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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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #7 – Does the school feature a curriculum that is consistent with your future plans?

January 16, 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 a 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 if the school features a curriculum that is consistent with your future career plans?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to work at.  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 #7 – Does the school feature a curriculum that is consistent with your future plans?

indexInternational schools teach in many different curricula.  Some of the most common are the UK, USA, Canada, IPC, PYP, MYP, and IB curricula. Which curriculum is one that is consistent with your future plans?  Are you comfortable just continuing teaching in the same one curriculum that you have been teaching in your whole teaching career or do you have aspirations to teach and to gain experience in a different curriculum?

Most of us international school teachers start off in a school that teaches in the same curriculum as your home country.  After all, your home country curriculum is what you have the most experience teaching in, and it is also probably the one in which you are the most comfortable.  Also, if you work at a school that teaches your home country curriculum, then you will most likely be teaching alongside others who are just like you (which could make you feel “more at home” while living abroad).

There are definitely international school teachers out there that seek out new experiences though and would be risk takers and seek out to try and work at an international school that teaches in a curriculum of which they are not familiar.  It definitely broadens your skills in teaching once you start having experiences teaching in different curricula.  You may find that your personal teaching philosophy also starts to get modified or solidified even more.  You definitely have more “tools” in your teaching “toolbox.” Not only does teaching in the new curriculum change you, it is the people that you interact with at that new school (who might be from a different country and teaching background than you) that influence how you teach your lessons as well.

imagesIt is nice to have a couple of different experiences noted on your CV that refer to the different curricula in which you have taught.  It is not only good for you so that you grow professionally, but it is also potentially good when job hunting.  Only a few cities in the world have more than 20 international schools in them (Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, etc…) and can offer many different kinds of curricula.

Most cities though only have a handful of international schools (Paris, Chang Mai, Buenos Aires, etc…), mean limited choices for different curricula.  If you are interested in working in a specific city in the world and there are only three international schools in that city, then you can for sure “better your chances” of getting a job there if you have previous experience teaching the curriculum at two or all three of those schools.  It is not a given though that you will automatically get an interview/the job there of course (if you have experience in that curriculum), but it most definitely might put you on their radar.

With the international schools that teach the IB curriculum, some people say that it is getting increasingly difficult to get a job at these schools if you don’t have previous IB experience.  You might have PYP, MYP, and IB as part of your plans in your future teaching career, but many schools are not even considering candidates without previous experience.  There definitely have been candidates though who “got their break” and landed a job at an IB school without previous experience in the curriculum.  Those candidates say that some directors tell them that if you are a good teacher, then it does not matter one bit if you don’t have previous IB experience.  If you are a good teacher in one curriculum, then typically that would mean you are a good teacher in another one (with proper training and PD of course to help you along the way). So, if you are trying to secure a job at an international school that teaches a curriculum that you have no experience in, don’t just give up and not send them your cover letter and CV.  You never know truly who they are specifically looking for and of course they aren’t just considering candidates that have previous experience in the curriculum.  It might just be that they are not getting enough “ideal” candidates and are already considering candidates without previous curriculum experience.

screenshot-2016-11-19-07-26-54On our website we have a School Profile Search feature that allows you to search for the schools that teach the curriculum that you are looking for in your next job.  You can search by choosing the following curricula: UK, USA, Canada, IPC, PYP, MYP, and IB.  We also have an “other” option to search schools that teach a curriculum that is not one of those eight choices.  When searching our 1340 international schools (updates on 16 January 2013), we have found the following results regarding curricula:

• There are 435 international schools that teach the USA curriculum.
• There are 413 international schools that teach the UK curriculum.
• There are 57 international schools that teach the IPC curriculum.
• There are 306 international schools that teach the PYP curriculum.
• There are 237 international schools that teach the MYP curriculum
• There are 472 international schools that teach the IB curriculum
• There are 29 international schools that teach the Canada curriculum
• There are 647 international schools that teach the “Other/Host Country” curriculum

If you are an International School Community member, log on today and submit your own search for the curriculum that is consistent with your future plans!

