Top 10 Lists

12 Ways to Make a Successful and Effective International School Teacher Regional Conference

November 24, 2016


Typically in an international school teacher’s career he/she gets a chance to attend a regional international school teacher conference as part of their PD benefit.

There is ECIS (the Educational Collaborative of International Schools), which is mostly for international schools in Europe.

There is also EARCOS (the East Asia Regional Council of Schools), AISA for those in Africa and AASSA for the international educators in South America.

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But how do you best make these annual conferences very useful and worthwhile (i.e. ones people will want to attend)? At some of these annual international school teacher conferences there is a pattern of declining attendance amongst the participating educators.  So, now is the time to really have a good think about what makes them relevant PD events that people want to attend.

Here are some of the possible ways to make international school teacher regional conferences successful and effective:

1. Provide more opportunities to network during the event.

One of the best places to mix and mingle with your nearby international school colleagues is definitely at an international school annual regional conference. Although the content and theme of the conference is important, one main reason people attend is to network. Conference participants need time in the schedule to mix and mingle with the other attendees. Whether it happens during scheduled break times or not, participants will appreciate a conference schedule that gives them the chance and opportunity to get acquainted with each other and meet new people in the international school community

2. Make sure the registration fee is a price that is reasonable.

Unfortunately, PD budgets at many international schools are feeling the pinch. If the conference fee is too high that will of course cause a number of teachers and administrators to not come anymore. Holding a regional conference at a school is often cheaper than renting out a conference center, so that is one way conference organizers can help keep the fees lowered. Another option is to hold the conference in a country where they costs are lower, where they don’t need to pay so much for renting out the conference center or pay the regional tax (e.g. you don’t need to charge European VAT fees if the conference is held in a non-EU country, for example).

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3. Choose a desirable host location.

Let’s face it, location is everything when going on a PD opportunity. Part of attending an international school teacher regional conference is also exploring and enjoying the host city.  The conference organizers themselves can facilitate a cultural excursion as part of the conference package (usually at an additional cost), or they can provide information to the participants themselves so that they can explore on their own. Not only is the city of the conference important, but also the location of the conference within the host city. It is no good being so far away from the center of the city, for example, as the majority of participants will want easy and quick access to it. Either they are staying in a hotel in the city center or they will want to go there to explore after a day’s worth of attending presentations and break-out sessions.

4. Include a delicious lunch and snacks.

After a day of workshops and keynote speakers, having a delicious lunch is just what you need. If the food is more like an after thought, then that will affect the mindset of conference participants. Having bag lunches available is not the best choice, as they tend to be served cold and participants might not think they are getting their money’s worth. Conference organizers must work with their host site and make sure they will be providing a worth-while and tasty lunch, one that they also cater to different people’s dietary needs. Keeping conference participants nourished is a great way to help keep morale up and brains focused on the new learning that is happening.

5. Incorporate a healthy balance of invited speakers and teacher presenters.

What is the best balance to have?  Would you like more invited speakers when you go to a conference or would you prefer more teacher presenters? Invited speakers often present about big ideas and concepts to inspire your teaching (mostly indirectly), but teacher presenters typically present things that are more hands-on and directly linked to your classroom lessons.  It is definitely good to have both the theory and the practice so that teachers stay focused and inspired during the conference.

6. Create a conference schedule is easy to follow and one that makes sense.

As you plan a conference, you want it to be the best one ever. Trying new ways of organizing each day to maximize learning can be a challenge. Making sure the schedule makes sense is paramount. It is no good creating a complicated one that leaves people frustrated. A schedule that is easy to follow, which allows participants to maximize their time at the conference, will be well-appreciated!

7. Don’t have too many new initiatives at one time.

It is good to try these new strategies, but it is also important to not go overboard and confuse conference participants. You don’t want to arrive at a workshop session and have the presenter mention their confusion about what type of session they are actually doing. Also, it is not advisable to use a lot of new ‘buzz words’ or worse, newly created words used just for that specific conference.

8. Respond back to all conference registrants in a timely manner.

From before you register to all the way up to the conference itself, it is important to keep good communication with non-registered and registered people. Getting answers to your questions helps make sure everyone is content and up-to-date with the latest information. Not getting a reply to your email can lead to confusion not just about the conference details, but about the organization itself; the company organizing the conference.

9. Help teachers create meaningful and relevant links and connections to their classrooms.

Knowing about the conference participants’ backgrounds and schools is important so that the conference can better tailor their presentations to them.  Because most, if not all, conference participants are coming from a variety of international schools around the world, then the presenters should either reflect those people or have a good background knowledge of their situation. Conference participants are looking for real ways to apply new knowledge learned during presentations. Many conference presenters know this already and have designed their presentations accordingly. However, there are still a number of presenters that include very few connections and links to the classroom.

