Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Istanbul, Turkey (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

June 24, 2015


Traveling Around: Istanbul, Turkey

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Can you relate?

• Walking around in a non-tourist area and using the GPS on our phone to navigate the hilly streets and alleys and at times the uneven sidewalks and roads.
• Trying to fit/blend in while also observing the locals at the same time, then having a local walk by and say “hello” to us (we didn’t pass for Turkish I guess.)
• Thinking you are the well-experienced traveler, and yet getting easily ripped off or conned by a local salesman.
• Tasting the local ice cream and finding out it is quite different from the ice cream you are used to.
• Realizing that there are people everywhere in this city, way bigger than the city you are currently living in.
• Wanting to finally try (after visiting Istanbul three times) a simit and finding out it tasted very good!
• Going out to eat at a variety of places in the city, some super cheap and really good and some super expensive and not so good tasting.
• Finding stray cats EVERYWHERE! There were cute ones, but some really looked like they needed some tender loving care.
• Taking a second look when running into restaurants and stores that you thought would never be in Istanbul (Shake Shack, Arby’s, etc.)
• Lucking out and having the best weather possible for our visit. The rain and clouds ended just as we arrive and came back just as we left.
• Being amazed at not just the Blue Mosque, but ALL the many mosques around the city; all works of art and just beautiful!
• Walking next to the Blue Mosque at just the right time for when Iftar was happening. There were local bands playing songs and tons of people all around eating donated food. Wonderful community feeling!
• Eating at a really local place and not being able to communicate at all because both parties didn’t know each others’ languages. Showing kindness and giving kind gestures created, though, a wonderful cultural exchange.
• Finding some fruit in a local green market that we had never seen before, and the store owner giving us one to try. Actually, in many stores the people were so generous by giving us free samples.
• Taking a boat down the Bosphorus River and enjoying the wonderful sea breeze and sunshine on such a beautiful day.
• Arriving in a small town realizing that it was a complete tourist trap!
• Seeing some locals protesting some issue from their boats in the Bosphorus, wishing we knew what they were protesting about.
• Feeling happy by supporting the local businesses and the businesses that are trying to support local people in their work by paying them an honest wage.

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Currently we have 14 international schools listed in Istanbul, Turkey on International School Community. Here are a few of them that have had comments submitted on them:

•  Enka Schools (Istanbul) (Istanbul, Turkey)13 Comments
•  Hisar School (Istanbul, Turkey)17 Comments
•  Istanbul International Community School (Istanbul, Turkey)12 Comments
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ISTEK Schools, Istanbul (Istanbul, Turkey)8 Comments
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Koc School Istanbul (Istanbul, Turkey)10 Comments
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Kultur 2000 Koleji (Istanbul, Turkey)27 Comments
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MEF International School Istanbul (Istanbul, Turkey)43 Comments
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Robert College of Istanbul (Istanbul, Turkey)19 Comments
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TED Istanbul College (Istanbul, Turkey)17 Comments
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The British International School – Istanbul (Istanbul, Turkey)9 Comments
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Uskudar American Academy & Sev Elementary (Istanbul, Turkey)15 Comments

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock.  Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give you 6 free months of premium membership!

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Surveys

Survey results are in: Describe the current condition of the international school building you work at.

September 15, 2013


The survey results are in, and it seems as if most visitors and members of International School Community who voted are working in a Brand new/Excellent international school building.

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We all dream about teaching in the perfect, purpose-built school building, but many of us never get the opportunity.  According to our recent survey results though, it appears as if most of us are!

Maybe it is because of working at an international school, I mean many of these schools are run by some of the richest people in the city’s community. Most of these well-off families want their children to attend not just the best school in the city, but possibly the nicest looking as well.  If some people with money and good connections in the community want a nice-looking school building for their children, then I am sure they can and will do just that!

Many international schools however find themselves stuck in a converted building, meant for another purpose….not so much for teaching.  In those buildings, international school administers and teachers struggle to ‘make-it-work’; somehow managing to educate students in less-than-ideal situations.  Even when they try to update something in the building, there are too many extraneous factors that stop them from doing so.

Other international schools start off as someone’s (or a group of people) dream.  Not existing before, the new building is constructed to fit that dream.  The people in charge can direct how the building looks like and make it the most purpose-built as they can to fit their needs.  There are definitely international schools out there just like that, someone’s dream school.

