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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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves: A settling-in allowance given to you in cash (local currency)!

December 30, 2012


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.

Must-have #6: A settling-in allowance given to you in cash (local currency)!

You just get off the airplane.  You have what seem to be a million bags with you. You are quite tired from your long flight journey to your new host country.  You are frantically looking for the person that said that they were going to pick you up from the airport.  You find them and they bring you to your new place that will be your home for the next few years.   So many things on your mind, so many things to worry about, and SO many things to buy!

Sure, you can prepare ahead of time and get some of the local currency at a bank in your home country before you get on the plane.  Sure, you can make it a point to visit an ATM at the host country airport or try and find a local bank near your new house that has an ATM.  But even then, you will have to use the money that you have in your home bank account and for many people, they might not have the finances to support starting up a completely new life and home.

How nice then if the international school that you will be working at gives you a settling-in allowance on your arrival to your new host country?! Getting cash in the local currency straight away is definitely a perk and a very nice benefit to look out for when searching for a new international school at which to work.

International School Community members have a wealth of information to share! Here are a few comments about their experience getting a settling-in allowance at an international school they have worked at:

“As soon as I got off the plane and claimed my baggage, I met the school principal at the arrivals gate, he introduced himself, and handed me an envelope with 1,500,000 won (roughly $1,500). Seriously, it was that quick.”  – An international school teacher at Seoul International School (68 Comments).

“Upon arriving at our apartment, we were given an envelope with some cash in it. This was our settling-in allowance. It was enough to go to a Walmart-type store and get all the basics you don’t bring with you but need right away. Cleaning supplies/trash can/kitchen utensils (beyond the basics). The school already provided all the basic furniture, bedding, and kitchen stuff (pots/plates/cutlery) but all of the odds and ends were purchased with that settling in allowance. It was great to have local currency right away…but it sure didn’t last very long!” – An international school teacher at Graded School Sao Paulo (16 Comments).

“They gave the first month’s salary in cash upon arrival.” – An international school teacher at GEMS American Academy (Abu Dhabi) (23 Comments).

“The Canadian Academy has a decent size settling in allowance. Seems large at first, but was used up quite quickly, as Japan is VERY expensive. So perhaps not as good as it seems. (I think it was about equal to one paycheck….?)” – An international school teacher at Canadian Academy (Kobe) (10 Comments).

Getting at least some help monetarily during your first days in your new host country is very much welcomed by all international school teachers!  Though you typically go through your settling-in allowance very quickly, it is still nice have.  At many postings, you often don’t get your first paycheck until the end of the month that you start working.  There are way too many things to buy during those first few weeks, that it would be impossible to wait until you get your first paycheck!  Not to mention all the money you end up needlessly wasting when you buy certain items impulsively at one store (because it is near to your house), not knowing that the other store (down the block) sells that same item for half the price.  I’m sure that has happened to all of us at one time or another!

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In the Benefits Information section of the school profile page on our website, we have a topic related to the settling-in allowance: Detailed info about flight, shipping and settling-in allowances. Any other benefits (e.g. free lunches, etc.)?  There have been 100s of comments and information submitted in this topic on our website and many of them refer to the settling-in allowance you will get (or not get) working at that international school . Here are a few of those comments:

“You get one flight per two year contract. There is a 1500 USD appx. local settling allowance, and the school gives an interest free loan of one months salary to assist with settling costs. Shipping – be careful as if you are transitioning from another international post, you must use your home of record for quotations. Some people buy furniture, others rent furnished, some take out car loans, others buy 2nd hand cars. There are plenty of different options.” International School of Kuala Lumpur (55 Comments)

“At the end of your contract the school provides travel and transportation to home of record. Annual flight allowance (KIS pays up to Rs 12,000 / person once every term contract). Shipping allowance for staff on term contract upon joining and at the completion of service. Also there is a transportation allowance. Settling in allowance is given upon every term contract signed. Lunch / tea in our school cafeterias while the school is in session is provided to teachers.” Kodaikanal International School (25 Comments)

“VAIS paid for round trip airfare from the US to Hanoi and back to the US for school year 2011-2. For school year 2012-3, there’s a cap of $1,700. VAIS paid $500 settling in costs. For school year 2012-3, there’s no settling in allowances. There are no free lunches. Lunches cost $3.50.” Vietnam American International School (26 Comments)

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 offer a settling-in allowance?  Please share your experiences!

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