Comment Topic Highlight

What is the dream Professional Development model at an international school?

October 4, 2019


We are lucky working at international schools. In comparison with working at public schools in some of our home countries (USA, for example), we are typically getting more opportunties to go on our own professional developement adventures, and very interesting and unique ones!

But it all depends on the international school you are working at, of course. Some international schools offer a fair amount of money to each teacher as a personal professional benefit for them. Other international schools don’t have a PD budget at all for teachers to access, and barely offer any in-house PD sessions for their staff.

Some teachers new to international schools can be in for a bit of a shock when your principal/coordinator offers to send you to Kenya or Malta for a required training that the school needs to have you complete (let’s say if your school was located in Eastern Europe). Can this be really true?

On the flip side, other international schools will offer that same or similar training to you in-house. Is one better than the other? Well, it is not so exciting to just stay at your current workplace to get that training. Although there might be some benefit to working with more of your current colleagues and possibly even will some teachers from nearby schools that have sent them to your school to get that training as well.

The debate is (or has it been decided now?) what is the best way to train their teachers and for the teachers to get the best professional development?

Some people say that ongoing professional development is the most effective, and one-off PD sessions and workshops are not the most effective.

But getting PD is not all about improving your teaching skills and learning better teaching strategies. It is also about networking. Getting to know teachers that have a similar role to you in a similar setting even can really be some of the best PD experiences. It is more what is happening in between sessions that can be quite inspiring and thought-provoking.

Not all PD needs to cost an amazing amount of money either. If you find a school that is doing something you are interested in at the moment, but doing it at a higher level than your current school, it can be some of the best PD to just go and do a planned/structured visit to that school. You might even find out about this school through some networking you may have done at a conference you once attended.

But it all comes down to money, really. Some international schools have a lot of it, and share it out as much as they can to support and train their teachers. Other international schools (and not just for-profit schools) would rather not spend that much money on PD for their teachers and ‘save’ it for other things.

If there isn’t a specific PD allowance benefit for each teacher and you need to apply to receive an allowance, then there are bound to be feelings of inequality. Some teachers will surely be getting their PD requests accepted more than other teachers, and that might be the sense people are having throughout the school (causing low staff morale for some). Maybe some favoritism comes into place, whether that is actually happening or not. One clear benefit of doing PD in this manner is that the school most likely will be spending less money.

If a school willing to let their teachers follow their own paths of learning, will the school only allow their teachers to get trained in things the school wants them to do, or will the school just shut off all opportunities for their teachers and make it basically impossible or really undesirable to even ask for some financial support in getting a PD experience?

Many teachers might agree that the dream school situation is that there would be a specific PD benefit in the teacher’s contract. It is their money to use for their own professional hopes and dreams as a teacher. It is likely that the teacher’s current school and students will benefit from that teacher’s PD experience, but even if it doesn’t directly have that effect, it will help that person grow as a teacher; and probably that teacher’s future school work places will benefit.

On ISC we have a comment topic related to this topic in the Benefits Information section on the school profile pages. It is called: “Professional development allowance details.” There have been 512 comments submitted in this comment topic on 100s of international schools from around the world. Here are just a few of them:

“Very good PD, in my opinion. At least one pertinent course per year (usually with IB). However, it is currently required that these be in-country.” – Qatar Academy (Sidra)

“Over the course of the academic year, the school funds a select number of teachers to attend Professional Development seminars by the International Baccalaureate.” – Aga Khan Academy Mombasa

“Teachers are not given a PD fund. If there is a PD that a teacher is interested in, he/she will have to apply for it at least a month ahead and wait for approval. Out of the 5 teachers that I know who applied for PD fund, only 1 was approved.” – SMIC Private School

“Great PD allowance. I believe it’s about $1200/year. As well, admin will help teachers find and enroll in opportunities nearby and a bit further out. I’d say it’s excellent.” – Shekou International School

How is the PD benefit at your international school? Please login to our website and share what you know!

