In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school. A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country. What are all the must-haves then? Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far. m
Must-have #12: A tour of your new campus
Before you even interview with an international school, a perspective teacher is definitely scouring the school’s website for pictures of the campus (among other things as well!). During the interview you even take some time to ask some questions about the campus and its facilities. The school might even have a neat video that some of their students made, showing off each part of the campus. After the interview you still want to know more and can’t wait to actually see the campus in person; as we all know too well, pictures can at times be deceiving.
So you finally arrive in your new city and country. Hopefully the director picked you up from the airport and personally dropped you off at your new apartment. You get settled-in as much as you can in the first few days and then it is time to go to your new school for the first time.
A few questions though, how do you even get to your new school? Maybe somebody in the business office comes to your apartment complex to drive you to your new school (how nice is that?!?). Maybe you are with a small group of other new teachers (who also live in the same apartment building) and you get directions on how to use public transport to get to the school campus. You might even be greeted by a staff member in person at some predetermined location in the city and then you and a group of other new teachers take a walk to the school.
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.
It is typically one of the first things that you do as a new teachers, get a tour around the whole campus and grounds. Who is doing that? It could be the director himself/herself that leads the tour; nice to have the person who hired you to be the one to do that. It might also be your immediate boss who does the tour, or it might be a staff member who has been ‘elected’ to be the official welcomer of the new teachers (I put elected in quotes because sometimes this staff member is just volunteering their time and not always getting paid!).
With your jet-lagged eyes, it is finally time to take everything in of your new school. Is it well-manicured or old and falling apart? It is easy to quickly judge things as you going around to the different areas of the campus (maybe they are skipping over some parts to not scare you too much!). It is hard not to compare everything to your last school. If luck is on your side, most things at your new school will be way better than your previous one!
Then the tour is over and live goes on. Soon the new campus becomes very familiar to you and thus you feel super comfortable again and can get yourself into the swing of things as you start your teaching. Could it be that a nice school campus tour gets you starting off on the right foot for your first year there?
Luckily on International School Community we have a comment topic that specifically addresses the issue of the school campus. It is called: Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.
We have had a total of 606 separate comments in this topic about a number of international schools on our website. Here are just a few:
Zhuhai International School –
“The school campus is really interesting and different. It’s in a building, originally built as a hotel, on a nature reserve island, 15 minutes north of the outskirts of Zhuhai city. The pluses: It’s got fabulous outdoor/natural resources – huge outdoor playing areas, a track, an enormous banyan tree, plenty of space, and good-sized classrooms. The minuses: no gym or large meeting space indoors, 3, soon to be 4 floors with only stairs. But if you like a laid back, open environment, surrounded by nature, you’ll love this campus.”
Buena Vista Concordia International School –
“Beautiful, purpose-built school in the Buena Vista area of Bao’an. All buildings in the residential/commercial area utilize an American Southwest theme with brown and orange being the main color scheme. School has full indoor gymnasium, outdoor soccer pitch and track, space for art and music, as well as four large lab areas.”
American School of Guatemala (Colegio Americano)
“Large campus, park-like setting with beautiful tropical landscaping. K-12 so each section has a different are (Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, High School). Located in a high-end area of Guatemala City (still lots of traffic) but on campus you would never know you’re in the middle of a city.”
So, does your international school give a tour of the campus straight away to all the new hires? Please share your experiences!continue reading
In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school. A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country. What are all the must-haves then? Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.
Must-have #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. Additionally, most international school teachers don’t choose countries to live in only where they can speak the language (though some definitely do, which makes sense).
We all know that English is now being spoken in many countries now. Maybe even all of them have some percentage of the local community that can speak English (especially the younger generations). Even if there are many people that speak English in your new host country, it is clear though that knowing the local language is very important. If you know at least some of the host country language then you will be able to be clearer with the local people you have to interact with and have less miscommunication that might lead to tense culture shock moments for you. It is also important to start learning the local language because of how language is directly tied to knowing more about their culture. And that is what this international school teaching experience is all about, learning more about and appreciating the different cultures of this world.
So, the answer is easy. Just go and take some classes. Prospective international school teachers might be surprised though that many of us just don’t do it. And there are many reasons why we skip the opportunity or chance to attend those classes. One reason might be that you just simply don’t know where to go. If your school is there to help you find these classes (or even pay for the classes for you…as some international schools include taking classes in their benefits package), then that can really help you find your way to sign-up sooner than later. Another reason you don’t attend language classes is because you just figure that you don’t have the extra time to take them. It is a big time commitment to dedicate one or two evenings of your week to go and take language classes. A third reason might be that you are just not interested or ready to take on a 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th…) language in your life at that point in time. A fourth reason is that you might think that you can easily just get away with speaking English your whole time living there. And if you are planning on only staying two years, you might justify to yourself that you won’t really even be in that country long enough to really need to know the language. There are probably even more reasons why we don’t take these language classes!