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and become a part of our over 1600 members.  Many of our current members have listed that they have worked at over 200 international schools around the world, schools that teach all 8 of the curriculum search criteria. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions and get firsthand information about what it is like teaching in the curriculum at their international school.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #6 – How well is the school linked to other international schools?

December 8, 2012


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 a 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 school is linked to other international schools?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to work at.  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 #6 – How well is the school linked to other international schools?

phoca_thumb_l_IMG_9309 Not all international schools are well-linked to other international schools.  Some international schools tend to just do things on their own.  The teachers at those schools typically don’t have much contact with teachers at other international schools.  Sometimes even in a huge city like Shanghai, were there are quite a few international schools, there are smaller schools that just seem to be doing things by themselves and on their own with minimal contact with other schools in the area. The teachers there can become quite content to be on their own and find themselves forgetting that they could be doing more collaboration with other international schools in their city.

These ‘less-connected’ schools could very well be for-profit schools.  Some for-profit international schools have strict or no allowances for teachers to network or attend conferences and workshops for international schools in their area.  Because the school doesn’t encourage this type of connection to the wider international school community, then the teachers there ‘loose touch’ a bit with how other schools are doing things or tackling similar problems.  It is easy to just get used to being isolated and to doing things on your own; forgetting how much collaborating with nearby international schools could be beneficial and important for your career.

Not all international school teachers would choose to work in a less-connected schools.  Many of us would not like to teach in isolation at an international schools that is not well-linked to the wider international school community.  We all know that networking and meeting more people in our international school community helps us learn more about what is going on at other schools; the current trends and best practices for working with third culture kids.  20080318_1191_01

Many international schools are quite well-connected and linked indeed.  These international schools usually do many things to make sure their school is well known in the local and wider international school community.  They might be providing generous PD funds to their teachers so that they can do and go to many events that can in turn help their staff and the school as a whole become more linked to other international schools.  Some schools well send their teachers to check out a specific programme in person at another international school.  Some of the best learning about teaching and running new programmes (or changing old ones) at your school can be had when you can get the opportunity to see how it looks in person at another international school that is already doing those things and having great success at them.  Does your international school promote this type of PD for their staff?

International schools in the same city can either ignore each other as separate entities, or they can create on-going PD moments between themselves and facilitate collaboration and sharing of skills and knowledge.  It takes the effort of administration, most likely, to get the ball rolling (and keep it rolling) so that international school teachers at each school get opportunities to meet, network and to get work together on common goals.  Do you have a good working relationship with the other international schools in your city?

Another way international schools can become well-linked is through the various sports leagues/organizations.  When schools participate and compete with other international schools in their region of the world, their teachers and students become better connected with each other.

International schools can also become linked and connected via the various accreditation organizations that school opt to become members of.  For example, an international school that is a member of the ECIS organization provides certain privileges and opportunities for its teachers.  Working at an international school that is not accredited can may limit their opportunities to become linked to each other.

If you are an International School Community member currently working abroad, please log-on today and submit your comments and information about your school and how it is linked (or perhaps not so well linked) to other international schools.

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and become a part of our over 1400 members.  Many of our current members have listed that they work at over 200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions and get firsthand information about how well their school is linked to other international schools.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #5 – Does the school have a clear primary language of instruction?

October 24, 2012


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 a school abroad as well?  There are many kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about a school’s clear primary language of instruction? It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to work at.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  Our new blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #5 – Does the school have a clear primary language of instruction?

In most international schools, the primary language of instruction is English (although there are French, German and other primary-language-focused schools), but it is best to confirm this (especially at the pre-school and kindergarten level).

A good question on a few levels and a good understanding of the layers surrounding language of instruction and how it is implemented within an international school context need exploring. On the surface, most prospective new teachers and parents would feel a strong measure of confidence just knowing that English is the primary mode of instruction, that the school uses a western country of origin in the name (British School of…, American School of…), and that the school has past some form of accreditation, which to a parent mostly means the school has been checked and measures up to a credible standard and English language would undoubtedly have played an important role in the process. All of the aforementioned in many cases would suffice most parents’ concerns.

