12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an International School Tip #2: Is the School Conveniently Located?

October 30, 2022


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  Many international school teachers are in teaching couples that have children.  There are also international school teachers that are married to a local and have children too.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend?  This blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #2: Is the School Conveniently Located?

The American School of London (see above picture) and the United Nations International School in New York City are conveniently located, but not all international schools are in the same situation.  Some international schools are built way outside of the city center, far away, especially if you plan on living in the city center.  Sometimes your journey to work might be around one hour, one-way; an important thing to know before you decide on signing a contract to work at an international school.

If you don’t mind living in a 3rd ring suburb, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big of an issue that your school is so far away from the city center.  However, if you like to enjoy city life and prefer to live there as well, then it might not be the best fit to work at an international school that is not centrally located.

If you are a teacher with children that attend the school, living closer to school also might be a positive thing.  Maybe if you have children, you wouldn’t mind working at a school that is way out in the suburbs because that is always where you would prefer to live anyway.

Before signing a contract, an international school teacher definitely needs to evaluate their current situation and what their living-situation needs are.  Make sure to ask the right questions at the interview about how your current situation and needs match with the location of the school and where you would most likely be living in relation to that school.

If you had a choice, what would be the preferred way for you to and from work every day?  Would you rather ride your bike, take a bus, take the school bus, ride on a train, walk, drive your car, take a taxi, or a combination of 2-3 types of transportation?  What amount of time is an acceptable journey length: 10-15 minutes, 15-30 minutes, 45 minutes, or over one hour? The ISC blog has a series called The Journey to School which highlights a number of journeys to schools from around the world. Check it out to get a first-hand account of what the journeys are like.

One colleague friend of mine worked at a school that was more than a one-hour journey from their apartment.  Most of the teachers there were taken to and from the school on one of the school’s buses “for teachers.”  One positive thing this teacher took away from that experience was that many teachers were forced to not work so long at the school.  Because of the fact that the school bus for teachers left at a specific time, you had to get on that bus…otherwise you would be stuck at school with limited options to get home!  Sometimes teachers do need to stay long at school to get work completed, but often teachers don’t really need to stay for hours and hours.  If you are forced to end your workday at a certain time, you would be surprised how much of your work gets done during that time constraint.

Another colleague friend of mine lives in the city center and their school is very conveniently located in relation to the city center.  Many teachers at this school also live where this teacher lives, and the journey from home to school is around 12-15 minutes by train and 20-25 minutes by bike.  Many of the teachers at this school are quite pleased that they at least have the option of living in the city center and also have a relatively easy commute to work.  There are also many options to get to work based on the needs and situation of each teacher.  It is nice when there are many transportation options available to meet the needs of a diverse staff.

We have had 1710 comments and information (30 October 2022) submitted about this very topic on a number of international schools on International School Community’s website.  For example on the Kaohsiung American School‘s profile page there have been four comments submitted so far:

On the Misr American College school profile page, we have two rather informative comments about the school’s location:

On the American Embassy School New Delhi school profile page, we have useful details about the school’s location:

If you are an international school teacher currently working abroad, please share your comments about if your school is conveniently or NOT conveniently located.

Additionally, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com as you are able to check out our over 24000 members.  Many of our current members have listed they work at over 2000 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about where most teachers are living in relation to the school and the city center.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an International School Tip #1: Local vs. International School Systems

September 25, 2022


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  Many international school teachers are in teaching couples that have children.  There are also international school teachers that are married to a local and have children too.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend?  This blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #1: Have you fully weighed the advantages and disadvantages of placing your child in an international school in (insert country name here)? It is difficult to go back and forth to the (insert local country) system and it will affect high- er education choices.

As it is a real option for most international school teachers, it is important to think about whether you are going to send your children to a local school versus the international school at which you work.

