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.continue reading
Learn as much as possible about the host country in order to have realistic expectations.
How much can you learn about a host country before you arrive? Yes, thank goodness for the internet and its endless (and sometimes tiresome) list of websites that try and shed light on the many facets of the host country’s culture and language.
A type of website that might be the most informative: personal blogs of expats that live in the host country. Certainly, they are the best type of website to gather information about the host country. The blogger typically is very explicit and candid about their day-to-day experiences living there. Personal blogs of international teachers are even better. I love reading from their entries even before they arrive in their new country to when they have been there three years later. Some of the international teacher blogs that we have highlighted on International School Community so far:
• Education Rickshaw (China)
• Expat Heather (South Korea)
• Josefino Rivera (Bulgaria)
But I must say that I knew close to nothing about the country I am currently in, and the people from where I am from knew even less. Sometimes you just got to go there yourself to see about the culture and language of the host country’s people. When I go home now, I am inundated with questions about what life is like there…and some of the questions are really unbelievable (but I was once in their shoes I’m sure).
I think it is hard to get away from the stereotypes that we have about each culture group in the world. The issue is, as we all know, that the stereotype might actually be true for the majority of the people in the host country. However, it is NOT true for EVERYONE in the country. You cannot group everyone in one culture group together. I just read recently that due to the Danish cultural norms Danes don’t try and make good friends with people that they work with. I’m sure that there are a few Danes that hang out with their co-workers outside of work and call them their best friends.
Realistic expectations? This will take some good research I think. Every time I go to a new location, one of the things I do is buy the latest Lonely Planet for that country/city. For sure after reading a bit of that travel book I can have my expectations be a tiny be more realistic, if not even make them a bit more exciting. I don’t know about you though, but I am quite sensitive to culture shock. So, even if I have realistic expectations and am ready to expect the unexpected, I am still subjected to embarrassing mood swings about the things that in theory I had already expected. One of the joys of living abroad I suppose. By the way, I subscribe to the idea of cherishing all emotions: the good and the not-so-good.
Last thing that I know about how to find out the most I can about my future host country: talk to people that currently work at the school. Not the administrator, the human resources department, etc…the real people that work there who will really tell you how it is. I’ve always received a few contact email addresses of some teachers that I can contact during the summer. I have even had a Skype call with one of them which really helped I think get my expectations to be a little more realistic. It is key to talk to people and gather as much information as possible.
This article was submitted by a guest author and ISC member.
Right now on International School Community you can get in contact with a number of our members who know about more than 1300+ international schools, and the list of schools our members know about is growing!continue reading
A new survey has arrived!
Topic: How much Professional Development money do you have to use this school year?
Working at international schools has its perks, that’s for sure. One of those perks is getting an annual Professional Development allowance (well at most international schools). Public-school teaching back in your home country does have it moments of getting PD for its teachers, but typically that money is being decided on by somebody other than you! At international schools, you are (mostly) in charge of your own personal PD monies and how you want to use that money. It is important to note that international schools do dictate some of the PD for their own teachers (e.g. for in-house PD), but the other PD money (the money that hopefully you are getting as part of your contract) is for you to use on your own PD theme and topic.
It is so important for our careers to keep learning new things in the field of education. Luckily there are numerous PD options for international school teachers. There is the annual ECIS conference (who’s going to Nice this year?). Maybe you live in Asia and are planning on going to the annual EARCOS conference in Kota Kinabalu. Some international schools are leading the way and hosting their own conferences like NIST International School. They recently have started their annual ELLSA Conference in Bangkok.
If conferences aren’t looking the best this year, then there are still many other options for international schools teachers on which to use their personal PD allowance. The Creativity Workshop has been very popular this past year as well as the staple Teachers College Summer Institutes (Reading and Writing) in New York.
Wherever you end up going this year, you are bound to learn a few new things and get inspired for your return back to work. You are also bound to run into some people who you know in the international school community; good times catching up with former colleagues. Going to these conferences and workshops are also a great place to network and meet others teachers in your field. It can be quite helpful having some new peers to contact when you want to get some feedback on something or learn more about a new technology that person is using for example.
The main problem though in getting to these workshops and conferences is money. Not only do you have to pay for the conference registration fee, you must also pay for your flight to get there and the hotel. Many times one year of PD money is not enough to get you to a conference every year. Some teachers can save their PD money from one year and add it one to the next one (up to three years typically). If you don’t have enough money to attend a certain workshop, then it doesn’t hurt to ask your boss if there might be any PD money around that you can use to help you pay for the rest of costs involved. Your administration might say no to you, but they also might say yes! It’s worth a try.
All international schools handle their PD allowance differently, so let’s share about the international schools we know about. Go ahead and vote on How much Professional Development money do you have to use this school year? Go to the homepage of International School Community and submit your vote today! You can check out the latest voting results here.
We actually have a comment topic related this to this issue. It is called: Professional development allowance details.
Right now there are over 180 individual comments (about 100s of different international schools) in this comment topic on our website. Here are a few of them:
“In general, the school has a four-tiered approach: in-house PD, required external PD, goal related PD and personal professional support.
