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A video that made me think about when I used to teach in the United States

I don’t know about you, but I used to work in the United States, teaching at public schools in high-poverty neighborhoods. The past 5 years I have been teaching at international schools around the world, working with quite well-to-do students.

One question that I sometimes ponder since my move to teach in international schools: are international school students just as needy as those in the high-poverty schools that I used to teach at in the United States?

The obvious answer is no, right? Most international school students come from quite privileged families. Most likely, they have enough food on the table and are not refugees of war. International school students are well-rounded with all their needs being met, right? The answer might be once again….no, certainly not for all of them. It seems though that they are needy in different ways. Many students at international schools might be from wealthy families, but I know a lot of them that have many issues to deal with. One big issue is that there are many times when one of the parents is gone on business trips around the world for days, sometimes weeks at a time. Another issue is that there are many instances when international school students are actually being raised mostly by a house caretaker/nanny (I know a number of families when that person is from the host country, not speaking very much English). And the list of issues that affect international school students continues…

When I was teaching in the United States, I remember talking about my teaching job as being an advocate for the civil rights and well-being of the students, as well as teaching them how to read and write. I think I must always fight for the rights of students no matter where I am teaching or who I am teaching, helping those who don’t have the voice or power yet. For example, I have found it to be very vital to know about why ‘Johnny’ might look to be really depressed and disengaged in class all the time. It might be that his dad is constantly on business trips and the mother doesn’t believe it is having an effect on ‘Johnny.’ This exact situation happened to me earlier this year at my current school. Making sure that teachers are aware of students’ home life situations and the issues that can plague international school students can become quite valuable when working with them at school.

Does anyone else have a similar teaching experience from the students they were working with in their home country to the ones they are working with now at international schools? What do you think about the ‘needs’ of international school students and how can international school teachers help to address them?

Survey results are in – What’s the top reason for why you want to teach at international schools?

The survey results are in, and it seems as if travel and location are the main reasons why us teachers want to work at internationals schools.

Contrary to what you might say in an interview setting, most people are focusing on getting jobs in desirable locations.  Obviously, those locations might be different for different people…thank goodness!  It is not just teachers that are interested in location, it is the administrators as well.

I went to a recruiting fair once and went to about 4-6 school information sessions.  The vast majority of their presentations had to do with the location that the school was in.  Now of course, prospective teachers need to know about where they might be moving to, but to have the majority of their presentation be about location and the places you can travel to from there?  It is pretty obvious what is motivating people.

One area that I think is very important, now knowing how important travel and location is, is to know more about the airport in the city that you choose to live in.  Is it a good hub?  How much to round trip tickets cost to locations with the country and outside of the country, and more importantly to your home country?  Which places are cheaper to go to?  Answers to these important questions on our minds, can be found on the school profiles page here on International School Community.  Of the 4 sections, travel is one of them.  Here are the 4 questions that you will find there and can leave your comments on:

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

Survey number 2 has arrived!  Topic: Which area of the world would you prefer to work in?

I know I have my favorites.  I know you have your favorites.  Are some areas more popular than others?  We all just might just be surprised to see the results after a few weeks of voting!

So go to the homepage of International School Community and submit your vote today!

Member spotlight #3: Clare Rothwell

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

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I am from South Africa.  I started my teaching career in Taiwan as a way to pay off my student loan.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?
I applied for work in Germany, but I wasn’t offered any jobs there.  My mom was working in Moscow, so I decided to try there instead.  I was offered a job at the British International School, Moscow.

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.
I worked BIS, Moscow for 3.5 years.  I guess my students made BIS fun.  They were very nice kids.  I had a lot of lovely Hungarian students!  One them, Gërgö, started at the school when he was 15.  In spite of not being able to say a full sentence in English, he smiled all the time.

Now at I work at Shanghai Rego International School.  At Rego, I teach in the primary school.  I enjoy the way students of different cultural backgrounds play together and include each other in games in spite of communication challenges.
I also enjoy the fun things that we do here to make learning more interesting for children.  For example, whole year levels dress-up and do other activities related to different topics throughout the year.

