12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an International School: Tip #3: Is the School Vision Consistent?

November 27, 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 #3 – Vision: What is the vision of the school? Is it consistent with the actual operation of the school?

What is the vision that is expressed by the school head or officials? Can anyone attest to whether it is consistent with the actual operation of the school?

Whether you are a potential parent or teacher at an international school, it is important for you to inquire about the Vision of the school.  You might ask yourself “what is this notion called Vision” all about and why would it be a concern?  As long as the school is safe and orderly, isn’t that enough?

Vision is the core of the functionality of the school.  Many international schools are privately owned and operated as a business with a mission and vision, often that of the owners.  Other schools might be government entities or faith-based, both of which will likely have specific purposes for existence.  Nonetheless, the vision for a school should be clearly articulated and a driving force for all decisions within the school.  Furthermore, the vision should be one that is shared with a wide array of stakeholders from teachers and students to parents and community members.  It also should be revisited each year or two for refining.

Strong, effective vision statements are often succinct and able to be implanted throughout the decision-making process.  A common current vision theme might include the concept of “preparing global learners for the 21st century” which can sound appealing to teachers and parents assessing international schools.   Don’t we want our students/children to be prepared for the workforce and the competitive market?

Let’s take a look inside the school’s operation as we examine the concept of 21st-century global readiness.  Some easy-to-identify indicators of the use of the Vision for the school might include:

1.     Clearly stated on the school website
2.     Visible at the school
3.     Included in school marketing materials
4.     Articulated by school leaders in interviews and meetings

However, the true power of the Vision is embedded in decision-making and is generally harder for a parent or new hire to identify.  The following questions (and many more) can reveal if the Vision indeed drives the inner workings of the school:

1.     Do enrollment and hiring practices support diversity?
2.     How has the curriculum expanded to prepare students for a global future?
3.     How is technology financed and integrated into the curriculum and daily operations of the school?
4.     Do the instructional strategies reflect on teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving for students and faculty?
5.     Are multiple languages spoken at the school?
6.     Are teachers trained to use best practices in their instruction?
7.     Are there global partnerships for teachers and students to engage in international discussions, projects, and exchanges?
8.     Is there a sense of shared leadership that enables teachers and students to have leadership roles and develop leadership skills?
9.     How does the school’s budget reflect a commitment to preparing 21st-century global learners?
10.  What achievement expectations do the leaders have for learners?

From that limited list of thoughts, one can recognize that future parents and teachers need to be creative in their inquiry process.  Otherwise, the Vision might be more of “the blind leading the blind.”

This article was submitted by guest author: Mary Anne Hipp (contact her here – mahipp@suddenlink.net or visit her Blogspot – http://mahipp.blogspot.com/)

Using the unique ISC Comment Search feature on International School Community we found 469 comments that have the keyword Vision in them. Here are just a few of them:

If you are an international school teacher currently working abroad, log in to ISC today and submit your comment regarding your school’s realization of its vision!

Additionally, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com as you are able to check out our over 950 members.  Many of our current members have listed they work at over 200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about an international school’s vision statement and whether it is consistent with the actual operation of the school.

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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 #11 – Does the school provide or have access to qualified teachers who cater to students with special needs?

July 20, 2013


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at an international school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about how well the international school provides or has access to qualified teachers who cater to students with special needs?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose an international school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #11 – Does the school provide or have access to qualified teachers who cater to students with special needs? Fortunately, the options for adequate support and positive learning environments are increasing.

parent-teacher-meeting-sp-needsAs parents and educators consider international living, school websites can answer many general questions.  However, some parents have specific questions for the needs of their children.  Likewise, teachers and administrators who seek international employment also want to know what services are available at schools and how their skills align with the school’s programs and services.

A growing concern in schools is the question of addressing the special needs of students.  Today that question can have a broad spectrum—- physical, academic, emotional, medical, and psychological.  Schools today have had to expand their programs and providers in order to adequately serve all children.  Internationally, does this protocol of serving all students present similar challenges and are different parts of the world answering the challenge the same or differently?

For the purpose of sharing an international snapshot of this question, I invited various international educators to respond to this topic.  The results of my limited inquiry provided some common results: 1) the need for schools to provide for special needs students is prevalent; 2) many countries have a legal mandate of how this will be done; 3) what is written is difficult to attain; 4) there is a scarcity of special needs teachers; 5) some areas can better address the issues than others due to monetary resources and location.

