Comment Topic Highlight

What type of classroom/department budget do you get at your international school?

March 12, 2016


Many of us teach abroad to save money!  So, why do some international schools make their teachers pay for simple supplies? Well not all do, but according to a number of comments submitted on our website, some indeed leave their teachers in a situation where they need to.  Why do some international schools give nice big budgets to classroom teachers and others do not?

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Some might say that only the for-profit international schools don’t give appropriate budgets. However, that would not be true. A number of non-profit international schools also leave their staff with limited budgets to buy supplies.

Let’s say that your international school does provide some money to buy some supplies. It is nice to get at least something for your classroom! But the question is, when you are working abroad, where can you/the school buy these supplies?

If you order from your host country, then it will be cheaper, but the supplies might not be exactly what you want or have a quality you are used to. If you order from abroad, then the costs will be higher because of shipping and the wait time will most likely be a long time (with the risk of never even getting your order because it gets lost somewhere along the way).

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Another question to consider is does a big budget for classroom teachers equal to better instruction and more learning for students.  Teachers can get quite creative in a budget-less classroom, and it is fairly certain that good learning still happens.

But when an emergency arrises and materials that are necessary for the lesson/curriculum are not there, a number of teachers will use money out of their own pocket to buy them. It is the sacrifice that many teachers choose to do to make sure that their students are getting the best education possible and that the promise the school has made to paying parents can be met.

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But does the administration/owner of an international school really want their own teachers to be using their own money to buy basic and necessary supplies for their classrooms?  It would be hard to believe that they would. But when other factors (like a recession in the world or a declining student population) come into play, sometimes schools don’t have a choice to provide a nice budget for their staff.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to what kind of budgets international schools offer, so you can stay the most informed as possible. It is called: “What types of budgets do classroom teachers/departments get?

Our veteran international school teachers have submitted a total of 212 comments in this comment topic (March 2016).  Here are a few that have been submitted:

“Teachers have no budget to spend in their classrooms. They can take supplies from the resource room, which has basic materials like pens, white board markers, tape, etc. Everything else has to be paid for yourself.” – The International School of Egypt (New Cairo City, Egypt)12 Comments

“Budgets for resources are never an issue – if you have a good reason for purchasing something and can demonstrate the learning that it will support then you are generally approved. Art, Maths and Science materials are often ordered in from overseas and are of high quality.” – Ican British International School (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)51 Comments

“In past years, teachers have been required to submit their budget requests in October for the following school year � a full ten months before the beginning of the year being budgeted for! This was a major source of stress. As of today, no one has been asked to submit a budget and the budget process has not been discussed.” – American School of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland)64 Comments

“The businessman Mr. Strothoff pays for the school and pays most operating costs. In general, teachers fight for basic things such as staplers, two-hole punchers, tape, whiteboard markers, etc. Departments have budgets but protocol for ordering and getting something as simple as a pear of scissors is 100 layers of red-tape.” – Strothoff International School (Frankfurt, Germany)49 Comments

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Comment Topic Highlight

Surprise Purchases You Need to Buy/Pay For When You First Arrive at Your New School

January 12, 2016


When you first arrive at your new international school, you don’t necessarily want to be scrambling around your new city looking for many things to buy.  We all know that without the helpful guidance of a veteran international school teacher at your new school, it is very easy to end up making huge financial mistakes buying things left and right for prices a little too high than you should have paid (e.g. not knowing where to go to get the best price or get the “local price”).

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In an ideal scenario: you arrive at the airport, get picked up promptly by someone who works at your new school, and they quickly and politely drop you off at your new home. After you open the door to your new place, there is a fully-furnished house with a recently purchased bag of groceries waiting for you to help you get through the day with minimal hassle and without having to leave your apartment/house too much.

But we all know that it doesn’t always turn out that way. There are always things that you will need to buy, sooner than later. Some things more important than others, of course. If they are small things (like an iron, maybe), then it shouldn’t be such a big deal to take a short walk down the road (to the Carrefour, maybe) and pick up a few things. It is good/fun to take the first plunge into your new neighborhood.

