It is a catch 22. If the student population is increasing, then you might have one or more of the following: the maximum number of students (or even a few more) allowed in each classroom, the need to build a new school building (which can take years and a lot of headaches), the school gets more money to pay for teachers and other things, etc…
If the student population is declining, then these things might happen: teachers might be made redundant, the school stops funding certain programs and decreases various budgets, maybe a better education for students as the student-to-teacher ratio might be lower, etc…
But this is the life of an international school and they should be prepared to adjust to the different waves of their student population.
Many of these waves are caused by outside forces, most recently the COVID 19 pandemic. The pandemic caused many families to relocate due to lost jobs or many companies to close their sites in the country.
So international school teachers need to be aware of these waves and be prepared when they go up and down.
When you first arrive at the school, they might be in a wave of increasing student population. Things are going great. Budgets for teachers are ample and ready to use. PD opportunities off-campus are available for teachers to apply for. And most importantly, teachers are getting paid and on time.
After a few years at this school, the student population could easily be declining and teachers could be experiencing quite a different situation.
Before taking a job at an international school, it might be a good idea to ask about the predictions about the future of their student population.
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of maternity benefits. In this comment topic, our members can share what their experience has been working at various international schools around the world. There are a total of 538 comments (June 2021) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers on this specific comment topic (one out of the 66 in total) called – “Is the student population declining, staying the same or increasing? Give details why.”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“Our population has been relatively consistent over the past few years. We did not lose as many students as we had anticipated during the height of the Corona pandemic…” – International School of Zanzibar (Zanzibar City, Tanzania) – 67 Total Comments
“Student enrollment has slightly increased over the past few years. The reputation of the school in the community for the past 40 years combined with its connection with ARAMCO has helped maintain its enrollment numbers…” – Dhahran Ahliyya Schools (Dhahran, Saudi Arabia) – 103 Comments
“Increasing! Due to covid-19 border closures and the simple fact that Vietnam is much safer than, say, the US or Canada. There has been ample effort to market the school as per the HoS’s partner designs. There is no waiting list and the doors are opened to any and all that are able to come…” – American International School (Vietnam) (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) – 212 Total Comments
“Growth has been slight but steady for a number of years. Enrollment is dependent also on the oil, gas and mineral industries, and they can fluctuate. There were expectations of rapid, high growth recently, but that all changed with the pandemic. In the summer of 2020 the school lost 45% of its enrollment. Some of that has come back as of December, but we’re still down 33% from where we expected to be…” – American International School of Mozambique(Maputo, Mozambique) – 45 Comments
“Student population increased significantly since the school moved to their own building. However, since March 2020, the student population has declined because of Covid-19 situation. Mostly, the parents of the preprimary students are reluctant to attend online classes and seemed to have decided to take a year break and see how things go in 2021…” – Australian International School (Dhaka) (Dhaka, Bangladesh) – 25 Commentscontinue reading
Schools thrive when there are hardworking students in them.
It is a dream to have students at your school that are hardworking and who focus on their learning when they come to school.
But do all international schools have hardworking students?
Most likely not. There are over 10000 international schools throughout the world, so there are bound to be some differences.
There are some international schools that have very privileged students in them, and they often don’t prioritize completing their classwork or even on their learning in general.
Can having effective teachers play a factor in achieving a high level of hardworking students in the school? Surely that is important as well. If the teachers are disengaged, then that is often demotivating for the students.
But, of course, there are many international schools that have amazingly hardworking students. These students are focused on their learning and are typically supported by their involved parents. The schools probably also have top-notch teachers and an engaging way of teaching their curriculum.
So which international schools then have these hardworking students?