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Top 10 Lists

12 Ways to Make a Successful and Effective International School Teacher Regional Conference

November 24, 2016


Typically in an international school teacher’s career he/she gets a chance to attend a regional international school teacher conference as part of their PD benefit.

There is ECIS (the Educational Collaborative of International Schools), which is mostly for international schools in Europe.

There is also EARCOS (the East Asia Regional Council of Schools), AISA for those in Africa and AASSA for the international educators in South America.

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But how do you best make these annual conferences very useful and worthwhile (i.e. ones people will want to attend)? At some of these annual international school teacher conferences there is a pattern of declining attendance amongst the participating educators.  So, now is the time to really have a good think about what makes them relevant PD events that people want to attend.

Here are some of the possible ways to make international school teacher regional conferences successful and effective:

1. Provide more opportunities to network during the event.

One of the best places to mix and mingle with your nearby international school colleagues is definitely at an international school annual regional conference. Although the content and theme of the conference is important, one main reason people attend is to network. Conference participants need time in the schedule to mix and mingle with the other attendees. Whether it happens during scheduled break times or not, participants will appreciate a conference schedule that gives them the chance and opportunity to get acquainted with each other and meet new people in the international school community

2. Make sure the registration fee is a price that is reasonable.

Unfortunately, PD budgets at many international schools are feeling the pinch. If the conference fee is too high that will of course cause a number of teachers and administrators to not come anymore. Holding a regional conference at a school is often cheaper than renting out a conference center, so that is one way conference organizers can help keep the fees lowered. Another option is to hold the conference in a country where they costs are lower, where they don’t need to pay so much for renting out the conference center or pay the regional tax (e.g. you don’t need to charge European VAT fees if the conference is held in a non-EU country, for example).

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3. Choose a desirable host location.

Let’s face it, location is everything when going on a PD opportunity. Part of attending an international school teacher regional conference is also exploring and enjoying the host city.  The conference organizers themselves can facilitate a cultural excursion as part of the conference package (usually at an additional cost), or they can provide information to the participants themselves so that they can explore on their own. Not only is the city of the conference important, but also the location of the conference within the host city. It is no good being so far away from the center of the city, for example, as the majority of participants will want easy and quick access to it. Either they are staying in a hotel in the city center or they will want to go there to explore after a day’s worth of attending presentations and break-out sessions.

4. Include a delicious lunch and snacks.

After a day of workshops and keynote speakers, having a delicious lunch is just what you need. If the food is more like an after thought, then that will affect the mindset of conference participants. Having bag lunches available is not the best choice, as they tend to be served cold and participants might not think they are getting their money’s worth. Conference organizers must work with their host site and make sure they will be providing a worth-while and tasty lunch, one that they also cater to different people’s dietary needs. Keeping conference participants nourished is a great way to help keep morale up and brains focused on the new learning that is happening.

5. Incorporate a healthy balance of invited speakers and teacher presenters.

What is the best balance to have?  Would you like more invited speakers when you go to a conference or would you prefer more teacher presenters? Invited speakers often present about big ideas and concepts to inspire your teaching (mostly indirectly), but teacher presenters typically present things that are more hands-on and directly linked to your classroom lessons.  It is definitely good to have both the theory and the practice so that teachers stay focused and inspired during the conference.

6. Create a conference schedule is easy to follow and one that makes sense.

As you plan a conference, you want it to be the best one ever. Trying new ways of organizing each day to maximize learning can be a challenge. Making sure the schedule makes sense is paramount. It is no good creating a complicated one that leaves people frustrated. A schedule that is easy to follow, which allows participants to maximize their time at the conference, will be well-appreciated!

7. Don’t have too many new initiatives at one time.

It is good to try these new strategies, but it is also important to not go overboard and confuse conference participants. You don’t want to arrive at a workshop session and have the presenter mention their confusion about what type of session they are actually doing. Also, it is not advisable to use a lot of new ‘buzz words’ or worse, newly created words used just for that specific conference.

