We are lucky working at international schools. In comparison with working at public schools in some of our home countries (USA, for example), we are typically getting more opportunities to go on our own professional development adventures, and very interesting and unique ones!
But it all depends on the international school you are working at, of course. Some international schools offer a fair amount of money to each teacher as a personal professional benefit for them. Other international schools don’t have a PD budget at all for teachers to access, and barely offer any in-house PD sessions for their staff.
Some teachers new to international schools can be in for a bit of a shock when your principal/coordinator offers to send you to Kenya or Malta for a required training that the school needs to have you complete (let’s say if your school was located in Eastern Europe). Can this be really true?
On the flip side, other international schools will offer that same or similar training to you in-house. Is one better than the other? Well, it is not so exciting to just stay at your current workplace to get that training. Although there might be some benefit to working with more of your current colleagues and possibly even will some teachers from nearby schools that have sent them to your school to get that training as well.
The debate is (or has it been decided now?) what is the best way to train their teachers and for the teachers to get the best professional development?
Some people say that ongoing professional development is the most effective, and one-off PD sessions and workshops are not the most effective.
But getting PD is not all about improving your teaching skills and learning better teaching strategies. It is also about networking. Getting to know teachers that have a similar role to you in a similar setting even can really be some of the best PD experiences. It is more what is happening in between sessions that can be quite inspiring and thought-provoking.
Not all PD needs to cost an amazing amount of money either. If you find a school that is doing something you are interested in at the moment, but doing it at a higher level than your current school, it can be some of the best PD to just go and do a planned/structured visit to that school. You might even find out about this school through some networking you may have done at a conference you once attended.
But it all comes down to money, really. Some international schools have a lot of it, and share it out as much as they can to support and train their teachers. Other international schools (and not just for-profit schools) would rather not spend that much money on PD for their teachers and ‘save’ it for other things.
If there isn’t a specific PD allowance benefit for each teacher and you need to apply to receive an allowance, then there are bound to be feelings of inequality. Some teachers will surely be getting their PD requests accepted more than other teachers, and that might be the sense people are having throughout the school (causing low staff morale for some). Maybe some favoritism comes into place, whether that is actually happening or not. One clear benefit of doing PD in this manner is that the school most likely will be spending less money.
If a school willing to let their teachers follow their own paths of learning, will the school only allow their teachers to get trained in things the school wants them to do, or will the school just shut off all opportunities for their teachers and make it basically impossible or really undesirable to even ask for some financial support in getting a PD experience?
Many teachers might agree that the dream school situation is that there would be a specific PD benefit in the teacher’s contract. It is their money to use for their own professional hopes and dreams as a teacher. It is likely that the teacher’s current school and students will benefit from that teacher’s PD experience, but even if it doesn’t directly have that effect, it will help that person grow as a teacher; and probably that teacher’s future school work places will benefit.
On ISC we have a comment topic related to this topic in the Benefits Information section on the school profile pages. It is called: “Professional development allowance details.” There have been 512 comments submitted in this comment topic on 100s of international schools from around the world. Here are just a few of them:
“Very good PD, in my opinion. At least one pertinent course per year (usually with IB). However, it is currently required that these be in-country.” – Qatar Academy (Sidra)
“Over the course of the academic year, the school funds a select number of teachers to attend Professional Development seminars by the International Baccalaureate.” – Aga Khan Academy Mombasa
“Teachers are not given a PD fund. If there is a PD that a teacher is interested in, he/she will have to apply for it at least a month ahead and wait for approval. Out of the 5 teachers that I know who applied for PD fund, only 1 was approved.” – SMIC Private School
“Great PD allowance. I believe it’s about $1200/year. As well, admin will help teachers find and enroll in opportunities nearby and a bit further out. I’d say it’s excellent.” – Shekou International School
How is the PD benefit at your international school? Please login to our website and share what you know!continue reading
Tell us about your background. Where are you from?
I started teaching when I was forty and realized after about 6 years working in RI and CT that if I wanted to make enough money to save anything I would have to go overseas to do it. I also found that teachers in the U.S. were ill-treated in their school districts and that kids and parents were running the show in education stateside. I had come out of sales and engineering fields where I was accustomed to being respected in my fields. I started teaching math and science to educate young people about climate change and other important factors about the world around them. I have lived all over the U.S. and always loved adventure, so I was a perfect candidate for being an overseas teacher.
How did you get started in the international teaching community?
I heard about a job fair coming to Boston and decided to see what it was all about and low and behold, I got hired at my #1 choice in the Caribbean and off I went the next year.
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 a school in Port of Spain, Trinidad ( International School of Port of Spain) and then in Cairo at an all Egyptian school called Misr American College and now we are in Nairobi (Aga Khan Academy Mombasa).
All of the schools have been wonderful and fun. Each of them had their own unique reasons for being such. For instance, I am a scuba diver and living on a Caribbean island allowed me to dive occasionally. I have been to Grenada 3 times and to Tobago many times since I first started coming here. I also met my husband while at this post and we just celebrated our third anniversary. He is a local island man and has now shared many new and exciting adventures with me as a trailing spouse of an overseas teacher. We spent an exciting two years in Egypt and even lived through the uprising/revolution there. During our stay there we traveled all over Egypt taking a Nile River cruise, climbing Mt. Sinai and diving in the Red Sea, just to name a few of the adventures. There were so many places to visit that we never went anywhere else during our time there. We still have some spots that we did not get to, but when the contract ended, we came home to Trinidad for one year while he worked and I wrote a book. Now we are in Kenya for a new adventure. I had done summer volunteer work for four years in a row here when I first started teaching, so I have had experience with this part of the world. There is still so much to see and do; it is a great country to live in.
Describe your latest cultural encounter in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
The cultural encounter that put a smile on my face was when I discovered a new roadside produce stand and I filled my canvas bag with an assortment of lovely fruits and vegetables which would have cost around $20US back home, but was only around $2.50 ~ Yea!
What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
I look for a school that has a reasonable student/teacher ratio, I look at information on the standard of living based on salary, I look to see if housing is included, I read other teacher’s opinions about the school through websites like this (I do take comments with a grain of salt as more complainers tend to post vs. contented employees), I ask other overseas teachers what they know about a school I may be applying to. I also talk to my director if he/she is someone who has worked the circuit. I go to a myriad of websites to see what the new location is like economically, politically, and what there is to do from a sightseeing standpoint. I ask a lot of questions during an interview regarding the teaching venue, the curriculum, the technology that is available and the extra-curricular expectations. Is there medical insurance and also adequate medical facilities available? What are some of the other benefits that I can expect? Will there be an orientation and someone available to help us get settled into life at the new location? What are the travel arrangements and also what visa requirements are there? There is a lot to ask when getting ready to move overseas.
In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Exciting adventure of a lifetime!
Thanks Carol! 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!
Want to teach at an international school in Kenya like Carol? Currently, we have 9 international schools listed in Kenya on International School Community:
• Aga Khan Academy Mombasa
• St. Austin’s Academy Nairobi
• Braeburn Mombasa International School
• Oshwal Academy
• Brookhouse International School
• The Banda School
• International School of Kenya
• Pembroke House
• Greensteds International School