Luckily, ISC was designed to help international school teachers find the information they are looking for. Using the Comment Search feature (premium membership needed), we found 36 comments that had the keyword “hardworking” in them. Here are 11 of them:
“Kids are hardworking in general. Mostly well behaved and friendly, especially welcoming to new students.” – Western International School of Shanghai (481 total comments)
“Positive, hardworking, driven, and respectful of adults.” – International School of Zanzibar (57 total comments)
“The kids are wonderful. Adorable, very loving and inclusive. Mainly hardworking and keen to learn. We have a couple of challenged learners but our counsellor is fantastic at supporting their teachers and indeed the whole community in understanding their challenges.” – KIS International School (Bangkok) (355 total comments)
“The school really is a great place to grow as a professional. There are many opportunities to develop new skills just by learning from other colleagues. The biggest comparison would be the student body – students at SFS are motivated, hardworking, involved, and love learning! It is a dream!” – Seoul Foreign School (176 total comments)
United Arab Emirates
“Respectful, conscientious, hardworking, courteous.” – American School of Dubai (167 total comments)
“The students are wonderful to work with. They are respectful, kind, hardworking, and smart.” – Yangon International School (81 total comments)
“Some stay for the great education for their own kids, and the opportunity to impact upon other students who by and large are hardworking and cooperative.” – Hebron School (35 total comments)
“The staff is great. There’s a good sense of communities. Students are generally well-behaved and hardworking. Parents are supportive.” – International School of Tanganyika (171 total comments)
“The students are hardly ever disciplined at the school, but thankfully that is not an issue most of the time as the students are very well behaved and hardworking by default.” – Beijing National Day School (81 total comments)
“My students were fantastic! Hardworking and well behaved. I loved every minute of my time at the school.” – Uruguayan American School (32 total comments)
“Happy, hardworking, driven, excited about learning.” – International School Manila (96 total comments)continue reading
Schools thrive when there are enthusiastic teachers and students in them. But, do all international schools have this?
With around 10000 international schools currently, there are bound to be differences between them. However, it is certain that all international schools strive to students that are excited to come to school and do their best to learn in the lessons and engagements in their classes.
But do students just come to schools already engaged or is it the environment and staff that helps with that?
Some could argue that hiring engaged and excited teachers plays a huge factor in the enthusiasm of students. If the teachers are interested and excited in their lessons, typically the students will follow suit.
If the teachers are jaded, overworked, and caught in a low staff morale spiral, then this feeling is sure to be reflected in the students.
But even if the students and teachers are not so engaged at the moment, what can be done? International schools need to make drastic and carefully planned changes to achieve this change to more enthusiastic stake holders!
So which international schools then have enthusiastic teachers and/or students?
Luckily, ISC was designed to help international school teachers find the information they are looking for. Using the Comment Search feature (premium membership needed), we found 17 comments that had the keyword “Enthusiastic” in them. Here are 11 of them:
“Students in primary are overwhelmingly kind, caring, and enthusiastic learners. The middle and high school will benefit from having a full-time secondary principal next year.” – Esbjerg International School (50 total comments)
“You need to be enthusiastic, open-minded and flexible. There is a strong community at school that is very involved in every aspect of the school’s life. School is looking for teachers who are passionate about their job and willing to differentiate for every student.” – Bishkek International School (57 total comments)
“The students are mostly respectful, enthusiastic, and hardworking. You might not be that impressed if you’re coming from Korea or another academically-driven Asian country, but compared to Latin America or any Western public institution it’ll be a big step up.” – Oberoi International School (36 total comments)
“The pupils are very affectionate, and the school has a very family-like feel. They are eager to please and enthusiastic about topics etc.” – The British School of Marbella (36 total comments)
“Students are very well behaved. Behavioural issues are very minimal, and most students are enthusiastic to learn and prove themselves to teachers and their classmates.” – Tokyo International School (104 total comments)
“The students are extremely polite and respectful. They are positive and enthusiastic though somewhat reserved.” – Global Jaya School (60 total comments)
United Arab Emirates
“While I have not myself worked elsewhere in the Emirates, I get a sense that our students are relatively well behaved. Understand that, while kids are kids, well behaved in the Emirates is not the same as say, well behaved in South Korea. That said, Liwa does not generally find itself subject to the kinds of behavior found in the government schools of the area. The kids are generally quite enthusiastic about Liwa and as capable as any children anywhere.” – Liwa International School (23 total comments)
“Very curious and enthusiastic learners. PYP and IB encourages this and students are excited to be at school every day!” – Anglo-American School of Moscow (69 total comments)
“The students are respectful, creative and enthusiastic. They love to chat and socialize!” – Santiago College (24 total comments)
“Students are enthusiastic about being at school, in general. Almost 100% of our students are involved in activities or athletics after school and on weekends.” – International Community School Addis Ababa (80 total comments)
“The students are amazing. So welcoming, so enthusiastic to learn.” – The British School of Brussels (36 total comments)
“Why don’t you want to leave this international school and try another one?”