We all know international school teachers typically get free tuition for their children, but not all international schools offer this benefit.  Furthermore, some international schools might make the teacher actually pay for a certain percentage of the tuition cost, sometimes up to 50% or more.  With 2-3 children, that could all add up to make your benefits package not that attractive!  Other international schools offer free tuition, but don’t actually guarantee a spot for your child which might result in waiting 1-2 years.  The schools that do this are seeing more of the monetary benefit of getting more ‘paying’ students in the school versus ‘non-paying’ students.

In my opinion, it is to the international school’s benefit to have their teachers’ children attend the school.  Many international schools only have a small percentage of students in the class that are native-level speakers of English.  When the number of native speakers is low, then the level of English and proficiency of the students can be low as well.  In general, non-native speakers of English need native speaker role models in the class to help them achieve high proficiency in English. At least that was the case at one of my previous international schools in the Mediterranean where the student population was 45% from the host country.

Some international school teachers are married to a local from the host country.  When that is the case, many times the family will send their children to the local schools, so that the children can learn fully in the local language.  Knowing the local language like a native speaker will definitely be an important factor in that child’s future if the family’s plan is to stay in the host country forever (or a really long time). Sending your children to a local school is typically the cheaper option if you are in a situation where the international school you work at wants to have you pay a certain percentage.

Sometimes the choice to have their children attend a local school is a choice the family is making for themselves, or it is a choice that is made because of the difficulty with getting a spot for enrollment in the international school.  It is important to note that most international schools though do make sure to have a spot for teachers’ children if they are foreign hires. Otherwise, it would be most difficult to get any teaching couples (with dependents) to sign a contract! But for international school teachers with a local spouse, like in some areas of the world (e.g. Western Europe), getting a spot might prove to be more challenging as the international school will state that the children have a viable option to attend a local school.

If you are an international school teacher with children, please share your comments about ‘Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of local and international school systems.’ on your school’s profile page.

Additionally, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com as you are able to check out our almost 25000 members.  Many of our current members have listed they are ‘married with dependents’ on their profile pages.  Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about what life is like as an international school teacher with children.

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Highlighted Articles

Going home for the summer: No one cares about your international life!

June 27, 2022


I always hope that somebody will care every year I go home, but every year most of them don’t. (Ha ha!)

It is not because they really don’t care though, it is mostly because they just don’t fully understand or connect to the international/expat life you are living.  When visiting family and friends in my home country, very rarely do the conversations relate to my life living abroad.  Hardly do we even talk about the amazing trips that I have been on the past year! (Oh, the things I have seen!)  It is hard to talk about your trips without giving an impression of bragging though.

International school teachers indeed live a life that is a foreign world to our old friends, so different from where we were born and raised.  Additionally, so many people in this world still just stay living close to where they were raised.  When I look at my home-country friends and relatives, most are living in the same city they grew up in or in the city just next to that one. (Side note: Why do we feel the need to escape our hometowns?)

And of course, quite a large percentage of people in the United States are without a passport (is that true for the Americans YOU know??).  Being that these friends and family that you know maybe haven’t had so much experience living abroad or even traveling abroad, you would think that would make them even more interested in your international life…but that isn’t always the case.

I guess when you go home, you spend most of your time just reminiscing about the good times of the past, of when you used to live there maybe. Most of the conversations you have also are just normal ones, talking about day-to-day things (e.g. the weather, etc.).

Sometimes your friends and family dominate the conversation with updates from their life, which of course you are curious about as well.  You want to get the lowdown on their lives being that you are only there visiting with them for typically such a short time.  I mean they haven’t seen you in a while as well, and they are excited to see you and catch you up on their lives.

Though it is truly so nice to go back home and catch up with everyone, little do your friends and family realize or understand the reverse culture shock you may be experiencing when you go back home, even if it is the 8th time you have come home in 10 years (let’s say) that you’ve been abroad.

International school teachers live a dual life basically.  The fact is…that we live most of the year in our host country; eating our host country food, hanging out with our host country friends, being surrounded by a foreign language and culture, living in our host country apartment, using and thinking in a foreign currency, etc.  When you visit your home country, you really want to tell people in your host country about those things!  Some will listen though when it comes up naturally in the conversation, but it is usually a fleeting moment…not giving you enough time to share as much as you would like.

