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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Video Highlight

Video highlight: A discussion about language learning and the second language learning of children at international schools

January 29, 2012


Language and Learning

The video addresses the following questions:

• How many languages can a child learn at once?
• Is there a ‘window’ of opportunity, or can they learn multiple languages at any time?
• And what are the cognitive benefits of learning more than one language?
• We speak with research psychologists and a language teacher about how kids acquire second, third or fourth languages and how it helps.

International schools should be at the forefront of providing the most opportune environment for 2nd and 3rd language learning in children.

Many international schools have very diverse student populations.  Using the school profile search on International School Community, there are 607 international schools out of the 1088 listed on our website that have mostly international student populations.  That usually means that students are coming to school already knowing 2+ languages, with English being a 3rd or a 4th language for them.

It is challenging to come up though with the perfect second language acquisition environment in international schools.  There are many factors that come into play.  One of them being scheduling, which can be quite restrictive at some schools.  Another factor is what is required of the host country in terms of what the international school has to teach related to the host country language.  For example at Copenhagen International School, the primary school offers Danish to the whole school, starting in first grade.  The program is very limited though, with all students having only 3 periods of Danish a week.  In this model (a kind of FLEX – Foreign Language Experience model) Non-Danish speakers in the school are not exposed enough to the host country language to really become proficient in the target language of that class (especially with the academic language of Danish).

Now look at American School of Barcelona.  They are teaching three languages in the primary school: English as the main language, Spanish as the 2nd and Catalan as the 3rd.  How would you begin to design a trilingual model of instruction in that school with a diverse student population?

Many international schools now are integrating mother tongue support programs as well during the school day and also during after-school hours.  Which mother tongue support program model is the most effective?

It all gets confusing for many international schools.  Many of them have been teaching in their model of instruction (for language learning) for a while now; finding it hard to change it.  Many international school parents sometimes don’t even want their children learning the language of the host country, especially in countries where the locals speak a language that is basically non-existent in other parts of the world.  Parents must realize though that it is not just the language their children will be learning, it is the understanding of the culture too; which is very important when the student and the family are being immersed in a culture, living sometimes more than three years in one country.

As teachers though we are the experts.  We should think about what languages do we want to have our students learn at school and how best to go about teaching them.  Do we want students to become bilingual or trilingual in the language we instruct or just merely proficient in the language?  When we know the answers to those questions, then we need to figure out the best model and environment for the students to achieve those goals.

The video discusses many of the myths surrounding language learning.  I learned awhile back that there is nothing stopping an adult from becoming highly proficient in a second language (like most people think), it is just that their accent will mostly likely not be native-like.  Whereas kids can learn a second language at a young age giving them a better opportunity to acquire a more native-like accent.  There are many more myths about language learning, and I suppose we are debunking them all the time with more and more people becoming aware of how best students (and adults) learn second languages.

Visit www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and contact a member today and get firsthand information from them about the language learning model at his/her current school.  Interesting question to ponder: Does a school’s language learning model effect your decision-making when job hunting?

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Video Highlight

Video highlight: What does English sound like to a foreigner?

October 15, 2011


“Even if you don’t speak a word of a language, chances are you can identify it based on the sounds you hear.”

Wow! It feels like you should be able to understand the conversation, but it is impossible!  People always say that learning English is quite easy when compared to other languages.  We must not take for granted how hard English might be to learn and master for the other people who don’t think that it is easy!

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