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10. Provide a forum where conference attendees can discuss the conference theme and its presentations. 

Sometimes 45-60 minutes isn’t enough time to really discuss and debate everything you would like to in a conference presentation. In turn, why not make sure to provide the conference participants with a forum to keep the discussion going. Maybe the conference could help to facilitate some kind of a forum where attendees to a presentation can continue their learning and questioning. In this way, people can keep the presentation topic and issues at the forefront of their thinking and not quickly forget their new learning.

11. Provide support and guidance after the conference by helping past participants in their quest to share new learning with their own school. 

There are still a number of international schools that require their teachers to share their new learning at their school, when they get back after a PD event. It all sounds like a great plan, to justify the school’s money spent on a PD opportunity for their teacher. But sharing what you’ve learned with a bunch a people who weren’t there with you can be tricky. Additionally, there is hardly any real-time to do this kind of PD at your school. One solution to help facilitate this “sharing of new learning” could come from the conference itself. Maybe the conference and/or the conference presenters could plan ahead and help prepare supportive materials to help you get prepared.  They could help make sure to discuss with their member school administration the idea of setting aside meeting time to allow for conference participants to share their new learning at their schools. A joint ownership of this sharing part could prove to be helpful and beneficial.

12. Choose a conference venue with some character

There is nothing worse than being in a conference site and it not inspiring you. If it is held in a school, that is one thing. But if it is at a conference center or a hotel, then it should be one that is well-situated and cosy. Boring decor and a boring layout of break-out rooms are unattractive and uninspiring. Conferences held in modern, light spaces can bring a good energy to the presentations and transition times when walking from session to session. After listening to an inspiring presentation, it is also ideal to have some hideaway places to sit down and chat with your colleagues or newly made contacts.

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There is much work to do and things to think about when planning a conference. It appears that you need to balance what has worked well for the conference in the past and mix those things with a few new initiatives.  International school teacher regional Conferences have been around for decades now, but are they still relevant? That is the question that these organizations need to answer. If they are still relevant, then as they plan for and organize future regional conferences, they might want to keep these 12 helpful tips in mind.

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Top 10 Lists

13 Insightful International School Interview Experiences Submitted by Our Members

October 21, 2016


International School Community is full of thousands of useful, informative comments…18371 comments (21 Oct. 2016) to be exact.

Members are recommended to keep their comments objective on our website. In one of the 65 comment topics, they are encouraged to share their international school interview experiences. How did it go? Was it easy to get? Recruitment fair or Skype? Was the experience positive or less than ideal?

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We scoured our database of comments, and we found 13 that stood out to us as being some of the most interesting and insightful interview experiences.

13. “The school has improved its hiring practices during the last few years. Now department heads sometimes get involved in hiring decisions. Don’t let the director’s lack of enthusiasm during an interview throw you off – that’s just his personality – and don’t believe anything that he promises you, unless it is writing.” – Internationale Schule Frankfurt-Rhein-Main (Frankfurt, Germany)33 Comments

12. “Speaking from the Director’s office, you need to have a focus on collaborative action toward mission. Knowing our mission and core values is key to interview for our team. While we are happy to train, we are also looking for good experience and foundation that will add to our body of expertise and keep us refreshed in best practice.” – Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia)66 Comments

11. “The school has not met any of my expectations in professionalism. Many of the things I was told in my interview turned out to be untrue. The fall of the peso has not been addressed by administration.” – Colegio Anglo Colombiano (Bogota, Colombia)32 Comments

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10. “Singapore age restrictions keep hiring (and renewals) under age 60. First round interview is typically done via Skype, but they want to do second round interviews in person, in Singapore or London.” – United World College South East Asia (Singapore, Singapore)6 Comments

9. “They rely a lot on hiring people who are recommended by current employees. You still go through the interview process, etc. My initial contact to the school was through a connection I had to somebody already working here.” – Yew Chung International School (Shanghai) (Shanghai, China)27 Comments

8. “Please be careful when considering to work at this school! I wasn’t and am in quite a fit now…. On May 5, 2014 I had a telephone interview with the director and the head of secondary. On May 30, 2014 I got a firm job offer for September 2014. We discussed several contract details via mail (school fees, moving allowance etc.) but I did not receive a formal contract. On June 11 I wrote an email asking for a contract copy. On June 13 the job offer was revoked, giving as a reason that “the position no longer exists on the curriculum plan, so we cannot proceed with the appointment”. Draw your own conclusions about the school’s level of commitment and organisation.” – British School of Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)3 Comments

7.
“Face-to-face. As in most international school in Bangkok, it is much easier to get a job if you know someone on the inside of the school. The pay-scale is shrouded in secrecy (as in many schools here). The interview process is not that difficult, being from a native English-speaking country is a huge plus.” – Pan Asia International School (Bangkok, Thailand)38 Comments

