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 opportunities to go on our own professional development 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!continue reading
It’s holiday time and most of us are on some trip enjoying our time off. We might be home with our families in our home countries, or we also might be on some tropical island (if we are so lucky!).
But where you go often depends on how much the flight costs to the place you want to go. If your school is paying via your flight allowance benefit, then perfect! But if you are paying, then you for sure are looking out for the best deal (sometimes for hours on flight search websites!)
It is hard to know what it is like flying out of a city you haven’t lived in yet. How much are the flights to within the host country itself, to nearby countries and to your home country like England or the United States for example?
If the flights are too expensive in relation to your salary, then it might be very likely you won’t be going home a lot for the holidays. If going home every holiday season is important for you, then it is good to know this information up front before you make a decision to move and live somewhere.
An average international school teacher probably goes on at least one flight every one to two months while living abroad. That means many cities in a number of different countries. These costs can add up and take away from your savings, but it is just what international school teachers like to do!
When job searching, make sure to consider the full picture of the host country airport that you might just be using if you sign a contract with a school there.
Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to getting the inside scoop on how much flights actually cost from various host cities across the world, so you can stay the most informed as possible. It is called: “Sample travel airfares from host city airport to destinations nearby.”
Our veteran international school teachers have submitted a total of 141 comments in this comment topic (Dec. 2016). Here are a few that have been submitted:
“Direct flights to the US can be up to 2000USD (JFK), Europe around 1500USD and Australia similar. Prices shoot up around major holidays. There are a number of low-cost airlines operating, which means you can fly more or less anywhere in East/South East Asia for less that 200USD.” – Hong Kong Academy (Hong Kong, China) – 54 Comments
“Flights purchased 21 days in advance on discount airlines within Europe can be as little as 20$. But beware, sometimes these flights are cancelled with little or now warning, and you’re left having to purchase a much more expensive one with a different airline at the last-minute. Flights to Asia or the USA will run between 500-1000$, depending on when you travel. Everything is more expensive in July and August, so try to plan travel in off-peak times for the best deals.” – Oeiras International School (Lisbon, Portugal) – 111 Comments
“Check KLM’s website every now and again. They sometimes give great deals on empty seats from Denpasar to Singapore. I’ve flown it for $59 on occasion. Also- pro tip- If you have money to spare and want a few hours of luxury. When checking in, go to the Business Class counter and ask if there are any empty seats. They used to sell them for $50 extra. Now they’ve fixed the price at about $110.” – Green School Bali (Denpasar, Indonesia) – 54 Comments
“Doha is a central airport in the world – usually the stopover for flights from Europe to Asia, so there are amazing flight options from here. Cheapest weekend flights are to other middle eastern countries/cities – Dubai/Abu Dhabi/Bahrain/ Oman. You can get good deals on Qatar Airways too. Popular destinations from here (but not in a weekend): Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, Turkey. I think the flight prices aren’t too bad (in relation to salaries here) they might seem expensive when you exchange to another currency.” – Qatar Academy (Sidra) (Doha, Qatar) – 59 Commentscontinue reading
Are you inspired to start-up a blog about your adventures living abroad and working at an international school?
A few entries that we would like to highlight:
“Last Sunday, Anna and I had our good friends Frankie and Keith to visit from Bishkek, where they have recently moved. Keith used to live in Almaty and Frankie had been before so it was trickier to wow them with the ‘go-to’ visitor activities. (The top choices being Big Almaty Lake, Kok Tobe etc. which are great by the way.) So we decided to go a pigeon market we’d heard of. We have actually tried to go to this pigeon market a number of times but always end up lolling about having brunch and missing it as it closes at 12. But, finally, we made it there and it was definitely worth the wait.
The market is right next to Kazan Cathedral, the oldest Orthodox Cathedral in Almaty, debating back to 1854. The cathedral is plainer than most orthodox churches I have visited before and has a refreshing amount of fresh flowers. It is also home to a cat and a small but nifty little gift shop. I’d highly recommend the gift shop if you really like gold things with saints faces on which I really, really do. To work out where church is- check out the map on this Tripadvisor page…”
How fun to visit the local markets in your host country. You really get a firsthand look at the locals and what they are buying and selling. Of course, the best ones are the ones that are selling things that you would consider a bit strange; crickets, exotic animals, and pigeons!