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But if there are a number of small items (plus a few big ones) that you need to buy, then things could get a bit stressful; especially if you need to go somewhere more than just a short walk down the street.

Depending on your chosen living situation, you might end up needing to do some emergency purchases ASAP. A trip to a store like IKEA will definitely be in order for you on your first day. Some schools even will take you there in the school van, if you’re lucky!

And now, let’s not forget our new schools themselves. They might also have some things that you will need to bring or buy for the greater good of the school. If they gave you a head’s up on these items, you can make sure to pack them into your shipping container.  But if you weren’t set up with a great contact at the school beforehand, you might not get the head’s up in time. Then you are left with possibly buying things for your classroom in the local shops. Hopefully, your school will give you a budget for those things, but that is not always the case!

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Living abroad is not like our home countries. International school teachers do need to be open minded and adaptable. It is definitely tempting to want everything to be as perfect as it can be once you arrive, but we must be ready for a few surprises (i.e. surprise purchases) that will come our way the first few months.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to figuring out which things you might need to buy once you arrive in your new host country, so you can stay the most informed as possible. It is called: “What are some things that you need to buy/pay for when you first arrive at the school that you didn’t know about beforehand?

Our veteran international school teachers have submitted a total of 111 comments in this comment topic (Jan. 2016).  Here are a few that have been submitted:

“Beds are HARD in Thailand – if you rent a furnished place you might need a mattress topper or take the plunge and buy your own mattress/bed (or bring your comfy one with you – cost is irrelevant as it is important to be able to sleep comfortably at night). If you like a hard mattress you will be very happy here…” – Ruamrudee International School Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand)75 Comments

“You will need deposit and first/last months rent to get your condo. No one told me this and I was not prepared with enough cash. When you arrive you don’t have a bank account yet and ATM’s limit how much cash you can withdraw. If you arrive early before new staff orientation, no one may tell you that NIST will loan you the money until your first paycheck. You just need to ask HR for the loan and it won’t be a problem. Or come with lots of cash that you can change to baht.” – NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand)109 Comments

“Your kitchen utensils, cleaning supplies, dishes, and small appliance needs in the school apartment will vary widely depending on what the last tenant left. You will not receive a TV, iron, ironing board, etc., just furniture and one set of light bedding.” –American International School (Abu Dhabi) (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)39 Comments

“Don’t worry if you forgot something here because the school has a relationship with the local embassy and teachers can use the commissary there. Teachers can order things even on amazon.com and have it shipped to Moscow through them, as you can use their “American address.” – Anglo-American School of Moscow (Moscow, Russia)61 Comments

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Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #33: Tchialian Hong (A former student at an international school in Greece)

September 1, 2015


Every so often International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Tchialian Hong:

DSCN0579Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I was born to a Greek mother and a Chinese father. Greece and China: Two cultures both with ancient civilizations dating back, since today, at least 2,000 years.    

Which international schools have you attended?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to attend.

As a boy, I went to a Chinese primary school-which was in Malaysia, and later an international school in Athens, Greece. By the age of 16, I was fluent in Mandarin (standard Chinese language: Also known as: pu tong hua), Greek, English and Bahasa Malaysian (which is the language that the natives of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia speak). After graduating from high school, I studied at London University. During that time, I spent a lot of time reading other subjects, aside from engineering: thus became well-grounded in Engineering, Medicine, English Literature and Common Law.

I returned to Malaysia after graduating from London University. I had found my time, when I was studying in Tasis Hellenic International School, very productive – much more so than even London University. The student to teacher ratio was very small: very few students per teacher – which means subjects were explained very clearly – compared to local schools in Asian countries such as Malaysia. I found that with such a learning environment, all I had to do was “put in the hours” or rather finish the homework for the day, every day; and would be certain to score high results in my examinations as well as the final grades.

On this note: Another plus for international schools was that the final grades were calculated; not only on examination results, but also on attendance, homework, coursework, and small tests. This means: EVERY ounce of my effort in my studies……COUNTED. It was really encouraging. I scored A’s for all subjects: including Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, History, English Language, English Literature, Mathematics and Computer Programming. Later, when I studied at London University, I used my studies-foundation at the international school to expand on my knowledge.