6. 
“I was hired via Skype, as well. The interview was very informal but informative about the school and life Venezuela.” – Escuela Las Morochas (Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela)28 Comments

5. “The school does not attend any fairs. Hiring is done via announcements on the school’s website. The hiring process is not quick. Expect to be interviewed, via Skype most likely, four times. Each interview is with a person a bit further up the food chain. At the moment Indonesia has an age cutoff of 60.” – Green School Bali (Denpasar, Indonesia)54 Comments

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4. “They do tend to hire internally a lot. The interview process is a bit intense with multiple interviews being set up for one person. They ask questions from a list. They are usually open to sponsoring visas for non EU candidates.” – International Community School London (London, United Kingdom)49 Comments

3. “I met with Julie Alder at the school campus because I was already in the city. I contacted them before I came and they were more than willing to give me a time and a place to meet and interview with me. The interview lasted 45 to 60 minutes. I also got to walk around and visit some classrooms.” – International School Singapore (Singapore, Singapore)17 Comments

2. “The school is quite small, so it doesn’t attend job fairs. I was interviewed by phone and got the job from there. I know they have also brought in teachers whom live nearby (within Western Europe) to interview them in person. Hiring restrictions: YES- they will now only hire people who have valid working papers to work in France. The school also now typically only employs expat teachers from the UK or within the EU. Many of the teachers who work at the school have a French spouse.” –International School of Lyon (Lyon, France)12 Comments

1. “I interviewed with the elementary principal this feb at the search associates fair in boston. She was very kind and sweet to me. The interview went very well, she was willing to allow me to lead the interview by showing her my portfolio. She was a very experienced teacher in the international school world. She was kind enough to send a note to me in my folder to let me know that I didn’t get the job, and she also highlighted somethings that I said in the interview. Very professional!” – American International School Bucharest (Bucharest, Romania)20 Comments

If you have an interesting and insightful international school interview experience that you would like to share, 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!

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Surveys

New Survey: How does your international school compare to other schools in your city?

May 11, 2016


A new survey has arrived!

Topic:  How does your international school compare to other schools in your city?

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Once you move to a city to work at your new international school, you find out pretty soon how your school compares to the other ones in the same city. Who knows how that happens, but it does.

The teachers at the schools labeled the worst feel embarrassed to even bring up their international school in conversation with other international school educators in the area or even throughout the world. In comparison, the teachers at the school labelled the “top” school in the city can have their heads held up high.

So then the question is what makes a school get the top or the worst ranking in the city? At International School Community, we like to think that all schools have something cool about them that makes them unique; which in turn makes them have a great learning environment for their kids.

See our blog article called “What Makes Your International School Unique?” for a look at this topic and also some related comments about a number of international schools around the world.

But it is not just these unique things that get internationals schools to the top or the bottom of the list, it has to do with a combination of different factors. Factors that come into play are the current state of the school’s building and campus, the quality of teachers and teaching, the benefits package for the teacher (the salary), the professional development opportunities, etc.

Though it is true that some cities in the world only have one international school in them, which in turn, I guess makes them the best international school in the city. But other cities in the world (e.g. Bangkok, Shanghai, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, etc.), there are many international schools to choose from (for both parents and teachers). These cities have international schools that are actively competing for the top spot!

So, how does your international school compare to other schools in your city? Please take a moment and submit your vote!

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We have a comment topic related to this survey, except it is comparing international schools with home country ones. It is called: “How is this school different or the same when compared to schools in your home country?

Here are a few sample comments from this comment topic:

“One of the biggest differences between the NIS schools and most other schools around the world is to do with vacations. In many countries, when students are not in school, neither are the teachers, with some exceptions for things like PD Days and report writing, etc.. This is not the case at NIS schools; regardless of whether the students are in school or not, teachers are expected to attend. If a teacher wishes to be absent, she or he must request leave – paid or unpaid. Given that international teachers have a total allowance of 56 days of paid leave (which includes weekend days if they are within the leave period), this can have a serious impact on vacations.” – Nazarbayev Intellectual School of Astana (Astana, Kazakhstan)37 Comments

“It is very much based along English public school lines, but with a strong international flavour and ethos. There are many more nationalities present in the school than you would normally find in an English school.” – St. Julians School (Lisbon, Portugal)9 Comments

“Compared to teaching in the UK this is a dream, as long as you are prepared for the culture shock of living in a small village of thirteen million. Small classes, good behaviour and a genuine interest in study, excellent resources, great quality of life. Admin is less than in the UK although it is creeping up. Some of it good, some of it of limited value (just like the UK). I enjoy my teaching and the travel opportunities this place offers.” – Wellington College International Tianjin (Tianjin, China)54 Comments

“Different: The teacher’s salaries and the new teacher induction and support program are dismal. Same: Budget and lack of professional development opportunities within the school due to very strict labor laws.” – American School of Bilbao (Bilbao, Spain)26 Comments

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Surveys

New Survey: How Many Years Have You Been At Your Current Placement?