Upon school approval staff have access to a personal professional development sum that can be used annually or accrue for up to three years.” – Anglo American School of Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria) – 28 Comments
“Professional development is a strong focus. Quality of in-house varies wildly as it does in every school. Lots of training for IB available and all IB teachers go on prep courses as soon as possible.” – Nexus International School (Putrajaya, Malaysia) – 44 Comments
“PDs are usually done in-house therefore there is no structured amount for PD per teacher. Principals are up to date regarding international and local PDs so when there is an appropriate PD some teachers are selected to attend. Teachers, on the other hand, can always search for possible and appropriate local/international PDs.” – Royal Tots Academy (Jakarta, Indonesia) – 35 Commentscontinue reading
Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature. This month we interviewed Laurence Myers:
Tell us about your background. Where are you from?
I am originally from Athens, Greece with a father from the US and a mother from Greece. I was born and raised in Athens, Greece and attended a small international school (TASIS Hellenic International School, now International School of Athens). I have been teaching for 19 years internationally and have loved every minute of it!
How did you get started in the international teaching community?
For me teaching internationally was almost an extension of my life as a student. As I went to an international school as a child I found the cross-cultural connections at such schools to be right up my alley. Of course, as is often the case, my inspiration came from my teachers and professors, the most powerful of which was that of Kostas Gabriel who presently teaches in Chennai. He was an inspiration in believing in myself as a child and I found that, when deciding on a profession, this also provided me with an impetus to assist students in similar circumstances. I also had some good friends who showed me the way, most notably Ralph Barrett who presently teaches in Abu Dhabi. Following their footsteps, and my heart, I was able to fit right in when professional life came calling. After a couple years of teaching internationally I was hooked. The job offers the perfect combination of discovery and self-reliance with the added dimension of dealing with simply wonderful kids!
Which international schools have you worked at? Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.
I began my teaching at the same school I attended as a child, TASIS Hellenic International School. It was, and still is, a small school with much character and a small but very dynamic student population. It was here, as I took my professional baby steps, that I learned that students are often waiting for an opportunity to see the world in different ways. I taught both social studies and physical education at TASIS.
Following TASIS, and a short stint back in the US to receive my M.A., I taught for five years at Colegio Nueva Granada in Bogota, Colombia. For me this was an eye-opening experience. Like the Greek community, Colombians are open and really want to know about you as a teacher. I found this connection fascinating and discussions with my students in economics and government endlessly rewarding. The country of Colombia too, which had a shady reputation at the time, was a simply beautiful place to be! Despite the media and the difficult political situation the travel opportunities there were tremendous and I still find that, in so many ways, Colombia is home for me as well. I am also happy to be connected to Colombia through my wife, who has been by my side since those days at CNG. 🙂
My next stop, where I presently work, was the International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was here that my professional self was able to succeed in ways that I never imagined possible. ISKL’s professional development opportunities and the support that they offer their teaching staff allows for many teachers to become great leaders in their own right. Though the expectations are high, so too is the sense of professional community. Collaborative, supportive and engaging ISKL has given me the opportunity to broaden my understanding of teaching and learning. It is in Malaysia that my two daughters were born and so our connection to Kuala Lumpur will be life-long.
Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
In Malaysia it is customary to point with the thumb and not the index finger. As our daughters are quite young trying to get them to remember to point this way is sometimes difficult. Traditionally we point, as most do in the west, with our index fingers. At one point when we went to a restaurant our daughter was pointing at something and we were overly concerned about what that might say about our cultural empathy. We tried very hard to get her to change her finger and were embarrassed to fail miserably. When we went over to the table and sat down to talk about it our daughter told us to look at the next customer, a Malaysian woman, who had just walked in. Sure enough, she was indicating things to the staff using her index finger. My daughter was vindicated and I quieted down recognizing that customs often change as cultures diffuse. Where we are often overcompensating in order to fit into the local culture, the members of that same local culture might be happy to use western gestures and norms.
What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
As I have matured in my teaching, and as my family situation has changed (ie. single to married to having children) so too has my outlook on what is important in a job. When I was younger, of course, my impression of travel opportunities and cultural experiences was primary, as well as the reputation of the school. Now that I am older with a family I suspect that my next teaching post will be a bit closer to home and one where our children can also have a positive learning experience. It should be a school that allows me personal and professional challenge but also provides children with a well-rounded educational experience.
Specific thoughts on a new position (when that happens):
Is it in a safe location?
Does the school promote whole-child philosophy?
Does the school’s administration support teaching initiatives?
What is the “personality” of the school and does it fit in with our own?
Does the school support an environment of caring for people and for the environment?
In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Discovery. Rewarding. Engaging. Relationships. Awesome.
If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here. If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!
Want to work for an international school in Malaysia like Laurence? Currently, we have 23 international schools listed in the Malaysia on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:
• Garden International School (19 Comments)
• International School of Kuala Lumpur (55 Comments)
• Nexus International School (18 Comments)
• International School of Penang (Uplands) (9 Comments)
• Dalat International School (6 Comments)
• Mont Kiara International School Kuala Lumpur (8 Comments)