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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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #3: Do not expect to replicate your current lifestyle…

October 9, 2022


Do not expect to replicate your current lifestyle. Look for what is there, not for what isnʼt.

“Wherever you go, there you are.”  A psychologist friend of mine told me that one time, and I think it is 100% true. 

I’m not for sure international school teachers are moving from school to school and country to country to replicate their current lifestyle, many times they are trying to flee it!  But again and again, you typically find yourself just settling back into the same routine and actions that you have always been doing…no matter where you are living.  You do change some small things in each placement, but many routines take time to change and are hard to break.

I think what this commandment is referring to is the situation when a person is coming directly from their life in their home country.  Then for sure, you should not expect to replicate your current lifestyle.  It is easier than it sounds though. 

It happens to be a bit human nature to want to surround yourself with familiar things.  Many smart entrepreneurs and importers are keen on this aspect and cash in on selling us those things in many of the cities around the world where there are international schools (e.g. brownie mix, soft brown sugar, satellite TV, chocolate chips, etc…).  These familiar things are going for a high price because those stores know that many of us international educators want them.  This is done all in an attempt to replicate our past lifestyle.

After a while, though, you find things in the local stores and shops that start to create your CURRENT lifestyle in your new host country.  Many of those new aspects can become an even better addition to your lifestyle than the old ones!  I definitely miss things that were part of my lifestyle in my last placement, but certain things are just not replicable outside of that placement (cleaning lady, having a driver, going out to eat every day, etc…).  With that being said, you will certainly find other things in your new placement that will become a part of your new lifestyle.

Successful international school educators are good at being open-minded to trying new things in the host country.  It means taking chances and taking opportunities to try new things and to do things in a new way.  It also means leaving some old routines of yours behind, or at least “on hold” for a while.

One thing I enjoy about my new lifestyle abroad is going grocery shopping almost every day, versus going 1-2 times a week in the United States for example.  I also enjoy walking to the grocery store versus taking a car.  There are many other aspects of an international school teacher’s new lifestyle abroad that would be hard to leave behind if we were all to move back to our home countries!

This article was submitted by a guest author and ISC member.

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Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #2: Anticipate a challenging adjustment period of…

September 4, 2022


Anticipate a challenging adjustment period of at least SIX months. Do not decide if you like it until these six months have passed.

How important is this time frame when you first move to a new country, from the first month to the sixth?  It is VERY important.  Some international school teachers tend to experience different levels of culture shock and can pass through the stages quite quickly, but I still think for those people that you need to give yourself six full months to decide whether you like your new country or not.  Also, it is important to give your new school six months as well before you decide whether or not you think you are a good fit for the position and school.

I have international school teacher friends that seem to be able to just move anywhere and be in any culture and be just fine.  They don’t get stressed out too much about how things are different from their previous placement.  According to LaRay Barna – “There are no fixed symptoms ascribed to culture shock as each person is affected differently.”  And I would have to agree to that.  Unfortunately, there are other international school teachers that are very sensitive to basically all the stages of culture shock.  Let’s go through some of the stages of culture shock that are on Wikipedia.

1. Honeymoon phase:

Everyone’s favorite stage.  It is definitely the most fun one.  I love just getting to a new country.  Your new apartment, your new school, your new friends, the new culture, the new stores, your new favorite restaurants, etc…  You post on Facebook how cool things are going so far to all of your friends and family.  It is truly a great time to really enjoy why you got into the field of international school teaching in the first place; exploring the world and experiencing different cultures firsthand.

2. Negotiation phase:

The anxiety sets in about your new school and host country and how it is different from the one in which you were previously.  “How could they do things this way?” I hear some international school teachers say many times.  You must be careful during this phase to not offend your coworkers, bosses, and the people of the host country either directly or inadvertently.   The anxiety you are feeling can become stronger too if you don’t know the host country’s language (e.g. the language barriers start to become very apparent).  It is important to note that some schools employ many people from the host country to work in the administration offices, the cleaning staff, and even in teaching and teaching assistant positions.  Their level of English is most likely not 100% native-like, so there are bound to be times when they are just not getting what you are trying to communicate to them; and sometimes you might be trying to communicate some really important matters (e.g. getting your work visa all situated, etc.)