This article is not meant to make fun of or hate on our home country friends and family, but it is meant to express our feelings about how an expat teacher might feel and how they might think in their head as they go home for the summer. When you are living abroad for so long, it is so nice (and important) to see and catch up with your family and old friends.

How do you feel when you go home to your host country? Are you able to have conversations with your friends and family about your life living abroad?

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.

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12 Common Myths and Misconceptions about Bilingual Children

Common Myths and Misconceptions about Bilingual Children #8: If a bilingual child experiences any languages problems in one or both languages, dropping one of the languages will fix the situation.

December 16, 2012


As teachers working in international schools, we are most likely teaching and working with bilingual children (or even, more likely, multilingual children).  Many international school educators also find themselves starting a family; with potentially bilingual children.  We all know colleagues that have ended up finding a partner from the host country while living there, getting married to them, and then starting a family.  None of us are truly prepared to raise a multilingual family and for sure there are many questions and concerns that we have.

What is the best way then to teach and/or raise bilingual children?  What does the research say are the truths about growing up bilingual and how bilinguals acquire both languages?

On the Multilingual Living website, they have highlighted the 12 myths and misconceptions about bilingual children.

Myth #8: If a bilingual child experiences any language problems in one or both languages, dropping one of the languages will fix the situation.

Reality: There is no evidence that this is so.  Children who have problems with two languages generally also have them with one.

This myth is a hard sell for teachers, and especially for teachers at an international school.  We feel so strongly sometimes about how important a child needs to learn in the primary language of instruction that we forget sometimes the importance of learning in a second language (which could also be their mother tongue language or their third+ language).

schoolMany international schools offer more than one language of instruction.  If you are at an IB international school, then you must have more than one language of instruction.  This issue then is how to teach two (or more) languages to the same student.  Is your international school striving to create ’emergent bilinguals’ or just striving to have the students become English proficient?  We know it is good to have students grow up learning multiple languages, but how do we instruct that child to acquire those languages most effectively?  International school administration and staff should be discussing possible answers to this question more often!

Being that acquiring a second language is almost always a bit different for every child, it is hard to tell sometimes what is really the best way instruct that child in a second language.  You could also say the same thing when talking about learning in your first language as well; all children learn their first language differently (e.g. different ways, different speed, different learning styles, etc.) too.

Almost all international schools offer classes to instruct their student population in the host country language.  The expectation usually is that all students at that school will have the opportunity to learn (and to become proficient) in that host country language and to have the right to attend those classes.  Many times though, there are other options for learning during that host country language time for certain students.  For example, students that are new-to-the-English language (if the primary language of the international school is English) or struggling readers and writers in English often don’t attend the host country language classes, instead they go to extra English classes or reading and writing intervention classes to help them get ‘caught up’ faster.

Let’s take a look at the new-to-the-English language students.  Many teachers believe that learning in this new language (a 2nd, 3rd, etc…) will create problems for the child and that they will get confused. Being that you can’t very well tell if those 3-5 extra classes in English will be in direct correlation to an accelerated growth in their English proficiency, it is hard to justify taking them out of the host country language classes.  Additionally, most would agree these new-to-the-English language students don’t actually have language learning problems either.  If we take those 3-5 lessons of extra-English support and put them during lessonsozeki in context of their regular English classes with their mainstream teacher, that just might be a better way to utilize that support.  In addition, those students will then get the opportunity to learn in the host country language as well.

Many times at international schools students don’t go to learn in the second language because of them having language problems in the first language.  Teachers typically justify that by limiting the child’s experiences to learning in just one language that it will be of benefit to him/her in the other language…thus making things less complicated and confusing.  If we agree though that the solution of dropping one language to help solve the learning problems of the child is a myth, then I wonder how that would change the language learning structure at international schools.  We might then come to an agreement that all students, disregarding any language learning problems, should have access to attend classes in a second language or at least the opportunity to become proficient in another language.

