A new survey has arrived!
Topic: Does your school have an official English-only policy on their campus?
Many veteran international school teachers have already figured out that there are a nice “handful” of these types of international schools throughout the world. Some teachers and administrators think this kind of English-only policy is a necessity for the success of their students; others teachers and administrators are quite against it…strongly against it. After teaching at an English-only policy international school, some teachers will choose never to teach in a school like that again because of their negative and painful experience trying to enforce it on their students.
There are many cons to having an English-only policy at an international school. It’s likely that it is giving the wrong impression of what being an “internationally-minded” person is all about.
International schools need to think very smartly about the makeup (language background) of their student body because of course that can affect what the “language of the playground” is. When the makeup is not balanced in a way that hinders the target language level/goal of the majority of the students (that the school wants them to achieve to), then of course many schools resort to a English-only policy to try to counteract that (for example at international schools with a majority of host country nationals)…and it would appear that not-well-thought-out solution fails almost every time. At least that is what was happening at a number of international schools nowadays.
Just because English is the target language of most international school classrooms, doesn’t mean that English is the superior or dominate language of the school; and teachers and administration should let their students and their parents know this in a clear, organized, and meaningful way. One suggestion on how to do this is to encourage an interlingual classroom. In an interlingual classroom, students are encouraged to use their home languages in the classroom. This suggestion will most likely not only be a new experience for you as the teacher, but also for your students…as they may not be used to being able to do this. In turn, some modeling and explicit examples on how to do this in a lesson would be necessary.
Another suggestion is to support multiliteracies in your classroom.
Share what your opinion is on this issue, as there are many perspectives and experiences at a variety of international schools that need to be shared with the rest of the community.
Also, go ahead and vote on Does your school have an official English-only policy on their campus? Go to the homepage of International School Community and submit your vote today! You can check out the latest voting results here.
We actually have a comment topic related this to this issue. It is called: Describe language abilities of students at this school and what is the “common language spoken in the hallways”? Is there one dominate culture group?
Right now there are over 560 individual comments (about 100s of different international schools) in this comment topic on our website. Here are a few of them:
“There is a 30% cap on Thai students in order to maintain an international population. The other largest groups as of 2014 are U.S. (14%), Indian (8%), Japanese (6%), Australian (6%) and British (5%). Approximately 50 nationalities are represented in total. Most of the students are fully fluent in English, and unless with a small group of friends who share similar backgrounds, they tend to use English.” – NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 29 Comments
“The school requires students entering after kinder have been previously educated in English. I would say about 75% of the students are fluent in English, and the rest are in the ELL program. Students almost all speak English, even if they have friends who speak their native languages. I am not sure of the exact number, but I would guess about half of the students are native English speakers.” – Mont’Kiara International School (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – 27 Comments
“ASM is truly an international school. The school strives to maintain what is called the “magical mix”, meaning 1/3 is American, 1/3 is Spanish, and 1/3 is from all over the world. For this reason, the English level is extremely high. A mix of predominantly English and Spanish is spoken in non-structured environments around campus.” – American School Madrid (Madrid, Spain) – 27 Commentscontinue reading
Tell us about your background. Where are you from?
Hi there! My name is Lauren Kohlhoff and I currently teach Drama and Grade 7 World Geography at the American School of Madrid. I’m originally from the Atlanta area – a southern girl born and raised! After earning my degree in Early Childhood Education, I relocated to Northern Virginia where I taught third grade in the Prince William County district for three years. During that time I got married to my then boyfriend of eight years. It wasn’t long before we were itching for a new adventure.
How did you get started in the international teaching community?
If I’m being honest, becoming a teacher in the international community was a complete fluke. My husband had received a job offer in Barcelona in the spring of 2008. I knew nothing about international schools or how to get my proverbial “foot in the door”. So, I committed an afternoon to surfing the net and literally googled “american schools in Barcelona” just to see what my options were. The first hit was the American School of Barcelona. Bingo! I clicked the link, browsed the site, drafted a cover letter, and submitted a resume despite the fact there were no posted positions. Within days the director at the time contacted me, one thing led to another, and I had a grade 6 Humanities job faster than we could say, “Well, it looks like we’re moving to Spain!” I had contacted the right school at the right time; it was all about timing. It’s been six years and we haven’t looked back.