So, where does that leave a family who is searching for an appropriate place for their special needs child?  The answer I believe is that the parent will have to be the advocate for their child and do in-depth questioning, examining websites, visiting schools, and connecting with the right people.

In England, it is required that all schools (public and state) have a SENCO (Special Needs Coordinator) who is a teacher responsible for pupils with SEN needs and for ensuring that their needs are being met.  Also all inspection reports must comment on the effectiveness of SEND and provision for English as Additional Language students and how the school is meeting those needs. overview_osx

Responses I received from India varied depending on location.  While Boards talk about serving these students, the reality is colored by 1) the scarcity of special education teachers especially in small cities and 2) main stream teachers not being trained in serving special needs.  Part-time tutors are hired and shared when available.

From a different location in India, an international school educator indicated that there is generally a Head of Special Needs appointed in all schools as every child has a Right to Education as per the Government RTE Act.  Under this head, there can be a few junior teachers who are trained to handle children with Special Needs up to a certain level.  If the case is very severe and requires one-on-one care, there are special schools that have specially trained staff and facilities including lifts, special bathrooms to accommodate wheelchairs, etc.  In cases of autism, dyslexia, and attention deficit, those children are identified and served on a one-on-one basis with the Special Needs Department in concert with the Classroom Teacher, Subject Teachers, School Counselor, Parents, and student peers.  These students are closely monitored for improvement, and many times when they attend regular classrooms, a special needs assistant is alongside the student to clarify the lesson and assure there is no interruption in the classroom.  This responder concluded by saying that in his area of India, the Special Needs Department works hard to ensure these children grow up as normal kids who can have a happy schooling experience.

A third international school educator from India added that there are some special schools in urban and rural areas, noting that training centers have recently appeared to train teachers for special needs schools.  Also he sees in-service training starting to be offered.  His summary statement on current conditions—-“There is a ray of hope: politicians, social activists, and educators are becoming more aware of the issues of special needs children and it is widely discussed and debated almost everywhere.”  From these discussions, “we can hope that all these moves will give a better platform for students with special needs in the coming days.”

Moving on to Shanghai where two international school educators shared their insight…..  One summarized that in his small school there is no special needs program and that he did not know of any mainstream international school in Shanghai that has a robust program.  However, that could be changing.  He then connected me to an amazing couple who shared their personal experience.  They are both educators in Shanghai and they were seeking an appropriate program for their son with profound autism.  When they struggled to find what they felt their son needed, Lori and Mike Boll last year started a small, inclusive school for all children called Shine Academy.  It serves 20+ students that range in age from 3-18.  Some have disabilities, some do not.  By forming this inclusive program, they saw it as a way to bring services to their son and the greater community.  See their story at www.shineacademy.asia.  For families seeking support and teachers who are building understanding of how to serve autistic children, the Bolls have additional resources at www.autismpodcast.org.  The Bolls are just one example of what one responder called the “general nature of international teachers—they just find a way.”

In conclusion, the special needs education picture is the same and different across the world.  With a spirit of justice, parents, educators, and communities can make a difference by working collaboratively to improve the accessibility of a quality education for all children.  In unity, the possibilities can become realities.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: Mary Anne Hipp (contact her here – mahipp@suddenlink.net or visit her Blogspot – http://mahipp.blogspot.com/)

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Have a specific international school in mind that you thinking of applying at? Check out our “Where our Members have worked” page and start contacting some of our members that know about the international school you are interested in knowing more about. Our 2700+ members currently work at (or have worked at in the past) 487 different international schools.  Feel free to send them a private message related to finding out more about their Special Needs programming at their international school.

Furthermore, 26 members have specifically stated on their member profile that they currently hold the position of Special Education Teacher.  Check out which positions our members hold here.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #10 – Does the school facilitate learning about the host country?

May 9, 2013


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at an international school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about how well the international school deals with disciplinary problems?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose an international school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 12.43.09 PMTip #10 – Does the school facilitate learning about the host country?  (This may seem obvious, but some international schools make inadequate efforts in this area.)