3. Adjustment phase:

Wikipedia says that this stage starts around after six months.  So, it is in agreement with Nexus’s 10 commandments of relocating overseas. Finally, things start getting back to “normal”.  You have now found how you fit in at your current school (hopefully).  By this time you will have made the necessary changes and adjustments so that now it does seem like you are indeed a better fit for your position at your new school.  Also, the host country most likely feels more like “home” and when you arrive back at the host country/city airport, you indeed feel like you are back home.  Sometimes that might surprise you, having these new positive feelings after having gone through the anxiety phase!

4. Mastery phase:

Well, I’m not for sure I have gotten to this phase ever.  I would guess that most teachers never fully master being considered an equal member to the locals of a community in another culture/country.  I have worked at schools where there have been expat teachers working at the school for over 25 years, and I got the impression that they still experience a sense of not fully belonging, even if they are fluent in the host country’s language and have a spouse who is a local.  I would love to hear what other international school teachers think about this mastery phase.  It is probably an achievable one, but many factors would come into play and the stars would have to be aligned for it to happen I would imagine.

Go ahead and check out our current members and send them a private message.  According to some member profiles, we have some very experienced international school educators on International School Community.  Also, check out the stages of culture shock here on wikipedia.

This article was submitted by a guest author and ISC member.

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Discussion Topics

Summer Shopping: What products do you stock up on in your home country?

July 11, 2022


“How many suitcases should I bring home???” thinks an international school teacher who is traveling home for summer vacation.  Inside though this teacher knows what they will end up doing during their trip back home. Even though it might cost them in the end when they pay for the extra weight of one or more of their suitcases or when they pay the extra fee for an additional suitcase on the airline they are flying on.  It’s a pity that many airlines are now only allowing one free suitcase for an economy ticket, even on international flights!

The allure of home products is too strong though.  When living abroad as an expat, it is almost vitally important to have some things around you that are familiar in your home abroad.  Sometimes I open up one of my kitchen cabinets and because of the many home products that I see, it could be me opening a cupboard in my old home in my home country.  Surely the first and second year abroad you might do this, stocking your cupboards full of home products, but doing this in your third or fourth (or tenth or more) year…. is it time to “let go?”

I heard one international teacher say that after eight years of living abroad she now refuses to buy products at home when she can find the exact same thing or something comparable in her host country.  That would most likely save her in the long run on baggage fees, even if the product is a little bit more expensive than in her home country.  However, sometimes we just want to have our favorite brand that we were using all the time when we lived in our home country, even if we can find something exactly the same (minus the brand name that we have “grown to trust”) in our current country.  This is the dilemma then, to buy or not to buy??!

This year I personally decided to only take one suitcase back home for the summer.  Well if I am being completely honest, I still did bring a carry-on travel backpack…in the hopes that I could squeeze in a few more of my favorite things to take with me on my flight back home. It was very difficult to limit myself.  The mantra that I kept repeating in my head “Can I get this where I live now?” If the answer was yes, I reluctantly didn’t buy it.

It is fun to shop in other countries.  Exploring grocery stores in other countries is one of my most favorite things to do actually (though I find it equally enjoyable to shop in my old grocery stores at home, too)!  You never know what you will find.  Well actually you do end up seeing some products from your home country in foreign grocery stores, but countries obviously have many of their own products as well.  As you try new products, you are bound to find new favorites.

Sometimes if you see products that look familiar, they have a different language on the packages.  Some even try and display messages in English that seem a bit funny to you.  I’m not for sure the Lays company would put the same phrase “best with cold drinks” on their United States packages…maybe though.  Also, foreign countries have people with different tastes, so you might find potato chip flavors like Chili Chinese with Schezwan Sauce and Seaweed Pringles….probably wouldn’t be popular flavors in United States.  One thing that is hard to find living abroad is proper potato or tortilla chips; that aisle in a United States grocery store is a long one with many different brands and options!