Describe your latest cultural encounter in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
Traveling with colleagues in Sichuan, we met up with a local student who offered to be our tour guide.  When the locals realised that they had a way to find out about us, they peppered him with questions about us everywhere we went.  At one point, a small crowd gathered around him as he related how he’d met us and where we were all from.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
I look for an interesting location and a job where I can learn new skills.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Full of variety, rewarding, challenging.

Traveling Around: Sichuan, China

Can you relate?

  • Choosing your dinner by looking at what other people are eating and asking them for their recommendations.
  • Sitting in a lounge area of a nearly empty hostel, getting in touch with your colleagues.
  • Finding signs in Chinglish and also finding time to disobey them.  “No striding” (found in a monastery) “No sitting or leaning or leaping” (in the inside of a pagoda)
  • Getting sick and not being able to enjoy a beautiful city and its surroundings.
  • Being stampeded and overrun by flag-toting, red-hatted Chinese tour groups.  Also, having to endure the noise pollution of a megaphone-holding tour guide.
  • Taking 1376 pictures of pandas (or fill in the blank) in the same pose.
  • Trying to not to talk about school-related topics on a long bus ride.
  • Being in awe of the time management skills of bus passengers at a toilet break:  Less than 5 minutes,  off and on with military precision.
  • Being able to watch the latest “straight to the bus screen” movie release of the Hong Kong film industry on a long-distance bus.
  • Being serenaded by a saxophonist, seemingly the only one in a town of 200, 000 people.
  • Traveling with one person who likes to plan ahead and the other person who flies by the seat of their pants.
  • Hostel or hotel, are we adults yet?
  • Being away from your computer, off-line as it were.  Though actually bringing your laptop and not being able to access the wireless internet.
  • Being out of the concrete jungle, enjoying perfect weather and the sound of birds chirping.

Great link #3: Statistical data about the lives of expats.

It can be viewed as a very ideal lifestyle most of the time, the life of an expat.  But what is it exactly that makes our expat lifestyles so desirable?  What aspects of expats’ lives have improved since moving to live abroad? What aspects have not improved?

Personally, I know in my family (including all my relatives) they all talk about how amazing life must be living abroad.  However, NONE of them live abroad.  To me, that gives the impression that expats are definitely not in the majority.  Most of the people in the world prefer to stay in one place, their whole life.

So, what are the statistics about the true lives of expats?

Check out this link at www.expatexchange.com to read the statistical data about the lives of expats that they have written about.

Here are some highlights from the topics written about on that page:

19% of Expats Contact Family and Friends More Frequently Since Moving Abroad
Expats based in countries that score low on the overall experience league table were most likely to contact their friends and family more frequently since becoming an expat.

52% of Expats Believe That The Standard of Education Has Improved Since Moving Overseas
expats believe that their children enjoy better quality childcare and a better education whilst living abroad than they did in their home country.

61% of Expats Saving More While Living Abroad
Although saving levels amongst expats as a whole have dropped since 2009, 61% of expats are still saving more whilst working abroad and one in five (20%) are able to pay off more debt than when they lived in their country of origin.

Are Expat Children More Likely to Live Abroad as Adults?
Expat parents also felt their children were likely to be more internationally minded having grown up away from their country of origin, with 89% expecting their children to live or work abroad in the future.

Which Expat Destinations Offer the Best Quality of Life?
Saudi Arabia (85%), Qatar (83%) and Russia (76%) are the most popular countries for those citing financial gain and increased career progression as one of the key motivations to become an expat.

School profile pages on International School Community: 4 comment sections and 3 survey sections

Each school profile page on International School Community has 4 sections: School, Benefits, City and Travel.  In each of those 4 categories, there are comment sections (see below) where members can leave firsthand information about what it is like working at a specific school.  3 categories (School, Benefits, and City) have survey sections (see below) where you can submit your votes on topics related to that category.  3 categories (School, Benefits and City) also have photo uploading features.

Our goal is for our members to submit real information that is very specific so that prospective teachers can make better, more informed decisions as they consider working at an international school.  International School Community has organized each school profile page to reflect each important aspect of the lives of international school teachers.  We have also organized it in a way to make it easier and faster to find the information you want to know about.