However, in Thailand, for instance, a school is officially pronounced ‘international’ when it meets at least a 60% non-Thai student base. Unfortunately, many international school intake numbers reflect a much greater Thai national student roll. (Thailand is just one example; this goes for any ‘international’ school in any country where the bulk of the student body is made up of students from the country the school is in.) If this is the case, even though the primary language of instruction is English, students may find getting to know others who come from another primary language base quite challenging. Even within the classroom, when English is often the only language ‘allowed’, if the greater number come from a country other than an English-speaking one, much of the student conversation reverts back to the home language. Once out of the classroom, students automatically revert to their native tongue and an English-speaking student can easily be left out of friendship groups, study groups and other aspects of school, like team sports, may end up not being pursued even if it was a passionate option a student may have been involved in previously. Developing good peer groups with shared interests is absolutely vital for students moving to international schools, especially if the one they are moving to is their first.

Some schools have tried coming up with ‘English-speaking policies’ which could stipulate English as the only language spoken on campus.

  • Difficulty number 1: teachers become policemen; they endlessly are approaching students telling them to speak English only; much like trying to enforce a dress code whereby boys are to always have their shirts tucked in.
  • Difficulty number 2: students who continue to be caught not speaking English can begin to view this exercise as a way to annoy certain teachers (they love to watch some get all red-faced and look as if they are either going to implode or explode, or both), or it can become a way to show a measure of rebellion.

Students may even begin to view English punitively, negatively, as something they have to do which can mean a negative outlook on education as a whole impacting on concentration, learning and formative assessments. There is much empirically-based written about this and the debate rages on – to what extent should English language be promoted throughout a school. The Australian Government of Child Services advocates, as one example, home languages should be encouraged and actually help fortify classroom learning when the primary language is English. The difference is in the teacher’s ability to differentiate individual student needs.

Some international schools (selective ones) may try to defer this rationale by claiming they have strict admission criterion but if the student population numbers are home country lopsided the outcome is certainly going to follow, to some measure, what is stated above. It is just a natural way students will gravitate towards.

Some international schools (Shell or other gas and oil company owned schools) are non-selective as they are primary education facilitators for the children of their employees. Shell schools are primary curriculum based and so English language acquisition and delivery is almost seamless; young learners pick up language nuances almost effortlessly. However, this is not true for older students moving to English language based curricula. Some parents are so keen to have their children in an English-speaking school that they forget to take into consideration their children’s ages. I have personally interviewed Algerian parents who enrolled their almost 17 year old son in an international school using the national curriculum of England. The lad knew no English. His Arabic turned out to be good but his French was below average. Because of limitations the school could offer, he was only able to take GCSE Arabic and French lessons, and Maths, which he really struggled in. The fact that the language of curriculum delivery was English had almost no benefit in this case.

My advice, interview the school, ask about student ratio intake numbers and definitely ask for other parent contact information. Parents need to take into consideration their child’s needs by closely monitoring and analyzing their educational progress and language proficiency ability both in the home language and in English. Learning in English, like any language, has to be understood from a multi-layered perspective not from osmosis; physical presence does not equate to language proficiency and successful grade scores.

Teachers scoping out new international schools to work for would do well to get a clear picture about how English is used in the context of the international school in question. Sometimes this does not become clear until INSET before the next academic year begins but after all the effort made in moving and uprooting your family for an international school experience, it is worth making sure as many bases have been explored before signing not only for your own work satisfaction and professional development but for the sake of one’s family’s happiness and stability. An international school experience can be a beautiful thing but I have also met many others who would disagree and won’t touch it again with a 10 foot barge pole. It’s not a vacation, it’s an investment. Assignment: Does the school have a clear primary language of instruction?

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member:  Sheldon Smith (contact him here – shelaomily@yahoo.com or visit his BLOG at http://shelaomilyblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/)

On International School Community all school profile pages have a topic in the School Information section that specifically addresses the language ability of the students and the “common language” spoken in the hallways.  For example on the Uruguay American School’s profile page there have been 1 comment submitted so far on this topic:

If you are an international school community member currently working abroad, please log-on today and submit your comments and information about your school’s language policy and the language ability levels of your students.

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and become a part of our over 1200 members.  Many of our current members have listed that 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 accreditation status and get firsthand information about how the accreditation process is going for them.

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