I also learnt how to teach: I was offered a camp counsellor’s position in Camp Vacamas, New Jersey, U.S.A. In the beginning, all the campers yawned at me, but not at other counsellors. I later learnt, in subsequent teaching stints, in Malaysia: where I taught Chinese children, Indian children AND the local native children from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Myanmar: that “yawning” was a sign that I was very explicit in explaining lessons, and very specific: The children were actually realizing concepts, learning material which I was teaching. Today, I chat with children more than teach-much like international school teachers did when I was a teenager. You see, aside from school material, children want to know politics, philosophy-especially philosophy. Philosophy shapes souls. Empowers it.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

Cultural shock: Asian kids do not behave like European kids. They can be very nasty, as in: disrespect, crude. If you admonish them, even verbally, their parents threaten you. Most of them leave school and get pregnant before they are of-age. The secret is: sometimes a teacher in Asia has to act like he is not smart. And say: God Bless-Asians are very superstitious.

What makes some international schools unique and special?

International Schools are special because of the philosophy and the politics: At least the one I went to – Tasis Hellenic International School. Ideas and principles are raised from “the four corners of the Earth.” There are students from the four corners of the Earth, that’s why it is called an international school. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING is discussed. Advice is sought, until, like a sword that is tempered by repeated hammering, heating and cooling, A FOUNDATION IS ESTABLISHED! 

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Diverse, empowering, encouraging, defining, happy. (God bless everybody!)

Thanks Tchialian Hong!

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 1 year free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school and teach in Greece or Cyprus?  Currently, we have 8 international schools listed in both Greece and Cyprus on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

• American International School of Cyprus (17 comments)
• International School of Paphos (51 comments)
• American Community Schools Athens (3 comments)

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Comparing the Schools and Comments

Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Bangkok, Thailand

April 16, 2015


Around the world, there are cities that have more than one international school. Many times there is an American school, a British School, and an international school that uses an international curriculum.

Some cities, though, have MANY international schools!  When that is the case, how do the comments about each school compare to each other?

This blog series looks at comparing some of these comments, all coming from international schools in the same city.

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Bangkok, Thailand

Currently, we have 49 schools listed in Bangkok on International School Community.

Schools with the most submitted comments:
Bangkok Patana School (Bangkok, Thailand)17 Comments
Concordian International School (Bangkok, Thailand)23 Comments
KIS International School (Bangkok) (Bangkok, Thailand)61 Comments
NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand)65 Comments
Ruamrudee International School Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand)21 Comments
Wells International School (Thailand) (Bangkok, Thailand)18 Comments

Recent things they have taken on
“In 2012 the school implemented the Literacy by Design program for K3 – Grade 4, and the IB Diploma Programme in 2013. It also began scheduling more consistent weekly professional development meetings in 2013, including WASC focus and home group sessions, and grade-level meetings. As of 2012, it joined EARCOS and now regularly sends its staff to the annual conferences.” – Wells International School (Thailand)

“The ELD team just attended the ELLSA conference in Bangkok.” – Ruamrudee International School Bangkok

“In 2014 the school will be launching the Professional Development Hub, which is intended to be a central location for teachers in the Southeast Asian region to receive professional development.” – NIST International School

“The school is well-known for IB standards as quite a few of the teachers are IB Examiners and moderators. The Head of School is also on the Board of the IBO worldwide. Currently they are participating in a pilot study for the MYP.” – KIS International School (Bangkok)

Expectations of staff
“Teachers are assigned a maximum of 25 contact periods (45 minutes each) per week, while department heads have a maximum of 20. Minimum expectations include curriculum mapping on Atlas, and personal daily or weekly lesson plans that are attached to the maps. Weekly professional development is mandatory. Staff are encouraged, though not required, to take on extra-curricular classes or activities.” – Wells International School (Thailand)

“Expectations are high but lots of support.” – Concordian International School

“(Sorry, as admin it’s hard for me to comment, but teachers seem to work hard, but get non-contact time).” – KIS International School (Bangkok)