If you are a current member, please take a moment to share what you know about the school you currently work at or about the schools that you have worked at in the past.  If you aren’t a member just yet, join now today!

• What type/s of accreditation does this school have? When is the accreditation up for renewal? Any religious affiliations?
• Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.).
• Describe their hiring policies. Which recruiting fairs do they go to? How do they typically hire (e.g. face-to-face interview, Skype, etc.)? Are there any hiring restrictions mandated by the country?
• Describe school’s location in relation to the city center and to the teachers’ housing.
• Are the expectations high of teaching staff? Describe workload details.
• Average class size for primary and secondary.  Describe any aid support.
• Describe language abilities of students at this school and what is the “common language spoken in the hallways”?
• Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, nationality, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate.
• What types of budgets to classroom teachers/departments get?
• PARENTS ONLY – General comments from parents of students that go to this school.

– General behavior of the students
– Method of teacher appraisal
– Human resources and Business Department
– Effectiveness of administration
– School visions/commitment/curriculum use
– Current staff morale indicator
– New teacher orientation
– Teacher collegiality
– Effectiveness of board or school decision makes
– Quality of school building and campus
– Quality of resources currently available at the school
– Support services (EAL, SEN, Mother Tongue Programs, etc…)

• Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year?
• Details about the staff housing or the housing allowance.  If there is no housing allowance, how much are rent costs and utilities?
• Average amount of money that is left to be saved.
• Detailed info about flight, shipping and settling-in allowances.
• Health insurance and medical benefits.
• Ways to make extra money (tutoring, afterschool activities, etc.).
• Information about benefits for teachers with dependents.
• Professional development allowance details.
• Pension plan.
• Describe your experience bringing pets.
• How do the school’s benefits compare to other international schools in the area/city?
• Explain how salaries are decided (e.g. is there a pay schedule? extra step for masters degree? Annual pay raises?).

– Cost of living in relation to the salary.
– Does the school pay staff on time?
– School’s help and guidance regarding work visas.
– Possibility of living here with a non-working partner on one salary.

• Name your favorite restaurants, favorite places to go to and favorite things to do in the city.
• Locations in the city geared towards the expat lifestyle (grocery stores, bars, etc.).
• Sample prices for food, transportation, average hourly rates for a housekeeper, etc.
• Detailed info about lifestyles: singles vs. couples, gay vs. straight, nightlife vs. quiet and big city vs nature.
• Languages of the host city and the level of English spoken there.
• Sample activities, classes and clubs for teachers with children.
• Describe the city’s weather at different times of the year.
• Places, markets and stores where you can find really good deals.

– In general, how do you like living in this city?
– Availability and quality of local healthcare
– Temperament of locals towards foreigners
– Cost and efficiency of the public transportation
– Stability of local area and country
– Potential of making friends with locals and other expats outside of the school

• Sample travel airfares from host city airport to destinations nearby.
• Describe proximity of major airport hubs to the city center and give sample taxi, train, subway and/or bus fares to get there.
• Popular travel websites to buy plane tickets or tours that are popular for expats living in the city and/or country.
• Places to travel to outside the city by bus or train.


Great link #2: What’s it Like Teaching Abroad? An International Teacher Case Study

We found this link at shelteroffshore.com which is a website geared towards expats.

“Shelter Offshore is a directly aligned resource for internationally minded individuals – or in other less confusing and ‘jargony’ words, we the team who write and research for this online publication do so because we are passionate about the international lifestyle. What’s more, we genuinely want to offer up quality information, facts and even advice to others who want to explore life outside the box that they are currently living in!”

Topics on the website include: banking and saving, living abroad and expatriate services.

Highlighted article – What’s it Like Teaching Abroad? An International Teacher Case Study

“If you’ve ever considered the option of going abroad to teach at an international school, then this article featuring a case study who has worked at many international schools is for you”

Highlights from the article:

How has teaching abroad benefited you and how has your international experience affected your family?

It’s been the best thing that could have happened for us all, even for Matthew who never actually lived abroad with me, because we spent quality time when we were together, not so much quantity time but really good quality time.  Both Matthew and Jessica are much more internationally-minded because of this.  They have both traveled more extensively as a result and experienced different countries not just from the perspective of a holiday-maker but from actually living there.