If you are interested in ‘taking the plunge’ and find that it is a good match for you go and take some language classes, how nice if your new international school is there to guide you to where to take them (during your new teacher orientation programme). Your school and the people that work there might have some trusted references on schools/classes you can attend…and for the most reasonable prices. In some countries though, the host country actually offers free language classes to new immigrants to their country, and your new school should be able to help you in how to sign-up for those since they probably have many new teachers each year wanting to do just that.
Even though we all have good intentions to learn the host country language when we first move to a new country, it is a fact that not every international school teacher follows through with this. Many international schools have teachers that have been there 5-10 years or even longer and they just know the very basic of vocabulary. Being that the majority of their day is going to be in English, many teachers just get into a routine of not communicating in the local language and end of not effectively learning it. With all the possibilities of downloading or streaming tv programmes and movies in English on the internet, some teachers’ time after a whole workday in English becomes a WHOLE day of speaking, listening, reading and writing in English.
There are many success stories though. Just as many teachers there are who don’t effectively learn the host country language, there are many that do. They find (make) time to take the classes, they look for local friends to talk to in that language, they pick up the local newspaper to try and read that every day, they sit next to the host country language teachers during lunch time to get in a few more minutes of local-language speaking practice, etc. It is ultimately up for each international school teacher to choose their own path in how they will learn or not learn the language, and having your school there to support and guide you in the right direction can be very helpful!
So, does your international school help new teachers to get beginning-level host country language classes? Please share your experiences!continue reading
The survey results are in, and it seems as if most visitors and members of International School Community who voted think that it is basically not so important to be able to communicate in the local language at their current placement.
Of course, knowing the local language is important. We all know how closely related a language is to the culture that uses it. On the other hand, how much can native speakers of English “get-away with” not communicating in the local language and only speaking English? It is getting easier and easier it seems in many locations in the world.
So let’s say you are living in a place where it is very important to be able to communicate in the local language. Do you have the “gift” of language learning? Most likely you are thinking that all the other people around you have the gift and you don’t! It is the argument that people (e.g. international school teachers) like to talk about often and at length: can all people learn 2nd languages as an adult or is it just some people who have the gift and can do it much more “easily”?
It is always a topic of discussion for an expat and their other expat colleagues; your colleagues ability to learn (or not learn) the local language. You often hear us saying to each other: “wow you are very good at (local language)!” or “You are studying a lot it seems and it is paying off” or “I wish I could speak as good as you.” These comments or observations may or may not be exactly true, but it is definitely our perception of other expats around us and we are very sensitive to this issue due to our own ability or or lack of ability to communicate in the local language.
You might say it is important in every location to know the local language; it can greatly enhance your experience living in a culture and part of the world that is unknown to you. Even if the need isn’t there to be able to communicate in the local language, most of us want to put forth our best effort to learn it and not just give up so easily. Taking risks, going outside of your comfort zone, and being willing to make mistakes would be part of a philosophy that a successful 2nd language learner would adopt. Some countries even provide you with free language classes as a new immigrant there; paid for by the local government. That would make it even easier for you to take on this challenge to acquire another language.
Have you been in the following situation though? One day you walk into a store in your current placement. You start talking in the local language. The person working at the store just immediately talks back to you in English. Then the next day you walk into the same store, but different worker. You ask if they know English. The person says yes and proceeds to give you a lecture on how you should learn the local language and try and speak it.
Sometimes it seems like you can’t win some days. Local people in other countries kind of act the same in this regards. It doesn’t matter where you are, the locals definitely have their opinion about the second language learning abilities of the immigrants living there and how they should be able to use the language. Many times though your exchange is very positive, sometimes too positive…when the local showers you with compliments about your ability giving you a false sense of your true ability in the language. It is all a matter of opinion sometimes. One local might think you are good, another one not so much.
I have even been in some countries (where there is a relatively small population speaking a certain language), and they just tell me “well it is not so useful to learn our language, you might as well just stay with communicating in English as all people here can speak it.” Funny that!