The American School of Barcelona is alive with energy. The school is small by comparison to other international schools, which allows the faculty, students, and families to foster a community that in many ways feels more like a family. I have truly never worked in a school where there is such passion for kids and their well-being beyond just academics and the walls of a classroom.
Having just recently moved to Madrid, I am still discovering what makes ASM a special place to work. There is certainly a greater sense of calm, which is something that stands out in a country like Spain! The campus is beautiful and features two new facilities dedicated to sports, sciences, and the performing arts. I am impressed with the number of programs that are on offer for our students, especially when it comes to performance and music. We have a very talented team of teachers who work tirelessly to guide our students to do amazing things!
Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
If there’s one thing I have come to love about the Spanish culture, it’s the laid-back “mañana” attitude towards, well, everything. Really, it’s a wonder anything ever gets done around here! But this love and appreciation did not come easily or swiftly that first year. I mean, it took nearly a month before we had internet! Businesses close early and open late, and you can forget running errands on Sundays. It took us the entire first year to adjust our expectations and learn to simply stop swimming against the current. We weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto. We slowed our pace and eventually came to embrace the “mañana” outlook on life ourselves. Mealtimes are perhaps the embodiment of Spanish culture. Sharing a meal with others is an event that can last hours; there’s no such thing as “fast food”. Even long after the table has been cleared, conversations will continue to flow and the wine will too. This is known as the “sobremesa” and what I think is most special about dining the Spanish way – enjoying your company is just as important as enjoying your meal.
What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
This is a tough question to answer because I’ve been in such a unique situation. My destination was chosen and I was fortunate enough to land a job there. If there’s anything I’ve learned about job hunting over the last six years, however, it’s that geography weighs heavily on my happiness and well-being. The destination must speak to me and resonate in a way that fulfills me beyond the school’s campus. Yes, job satisfaction is very important, but it’s only part of the experience. International teaching is also about exploring who you are, learning your limits, and discovering what you never knew about yourself. So much of this happens off campus, and it would be tough to be in a place that stymies that personal growth. For me, Spain is perfect and I’m not sure that I’ll ever need to look anywhere else. I have spoken to a number of colleagues over the years who were not happy in their former placements because the location wasn’t right for them. If I had a dime for every conversation about this topic that included the phrase, “The school was great, but…”, I would no longer need tutoring hours!
In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Lifelong learning at its finest!
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Want to work for an international school in the Spain like Lauren? Currently, we have 26 international schools listed in Spain on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:
• American School of Barcelona (119 Comments)
• Benjamin Franklin Int’l School (49 Comments)
Sotogrande International School (6 Comments)
American School Madrid (27 Comments)
American School Valencia (21 Comments)continue reading
Members of International School Community have written some new and informative comments on the following schools:
14 Jan Shekou International School (14 new comments) Shenzhen, China:
One of the new comments in the School Information section: “Folks that live in Shekou can smell home from miles away…distinctly smelly and fishy. There is a staff bus that now runs to designated areas…”
12 Jan American School Madrid (7 new comments) Madrid, Spain:
One of the new comments in the School Information section: “The school sets high expectations of all faculty and staff, and there is a high degree professionalism displayed by all members of the school community. The workload is fair – teachers are given a prep period for every course taught. Teachers who agree to teach a sixth section are compensated monetarily…”
11 Jan American School Foundation of Mexico City (16 new comments) Mexico City, Mexico:
One of the new comments in the Travel Information section: “If you are traveling with luggage, only use city taxis, which is more expensive but trustworthy…”
Check out the rest of the last 40 international school profile pages that have been recently updated on International School Community here.continue reading