Finally, what advice would you give to anyone thinking about going to live abroad and work as a teacher at an international school?

Well, I would absolutely recommend it!  Not just for developing you professionally but also developing you personally.  The people who work in international schools are incredibly positive, interesting, confident, independent people.  They are really open, friendly and interested in you as a person.  I think that’s the type of person who is attracted to working abroad and also you are dependent on each other for so many things because you have no family close at hand and so, as a result, you become more supportive and inclusive of others who are in the same situation.

Read the whole article here

Member spotlight #2: Christy Niemeyer

Every month or so International School Community will highlight one of our members.  This month we interviewed Christy Niemeyer:

Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?
I am from Southern California. I was living and working as a fourth grade teacher for San Diego City schools before teaching abroad.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?
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. I had never heard of international schools, and as I was looking for a change, I knew this was the exact kind of change I was looking for. Three months later, I accepted a job at the American School of Barcelona. Not exactly a lucrative job, but it was an amazing opportunity.

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.
I have worked at two international schools so far. The first was, as I mentioned, The American School of Barcelona. It is a small school, which makes it easy to get to know both students and teachers alike. It also honors both local and multicultural traditions. Students participate in making cakes called Monas, which are cakes decorated with different themes, a local tradition. This happens around Easter. To honor other cultures, students participate in Santa Lucia celebrations (a Swedish tradition), American Halloween, and Chinese Shadow puppets, just to name a few.

I now work at Seoul International School, in South Korea. The school facility itself has a lot of character since it resembles a Korean palace, and there are Korean sculptures throughout the campus. I find this school unique because of its amazing choir and junior orchestra program. This is the first time I have worked at a school which nourishes the musical talents of students so well. During the holidays, the junior choir performed beautiful songs with the junior choir from Korean International School, our neighboring international school. It was great seeing students from the two schools perform together and they sounded amazing.

Describe your latest cultural encounter in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
Taking a cab ride back from the airport last week, our driver seemed to want to accommodate us by playing a mixed tape of songs (loudly) in English: Bridge Over Troubled Water, and You Are Not Alone were just a few tunes played. I really felt it was for our benefit which cracked me up. I find the local people here so kind, and they often go out of their way to be helpful.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
The job itself is the most important since I will be spending most of my time at work, thus I look at the integrity of the school and that it utilizes the best resources, technology, and school programs. I also like to talk to teachers who are currently working there and get their impressions of the school. Salary and benefits is also a huge consideration. Finally, the school location is also important to me, especially in terms of climate and safety.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Rewarding, eye-opening, fun, flexible, and ADDICTIVE

Great link #1: How to plan for an interview

We found this link at transitionsabroad.com from a post by Jarett Emert.  We found it quite informative.  Please take a look at the full article below and let’s us know your opinion on what you think it takes to plan for a successful interview.

International School Jobs: How to Plan a Successful Interview

By Jarett Emert

Besides the romance and simple pleasures of foreign living, overseas teaching is also a helpful addition to a future resume. The network of international schools is well connected, and once a fledgling teacher is hired it is easier to obtain a future position. Upon completing a stay at a foreign school, you may choose to simply remain at your current school or continue teaching at another international school around the world.

Though the recruiting fair is the most effective gateway to a contract, nothing in the world of education can prepare an individual for these conferences. Having to convince an administrator within 15 minutes that you are the best candidate for his school is a rather difficult challenge. Being given fewer than 24 hours to decide where you will spend the next two to three years of your life, especially if it’s an unfamiliar destination, makes the situation even more complex.

Choosing the right interviews at the right times, knowing which schools offer the best packages and best contracts is a tricky business. Knowing which schools are situated in the best locations is also a challenge. Getting hired may mean four days of this process, sometimes with double digit interviews. Administrators always have several candidates in mind at the job fair and need a decision from you before they leave for the next stop. The carnival continues.

Preliminary Research

When first considering an international position it is important to do some preliminary research and self-exploration. Consider the locations, salary, and size of schools. The better prepared you are on entering a conference, the more confidence you will bring to your interviews.