Another factor to consider when buying foreign products is when you are trying to read the ingredients; this is where many international school teachers draw the line.  Many, many people nowadays need to know exactly each ingredient that is in a product. And when you have to do this in a second language (in which you likely only know a few words in total), you might find yourself being drawn to bring back more of your home country’s products.  Knowing the ingredients is very important.  Sometimes even on imported products in your host country, the country itself covers up the English ingredients list by putting a sticker over it listing the ingredients in the host language. It is can be frustrating for sure!

Interesting story….I just witnessed an international school teacher lug up three boxes of home country goods to her apartment.  When I asked her where did she get these boxes, she said that she got them from somebody who works at the embassy of her home country.  After living abroad for a while and meeting embassy workers, we maybe don’t all know one of the perks they get.  They can order home country products in bulk and the embassy will ship them over to you.  I guess this embassy worker had extra and enough to share with an international teacher friend!  I didn’t see all the different kinds of products that were in the boxes, but I do know that I saw some boxes of Duncan Hines cake boxes from the USA!  You might be able to find easy-to-bake cake mixes in your host country, but this just might be one of those products that are only available at grocery stores in the United States.

Go ahead…continue to go home and stock up on all your favorite things.  However, don’t forget to keep your eye out in the local grocery stores where you are living.  Try a few new things every 1-2 weeks.  There are most likely some amazing products that you didn’t know about.  Some things though you just might want to pass on, like whatever kind of meat this is in the display case and what ever kind of product that is on a certain shelf.  Sometime the risk is too great on your wallet to try out new (and strange) products and foods!

If you are an international school teacher, please share what you stock up on when you return to your home country!  How many suitcases do you bring home?

If you’d like to share your story and earn free premium membership to ISC, please send us a message here.

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Top 10 Lists

Top 12 Most Controversial Comments Submitted by Our Members (2nd edition)

May 30, 2022


International School Community is full of thousands of useful, informative comments…44256 comments (30 May 2022) to be exact.

Members are recommended to keep their comments objective on our website, and sometimes they need to share how it really is working at their international school.

We scoured our database of comments, and we found 12 that stood out to us as being some of the most controversial.

12. Has the school met your expectations once you started working there?

“Disorganised. Micromanagement from leaders who haven’t been teaching a range of schools before. Limited experience from Tier 1 schools which reflects the disorganization and reactive rather than proactive approach to problems. Leadership runs to stomp down teachers, bully them and drain their enthusiasm for teaching. AOBA has a huge staff turnover, which was a question that I asked when interviewed. I was told a very low turnover rate until I turned up and was met with a large new teaching cohort. Leadership sees good teachers, and lies to get them because they know that what they offer is not good enough for the truth-telling of how this school is actually run…” – Aoba Japan International School (Tokyo, Japan) – 49 Comments

11. Details about the teaching contract. What important things should prospective teachers know about?

“The ONLY contract that matters is the teacher’s contract with the government of Azerbaijan, and that is for one year and one year only. The “2-year” that is issued by the school? It’s not worth the paper it is written on. The business office regularly ignores sections of that contract that it finds inconvenient! Coming from a country where contracts are considered sacrosanct, that was a shocking realization…”European Azerbaijan School (Baku, Azerbaijan) – 7 Comments

10. What controversies have been happening lately? Please be objective.

“Leaders have been fired without any forewarning shocking leaders and staff. Replacements were hired who are not trusted or have a reputation for being unpleasant. Student leaders behaved in a manner this year that caused a great number of problems for staff, parents, and admin. This is not a new behavior but rather part of the school persona and spirit…” – Tarsus American College (Mersin, Turkey) – 278 Comments

