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New Teacher Orientation is Now Underway: 14 Must-Haves

August 1, 2022


Stressing out about what your new international school is actually going to be like once you finally arrive?

Want to get a good idea of what you can expect (or not expect) during your first few weeks at your new international school?

Wondering what you can do before and after your move to put yourself more at ease and to be better prepared?

Take some time then to read this 14-part series on the ISC blog. It is the go-to series for staff in charge of inducting their new staff members.

Here are the 14 must-haves with a little excerpt of each article:

1. “A trip around the city

“A friend just told me that there is a hidden rule amongst international school teachers, and that is that you shouldn’t accept any visitors to your new home within the first six months of living there.  I suppose that is true in some ways and not true in other ways.  One time I did have a friend visit me during…” READ MORE

2. A pick-up from the airport from administration

“To start things off right, it might be the most ideal if the person who hired you picks you up from the airport when you first arrive. Starting off on the right note is very important for an international school teacher, especially when you are bound to experience a bit of culture shock.  One way to start off in the right way is how you get…” READ MORE

3. Lunches provided by the school during the orientation week at the school campus.

“Having a catered, home (cafeteria)-cooked lunch is NOT a given when you start working at an international school.  Some international schools include free lunches in their benefits package all year round (for all teachers mind you!), but some international schools don’t offer this benefit…not even during PD events or during new teacher orientation. It is definitely a nice gesture on the school’s part to offer…” READ MORE

4. Help finding a place to live!

“Finding a place to live in any country can be a headache! When you involve different languages, different cultural traditions and norms, etc. finding an apartment can be even more of a headache. In turn, it is much appreciated if the administration/business staff at your new school can help you out. Some international schools just place you in a compound that the school owns and you must live there for…” READ MORE

5. An organized trip to help you get furniture for your new home.

“It is not ideal to arrive the first day/night in your new host city only to arrive at your new apartment and find it VERY unfurnished.  It doesn’t necessarily start you on the right foot with regards to settling-in with your new life when maybe you do not even have a bed on which to sleep.  For sure there are many international schools out there that place their new teachers directly into…” READ MORE

6. A settling-in allowance given to you in cash (local currency)!

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

7. A dinner outing with the director and administration

“In some cultures, it is very much of a bonding moment between people when they share a meal together.  It is a time when you can really relax and have some nice conversations with each other.  Getting to know your director and other new teachers in this kind of setting will help you with future encounters with the director and also with your potential new good friends. Having a meal with your bosses can really…” READ MORE

8. A starter supply of groceries for your new home.

“Luckily, many international schools out there are getting this one right.  Someone in the “new teacher orientation” committee is going out to a grocery store before you arrive and getting you the basic necessities for you. What are the basic necessities?  Typically you get some…” READ MORE

9. Resource person with a contact number and email address

“There is so much going on for international school teachers in their first days, weeks, and even months after starting at their new school.  There is just as much going on for you before you arrive in your new host country.  Being that there is so much to think about, one of the most important things that international schools can do for their new hires is set up so that they have a resource person.  New teachers actually need…” READ MORE

10. Getting access to the internet AS FAST AS POSSIBLE!

“Please schools (the ones that help teachers find apartments or have new teachers move into school-owned housing), the best thing you can do to help out your new staff is to think ahead and somehow get the internet set up in their houses…before they arrive or VERY soon after they arrive…” READ MORE

11. Beginning-level host country language classes.

“At times there is nothing worse than the feeling of not know how to communicate with the people in your community. Many of us decide to move to countries where we do not know the host country language.  It is impossible for people to know every language spoken in this world, especially really local languages that are not even possible to learn in universities in your home country…” READ MORE

12. A tour of your new campus

“Finally you are at your new school!  After the initial shock on seeing the campus for the first time and getting introduced to tons of important people at the school, you take a deep breath and get ready to really see the campus…” READ MORE

13. Learning how to get reimbursed and meeting the business office staff

“It takes so much money to move yourself from one place to another.  Now add in the fact that you are shipping boxes and whatnot half way across the world, and the cost just gets higher and higher. Many times, international school teachers need to pay for these shipping costs upfront.  Hopefully you are getting an relocation allowance…” READ MORE

14. A sit-down with an admin to go over each part of your contract

“Contract details can be easily overlooked. They are not overlooked because you are not interested in them (because of course you want to know ALL the details when you are in the initial stages after being offered a contract), but because there are too many fine details to fully understand everything you see…” READ MORE

Do you have another must-have to add to our list? Email us here and ask about submitting a new article for this series as a guest author on our blog. All guest authors receive one free year of premium membership to our website!