“Well, the students here are the best.”
“But there are good/nice students everywhere, right?”
Maybe you have had this conversation before with a “seasoned international school teacher“, but then you decided to move on to a new international school to test out this hypothesis.
Are there indeed good/nice international school students everywhere?
You might just find yourself missing the students at your previous international school.
So, how can students at an international school be so different?
Many people are quick to say that students at international schools are snobby and stuck-up (because supposedly they are coming from wealthy families). Though this might be true for many international schools, but it is often not always the case.
There are some international schools where the students are more like zombies; they will sit in your class and not make too much noise. These zombie students will answer the questions you ask them, but they won’t discuss the questions very much and give strong opinions.
There are also international schools where the kids appear to be in charge. These outgoing, borderline rude kids maybe have been influenced more so by the host-country culture of how their students behave in the local schools.
Of course, there are also international schools that have very well-behaved kids, overall. The question is then how did they become these kind and considerate kids?
What then determines the demeanor or behavior of the students at international schools? Is it something that is out of the control of the teachers and administration, and an already established culture of the school? Or is it something that the teachers and administration carefully plan and articulate to the students over a series of years (maybe even from the founding of the school)?
Another theory is that it is possible that the students’ behavior is directly linked to the behavior of the teachers and how they interact with the other teachers/administration and the students themselves.
Let’s not forget the parents as well! It is clear that they play a role in this. But with so many parents from potentially numerous countries around the world, it is unclear how the parents, as a whole, could play a direct role in the demeanor of the students at school.
Some schools try different behavor programs to help the behavior of their students. After searching ‘Responsive Classroom‘ using our Comment Search feature (premium membership access needed), we found 6 comments on 4 different international schools. After searching ‘Learner Profile‘, we found another 6 comments on 5 different international schools.
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of new things added at a school. Our members can share what current international schools are doing in this topic. There are a total of 528 comments (March. 2019) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of the 66 comment topics called – “In general, describe the demeanor of the students.”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“They are very sweet, respectful, and their families instill educational values. Some of the cultural differences do create problems, but this is something to get used to as in any international school…” –
Shanghai American School (Pudong) (Shanghai, China) – 64 Total Comments
“The students at school are nice kids. Very friendly. Very Chinese. There are some cultural hurdles that expats new to teaching Chinese kids encounter like the general passivity in class. It takes adjustments to figure out how to teach effectively. They are, outside the classroom, very chatty, noisy, and sometimes spoiled…” – Nanwai King’s College School Wuxi (Wuxi, China) – 38 Comments
“The student population is majority South Korean, which can cause problems. They tend to speak Korean and teachers and other students are left out of the conversations. The Korean students often times will only hang out with other Korean kids…” – Hanova International School (Xi’an) (Xi’an, China) – 73 Total Comments
“Students are generally polite and respectful. The main student academic issues tend to revolve around organization (or lack thereof). A bigger concern is usually student stress brought on by lack of sleep and being overly focused on grades…” – Washington International School (Tregaron Campus) (Washington D.C., USA) – 31 Comments
“Most students are at the school to get a good education in order to go to university programs in Europe or North America. They are willing to work to achieve this goal. Of course, as with everywhere, there is a percentage of students who what think they deserve good marks because of who they are…” – United World College of Costa Rica (San Jose, Costa Rica) – 108 Commentscontinue reading
…It the first day of the school year and I am going back to the same school where I have been for five years now. It is the same building, but to me it is not the same school. My best friend, Ben, moved away and will not be back. Two other friends who I have known since first grade moved away as well. I am supposedly returning to the familiar, and already know exactly who my teacher will be, but I feel so incredibly lonely. At recess I will miss my ‘to go to buddies’. Who will I sit next to at lunch? Maybe I should not have spent so much time with Ben in the last two months of last school year. Maybe I should have spent more time hanging out with Mike, the new friend I made in January after the winter break. However, Mike just told me he will probably leave at the end of this school year…once again I will be left behind.
Being a stayer is not easier than being the leaver or the arriver. At times, it might even be more difficult.
A few years ago, when I showed one of my (international school) friends my newly published book (B at Home), she read the back blurb with interest and then turned to me with a slightly reproachful look.
“Great,” she said, “I love that you wrote a book for all those kids who move around a lot, it must be hard for them…but do you think you could write another one for people like me, who never moved, but always had to say goodbye to at least one good friend at the end of the school year?”
