New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A tour of your new campus

May 6, 2014


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far. m

Must-have #12: A tour of your new campus

2011011213443129777  Before you even interview with an international school, a perspective teacher is definitely scouring the school’s website for pictures of the campus (among other things as well!).  During the interview you even take some time to ask some questions about the campus and its facilities.  The school might even have a neat video that some of their students made, showing off each part of the campus.  After the interview you still want to know more and can’t wait to actually see the campus in person; as we all know too well, pictures can at times be deceiving.

So you finally arrive in your new city and country. Hopefully the director picked you up from the airport and personally dropped you off at your new apartment.  You get settled-in as much as you can in the first few days and then it is time to go to your new school for the first time.

A few questions though, how do you even get to your new school?  Maybe somebody in the business office comes to your apartment complex to drive you to your new school (how nice is that?!?).  Maybe you are with a small group of other new teachers (who also live in the same apartment building) and you get directions on how to use public transport to get to the school campus.  You might even be greeted by a staff member in person at some predetermined location in the city and then you and a group of other new teachers take a walk to the school.

fc3f0c098c43a3e9250b63a57dce5723Finally you are at your new school!  After the initial shock on seeing the campus for the first time and getting introduced to tons of important people at the school, you take a deep breath and get ready to really see the campus.

It is typically one of the first things that you do as a new teachers, get a tour around the whole campus and grounds. Who is doing that?  It could be the director himself/herself that leads the tour; nice to have the person who hired you to be the one to do that.  It might also be your immediate boss who does the tour, or it might be a staff member who has been ‘elected’ to be the official welcomer of the new teachers (I put elected in quotes because sometimes this staff member is just volunteering their time and not always getting paid!).

2TrackNeighborhoodWith your jet-lagged eyes, it is finally time to take everything in of your new school.  Is it well-manicured or old and falling apart?  It is easy to quickly judge things as you going around to the different areas of the campus (maybe they are skipping over some parts to not scare you too much!).  It is hard not to compare everything to your last school.  If luck is on your side, most things at your new school will be way better than your previous one!

Then the tour is over and live goes on.  Soon the new campus becomes very familiar to you and thus you feel super comfortable again and can get yourself into the swing of things as you start your teaching.  Could it be that a nice school campus tour gets you starting off on the right foot for your first year there?

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Luckily on International School Community we have a comment topic that specifically addresses the issue of the school campus.  It is called: Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.

We have had a total of 606 separate comments in this topic about a number of international schools on our website.  Here are just a few:

Zhuhai International School –
“The school campus is really interesting and different. It’s in a building, originally built as a hotel, on a nature reserve island, 15 minutes north of the outskirts of Zhuhai city. The pluses: It’s got fabulous outdoor/natural resources – huge outdoor playing areas, a track, an enormous banyan tree, plenty of space, and good-sized classrooms. The minuses: no gym or large meeting space indoors, 3, soon to be 4 floors with only stairs. But if you like a laid back, open environment, surrounded by nature, you’ll love this campus.”

Buena Vista Concordia International School –
“Beautiful, purpose-built school in the Buena Vista area of Bao’an. All buildings in the residential/commercial area utilize an American Southwest theme with brown and orange being the main color scheme. School has full indoor gymnasium, outdoor soccer pitch and track, space for art and music, as well as four large lab areas.”

American School of Guatemala (Colegio Americano)
“Large campus, park-like setting with beautiful tropical landscaping. K-12 so each section has a different are (Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, High School). Located in a high-end area of Guatemala City (still lots of traffic) but on campus you would never know you’re in the middle of a city.”

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So, does your international school give a tour of the campus straight away to all the new hires?  Please share your experiences!

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: Beginning-level host country language classes.

August 11, 2013


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #11: Beginning-level host country language classes.

class_veroniqueAt times there is nothing worse than the feeling of not know how to communicate with the people in your community. Many of us decide to move to countries where we do not know the host country language.  It is impossible for people to know every language spoken in this world, especially really local languages that are not even possible to learn in universities in your home country.  Additionally, most international school teachers don’t choose countries to live in only where they can speak the language (though some definitely do, which makes sense).