9. What insider information would you give to a teacher considering working at this school?

“This is a top-down working environment and your professional opinion is not expected or valued. Smile, agree and do your best to follow through with all directives. Lay low and never make ripples, much less waves. This is a great place for 1st ever international teachers, but an unacceptable post for professional international educators…” – American International School (Abu Dhabi) (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) – 97 Comments

8. Has the school met your expectations once you started working there?

“No, Not at all. There is no PAY SCALE as promised. Teachers even don’t get paid what they should get paid when inflation rises. Salaries stay the same every year. no way you can discuss this further with your HOD or director. Different building with more facilities was said to change, during my interview. During Covid, online teaching they cut salaries. Can you believe that? We spent more time in organising online learning and then they cut salaries! Flexibility only comes from one side in this school. I would not recommend this school to any teacher nor student!!!!” – International School Ruhr (Essen, Germany) – 65 Comments

7. Has the school met your expectations once you started working there?

“No, the interview process was great yet when I joined there were clashes of values and I was constantly asked to stop and ‘listen’ (listen in the sense of ‘do what I say’ rather than ‘listen’ from the heart to hear and incorporate perspectives). As a creative person with ambition and well-read and connected, I had to keep lowering expectations until I felt there was no way I could continue working here. I had a completely different ethic, based on quality international school standards. I was highly disappointed by the lack of innovative thinking and the authoritarian and competitive feel of the majority of the leaders. I think the school is too American and not enough “international”. the culture was not healthy…” – Anglo American School of Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria) – 74 Comments

6. Pension plan details.

“It is not a pension. Due to Brazilian law, each teacher pays 8% of their salary each month into a guarantee fund. This is more or less an unemployment insurance. At the end of your contract, the school agrees to “fire” you, so you can access that fund. Based on the exchange rate at that time, it can vary in USD. At the beginning of my contract is was estimated around $12,000. But, now it will be much closer to $7,000. There is no way to know how much it will actually be in the end…” – American School of Belo Horizonte (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) – 78 Comments

5. Has the school met your expectations once you started working there?

“The school has changed severely since the new head of school started this school year. 6 people had been fired so far, the morale is really low, there is a fear of “who will be the next”. The environment is not healthy at all…” – Benjamin Franklin International School (Barcelona, Spain) – 116 Comments

4. Has the school met your expectations once you started working there?

“My first impression of the school was that it was warm, welcoming, and compassionate. I thought I would truly matter as an employee – I was eager to find a school with a family-like atmosphere that I could make home. The family-like atmosphere is a total illusion. Employees are expendable. HR put out a health survey to prepare for Covid-19. Anyone (local staff and teaching assistants) seen as expendable that marked that they were at a higher risk of Covid on that survey was fired at the end of the school year. The motto for the year was “We Are One.” The irony was not lost on the foreign staff with this. Generally, the moment you have a differing opinion, an issue, or a criticism, you are treated like garbage. This school is the epitome of the term “toxic positivity…” – School of the Nations (Brasilia) (Brasilia, Brazil) – 41 Comments

3. Are the expectations high of teaching staff? Are there extracurricular responsibilities? Describe workload details.

“Workload has increased, as teachers have been fired/let go… those remaining are regularly requested to cover (during their planning periods) for those who are out sick…” – Lahore American School (Lahore, Pakistan) – 193 Comments

2. Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year?

“This is a great school with a fantastic community of teachers and staff. Such a shame that the owners will ignore the contract and refuse to pay health insurance above a yearly total of $180 per year, but then use the poor wording in the contract to cheat other people out of their final month’s salary. Beware if you want to work here…” – Sekolah Victory Plus (Jakarta, Indonesia) – 143 Comments

1. Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year?

“No raise last year and I believe no raise this year as well…. Makes you wonder if the school is having some issues…” – Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea) – 226 Comments

If you have an interesting story in your school that you would like to share, log in to International School Community and submit your comments. For every 10 submitted comments, you will get one month of free premium membership added to your account!

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