That’s when I realized it never occurred to me what it was like to be a stayer. I had been the leaver and the arriver so many times and had always felt envious of the stayers. I had been so busy thinking about the predicament that international school kids found themselves in when they had to move around a lot that I had never even questioned how the ones felt who were always left behind and expected to welcome each new lot with open arms.
Without even realizing it, I have become the stayer. We have settled in Switzerland, have been working at the same international school for almost eight years and neither of our daughters have ever moved. My best friend came and went. My parents are thinking about moving back to my home country (the Netherlands). My daughters have had to deal with classmates, and other loved ones, moving. And we have stayed. And saying goodbye is just as hard as when I used to leave. Even when we stay, we have to learn to navigate the painful goodbyes and must continue to embrace the hellos.
Interestingly enough, the stayers are often not asked how they feel about the constant transitions that take place around them, and therefore within them. However, research tell us mobility and moving hurts and it affects our students’ learning: the leavers, the arrivers, and the stayers. In this article, we have addressed the leavers, and this article the arrivers. So how can we help our staying students?
1. Comfort instead of encourage
Acknowledge their feelings and the fact that they are staying. While the leavers are recognized and are busy saying their goodbyes, the stayers might feel neglected. They will not only feel sad, but perhaps angry. They might direct those emotions at the same person they are so apprehensive to say goodbye to. I will never forget when, at the age of thirteen, a good friend told me to “just go to your stupid Luxembourg” a few days before moving. Although her words initially hurt me a lot, I later realized this was her way of expressing her sadness as well as her frustration. The stayers need to feel that their feelings are heard as well, and they need to understand that it is okay to feel many different emotions.
Pollock, Pollock and Van Reken encourage anybody in transition to build a RAFT (Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell and Think Destination). Help the stayers ensure that their relationships are intact before leaving. The emotional burden of carrying unresolved conflicts is equally challenging for the stayers as for the leavers (reconciliation). They also need to have time to recognize and thank those that are leaving for being in their lives (affirmation) and they need to be able to say their goodbyes (farewell). When the leavers are thinking about themselves in a new place, the stayers will be thinking of the empty place left behind. The stayers will also have reinvent their social circles and routines. In the new edition of Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds (2017), another acronym is provided to help younger students process the above-mentioned steps, SHIP: Saying Sorry and I forgive you, Heartfelt thanks for each other, It’s time to say goodbye, Plan for the New Place. Alternatively, in the case of the stayers, the P could stand for Plan to Stay.
3. AFT: Move AFT on your RAFT 
Doug Ota, psychologist and author of Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it (2014), encourages all persons facing transitions to question themselves in terms of their Actions (what am I actively doing to be involved?), their Feelings (How am I feeling about seeing friends leave and about making new friends? Do I feel a sense of belonging in my school community?) and Thoughts (Is this home now?). Not only is it important to address these actions, feelings and thoughts in the Leaving and Arriving part of the mobility cycle, but also in the STaying part, to “produce a cumulative change that will LAST”.
4. Give them the CCK/TCK language
The famous words of wisdom from Winnie the Pooh ring so true (“How lucky are we to have something so good that makes saying goodbye so hard”) for those who leave, but also for those who stay. Help your students understand what it means to be a Cross Cultural Kid (CCK) and Third Culture Kid (TCK) and how that influences their identity. Apart from celebrating the positives, they also need a language to express the challenges and grief that goes along with saying goodbyes, time after time again. Your students are never too young to understand the CCK/TCK language. These days, there is a list of TCK literature available to children. Stories about the TCK experience, especially fiction, will give them characters and situations that they can identify with. It is often easier to connect to how someone else’s feelings than to adequately express your own emotions. Children should know that they are not alone and that the CCK/TCK definition is rooted in the idea that TCK children find that “the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar backgrounds”.
5. Help them take ownership of their school
The stayers play a vital role in the well-being of those who are arriving to the school. If they feel a sense of pride and ownership of their school community this positive energy will likely transfer to those who are new. In his book, Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it (Summertime Publishing, 2014), Doug Ota mentions the importance of providing the stayers the opportunity to be an instrumental part of a transition program. Not only will offering leadership positions help students develop and gain experiences that can help them in their future endeavors, but it will also help them feel valued as a staying member of the community. When stayers might be busy tending to the arrivers and leavers at certain times of the year, it is important for the admin and staff to recognize and support the student leaders who are helping their peers.