But for the other international schools stuck in a building that is either falling apart or too small to fit the growing needs of the school, getting a new building made for them is a big challenge to say the least.  Constructing a new international school building is multi-faceted and very time-consuming.  Many factors come into play and the timing has to be perfect.  There needs to be the right amount of funding up-front.  There needs to be years of planning to take place and support from all stake holders.  There also usually needs to be a stable student-body where the student numbers are either growing or holding very tight.

Of course when the stars align, then the lucky international school teachers (and all the other stake holders) get to work and learn in a brand new, excellent school building. I mean who wouldn’t want to work in a new purpose-built international school building?

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Luckily on International School Community, we have a School Information section in the comments and information part of each school’s profile page that discusses the building and campus for each school.  It can be important to know more about the school’s building if you are planning on moving across the world to work in it.  Is your potential new international school state-of-the-art in its design with the most up to date technology or a building that is falling apart?

The comment topic in the School Information section tab is called:

• Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.

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Taken from the Vietnam American International School‘s school profile page.

There have been many comments and information submitted in this topic on numerous school profiles on our website; 547 to be exact.  Here are just a few:

One International School Community member said about working at MEF International School Istanbul: “The Int’l school is very subservient to the National school in terms of use of facilities and is given a real afterthought treatment by the general management.”

Another member said about working at Yokohama International School: “Space is really expensive in the school area, however, YIS has adequate space for its size. It is somewhat restricted in terms of sports facilities, but uses a nearby field.”

Another member submitted a comment about working at Wells International School (Thailand): “Wells includes three campuses: 2 kindergartens and 1 primary and secondary campus. All three are relatively small, but the facilities are expansive given the land restrictions. The head campus, located on Sukhumvit at On Nut, has over 30 classrooms, an auditorium, three science labs, 2 sports courts and more.”

If you are currently a premium member of International School Community, please take a moment to share what you know about the buliding/campus of the international schools at which you have worked. You can start by logging on here.

Stay tuned for our next survey topic which is to come out in a few days time.

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12 Tips for Selecting an Int'l School

Selecting an international school: Tip #8 – Are the teachers fully qualified?

February 23, 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 international school’s teachers are fully qualified or not?  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 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 #8 – Are the teachers fully qualified?

This is not typically a concern with mainstream international schools, but it can be a concern with some newer schools and in certain regions of the world.

pic1104Some might say having qualified teachers from early years all the way to secondary school are essential for an international school to thrive.  Why then do some international schools hire non-certified teachers?  Of course there are many reasons why schools make such choices for their staff.

One reason is that qualified teachers are sometimes hard to come by in some (if not all) countries. Additionally, the more experienced teachers may not be considering positions at less established international schools.  In some parts of the world, the pay is low.  Being that certified teachers seek out positions that value their teaching degrees (that they have worked hard for), they might not even consider working at some schools where the pay and benefits are less than desirable.

Another factor that comes into play is timing.  Some international schools get into “binds” every once and awhile, and sometimes the best choice is to hire a less qualified (or not qualified) teacher to fill the position. That non-qualified teacher is just waiting and waiting for the right moment, when the stars align for them, to finally get that job at the nearby international school versus staying at the “language” school down the road.  Also, when international schools are trying to fill vacancies for the coming school year during not ideal times of the year (e.g. the summer months or even May), they might not have the same pick of qualified teachers as they would have had back in January and February.

Even another reason that international school hire non-qualified teachers could be related to money.  International schools (especially for-profit ones) are always on the look-out on how to save money. Hiring non-qualified teachers can potentially save the school money as they can sometimes pay them less.  If there is a pay scale at the school, they would most likely be on the bottom of it.Mr-Boli-and-Primary-186

Many educators without university teaching certificates are the ones that are already living abroad.  They maybe moved abroad when they got a job at an English-language school or had an interest in “teaching English” in a foreign country.  We are sure that there are some great English-language schools around the world, but most of the teachers at those schools would prefer to work at an international school; mainly because of the better pay and benefits.  More established international schools though won’t consider them because they might not have the exact teaching qualifications that they require. The less established international schools might consider these less-qualified teachers though, especially if they are scrounging to find quality candidates to fill their positions.