We all know that English is now being spoken in many countries now.  Maybe even all of them have some percentage of the local community that can speak English (especially the younger generations).  Even if there are many people that speak English in your new host country, it is clear though that knowing the local language is very important. If you know at least some of the host country language then you will be able to be clearer with the local people you have to interact with and have less miscommunication that might lead to tense culture shock moments for you. It is also important to start learning the local language because of how language is directly tied to knowing more about their culture.  And that is what this international school teaching experience is all about, learning more about and appreciating the different cultures of this world.

So, the answer is easy. Just go and take some classes. Prospective international school teachers might be surprised though that many of us just don’t do it.  And there are many reasons why we skip the opportunity or chance to attend those classes.  One reason might be that you just simply don’t know where to go.  If your school is there to help you find these classes (or even pay for the classes for you…as some international schools include taking classes in their benefits package), then that can really help you find your way to sign-up sooner than later.  Another reason you don’t attend language classes is because you just figure that you don’t have the extra time to take them. It is a big time commitment to dedicate one or two evenings of your week to go and take language classes.  A third reason might be that you are just not interested or ready to take on a 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th…) language in your life at that point in time.  A fourth reason is that you might think that you can easily just get away with speaking English your whole time living there.  And if you are planning on only staying two years, you might justify to yourself that you won’t really even be in that country long enough to really need to know the language. There are probably even more reasons why we don’t take these language classes!literacy_pic1-550x257

If you are interested in ‘taking the plunge’ and find that it is a good match for you go and take some language classes, how nice if your new international school is there to guide you to where to take them (during your new teacher orientation programme).  Your school and the people that work there might have some trusted references on schools/classes you can attend…and for the most reasonable prices.  In some countries though, the host country actually offers free language classes to new immigrants to their country, and your new school should be able to help you in how to sign-up for those since they probably have many new teachers each year wanting to do just that.

Even though we all have good intentions to learn the host country language when we first move to a new country, it is a fact that not every international school teacher follows through with this.  Many international schools have teachers that have been there 5-10 years or even longer and they just know the very basic of vocabulary.  Being that the majority of their day is going to be in English, many teachers just get into a routine of not communicating in the local language and end of not effectively learning it.  With all the possibilities of downloading or streaming tv programmes and movies in English on the internet, some teachers’ time after a whole workday in English becomes a WHOLE day of speaking, listening, reading and writing in English.

There are many success stories though. Just as many teachers there are who don’t effectively learn the host country language, there are many that do. They find (make) time to take the classes, they look for local friends to talk to in that language, they pick up the local newspaper to try and read that every day, they sit next to the host country language teachers during lunch time to get in a few more minutes of local-language speaking practice, etc. It is ultimately up for each international school teacher to choose their own path in how they will learn or not learn the language, and having your school there to support and guide you in the right direction can be very helpful!

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So, does your international school help new teachers to get beginning-level host country language classes?  Please share your experiences!

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: Resource person with a contact number and email address

April 26, 2013


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #9: Resource person with a contact number and email address

imagesThere is so much going on for international school teachers in their first days, weeks and even months after starting at their new school.  There is just as much going on for you before you arrive at your new host country.  Being that there is so much to think about, one of the most important things that international schools can do for their new hires is set-up so that they have a resource person.  New teachers actually need to have a contact person from the moment they get offered their contract (e.g. when they are still in their home country or their current placement).  There are so many things going on in the new teacher’s mind, and that person needs somebody to talk to and ask questions to as the time gets closer and closer for his/her big move.