6. Set up a mentor/ buddy system
Help stayers become buddies for the new students. Depending on what your school already offers in terms of transitions, there is a variety of possibilities for stayers to become buddies or mentors. Stayers could show the new students around on orientation day before school starts (consider giving them a t-shirt or something else to distinguish them from the other students). Alternatively, with older students they could become ‘mentors’ to the new students and already get in touch with arriving students a few weeks or months before their actual arrival. Either way, by allowing the stayers to have an essential role in the well-being of new students, the stayers could also benefit from the experience of reaching out to others while saying goodbye to their friends.
7. Find ways to create stay in touch
Help your students think of ways to stay in touch. Teenagers have obvious access to numerous social media platforms. You might want to remind them that there is a thin line between living your friendships mostly on social media rather than in real life, and help them find ways to establish a healthy balance. For younger students and with their parents’ permission of course, you could have Skype conversations with the leaver(s) and the stayers in your classroom. I recently had a delightful conversation with a student that left in the middle of the school year and his classmates.
8. Throw a goodbye party
A goodbye party is not just for the ones who are leaving. Give the students who are staying the opportunity to give letters, keepsakes, or little gifts to those departing, but also think of ways for the stayers to receive something similar. The leavers often take the signed t-shirt (or something similar) with them and the stayers often having nothing tangible to hold onto. When one of my daughters’ best friends left, her friend gave her a beautiful frame with pictures of their time together that my daughter still has on her wall.
9. Throw a welcome to the new kids party
The students who are leaving will be in the midst of settling into their new destination. During this time, the stayers can open their doors and lives to the students who arrive. Help you students understand that they can still miss their old friends but should need feel any guilt about forming new friendships. Encourage them to reach out to new people, especially if these stayers are the ones feeling just as lonely at the beginning of the year. Devote some special time and attention to helping students to get to know the new people in their lives. Ensure that you not only keep an eye on those that are new, but also those who feel left behind. Although they might become more apprehensive about saying hello, help them understand that relationship fatigue is part of being a TCK, but remind them that each goodbye did initially start with a hello, and that the moments in between are often very much worth it.
10. Remind yourself, as a teacher, that no learning will take place until your students feel safe and secure in their new surroundings
Even if those surroundings may appear familiar to those who stay, the student who stays may feel like they are entering a whole new universe in which they will have to redefine who they are every single time they say goodbye. Remind yourself, as a human being, transitions affect all of us in our international schools. We must support each other, our students, and their families in order for all of us to thrive through them.
This article was written by International School Community member Valérie Besanceney. Over the past eleven years, Valérie has been a primary school teacher at five different international schools on four different continents. Valérie is also the author of the children’s book B at Home: Emma Moves Again (Summertime Publishing, 2014). It is a fictional memoir about the experiences of a ten-year-old girl and her teddy bear who have to move yet again. During the different stages of another relocation, Emma’s search for home takes root. As the chapters alternate between Emma’s and her bear’s point of view, Emma is emotionally torn whereas B serves as the wiser and more experienced voice of reason. My Moving Booklet (Summertime Publishing, 2015) is workbook that can be used with or without the chapter book and intended to help children to welcome the new challenges and adventures that lie ahead of them, together with their parents and teachers. It is available in English and French. For more information on her books and the topic of Third Culture Kids, please visit her website: www.valeriebesanceney.com.
 Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing.
 Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth. P. 240.
 Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth. P. 347.
 Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing. P. 182.
 Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing. Pp 182-186.
 Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth (chapter 2 and 3).
 Definition of TCK by David C. Pollock in the TCK Profile seminar material, Interaction, Inc., 1989, 1.
Barron, Jane (www.globallygrounded.com). “6 Steps Towards Being a Successful Stayer in an International School”. Found on: https://globallygrounded.com/2017/02/28/6-steps-towards-being-a-successful-stayer-in-an-international-school/. Originally published in Vol. 31 No. 3 February 2017 The International Educator
Ota, Douglas W. (2014). Safe Passage: How mobility affects people and what international schools should do about it. Great Britain: Summertime Publishing.
Pollock, David C., Van Reken, Ruth E., and Pollock, Michael V. (2017). Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Yarmouth.
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