8. Respond back to all conference registrants in a timely manner.

From before you register to all the way up to the conference itself, it is important to keep good communication with non-registered and registered people. Getting answers to your questions helps make sure everyone is content and up-to-date with the latest information. Not getting a reply to your email can lead to confusion not just about the conference details, but about the organization itself; the company organizing the conference.

9. Help teachers create meaningful and relevant links and connections to their classrooms.

Knowing about the conference participants’ backgrounds and schools is important so that the conference can better tailor their presentations to them.  Because most, if not all, conference participants are coming from a variety of international schools around the world, then the presenters should either reflect those people or have a good background knowledge of their situation. Conference participants are looking for real ways to apply new knowledge learned during presentations. Many conference presenters know this already and have designed their presentations accordingly. However, there are still a number of presenters that include very few connections and links to the classroom.

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10. Provide a forum where conference attendees can discuss the conference theme and its presentations. 

Sometimes 45-60 minutes isn’t enough time to really discuss and debate everything you would like to in a conference presentation. In turn, why not make sure to provide the conference participants with a forum to keep the discussion going. Maybe the conference could help to facilitate some kind of a forum where attendees to a presentation can continue their learning and questioning. In this way, people can keep the presentation topic and issues at the forefront of their thinking and not quickly forget their new learning.

11. Provide support and guidance after the conference by helping past participants in their quest to share new learning with their own school. 

There are still a number of international schools that require their teachers to share their new learning at their school, when they get back after a PD event. It all sounds like a great plan, to justify the school’s money spent on a PD opportunity for their teacher. But sharing what you’ve learned with a bunch a people who weren’t there with you can be tricky. Additionally, there is hardly any real-time to do this kind of PD at your school. One solution to help facilitate this “sharing of new learning” could come from the conference itself. Maybe the conference and/or the conference presenters could plan ahead and help prepare supportive materials to help you get prepared.  They could help make sure to discuss with their member school administration the idea of setting aside meeting time to allow for conference participants to share their new learning at their schools. A joint ownership of this sharing part could prove to be helpful and beneficial.

12. Choose a conference venue with some character

There is nothing worse than being in a conference site and it not inspiring you. If it is held in a school, that is one thing. But if it is at a conference center or a hotel, then it should be one that is well-situated and cosy. Boring decor and a boring layout of break-out rooms are unattractive and uninspiring. Conferences held in modern, light spaces can bring a good energy to the presentations and transition times when walking from session to session. After listening to an inspiring presentation, it is also ideal to have some hideaway places to sit down and chat with your colleagues or newly made contacts.

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There is much work to do and things to think about when planning a conference. It appears that you need to balance what has worked well for the conference in the past and mix those things with a few new initiatives.  International school teacher regional Conferences have been around for decades now, but are they still relevant? That is the question that these organizations need to answer. If they are still relevant, then as they plan for and organize future regional conferences, they might want to keep these 12 helpful tips in mind.

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Highlighted Articles

Professional Development Opportunities for International School Educators in Europe

August 22, 2012


Chapters International – Learning Abroad

The following is a list of upcoming workshops in Europe:

The Emerging Culture of Teaching and Learning
By  Alan November
22nd – 23rd September, 2012, Luxembourg
Price: Euro 575
Our schools are at the beginning of a historic transition from paper as the dominant storage and retrieval media to digital. The traditional technology planning approach of bolting technology on top of the current design of school will only yield marginal results. Contrast this “$1,000 pencil” approach with the kinds of skills that are highly valued in the global economy…Read more about this PD opportunity here.

Concept Based Curriculum and Instruction for The Thinking Classroom
By Dr . Lynn Erickson
29th – 30th September 2012, Cyprus
Price: Euro 575
Lynn Erickson expands our understanding of the conceptual level of knowledge, thinking, and understanding. In this highly interactive session, Dr. Erickson will challenge your mind as she contrasts a three-dimensional concept-based curriculum and instruction model with the worn out two-dimensional coverage model…Read more about this PD opportunity here.