Teachers are always looking for the best educational solutions for their students. When it comes to the language acquisition though, there are many myths out there that are still going strong.  It might be important to keep in mind that just because you have structured the struggling student’s timetable to only involve learning in one language that doesn’t mean you will have solved this student’s language learning problem.  A better strategy might be to find more effective ways of instructing the child in question, and use that strategy disregarding which language that student is learning through/in.

So, what do you think about the topic of bilingual children dropping one of their languages to help fix a language learning problem? Please share your comments. Are you working at an international school right now where this topic is of current interest and attention?

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12 Common Myths and Misconceptions about Bilingual Children

Common Myths and Misconceptions about Bilingual Children #7: Parents who do not speak a language perfectly will pass their errors and their accent on to their children.

October 18, 2012


As teachers working in international schools, we are most likely teaching and working with bilingual children (or even, more likely, multilingual children).  Many international school educators also find themselves starting a family; with potentially bilingual children.  We all know colleagues that have ended up finding a partner from the host country while living there, getting married to them, and then starting a family.  None of us are truly prepared to raise a multilingual family and for sure there are many questions and concerns that we have.

What is the best way then to teach and/or raise bilingual children?  What does the research say are the truths about growing up bilingual and how bilinguals acquire both languages?

On the Multilingual Living website, they have highlighted the 12 myths and misconceptions about bilingual children.

Myth #7: Parents who do not speak a language perfectly will pass their errors and their accent on to their children.

Reality: This might be true only if the child never heard any other speakers, which is unlikely to happen with parents who are nonnative speakers of either a majority or a minority language.

It is difficult to know what to tell international schools parents with regards to how to talk to their children.  There are many worries (from the teachers and the parents) about doing the right thing and not making any mistakes that would damage their child’s learning of a language.

If the idea is that the students at international schools learn how to speak from their teachers, the same might just be true that the teachers learn from the example of the students (for in fact, they are in the majority in the classroom).  Being that many international schools have classrooms that have students with varying levels of English proficiency, they are bound to have acquired some of the errors of the majority of the classroom (and the same goes for the teachers working with them who may also acquire those errors).

Language acquisition theory tells us that students learn most of their social language from their peers at school and at home, not necessarily from the teachers.  However, what does second language acquisition theory tells us about how much parents can influence their child’s language acquisition?

Many international schools tell their parents to continue speaking in their mother tongue to the child, and many do without even the school telling them to do so.  But the issue then is, how can the parents help support the English language acquisition of their child while they are attending an international school that has a target language of English?  International school parents do their best to help their child and their English homework.  They also do their best to provide play-dates with their native English speaking peers at school.  International school parents can also try and encourage the English acquisition of their child by providing them opportunities to interact with English by playing games, watching movies/tv, using the internet or by using various apps on their i-pad.  It is true though that they can also create certain opportunities to practice speaking with their child in English with no harm done with regards to passing on errors that they make or an accent that they are speaking in.  As the myth’s reality states: their child will have many other opportunities to listen to and interact with the target language (via various media sources, their teachers and peers, etc.) which will most likely be providing them with other model examples of the target language.  It is indeed a group effort in terms of how a child acquires a second language, it doesn’t appear to just come from the model and influence of their parents.

If you are asked about this topic by a parent at one of your next parent teacher conferences, have a discussion with him/her about this myth’s reality. Also, have a talk about the challenges that expat (bilingual) families face with regards to the delicate balance of what language they speak at home.  Parents can send a message to their child about the importance of the continuation of their mother tongue language, but they can also send a message that they can also communicate in a second (or third, fourth, etc.) language.  Enjoy the time and opportunities that may arise to interact in the target language at school.  These parents can also get the opportunity to practice in that target language and move along further in their proficiency.  Many times international school parents tell their teachers that before, their child couldn’t speak the target language so well and that they [the parents] were more proficient.  Then they are surprised to find out months later that the tables have turned and now their child knows more than them!

So, what do you think about the topic of parents not speaking a language perfectly and then potentially passing on their errors and their accent to their children? Please share your comments. Are you working at an international school right now where this topic is of current interest and attention?

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