“High expectations, but with exceptional support and resources. Teachers are expected to participate in 2 extra curricular activities each year, which is quite manageable.” – NIST International School

Kinds of teachers that work there
“Approximately 30% of staff are from the United States, while the rest are a mix of over a dozen nationalities. While the school will hire inexperienced teachers in special circumstances, prospective hires should expect to be turned away if they don’t have a degree in education (or their subject areas at the secondary level) and a few years of experience. Nearly 70% of the teaching staff has master’s degrees.” – Wells International School (Thailand)

“Most teachers are from USA (there around 180 in total). A few are from the UK and Thailand.” – Ruamrudee International School Bangkok

“All teaching staff are fully qualified. Most are British, with some Australians, South Africans and Filipina. turnover is high. Last year 40% left. Most leave due to the lowish salary rather than because they are unhappy with the school.” – Rasami (Thai-British) International School

Housing
“Ruamrudee does have a housing allowance – B20,000, but it is part of the actual salary, so it’s taxed at 30%. So, effectively, the allowance is B14,000 – enough for a small local house/apartment.” – Ruamrudee International School Bangkok

“There is a housing allowance which is sufficient to rent a small studio. There is no extra for married teachers.” – Rasami (Thai-British) International School

“Around 40000 Baht a month for singles and 60000 Baht for teaching couples.” – NIST International School

“Small housing allowance.” – KIS International School (Bangkok)

(These are just 4 of the 65 different comments topics that on each school profile page on our website.)

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If you work at an international school in Bangkok, share what you know. Consider becoming a Mayor for unlimited premium membership!

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Surveys

New Survey: How many people are leaving your international school at the end of this school year?

March 8, 2015


A new survey has arrived!

Topic:  How many people are leaving your international school at the end of this school year?

Screenshot 2015-03-08 21.57.33It is always a mix of emotions when you or your colleagues are leaving the school. Change is good, but change can be hard.  It is not the best feeling in the world to find out one of your closest colleagues is leaving. On the flip side, you might be elated to hear that a certain annoying colleagues is leaving as well!

There are many reasons why teachers leave their current international school. Maybe they have come to the conclusion that the benefits are just too low for the lifestyle that they want to live.  If you are worrying too much about money, it might be time to move on to another international school.

Teachers also might be leaving because the international school that they are at is going in a direction that does not make sense for their career anymore. A new director might have started this year and is making too many changes to the school that you just don’t agree with.

There are many, many more reasons teachers decide to leave.

International schools know that teachers come and go for a variety of reasons, but it’s true that they don’t want too many people leaving at once.  It could give a bad reputation to the school, having so many staff leaving at once.  It could also cost the school a fair amount of money trying to recruit and replace the teachers who are leaving. If you need to recruit for so many people, it is also possible that the school won’t find that many quality candidates.

But, many international schools go through cycles of low and high turnover rates.  It is pretty normal.  The best international schools just know how to deal with those cycles in the best ways.

Go to the homepage of International School Community and submit your vote today on How many people are leaving your international school at the end of this school year?

You can check out the latest voting results here.

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We actually have a comment topic related this to this issue. It is called: Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, nationality, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate.

Right now there are over 670 individual comments (about 100s of different international schools) in this comment topic on our website.  Here are a few of them:

“Spanish teachers are Guatemalan, most other teachers are from North America. Turnover varies with most renewing their contract at least once. Large percentage of teachers have a masters and there are local opportunities to work towards a masters at a reduced cost.” – The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya) (Guatemala City, Guatemala)– 40 Comments

“All teaching staff are fully qualified. Most are British, with some Australians, South Africans and Filipina. turnover is high. Last year 40% left. Most leave due to the lowish salary rather than because they are unhappy with the school.” – Rasami (Thai-British) International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 17 Comments

“There seem to be a lot of Australian, Canadian, British and American teachers. A few New Zealanders, too. In all grades up to Grade 2 there are local assistants in each class. From talking to the teachers here, there is a turnover of staff, but it’s not huge. People seem to be pretty happy with the school.” – NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 65 Comments

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