I remember getting the chance to talk over the phone (now it would be done via Skype I’m sure) with a contact person a few months before I moved.  The contact person was another teacher at the school who had worked there a year already.  In turn, it was fresh in her mind all the things that a new teacher would want to know about.  I had my list of ‘new teacher’ questions ready to ask her.  She was very real and forthcoming with her answers and it made me that much more comfortable, at the time, in my preparation for the big move which was in 2-3 months.  Sure I got some information and answers from the director who hired me, but it is many times much better to get a different perspective on things.  Also, there are some questions that you just might not ask a director (potentially your immediate supervisor). Once I got to the school, that initial ‘resource’ person then coordinated some new teacher orientation activities for me and the rest of the new teachers.  But then, that was it.  Also, I found out later that this contact person wasn’t actually getting paid any extra to do this; contacting and helping out the new teachers.  A year later, they changed that and made sure to give an appropriate stipend for the teacher/s that take on this role.TESOL_crop_opt

Other international schools have this initial contact person, but then that teacher turns into an official mentor. The mentor’s role is definitely to be the contact person for this new teacher.  Some mentorship programmes at international schools are quite helpful, others not so much.  Sometimes there isn’t a good match between the mentor and the new teacher.  That new teacher just might find a better, more compatible mentor in one of the teachers in their immediate team at the school.  It is nice though to have another contact person, an official one, if the other teacher isn’t available. Basically anyone can be a mentor at a new school.  Just because someone is your official mentor doesn’t mean that another teacher could turn into that role for you if you don’t think the first one is the best fit for you.

Not all international schools are that organized though with regards to assigning contact people to new staff.  It could be that the school doesn’t even have a mentor programme.  But the problems could also be related to an existing, ineffective mentor programme.  For example, there is nothing worse than when you email your ‘resource’ and then that contact person never gets back to you.  Maybe the person is just ignoring their ‘resource’ job or maybe the school just gave you the wrong email address (for example some teachers might not use their work email address very often or at all during the summer holiday).  Either way, when you don’t have communication with your new school during these pre-move months, then you can easily start to get a bit anxious and nervous about whether you are preparing the best way you can.  Some new teachers might even get “cold-feet” and call the whole thing off; it can happen!  The main point is though: to keep the new teacher as comfortable and as most informed as possible!

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So, does your international school assign a resource person with a contact number and email address to their newly hired teachers?  Please share your experiences!

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A starter supply of groceries for your new home.

March 16, 2013


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #8: A starter supply of groceries for your new home.

patquinnrefrigeratorThere is nothing worse than arriving to your new home with an empty fridge.  Even though you will probably be going out to eat a lot for the new few days, it is nice to have at least a few things in your kitchen on which you can eat/snack.

Luckily, many international schools out there are getting this one right.  Someone in the “new teacher orientation” committee is going out to a grocery store before you arrive and getting you the basic necessities for you. What are the basic necessities?  Typically you get some a carton of milk, a loaf of bread, a box of crackers, a roll of cookies, etc.  You will also get a package of toilet paper and some paper towels maybe.  In countries where you cannot drink the water, you will most certainly get some fresh water supplies as well.  Some international schools even provide you with a couple cans of beer!

It is possible that you will not even end up using some of these items, but it is definitely the thought that counts.  You will probably end up using the unused food supplies at your house warming party that you should hopefully be having during the first month of so.

Some might think that the new teacher can just go out and get their own groceries after they arrive, what is the big deal?  Well many times new teachers arrive at odd hours (read: your flight might be delayed!) and the nearby grocery store just might not be open.  Also, just leaving your new home for the first time in the first few days can be a daunting experience.  You might be a bit nervous about where everything is in the neighborhood and not be ready to “explore around” just yet.  You also might maybe be preoccupied with not locking yourself out of your new place to even think about getting up and out to the nearest super market!

Many people though who live abroad do though enjoy exploring around foreign grocery stores.  And there will for sure be time for you to explore all the grocery stores around the city, especially all the ones with expat products in them!  Who knows what they might have that will be your new favorite thing to buy?!

