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!continue reading
Every school year, a school always goes through some new changes or simply experiences new things that the staff is now required to do or complete. The changes could be related to the school’s curriculum, to some new professional development based on new initiatives, new building procedures (like fire drills), new mandatory training (like child protection), etc.
For many things (like ones actually dictated by the host country), they are mandatory and the admin simply just needs to fit those required things into their yearly meeting schedule. Combine those required things with the other things and initiatives that a school wants to do, it can make for a sometimes stressful school year for the staff (and admin!). Furthermore, balancing these new things with your normal planning work and actually teaching students can prove to be very challenging.
So what are some of these new initiatives that international schools are focusing on in recent years?
A number of international schools are having their staff work with the Managebac program. There are 57+ comments related to Managebac on our website.
It’s also fairly certain that your school is now or will very soon be going through an accreditation. ISC has 347+ total comments related to school accreditation on 247 international schools at the moment.
With regards to curriculum, it appears that a number of schools are doing training with the Common Core curriculum. There are 24 comments that are about the different schools taking on this in recent years.
And the list goes on…
What is a possible plan then for balancing all of these newly added things so that staff and admin don’t get too overwhelmed? As one ISC member wrote about working at United Nations International School (Vietnam), “the [needs to be a] conscious adoption of a “less is more” ethos.”
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of new things added at a school. Our members can share what current international schools are doing in this topic. There are a total of 567 comments (Sept. 2018) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of the 65 comment topics called – “Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.).”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“The use of Kagan cooperative structures is the focus for this year. The entire faculty had 2 days of training before the commencement of the school year with another session upcoming later in the year. The goal being student engagement. Most of the faculty have been receptive and are already using the structures in their classrooms…” – Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea) – 147 Total Comments
“The school just finished a multi-year curriculum initiative designed to put the entire Pre-K through 12th grade curriculum documents onto Rubicon Atlas. The school seems to focus most on literacy in the Lower School, innovation and design in the Middle School, and IB/AP in the Upper School. School-wide, there is a focus on Differentiated Instruction, but this takes different forms in different divisions. There is a new Head of School coming in for the 2018-2019 school year…” – American School of Paris (Paris, France) – 47 Comments
“The administration said they care more about kids learning English and Maths rather than any other subjects. What makes the school unique, seems independent of what they are pursuing; bring more local students no matter what their academic level is…” – Changchun American International School (Changchun, China) – 122 Total Comments
“Professional development this year has included IBDP two-day Category 3 in-school workshops on the Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge. All staff also completed a Stewards of Children online course and a one-day first aid and CPR course…” – Tsukuba International School (Tsukuba, Japan) – 25 Comments
“The school has offered, over the past two years, very little in terms of professional development. There has been talk of a curriculum change to the Cambridge Primary Curriculum for September 2018…” – Cambridge School Doha (Doha, Qatar) – 57 Comments
“The school is just setting up a Professional Learning Centre to improve instruction and practice at the school first. The school has designated professional learning time on Friday afternoons and encourages professional development…” – YK Pao School (Shanghai, China) – 38 Commentscontinue reading
Of course, new teachers can try and organize some outings themselves, but it is nice when the school organizes some of it. The returning teachers and administration know the city better, and they can help facilitate some really fun parties and/or outings.
Most new teachers will not know so much of their new city/country, so the school could organize some day trips to nearby nature areas or special towns of interest. If the school doesn’t want to take to you too far away, they can easily host some events in popular local restaurants or fun places of interest.
Even if you don’t like the places the school takes you so much, it will definitely be an opportunity for you to bond with the returning staff members as well as the other new teachers. Bonding with new teachers is important. Typically, new teachers tend to bond most with each other and they become lifelong friends (even after one or both of them moves away). If you are lucky, there will be a number of new teachers that you will able to connect with.
Excellent international schools will definitely have a plan of events for all new teachers at the very beginning of the school year before the students arrive. A carefully planned week full of different events will definitely pay off as the new teachers will start their integration process on the right foot, thus making them enjoy their new surroundings and most likely do their best working at in their new school.