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Comment Topic Highlight

Why Are People Staying at or Leaving Your International School?

May 23, 2022


If you work at an international school, you know that your decision to stay or leave has already been decided by now. Teachers most likely have already decided whether they will stay for another year or two at their current school or move on back home or to another international school.  

At some international schools, 1/4 or 1/3 of their current teachers decide to let their school know that they will be moving on at the end of the school year. Though it is not the case necessarily at other international schools that have a lot of local hires (not necessarily on foreign-hired contracts). Those with lots of local hires generally tend to have teachers that want to stay there for longer periods of time because they have more ties to the local country (e.g. they are married to a local, etc.).

Regardless of the personal situation of the teacher, another big factor that guides a teacher’s decision to stay or leave is the school itself. For example, the school might be losing student numbers as of late. Fewer students mean less demand for all the teachers on the current staff roster, meaning some need to go whether they like it or not. Maybe even the school has decided to alter or eliminate the staff children benefit (to have them attend the school for free). And the list goes on…

There are of course even other factors that come into play that affect this big decision that a number of teachers need to make each year. One of these factors is that the school has decided to move in a direction that doesn’t match your teaching philosophy anymore. Staying at a school that doesn’t match you and your teaching style can be a serious concern leading you to search for other positions in a school that better suit you.

The biggest factor to stay or leave might just boil down to money, plain and simple. If the school isn’t meeting your needs financially anymore, there are many more that probably will.

So the question for you is why are YOU going to stay or leave your current school? It might be one of these reasons listed above or a combination of these and even other reasons.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of staying or leaving, so you can stay the most informed as possible. There are a total of 477 comments (May 2022) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of 67 comment topics called – “In general, why are people staying at or leaving this school?”

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“People are staying because they are mostly not getting a better job anywhere else and people are leaving because of the rude behavior, less salary, false promises, promotion of wrong candidate, lack of resources and overloaded routine.” – Indus International School (Pune) (Pune, India) – 43 Total Comments

“Staying because the campus is nice, supply and PD budgets are generous, students are overall courteous and engaged, and because Berlin rocks. Leaving because salaries are too low, and some departments are more disorganized than others.” – Berlin Brandenburg International School (Berlin, Germany) – 87 Comments

“Staying: Turnover is low. In my opinion, people are staying because the school climate is generally very positive – it is a happy place to work. The school has generally got its act together (curriculum, policies, etc) very well so there are structures in place to make teaching positive. It is a vibrant, stimulating place to work. Japan is a lovely place to live. Leaving: The cliche is single females find it harder to date in Tokyo and that could be a reason to leave. The school’s pay is OK and the school’s reputation is good and growing but the pay is not as great as some other big-name schools. People leave as they get the experience and then are drawn to the lure of $$. This is especially the case of teachers in their late 40’s looking for a pension.” – Tokyo International School (Tokyo, Japan) – 140 Total Comments

“People stay a long time because the pay and benefits are great, the city is very livable, the cost of living is low and the classes are not too large.” – Anglo-American School of St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg, Russia) – 38 Comments

“The overall package is hard to beat and the staff is not overworked. Combined with minimal classroom management requirements due to small class sizes, DISK really is a great place to work.” – Doshisha International School Kyoto (Kyoto, Japan) – 140 Comments

“If you survive your first year most teachers stay on. The first year is a challenge, especially if you are late arriving (a common issue because of how long it takes to get a visa).” – Tsinghua International School (Beijing) (Beijing, China) – 193 Comments