It is true that you can be a good teacher, even an excellent one, without a teaching certificate from a university. Experience in the field can definitely equal quality teaching, and parents and other qualified teachers shouldn’t be so turned off to working with them.  If you agree to that statement, maybe we shouldn’t be so caught up in whether an international school has an all-qualified staff.  We all work hard to do the same job, it isn’t as if qualified teachers would work any harder at the school.  On the other hand, it is important to honor the time spent when teachers do go an get diplomas in education.  Many people with university teaching certificates have worked very hard to make teaching their career choice and not just a “job”.  It can be a bit of an “unfortunate circumstance” and a downer when a qualified teacher shows up at their new international school to find out that their colleagues are all “English teachers”!
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On our website we have a specific topic in the School Information section of each school profile page that discusses the issue of which international schools have qualified teachers or not.  It is called “Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, nationality, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate.”  Our members have submitted 100s of 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:

“About 65% North American, 20% European and 15% local and other. All teachers are certified and have at least 4 years’ experience…”
MEF International School Istanbul (27 total comments)

“The school has both Colombian and expat teachers. All of the expat teachers are North American and all are qualified teachers. The Colombian teachers are also well certified. There is not a high turnover rate at the school. Many expat teachers, though young, stay three or four years and some have been at the school much longer…”
Colegio Granadino Manizales (43 total comments)

“High Staff turnover. Probably 1/3 local hires vs. expats. The qualifications can be low. Many first year teachers with no teaching degree. Most expats are Americans and Canadians. People do not stay here because the taxes are high, the frustration level with the administration is high, and the level of academic rigor is low…”
American School Foundation of Mexico City (35 total comments)

“You will find a range of teachers from New Zealand to Canada, via UK, Egypt, Palestine, South Africa, Australia, France and more. Most teachers are expat hire. Local hire teachers are well qualified. The school is still only 7 years old so turnover rate is hard to reflect on. It ranges from 1-7 years at current time…”
Khartoum International Community School (37 total comments)

“Turn over rate last year was very low. This year is different with several teachers in the Secondary school being pushed out. The school pays on time and there are good benefits. Many teachers in the Secondary school do not have formal teaching qualifications but they have good subject knowledge…”
Western International School of Shanghai (57 total comments)

If you are an International School Community member with premium access, log on today and submit your own comments about the international schools you know about!

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and automatically get one full month of premium access. You will become a part of our over 1950+ members!

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Recently Updated School Profiles

Recently Updated School Profiles #19: Dhahran Ahliyya Schools, Al Ghanim Bilingual School and Mef Int’l School Istanbul

January 27, 2013


Members of International School Community have written some new and informative comments on the following schools:

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21 Jan  Dhahran Ahliyya Schools (36 new comments)      Dammam, Saudi Arabia:

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One of the new comments in the school information section: “DAS does have high expectations of its teaching staff. The school is working hard to make the shift to a dual language program and it expects the teachers to participate fully in its efforts. Most of these efforts take place during school hours although, like in good schools everywhere, teachers do take work home to prepare lessons and grade papers. Most teachers have preparation time for approximately one-third to one-half of their time in school. Some of that time is taken up by meetings in the department and everyone has a few assignments of yard duty per week…”

20 Jan  Al Ghanim Bilingual School (15 new comments)      Salwa, Kuwait:

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One of the new comments in the benefits information section: “Although I recommend staying away from this school, if you are even considering working there, make sure that you get the following before making a final decision: 1. A copy of the contract. 2. A copy of the staff manual. If it’s the same staff manual that I received, you’ll find a list of things teachers should not do and the consequences including the number of days pay that will be lost. 3. Your assignment and schedule in writing. (There were teachers who were told that they would be doing one thing, and when they arrived they were told that they would be doing something else.) …”

14 Jan  Mef Int’l School Istanbul (27 new comments)      Istanbul, Turkey:

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One of the new comments in the benefits information section: “A flight every 2 years and at end of contract. 600 USD shipping at beginning and end of contract. Receipts at beginning but not needed when leaving. Free breakfast, lunch and snack…”

Check out the rest of the last 40 international school profile pages that have been recently updated on International School Community here.

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