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of new teacher orientation plans/events. Our members can share what current international schools are doing in this matter. There are a total of 107 comments (August 2018) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of the 65 comment topics called – “Where did the school take you in the city when you first arrived? What were some staff outings/party locations?”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“We often hang out around campus or downtown on the weekends, but many people like to use the Arex to go to some of the cool spots in Seoul. Many of us go for picnics in Lake Park or down to the Canal Area for visiting noraebang (singing room) or bars. There really is quite a lot to do in Cheongna and new places are going in all the time. Several faculty members like to go play screen baseball and screen golf.” – Cheongna Dalton School (Incheon, South Korea) – 60 Total Comments
“Most of the staff parties and gatherings each year, when not on campus, are held at the high-end hotels in the area. There are a few Indian restaurants that also seem to be popular among the teachers, so the parties often end up going back there after a year or two of somewhere else.” – NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 242 Comments
“New faculty were invited to dinner in town one night and to the directors’ home another night, which was intimate and nice. There was another faculty gathering at the director’s house soon after school began, and a holiday party in December.” – International School of Stavanger (Stavanger, Norway) – 44 Total Comments
“In the first week, we were taken to Taygaytay to Lake Taal for lunch. As well as this we were taken to one of the school’s service partners which is an orphanage. Trips to a cash and carry store and markets are also arranged in the first week. The divisional principals will have a social gathering at their homes for new staff and the superintendent hosts a welcome back BBQ.” – International School Manila (Manila, Philippines) – 71 Comments
“No city tour. It’s all administrative and logistic arrangements; a meeting with the principal, on campus, where you will be told when you need to submit your Scheme of Work @ curriculum planning. Next, you will be taken on an apartment hunting adventure by a HR personnel.” – Raffles International Christian School (Jakarta, Indonesia) – 42 Comments
“They had a get to know you party. Old members of staff came and you got to know people. They also took us to Carrefore and Ikea when we first got there with a coach. This is helpful when you’ve just arrived and you’re trying to figure your life out. They also take you to get a bank account set up and take you to the required medical.” – Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 368 Commentscontinue reading
Starting at a new school can be scary and make you quite nervous, but it can also be extremely exciting and life enriching. To help new teachers experience more of the positive side of moving to work at a new international school, the staff and administration need a clear plan to how they will induct these new teachers to their school, routines and educational program.
But new teacher orientation actually starts way before your arrive at the airport. One strategy is to set up the new teacher with a resource/contact person that they can ask all their burning questions to from the time they sign their contract. Administrators don’t necessarily have tons of time to be replying back to the sometime long-winded emails from their incoming staff. Having a (sometimes volunteer) contact person for the new teacher to communicate with can be quite helpful and efficient.
But once the new teachers arrive at the school and in their new country, there are even more things that can help and guide those new teachers into a more positive and exciting experience versus once that is more nerve-wracking and full of endless unknown surprises. A few other things international schools might choose to do during their plan for new teacher orientation are to give all the new teachers a starter bag of groceries for their new apartment, a dinner outing with all the new teachers and the school administration, and a timely reimbursement of the settling-in money benefit and moving allowances.
It all sounds very easy when you just look at the simple things international schools could do to make a smooth transition for their newly arriving teachers, but we all know that challenges can arise and many things don’t go necessarily as planned. But when a new teacher orientation committee and the school administration are effectively working together and being well-planned in advance, the experience of all the new teachers will most likely be great and much appreciated!
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of new teacher orientation, so you can stay the most informed as possible. There are 69 comments (premium access only) that have the word “orientation“ in them, and a total of 98 comments (August 2017) have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in the comment topic called – “Details about new teacher orientation.”
Here are a few of those submitted comments:
“There is a native English speaker and a native Turkish speaker who run orientation which takes place one week before returning teachers report. You might have dinner in an administrator’s apartment, have a tour of archaeological sites in Ankara, be driven to IKEA or be taken to a nearby market. You will be taken to visit a nearby hospital and to the bank on campus to set up avbouts, to the phone company to get cell service set up, and to the clinic for a medical exam.” –Bilkent Laboratory & International School (Ankara, Turkey) – 128 Total Comments
“There is an initial few days for new teachers before all staff return after summer break. It is a decent mix of philosophy and practical things, with a day trip into Beijing thrown in for good measure. It can be long, as all our meetings can be, since it is done in both languages. The school tries to get all new staff to arrive just a few days before the beginning of school so all the bank account, cell phone, etc. details can be handled as a group. If you arrive before this ‘group’ session, you are on your own. Message the mayor (me) if you are in this situation.” – Keystone Academy (Beijing, China) – 48 Comments
“It is okay. They take you to some good restaurants and you get to bond with the new teachers. They are understanding of the new move and give you time to take care of whatever you need to take care of. They need to do something with the Itau, bank day so that teachers can get set up with online banking that same day instead of having to wait and figure it out on your own.” – American School of Asuncion (Asuncion, Paraguay) – 107 Total Comments
“New teacher orientation is very unorganized. Many times you will be told to work on lesson plans and setting up rooms during the 2 week orientation. If you are given a grade level, you will not be told how many students to prepare for until often the first day of school. On the first day of school you will often receive your list of students names.” – Pan Asia International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 48 Comments
“There is a week of new teacher orientation before returning teachers commence. During this time, new staff are assisted in setting up bank accounts and doing the mandatory health check as well as more formal aspects of induction into the school. There is usually at least one social activity.” – Northbridge International School (Phnom Penh, Cambodia) – 58 Comments
“Very little help is offered to new teachers, although the primary school seems much more organized that the high school. The school has a very ‘sink or swim’ approach (there was no curriculum or resources in place when I arrived).” – Beijing Huijia Private School (Beijing, China) – 32 Commentscontinue 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 #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.