One International School Community member said: “On my current assignment in Copenhagen, I technically do speak the local language, since English is ubiquitous. However, I find it difficult to learn Danish as there is little opportunity to practice given my full time commitment to speaking English at work and taking on-line classes at night. On previous assignments in Japan and Bosnia and Herzegovina, I found not learning the language to be a stumbling block to communication and true understanding. Ultimately, learning the local language helped to further my interests to open up rich conversation about culture as well as to make a connection with others. I’ve noticed this helpful both inside and outside the classroom.”
One final question then is how do you respond to the 2nd language learners of English in your home country (if that is indeed an English-speaking country)? Surely, now you can relate better to their situation and be more sensitive to their ability level in English (if it is low).
In conclusion, what does the future hold for being able to communicate in the local language in your current placement in the future? Maybe we will see there being even a lesser need to be able to communicate in the local language, maybe in some locations in the world you will need to know the local language even more. How important is it to you in your current placement? Does your international school specifically look for teachers who are able to communicate in their local language? Some international schools do consider it to be important if you are at a school that has a high population of local students whose parents don’t speak English very well. Please share your comments about your current placement and how you use (or don’t need to use) the local language.continue reading
A look at which languages are easiest and most difficult for English speakers to pick up.
“The foreign service institute of the United States Department of State compiles learning expectations for many languages based on the amount of time it takes a native English speaker to achieve speaking and reading proficiency.
Each learner is different.
The time it takes to learn a language depends on a number of factors:
• How complex the language is.
• How close the new language is to your native language or the other languages you know.
• How many hours each week you devote to learning the language.
• The language learning resources available to you.
• You motivation.”
(The website divides up a number of language by Easy, Medium and Hard)
(Images taken from the voxy.com website)
So which country do you live in? What language do they speak there?
There are international school teachers in all easy, medium and hard language-countries. Is this a deciding factor when you decide whether to accept a position or not or do you actually seek out the challenge to live in one of the countries that speaks one of the “hard” languages? I actually know some international school teachers that struggle a lot of the learning of one of the “easy” languages. I also know some international school teachers that don’t struggle at all to learn one of the “hardest” languages. I guess it does go back to the five factors discussed in the article. The biggest fact I have seen is the motivation factor. Having the motivation and confidence to learn an easy, medium or hard language is the key to language learning success!
We have a topic called “Languages of the host city and the level of English spoken there.” in the City Section on the school profile pages on our website. Members are encouraged to share what they know about the language of the host country.continue reading
The Nagawoshi International School website has posted some intriguing information about their bilingual immersion programme model and about pass bands. A pass band is a range at which a language is heard in terms of Hz. How well versed are international schools in 2nd language acquisition? The following is what Nagawoshi had to say:
Why do we teach English to young children?
“It has been proven that there is a barrier found in the brain, formed by the age of 6 years old, which acts as a sound barrier. Before the age of 6 however, children are able to recognize sounds more easily and are able to reproduce many of these sounds. This ability to hear and reproduce allows the child to naturally acquire language through physical sound. After the age of 6 years old, children begin to intellectually learn language. In order to acquire language, specific input of sounds and languages (English and Japanese) need to be provided at the same time for children at this critical stage in childhood development.”
What is ‘Perfect Pitch’? The necessity of early sound education.
“It is well known that infants already have the ability to hear sounds when they are in the mother’s womb. Through extensive study, dramatic findings in the fields of music and linguistics by Dr. Don Cambell and Dr. Alfred Thomasty were produced. These studies found a high correlation between high frequency and the development of brain nerves. What was concluded was that ‘sounds that he/she has never heard would not be included in one’s voice,’ that is, it is necessary for specific sounds to be heard during early childhood in order for those sounds to be reproduced more accurately in the future. Japanese people have difficulty with English pronunciation and basic listening, even though they study and hear English throughout their lives. This can be related back to an ability to hear frequencies between 125-1500 Hz and an inability to hear English’s 2000-12000 Hz frequencies. Being that a child listening ability is developed and completed between the ages of 3-6 years old, the opportunity during this salient period in maturation cannot be missed. Children need to be educated at the appropriate time in their developmental cycles. (Professor Norimasa Kamata, Former Professor of Education at Kagoshima University.)”
“Immersion Education is one of the important parts of an instruction which brings up children who acquire both English as a second language and Japanese as their first. By immersing children into English through daily educational activities, the opportunity to learn sound, rhythm and word usage in English through music and play becomes natural. It is a special opportunity for young children in their most important and flexible stage of life to be able to master languages in a supportive surrounding through interaction with native English teachers, friends, family and the community.”
The table of perfect pitch according to age
Average skill to acquire Perfect pitch