One of the exciting reasons to work at international schools is to live, work and learn about a different culture and region. Many international schools strive to embed the local culture into the academic curriculum, extra-curricular activities and overall vision/mission of the school. The benefits of doing so are enormous. It helps to create open-mindedness, a sense of belonging to a community, create local partnerships, inspire community action and outreach projects, and promote understanding of language and local customs. However, this does not happen by accident and a school must make a conscious decision to design this all areas of the school; starting with the vision, mission and core values of the school.

Assessing how much value an international school puts into its local culture can start with looking at the school’s mission, vision and core values. For example, the International School of the Hague’s mission statement states part of its mission is “to make an active contribution to global, international and local communities” while “interacting with global, international and local communities through the exchange of resources and knowledge.” Another international school in Indonesia, Sinarmas World Academy, has their mission to “engage, act, thrive” by engaging in service to solve local, Asian and global issues. So why does this matter? All school-wide goals, projects and action items must be aligned with an overall school’s mission, vision and values. Therefore, if you have an interest in engaging in the local culture, this is a good place to start your research.

The second place to start is within the formal curriculum. Does the school offer authentic ways to engage and connect with the local community within a unit of study? Some international accreditation bodies have it as part of their framework. For example, the IBO (international baccalaureate organization) has a strong action and community service component of the PYP, MYP and DP programs. The DP program has a creativity action service (CAS) program where students use local issues to take up action projects. Both the MYP and PYP have strong action components as well that are integrates into units of inquiry and cross-curricular units. This often leads to relevant and meaningful action projects where students get to learn about and help solve local issues. Often schools have CAS coordinators that help to coordinate these projects across the school. These projects do not just happen outside of school walls, but can happen inside school. For instance, local schools are often invited into the school for a mutual learning experiences tied to a unit of study.

Screen Shot 2013-05-09 at 12.12.14 PMPhoto: An example of authentic learning in action. A Grade 3 student working with students from a local school using iPads to take photos for an art activity.

Another area to integrate with the local community is through extra-curricular activities, conferences, special events and sporting programs. An important question to ask your prospective school is what types of extra-curricular activities do they offer with the local community? Do they offer local conferences for teachers or parents? Do they offer sports tournaments with local teams? Do they offer cultural events celebrating local traditions or customs? These are often questions that are way down the list but contribute to the overall school culture and climate. They provide unique opportunities for students and staff to learn and develop friendships with local members of the community. For example, in some international schools in Asia, they celebrate Chinese New Year and often invite local performers, artisans and experts to offer musical, arts, culinary activities for students to engage with. This can really enrich the informal areas of the curriculum that can have long lasting effects.

The opportunity to learn another language is another popular reason for choosing to work at an international school. The ability to converse in another language opens doors for our future learners as well as professionals. Thus, a critical question to ask is what languages are offered at the school and what language levels? Do they offer language instruction in the local language, either in the formal curriculum or as an after-school activity? Do they offer language lessons for staff? Often being able to speak even a few words of the local language goes a long way and is often appreciated by locals.

Interacting and learning from local cultures provides a tremendous opportunity for rich learning experiences for students, teachers and parents. I believe this is one reason why we travel and live overseas. Often, this is an area that is forgotten in job interviews but remains an important consideration when choosing an international school in the future.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: Mark Marshall
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Have a specific international school in mind that you thinking of applying at? Check out our “Where our Members have worked” page and start contacting some of our members that know about the international school you are interested in knowing more about. Our 2400+ members currently work at (or have worked at in the past) 430 different international schools.  Feel free to send them a private message about how much their international school facilitates learning about the host country.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #9 – Does the international school properly deal with disciplinary problems?

April 1, 2013


What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at an international school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about how well the international school deals with disciplinary problems?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose an international school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #9 – Does the school properly deal with disciplinary problems? Some international schools, unfortunately, are lax on discipline, and problem children and their disruptive behavior can adversely affect other children’s learning.

4 -- Parent's Orientation at Ashmah Int.School Parents and teachers have so many considerations to ponder when selecting an international school!  Naturally, questions abound regarding the academics, the co-curricular and extra-curricular offerings, class size, accreditation, teacher quality, and the list goes on.  So what about discipline?

Discipline is an essential element for children to experience school success.  Without it, there is a compromised climate for learning that can eventually resemble chaos.  No one wants their child to learn in that type of environment.  Usually questions regarding school discipline policies and procedures can be answered by a school administrator or by reviewing the international school’s handbook and/or website.  In most cases, parents and teachers will find the procedures school personnel follow and the resulting consequences for a litany of offenses.  How well that is implemented will partially determine the effectiveness of discipline in that international school.