Though recruitment fairs are the most common vehicles for obtaining a position, contacting a school directly is a possibility as well. For a small fee, some web-based services provide a directory and newsletters that advertise openings throughout the world. Still, most administrators seem to prefer the face to face approach; if they are interested in your candidacy, they will most often request that you arrange an interview at the recruitment fair.

The requirements for attending the recruitment fairs are usually a minimum of two years full-time teaching experience, as well as licensure. Sometimes international work experience and private school teaching may be substituted for this. If accepted, the recruitment organization will often forward information and a list of school openings. This is a good time for you to network prior to the conference. Often some positions are filled even before the conference begins.

Your first and most important task is to obtain an interview. Administrators only have a certain amount of interview slots available. Read over the list of positions carefully, see what positions you are qualified for, create a game plan of attack, and follow it to the best of your ability. Making contacts via email before the conference is important. If the administrator is interested in interviewing you, then you don’t have to worry as much about waiting in the long lines. Also, do not waste time trying to obtain a position for which you are unqualified. Some positions require specialized training such as the MYP (Middle Years Program) and IB (International Baccalaureate). This most often is not a negotiable issue and trying for a position for which you are unqualified can be a waste of your valuable time.

Once you have set up your interviews, the next few days are crucial. Be prepared to have 15 minutes to sell yourself. The best advice is to be self-assertive and confident. Administrators interview many people each day. You need to stand out, as you would hope to in any interview.

If the school for which you are interviewing is one of your top choices, leave at least one interview slot open so that you do not show up late to any interview. If a top choice school is interested in you, the interviewer may continue to speak to you after your allotted time slot. You want to leave yourself some room for this. However, if they hold you longer than you can remain, be confident and state that you have another interview. They will understand this and will usually schedule you for a second interview. Remember that the goal of an interview is to return for another.

If you do obtain a position, you are often given no more than 24 hours to make a decision. Most schools offer a 2-year contract. Administrators need to fill these positions efficiently. If you do not accept, they often have another candidate in mind. This can be a stressful time, especially if you have several appealing choices. Do not get overwhelmed, but consider yourself lucky. Spend the next few hours researching the location, asking intelligent questions, and trusting your instincts. Remember that any international teaching experience will be both an adventure and a struggle. There are no easy roads and each experience will be rewarding in its own way.

Recruitment Organizations 

• International School Services (www.iss.edu). 15 Roszel Road, P.O. Box 5910, Princeton, NJ 08543; 609-452-0990, fax 609-452-2690. A private, nonprofit organization serving American international schools overseas. This is a good resource for obtaining a position overseas. The next recruiting conference is being held in June 2005. One must be accepted and have a professional file with ISS to attend a conference. $150 application fee, $150 reactivation fee, no placement fee.

• Search Associates (www.search-associates.com). A good resource for potential teachers, administrators, and interns hoping to work in international schools throughout the world. They also conduct workshops and seminars. One must have been accepted and have a professional file with Search Associates to attend a conference. Fees for registration, good for three years, $50 administrative fee to attend conference, $300 additional upon placement for teachers).

• Council of International Schools (www.cois.org). U.K. Office, 21A Lavant St., Petersfield, Hampshire, GU32 3EL, U.K. Tel. 011-44-0-1730-263131, fax 011-44-0-1730 268913. CIS is a not-for-profit association and a good resource for international education. They also provide teacher and administrative recruitment services. There is no fee charged to candidates, either for registering with CIS or for securing a new appointment through their services.

• The International Educator (www.tieonline.com). TIE—The International Educator. Subscription service with job postings and a resume bank for American and British overseas and international schools. They offer both a newspaper and an interactive web site with job postings. A good resource for networking before a recruitment fair or attempting to bypass it.

• UNI Overseas Placement Service for Educators (www.uni.edu/placement/overseas). Univ. of Northern Iowa Career Center, East Gym #113A, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0390, 319-273-2083, fax 319-273-6998. The UNI Overseas Placement Service for Educators connects international K-12 schools with certified educators year round. Services offered include the UNI Overseas Recruiting Fair, credential and referral services, and related publications. UNI is the original international fair for educators. No placement fees.

JARETT EMERT is a freelance writer, outdoor educator, and currently a teacher of literature at the American School of Milan. He is originally from Vermont.