5 things are just a few of what makes International School Community different from what’s currently out there.  And guess what?  We have plans to add more features and functions that will make being a member even more benefiticial.

Great link – 10 Steps to Becoming Fluent in a Language in 6 Months or Less

Ever felt like you are not learning enough of the host country language?  I do, everyday.  I know it is possible, because today at lunch, I saw many expats talking fluently in the host country language, effortlessly.  Do I secretly dislike them because of my jealousy towards their amazing language skills?  I think so, if I’m being honest.

I actually studied language in University.  I have a degree in a romance language!  But still, I struggle every day with my ability to learn a new language.

Also, how many of you expats have experienced this scenario?  You speak in the host language, then the other person (a native speaker of the target language) persists to respond back to you English.  Then there is the opposite.  You speak in English and the other person precedes to tell you how you should practice talking more in Chinese.  Sometimes it feels like a lose-lose situation as you try and interact with the locals.

Here is the list of 10 steps to becoming fluent on this blog by Felicia Wong.  For sure there is some great insight into the arduous attempt to become fluent.  I’ve listed the 10 steps here, but check out the rest of the blog entry for all the details under each step.

1. Immerse yourself

2. Forget translating: think like a baby!

3. How do you say?

4. Write it

5. Use cognates and draw links

6. Local TV, movies, music

7. Non-verbal cues

8. Get emotional!

9. A world of friends / then going solo

10. Practice at every opportunity before and after you travel.