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Discussion Topics

The Native English Speaker Teaching Scam #2

February 7, 2021


My previous blog post (The Native English Teaching Scam #1) described the deceptive and possibly racist distinction between Native English Speakers (NES) and Non-Native English Speakers (NNES) in international teaching job ads. Even if this distinction could be rectified, what advantage does an NES have over an NNES teacher in an international school? Four common and interconnected excuses are used by stakeholders:

  1. Parents, the customer, want NES teachers
  2. Schools require NES to market “internationalness” to parents
  3. Recruiters can’t or worse, won’t, recommend NNES to schools
  4. Some countries have regulations restricting visas to NNES teachers

The first excuse is either a genuine concern about the quality of the language of instruction (English) or racist attitudes held by parents. Qualifications like IELTS are internationally recognised and allow teachers to prove their English language capability. Racism from parents requires schools to lead their community and educate parents about the benefits of diverse staffing. The parent is the customer but racist attitudes cannot define the makeup of the faculty or, most distressingly, imbed negative worldviews in their children.

The second excuse deals with the historical image of White, Western teachers being fundamental to an international school. The irony of international schools defining themselves in this narrow, anti-global way defies the meaning of ‘international’. The missions of accreditation agencies IB and WASC state international-mindedness is a core value, demonstrated by diversity and inclusion, in the classroom as well as the staffroom. While accreditation agencies could and should do more to enforce this mission, schools can take the lead now, rather than perpetuate an outdated image of international schools.

It has been well established that recruiters are facilitating discriminatory practices, mostly, they say, to meet client demand. An influential recruiting agency, Search Associates, admitted after the George Floyd protests in 2020 that they needed to review their own practices. They have removed the NES requirement from all their job advertising and are working to increase diversity within their business model. If it is simply easier (and therefore more profitable) to place White teachers from the 10 “approved” NES countries, recruiters must examine how they can overcome this unfair and profit-driven motivation.

The final excuse is the most difficult to address, particularly during a pandemic. Despite the 10 NES countries having laws outlawing discrimination on the basis of country of birth, hiring practices in the global context follow the countries in which they operate. Countries, like China, can have hard to change regulations, particularly when they wish to protect and promote their local citizens in the education industry. However, enough pressure from all stakeholders can change regulations, as some Chinese provinces have already done.

I believe international schools and their leadership must guide this change. They can strongly influence parents and recruiters, as well as eventually the countries they are located in through best practice and promoting equity. Does your school have tolerance, respect, equality or global mindedness in its mission or values? These don’t just apply to the students. International schools can start through a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) statement on their website. Great schools and recruiters like here, here and here already do.

Oliver Escott is the Director and Co-founder of Staffroom, whose core purpose is to help teachers create a job and life they dream about. We provide international teacher career coaching and support services. Our products include the $1 Job Club, a curated list of progressive international schools and recruiters. We are active advocates of NNES teachers and are passionate about creating the same job opportunities for all international teachers. 

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Discussion Topics

The Native English Speaker Teaching Scam (Part 1)

January 22, 2021


There is a clear form of racism – based on your country of origin – apparent in international teaching today. Recruiting educators can be based on their passport, rather than their skills, qualifications and experience. This is discrimination that everyone involved in international teaching must protest and actively renounce. The issue is as blatant as it is pervasive.

Job advertisements for international schools regularly specify applications by Native English Speakers (NES). The definition is itself is dishonest, as the commonly used NES job requirement only applies to 10 countries (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the 4 countries of the United Kingdom and the United States).

54 countries have English as their official language and 43 are ignored as NES. The United States does not even have English as its official language. Yet job advertisements from recruiters and international schools can be written like this without sanction:

Why are advertisements phrased this way? One explanation is the historic, systemic bias in the NES definition to stop Black and other People of Colour from applying for teaching roles. Using data from the CIA World Factbook, the 10 NES countries listed in this job ad have a population identifying as white (on average) of 75.5%.

The 43 other countries with English as their official language, not mentioned in the job ad and deliberately ignored by the NES definition, have a population identifying as white of 6.8%.