After searching the keyword “market” on our Comment Search page, we found 76 comments. Here is one of them from Qatar Academy (Sidra): “Once the weather cools, there is an outdoor market next MIA (museum of Islamic Art) they sell food from around the world – Indian, Arabic, Thai, American, etc…clothes, art, knick knacks. It’s a nice way to spend the weekend outside, it’s one of the largest green spaces in Qatar and great for families too. I generally bring a blanket and a book during the winter months when it’s not hot and the sun isn’t intense for long periods of time (though there are shaded areas too.)”
“Most people in Almaty are bilingual and many speak three or four languages. The two big languages in the city are Russian and Kazakh. Linguistically unrelated, Russian is a Slavic language whereas Kazakh is Turkic. Kazakh is on the rise but in central Almaty Russian is the language you hear floating around the streets. Both are written in the Cyrillic alphabet but Kazakh has some bonus letters added. In 2015, the Minster of Sports and Culture announced that there would be a gradual move to transfer Kazakh into the Latin alphabet. We hope this doesn’t happen. The Uzbek government has been promoting the use of the Uzbek in the Latin script since the early 2000s. However, the strange mixture of Cyrillic and Latin Uzbek all over Tashkent hurt our eyes and brains.…”
It is interesting the language abilities of the local people. Good to know about these abilities before you move there so you can get prepared. Luckily, we have a comment topic related to the language of the local people. It is called: “Languages of the host city and the level of English spoken there.” Here is a sample comment from this topic from Alexandria International Academy: “Language in Egypt is Egyptian Arabic. Many younger people people some English, though the level is usually fairly low. It’s generally easy enough to get around with a basic understanding of Arabic, but the locals can tend not to be very helpful when language difficulties arise.”
Want to work for an international school in Kazakhstan like these bloggers? Currently, we have 17 international school teachers that have listed that they currently live in this country. Check them out here. We also have one member that is from this country.
The school calendar is important, no doubt about that! It decides how many days of vacation you get, or course. We work hard, tireless hours during the school year, so we indeed deserve some breaks…and so do the kids!
But when working at international schools, the school calendar that you are used to in your home country might look a bit different. If the international school is an American one, then the calendar does resemble a typical American public school one. Likewise for UK schools. For Australian international schools, it could either look the same or follow the more northern hemisphere school calendar depending on their location in the world.
But things get much better in international schools because they normally ALSO celebrate or honor the holidays of the host country as well. Double the holidays for teachers (well not really double)! Of course when your school celebrates the host country holidays that means the costs of travel will be high. Not good on your finances. If your international school celebrates your home country holidays though, then that is awesome because host country nationals won’t also be traveling at that time; meaning travel costs should be lower.
Making a school calendar can be a challenging task for the administration. They need to keep all stake holders pleased. Careful attention needs to be paid to all the different variables that come into play during one year at a school. Otherwise later down the line, once that school year has started, some stakeholders could get upset and confused why things where scheduled and planned the way they were.
It is good to get an idea of what the calendar year will look like for you when considering working at an international school. Then you can get a better insight into what your life will be like that first year there, outside of work.
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: “How is the school calendar? Is there ample vacation time?”
Our veteran international school teachers have submitted a total of 254 comments in this comment topic (June 2016). Here are a few that have been submitted:
“The school has to follow Mexican law as far as contracted school days. It’s either 208 or 210. Honestly, it’s a pretty brutal work year. For 16/17 staff arrives on Aug. 9 and will be done on June 24. No fall break except for a few days at Thanksgiving.” –American School Foundation of Guadalajara (Guadalajara, Mexico) – 59 Comments
“Vacations are decided by the administration and it can vary from year to year.” – Good Shepherd International School (Ooty, India) – 185 Comments
“Point of contention. Clearly we are in a Muslim country so we have to abide by the holidays, but as Ramadan keeps pushing up 2 weeks every year, so does Eid (which usually falls in the first term. But we are in one of those awkward times where Eid is falling the first week of school so that means no break from the start of school until December. There is only one week at xmas this year, because we have to make sure to finish school around the start of Ramadan, it will be too hot to come to school while the kids (majority) will be fasting or they just won’t attend school. We will still have a week in Feb and a week in April. No long weekends here. 3 months off for summer.” – Qatar Academy (Sidra) (Doha, Qatar) – 47 Comments
“The school calendar was reasonable and vacation time was fantastic.” – Suzhou Singapore International School (Suzhou, China) – 47 Commentscontinue reading