Teaching and Learning through Inquiry
by Kath Murdoch
24th – 25th November 2012, Istanbul
Price: USD 720
In this practical workshop, participants have the opportunity to clarify their understanding of what it really means to use an inquiry based approach to teaching and learning in the primary/elementary classroom.  Over two interactive days, teachers examine the essential elements of inquiry and how these elements can be ‘brought to life’ through quality planning, use of materials, choice of teaching strategies and interactions with students…Read more about this PD opportunity here.

Standard Based Grading and Reporting by Ken O Conor
1st – 2nd December 2012, Warsaw
Price: Euro 500
Day 1:
Nothing really changes until the grade book and the report card changes.”
Curriculum, instruction, and assessment have increasingly become standards-based but parallel changes in grading and reporting have been slow, especially in middle and high schools.
Day 2:
“Nothing really changes until the grade book and the report card changes.” Curriculum, instruction, and assessment have increasingly become standards-based but parallel changes in grading and reporting have been slow, especially in middle and high schools. This session will include a review of eight guidelines for grading and will focus on guidelines for standards-based reporting…Read more about this PD opportunity here.

Creating a  Culture of Thinking
Creating  Places where Thinking is Valued Visible by Dr Ron Richhart
13th – 14th April 2013, Florence
Price: USD 750
The Cultures of Thinking Project is a global initiative under the direction of Dr. Ron Ritchhart, a Principal Investigator and Senior Research Associate at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Learning is a product of thinking.  If we want our students to learn well and develop understanding, we must create cultures of thinking that actively engage students in thinking on an ongoing basis…Read more about this PD opportunity here.

For more information about these workshop contact:
Shonal Agarwal
CEO
Chapters International
Email: shonal@chaptersinternational.com
chaptersinternational@gmail.com

Website: www.chaptersinternational.com

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Blogs of International Teachers

Blogs of international school teachers: SirSolo

February 13, 2012


Are you inspired to start up a blog about your adventures living abroad?

Our 15th blog that we would like to highlight is called “SirSolo.”  Check out the blog entries of this international school teacher who has worked at British International School Shanghai.

A few entries that we would like to highlight:

New Year, new role…building the team

“Following our wonderful Christmas break in India, it was great to get back and see our colleagues at BISS; and especially the Humanities team, who I am excited to now be leading.  Although, I cannot believe how cold Shanghai has become!

Our first day back was a training day and was well structured and enjoyable; following a warm welcome back from Sir Terry, the secondary and primary staff split to follow separate training schedules. Our day (secondary) was focused on Formative Assessment and was extremely interactive and practical.”

International schools are sometimes in a pickle trying to organize good, useful, purposeful, effective, etc. professional development on the few days back after winter break.  I have worked at international schools when they have had somebody booked months in advance (for the after winter break PD days) and then to find out kind of last minute that the person couldn’t come any more.  Not just every trainer wants to (or is able to) lead their PD sessions in exotic locations around the world I imagine, but the ones that do…are indeed in very high demand (e.g. Virginia Rojas, Ron Ritchhart, etc.)!

Cutting Ties…

“I was recently contacted by my previous employer, an International School in Vietnam, who politely asked me to close down the Edmodo groups I had set up whilst at the school. In particular they wanted me to close a group I had set up named ‘Social Connections’ that was created to allow students (and staff) to remain in touch after moving on…as so often happens on the international circuit. They stated that new school policy dictated that any contact with students must cease when you leave.

The group set up meant that teachers didn’t have those awkward moments when saying goodbye to tearful students whereby they would normally be forced to say: “sorry no, you can’t be my Facebook friend or have my email”. Instead they’d simply say, “Keep in touch, see you on Edmodo!” The communications we exchanged about their reasons for me closing the group were all valid and I fully agreed but it did get me thinking about some interesting questions and ethical dilemmas teachers could find themselves in…”

Each international school is different and has their own rules about how they would like their school to be run.  It is important we share their differences with each other, thanks SirSolo!

Check out the British International School Shanghai profile page on International School Community.  Currently, there are 17 international schools listed in Shanghai on our website, with all 7 of them being schools that teach the U.K. curriculum.

If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.

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