This may just be a coincidence, but notice this ad puts the discriminatory country of birth requirement ahead of both qualifications and experience.

Dismissively called Non-Native English Speakers (NNES), international teachers from outside the 10 preferred countries do not even have the chance to prove whether their skills, qualifications and experience are sufficiently matched by their English language ability.

The onus on reforming the system falls to those who benefit, particularly those educators, school leadership and recruiters, including me, who have the ‘right’ passport. NES must be banished from all job ads and hiring practices in international schools. My next post (The Native English Speaker Teaching Scam ‘Part 2’) will address how to overcome the four main barriers used to defend the systemic bias in international teaching recruitment.

Oliver Escott is the Director and Co-founder of Staffroom, whose core purpose is to help teachers create a job and life they dream about. We provide international teacher career coaching and support services. Our products include the $1 Job Club, a curated list of progressive international schools and recruiters. We are active advocates of NNES teachers and are passionate about creating the same job opportunities for all international teachers. 

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Comment Topic Highlight

How much can international teachers actually save?

July 26, 2019


A lot of us have the idea that working at international school is a way to work and then save way more money than we used to working in our home countries.

Is that reality or fantasy?

We have seen and read many discussion boards, Facebook groups, review websites, published books all discussing this topic, and the reality of this savings potential gets confusing and complicating to fully understand or predict.

There are some people that state they are saving upwards of USD 60000 a year at certain international schools. Many other people are stating that they are struggling to save USD 1000 or even USD 500 a month working at their international school. Even others state that they are saving USD 0!

Of course there are many factors at play. Veteran international school teachers will state that if you limit the number of times you go out to eat, travel during your many vacations, ect. then the possibility of saving money is higher. That is obvious, but a large number of us aren’t always willing to do that, at least not in the first few years of teaching abroad.

Another main factor for savings potential is the amount of money you are getting in your take-home salary versus the cost of living where you are stationed. Seems like fewer and fewer schools are getting that “amazing salary and benefits package” that we all hear about, and landing a job at one of those schools is getting increasingly difficult.

There are also many, many other ways to NOT save money while working abroad; many of these factors having nothing directly to do with the school’s salary and benefits package. We have a whole ISC blog series about that here.

But if one of the main goals of teaching abroad is saving some money, then we need something to help us figure out how it all works and how we can set up an opportunity that will help us actually save.

ISC has done their best to create an online community that can help us figure things out easier with regards to saving money while teaching abroad. Besides the comments that members submit about the savings potential on the school profile pages at their international schools, premium members are also able to compare these comments on savings potential using our unique Compare Schools page on our website. The Compare Schools page is really helping prospective teachers figure out exactly how much teachers are saving at those international schools and which school that they would prefer working at in the future.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of saving money while work at international schools. Our members can share what their experience has been working at various international schools around the world. There are a total of 630 comments (July 2019) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of the 66 comment topics called – “Average amount of money that is left to be saved.”

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“The ability to save changes each day, and has dropped by 1/2 this year. With the current inflation rate, I hope to save about $10,000 this coming year…” –
Escuela Bella Vista Maracaibo (Maracaibo, Venezuela) – 25 Total Comments

“I would be surprised if you can save any money here. But on the other hand – you get to live on the one of the most beautiful islands in the world…” – Boracay European International School (Boracay, Philippines) – 17 Comments

“If staff leads a very humble lifestyle it is possible to save your dollars (approximately 23% of salary). The city provides so much to do, and there are so many travel opportunities and so much time given off that many teachers actually struggle to save any money at all…” – Columbus School Medellin (Medellin, Colombia) – 53 Total Comments

“While the money affords a very nice lifestyle in South-East Asia, saving money for a house or retirement in North America or Western Europe is nearly impossible…” – ELC International School (Selangor, Malaysia) – 48 Comments

“The package is based on the Canadian Dollar, so after you are deducted transfer fees to your bank in the West and you consider the conversion of the CAD to RMB, the savings is minimal…” – Canadian International School Kunshan (Kunshan, China) – 43 Comments

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