So why wouldn’t an international school provide a new teacher to their school with an emergency bag of groceries/supplies?  Are there any out there that don’t do this? It does take some man power and time to get the emergency supplies all prepared and ready.  Imagine if you had to get these same supplies for 10 or 20 new teachers; not an easy task (read: many international school teachers, even veteran ones, don’t have a car).  But if the international school budgets for this, then they will most likely budget paying for a veteran staff member to find a way to organize getting these groceries and supplies.  Kind of fun I bet to be one of the first people that the new teacher sees.  After a long journey, it will most definitely put a smile on the new teacher’s face when they realize that his/her new school has thought about them.  And that is what new teacher orientation must-haves are all about…making sure the new teachers are happy and comfortable.

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So, does your international school supply you with a starter supply of groceries for your new home?  Please share your experiences!

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A dinner outing with the director and administration

February 16, 2013


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to your start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read about the ones we have discussed so far.

Must-have #7: A dinner outing with the director and administration

IMG_0063-1In some cultures it is very much of a bonding moment between people when they share a meal together.  It is a time when you can really relax and have some nice conversations with each other.  Getting to know your director and other new teachers in this kind of setting will help you with future encounters with the director and also with your potential new good friends. Having a meal with your bosses can really start your relationship with them on the right track.

How nice is it when the administration treats you to a nice dinner out somewhere in your new town?  It really just sets the stage right to have a great start to your first year.  Sure it is not that important and of course it does not have anything to do with your job specifically, but it is nice to get some bonding time with the other new teachers as well as your new bosses. Also, there is the fact that you probably don’t have so much money when you first arrive to be going out to eat at a nice restaurant. Plus, you probably do not even know where the good restaurants are just yet anyway.

If there is not a dinner planned though for all the new teachers, it definitely feels like something is missing.  If there is a dinner planned, then there are a few scenarios that might happen.  Most often the admin plans a dinner out in the center of the city at a nice restaurant.  You can really take in your new “expat lifestyle” in this scenario!  If you have a director that is a little bit more personable, he/she might invite you over to have dinner at their house.  In this scenario, the director is really making an effort to show the new teachers that they are now “one of the family” on the staff at the school.

A less desirable scenario is when the dinner is just held at the school itself. Maybe the admin staff will get the cooking staff to make something special for everyone. Having the “dinner out” at the school is probably not making a very good impression on the new teachers, but depending on cooks, it could actually be quite nice.  Another way to not make the best impression is to have the dinner at some cheap restaurant (just across the street from the compound where all the teachers are living) with little planning involved on making the outing special in any way.

In either scenario, the conversations and experience had at the “dinner out” with the new staff will surely be ones that you remember.  A fun time is usually in store with a lot of laughter.  Take it all in because this dinner-out evening is just the beginning of your new and exciting expat life in your new host city.

Some members on our Facebook page have shared about eating out with their administration during the new teacher orientation week they experienced at their international school:

International School Geneva – Campus des Nations – “At IS Geneva there was barely an orientation week (just 2 half days) let alone any sort of dinner.”

International School Singapore (10 Comments) – “The head of school throws a BBQ dinner for the new teachers and one later for all staff to mingle with the new staff.”

Discovery College (Hong Kong) (5 Comments) – “We had a dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Also a drinks/appetizers with the larger ESF organization.”

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Not that you would ask about this topic at your interview or anything, but it might be important to ask the administrator who’s interviewing you the details of the new teachers orientation week.  You do want to know how they support new teachers to make a smooth transition.

On International School Community we have a number of principals and directors of international schools that are members. Currently, we have 20 Directors/Heads of School that have joined.  Some of the international schools they work at are:

The Bilingual School of Monza
• International Community School Addis Ababa
Olive Green International School
International School of Dusseldorf
ABC International School (Tokyo)
International School Groningen
Garden International School

Log-on today to check out the many comments and information submitted in this section topic!  Become the most informed you can be when it comes to finding out the benefits an international school offers to its new teachers.

So, does your international school include a dinner out with the director and administration as part of their new teacher orientation?  Please share your experiences!

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