February 12, 2016


A new survey has arrived!

Topic:  How Many Years Have You Been At Your Current Placement?

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The (acceptable) minimum number of years to stay at an international school is typically two years; maybe because most initial contracts are for two years.

If you leave though after two years, sometimes you don’t get to fully enjoy your life in your host country. The reasoning is that you spend your first year getting used to everything. If you are already planning on leaving after you second year, then you spend most of your time (in your second year) getting prepared and ready to move away (thus not allowing you maybe to fully enjoy your life there).

If things are going well in your new school and new country, why not stay a bit longer than two years? It is nice to stay around and enjoy your school and surroundings, especially if there is also financial incentive to do so.  There are other reasons to stay longer as well. To see these reasons, check out this article on our blog:

Top 10 reasons to stay longer than four years at an international school

But there are also downsides to staying longer than four years at an international school. One example of a downside is that some international schools consider you similar to a local hire after five years.  Once you change from a foreign hire to a local hire, you are likely to lose some of your benefits (the benefits that initial attracted you to the position). Not a good feeling!

But if you find a partner who is local and doesn’t plan on moving any time soon, you might find yourself in for the long haul at a school. At some international schools in Europe, it is not uncommon to find teachers that have stayed 30+ years at on international school!

So, how many years have you been at your current school?  Please take a moment and submit your vote!

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We have a comment topic related to this survey. It is called: “In general, why are people staying at or leaving this school?

Here are a few sample comments from this comment topic:

“People stay because the standard of living is good, school is fine, pay is good, students are great and there’s a good work/life balance. Some people don’t get on with China, some (like us) loved it but it’s time to go somewhere a little easier to live, some because of issues with the school.” – Wellington College International Tianjin (Tianjin, China)47 Comments

“There seem to be a lot of people leaving as a result of the uncertainty about the direction in which the school is moving. Staff is told repeatedly that things will be changing, but the details of such changes are kept under wraps. The lack of transparency is resulting in a lot of insecurity.” – American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland)64 Comments

“People are staying for salary and tuition benefits, and an enjoyment of an easy lifestyle with help at home, access to the beach and desert camping and year-round warm/hot weather. Some people have nice accommodations as well. People are leaving due to workload, three superintendents in three years and the lack of focus and cultural upheaval that accompanies that, general low morale.” – American British Academy (Muscat, Oman)33 Comments

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Surveys

When looking for reviews and comments about an international school, which topic is the most important for you?

November 20, 2015


A new survey has arrived!

Topic:  When looking for reviews and comments about an international school, which topic is the most important for you?

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Right now our members are looking for as much information as they can. The more information the better.  Luckily, we just celebrated getting over 15000 comments! So International School Community is definitely the website to go to when looking to gather information about different international schools from around the world.

Even though we have over 65 separate comment topics on each school profile page, you might say that these six topics are some of the most important to know about.

Current statistics about these rather important comment topics on our website (taken from 20 November 2015):

Salary – 811 Total Comments
Retirement Plan Details – 367 Total Comments
Housing Benefits – 805 Total Comments
Teaching Contract Details – 36 Total Comments
Hiring Policy – 949 Total Comments
Savings Potential – 385 Total Comments

Of course all comments and reviews related to these comment topics are important. Recruiting international schools teachers need to know this information, detailed information, about these topics before they sign a contract.

But, which topic is the most important to you?  Please take a moment and submit your vote!

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We actually have two blog categories related this to survey question.

One blog category is called Hiring Policies at Int’l Schools.
Here are a few of the entries in this section:

• Comments about Hiring Policies #9: Int’l High School of San Fran, The American School of Kinshasa & British Early Years Centre – Read Here.

• Comments and information about hiring policies on International School Community #8: Benjamin Franklin Int’l School, American Cooperative School of Tunis & Green School Bali – Read Here.

• Comments and information about hiring policies on International School Community #7: Int’l School of KL, Escola Internacional de Alphaville & Guangdong Country Garden School – Read Here.

The other category is called “Salaries at Int’l Schools.”
Here are a few of the entries in this section:

• Comments and information about salaries on ISCommunity #7: Blue Valley School, Ivy Collegiate Academy & Wellspring Int’l School (Hanoi) – Read Here.

• Comments and information about salaries on ISCommunity #6: Khartoum Int’l Community School, Int’l School of KL & Vietnam American Int’l School – Read Here.

• Comments and information about salaries on ISCommunity #5: Hong Kong Int’l School, Shanghai Community Int’l School & Guamani Private School – Read Here.

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