As schools create Mission statements that often include phrases like “preparing students for the 21st century” or “meaningful roles in society”…suggesting the inter-personal development of the student in addition to the academic excellence every parent and teacher expects, but they also need to ask for explanations of how that is accomplished in that international school setting.

This level of questioning brings us to a more complete cycle for discipline.  The procedures discussed earlier are “partially effective” because they represent control from the outside in.  Rules are written, procedures are outlined, and consequences are administered with varying levels of fidelity and consistency.  That is the tricky part of traditional discipline programs—they can include judgment and some cases just are not as clear as others.

Given those facts, schools can expand their focus on discipline to include inner disciplinary development.  This might be brought about through special Character Education programs that can be implemented or in the case of a religiousinternational-schools-good-choice-1 school, certainly through a spiritual lens.  This is what I call value-added discipline.  It is transformational compared to traditional rules and consequences that are based on outside controls.  International schools can function at a highly effective level when both approaches are in place.  From this combined approach, children are doing several things that are life-changing:

• They are examining their own actions and taking responsibility.
• They discuss situations with a teacher, mentor, or adviser.
• They learn how to change/manage their own behavior.
• They develop a deeper appreciation and respect for others and their surroundings.
• They develop problem-solving strategies that transfer well for a lifetime.
• They come to know their own personalities and can work effectively with people they encounter.

Effective value-added discipline programs depend greatly on an investment in each child by a responsible adult, consistent mentoring, and positive connections between family and school.  The rewards are beyond measure, however.  When parents happen to discover this holistic approach to discipline, seize the opportunity!  It is a jewel that shines for a lifetime.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: Mary Anne Hipp (contact her here – mahipp@suddenlink.net or visit her Blogspot – http://mahipp.blogspot.com/)
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On our website we have a related topic in the School Information section of each school profile page that discusses the issue of the students’ demeanor at each school.  It is called “In general, describe the demeanor of the students.”  Our members have submitted over 70 comments and information in this topic on a number of different international schools listed on our website.  Here are just a few of the comments and information submitted in this topic:

“ISD is a primary school, with children ages 3-12. The school’s buddy program pairs the older children with the younger ones, so that the pre-k and kindergarten classes become very comfortable with the big kids. Since most of the children are expats, they are very friendly to newcomers and take changes (such as new students arriving and students leaving) in stride…”
– International School of Dublin (8 Comments)

“Whereas it cannot be described as a school for the gifted, DAS does have an exceptionally large number of gifted students. Whereas students with negative attitudes are definitely there – as everywhere – expat teachers regularly remark about their enjoyment of the teaching-learning process at DAS because of the eagerness of most of the students to learning…”
– Dhahran Ahliyya Schools (60 Comments)

“The students are students. Just like anywhere else you have some who are there to learn and some who are not. You have some that you have a rapport with and some you do not. In general these are funny kids who like to tease and like to get to know you as a person and as a teacher. And just like any kids, in the beginning they will test you to see what you are made of. Stay strong, don’t let them see you sweat and you will be fine…”
– Colegio Granadino Manizales (43 Comments)

“Pretty good for the most part, although overall respect and tradition of bowing was going out the window. Some cheating on homework and other areas. Very humorous and fun to teach, save for a few small groups who needed to be expelled for cheating, threatening teachers to try to change a grade, setting fires in the bathrooms, smoking, swearing, skipping school, hiding in the wedding hall to sleep, going over to the dark gym to snog and make out, sneaking in beer during school events, stealing school property…etc. Most of these violations were done by a small group of boys and girls who must have had special status with the school or principal…”
– Indianhead International School (14 Comments)

“They are pretty rich and spoiled, mostly. Their priorities include shopping, partying and traveling. Studying might be next, but most students don’t stay for more than one or two years. The students I enjoyed the most were either in the dorm I was responsible for or on yearbook staff (which was also my responsibility)…”
– TASIS The American School in Switzerland (29 Comments)

If you are an International School Community member with premium access, log on today and submit your own comments about the students’ demeanor at the international schools you know about!

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and automatically get 7 free days of premium access. You will become a part of our over 2200+ members.

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