Contracts can also be easily misunderstood. Maybe you already “read” the contract, but it would be safe to say that you would not completely understand everything you “read”. International school teaching contracts definitely contain parts that are using language you may not be familiar with. If it contains parts that are specific to the rules/laws of the host country, then it is very possible that you might not be so familiar with that jargon in terms of what a certain part is really trying to say.
Another reason that contract details could be easily overlooked is that you also might be looking at the contract with rose-colored glasses; meaning you are just focused on the more positive aspects of the contract instead of the parts that might actually give you cause for concern.
There might even be additional things that are NOT on your contract that you are entitled to. For example, in Denmark you are entitled to take off a certain number of days to be with your children, but it might not necessarily be spelled-out for you in the contract. Good idea to ask around or have an admin tell you about these entitlements straight away during new teacher orientation.
So, if an admin did sit you down and went through your contract sometime during the new-teacher orientation, it would be nice if they went over the follow parts:
Duties and responsibilities – Making it clear what you need to do is exactly what all new teachers want to know. Sounds simple, but they can be easily forgotten to be explicitly explained to you. Admin might think the duties and responsibilities that you will have will be implied or learned about by talking with your colleagues. Of course, if that is the case, new teachers often find themselves just learning about these things last-minute! Also, it is good to know up front what is required of you so that you don’t feel obligated to do the extra things an admin might ask of you.
School year and work day – It is important to know how many work days that you in the year; well you can look at the school calendar for that. But what about what is required of you for each day of the week? Maybe you need to arrive 30 minutes before school starts and 30 minutes after school ends. Some days you might be required to stay longer for meetings, which days are those? Are the meetings optional? Some international schools are doing that now. All important details to know before you get caught not following those rules.
Workload – How nice to sit down with somebody who can give you an honest picture about how much you will be expected to work. How many reports will you need to write each year and how often will they be sent out to parents? Even more important is how do the reports look like? Writing multiple reports in a year definitely increases your workload. The admin could also give you an honest picture of how much the other teachers are putting in extra hours.
Other parts of the contract you would most likely want to discuss with your admin are salary, retirement, housing benefits, settling-in allowance, insurance, curriculum duties, etc.
So, does your international school set up a time for your to thoroughly discuss each part of your contract? Please share your experiences!
Luckily on International School Community we have a new comment topic that specifically addresses this issue of getting reimbursed. It is called: Details about the teaching contract. What important things should prospective teachers know about?
We have 23 comments so far in this topic on our website since it is so new. Here are just a couple of those comments:
“Read your contract carefully. do not sign an unsigned contract. contracts signed by the teachers have been changed and then signed by the owner. If you have issues with the owner his first and only reaction is to tell you to take him to court where he will happily drag the case out to cost you a lot of money.” – Makuhari International School (Tokyo, Japan) – 23 Comments
“They reserve the right to interpret, change, manipulate dates, avoid transparency when dealing with staff regarding their contracts. A teacher that recently left at the start of the year discovered there were several things in the contract that actually conflicted with Japanese labor law. Fortunately for them, they consulted with an attorney and were able to avoid paying a one month penalty for leaving on short notice. By the way they left because they lost several thousands of dollars due to mistakes the school made regarding visas that they were unwilling to rectify.” – Seisen International School (Tokyo, Japan) – 51 Comments
If you currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the recent past, share the information and details about the contract that you have at your school. You can find easy access to all international schools on our Schools List page.
“This has changed a LOT. Flight in and out at the end of contract. No mid-contract flights. No settling-in allowance; it is a repayable loan. Lunch is free.” – Phuket International Academy (Phuket, Thailand) – 43 Comments
“The school will help with negotiating a contract if you don’t read Spanish. Your apartment will either come with a phone or you’ll use your cell phone. Cell service is cheap, usually less than $15 US a month, data plans cost more. Be careful with smart phones because they are easily stolen.” – The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya) (Guatemala City, Guatemala) – 40 Comments
“Airfare for initial contract to Panama and departing flight for end of contract(typical initial contract 2 years). When renewing contract “home leave” flight per yearly renewal as well as renewal bonus. You can also ask for the funds from your annual ticket so you can use towards the “summer” travel you wish. Settling in money of $1000 (all), moving allowance between $500 (single) and $750 (dependents/family). When leaving said to also get some “departing” relocation money, your “retirement fund” of 1.5% annual salary school sets aside for you per Panama Law, and money for your airfare if wishing to buy your own ticket.” – International School Panama (Panama City, Panama) – 38 Commentscontinue reading