Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #19: Andrew Vivian (An veteran international teacher currently working at MV Education Services)

December 1, 2012


Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Andrew Vivian:

(This member spotlight is a continuation from an interview we did earlier which can be found here.)

From there, we spent a year in Guangzhou, China, at Utahloy International School, with Helen as Primary Principal and me as Head of Science. Guangzhou, despite the air quality, was a really nice place to live. We started off in an apartment in town, while we looked for a place big enough to hold our material possessions – for us, home is where we live, and we take our furniture and everything with us, so relocation costs are substantial. We ended up in a ground-floor apartment out of town, but only a cheap 30-minute taxi ride to “the action”. The shopping was the main attraction, particularly for Helen,

We were asked to come and work at a school in Jakarta, and relocated, because we wanted to continue teacher training and we love Indonesia. Things didn’t work out, and we decided to try our hands at consulting, because we have a lot of connections with Indonesian private schools and Helen is a well-established Primary Years Programme workshop leader for the IB. After a year and a half for Helen, and a year for me, we are keeping the wolf from the door. Helen does a lot of IB workshops around Asia, and is working with the management of a school in East Jakarta. I’ve done one workshop for the IB, a few in Jakarta and one in Beijing. My main work has been a couple of tours doing school inspections in Dubai. I’ve done some course writing and prepared some teaching materials for a couple of organisations. We have just finalised our working visas and our Indonesian company, and will, hopefully, be expanding our business soon.

Teaching internationally has been great for us. We’ve had a few heartbreaks, but, overall we have been able to save money, travel, and every day brings a new experience. We have been to most of the countries in Asia, and some amazing places in them. We speak Bahasa Indonesia, so, when we see something interesting, we can ask questions. One of our delights in Surabaya was just walking through the villages behind us, and talking to the locals.

We’ve had a lot of funny experiences, and no really dangerous ones. For example, we were on a boat up river in Kalimantan, after visiting the orang-utan sanctuary, when the boat broke down, 50 km from the port. We literally hitch-hiked with a passing fisherman. Enroute to Tibet, we stopped in Chengdu, in China. We caught a taxi to a restaurant recommended in a guide book. Half-way there, we realised that we didn’t have the hotel’s card, so we had no way of knowing where to go back to or how to communicate it to anyone. After dinner it took us two taxi rides and a 1km walk before we recognised a landmark.

International schools are funny places – some are excellent. Also, the “true” international schools now make up only a fraction of the places in which you can teach internationally and in tougher economic times, in Asia, at least, they have increasing numbers of local students anyway. Overall the positives tend to outweigh the negatives. Our philosophy is that we want to make a difference, so that working in host-country schools that offer IB programmes is our preference. Not everyone is comfortable in these sort of schools, but they are the places that give real insight into other cultures.

Many people like to teach overseas for the change in locale. That is a factor for us, but it is more about the sort of school we work in. For us, working in IB schools has been fabulous. We have been to most of the regional conferences over the past ten years and have met so many talented, committed people. We get to visit schools and help teachers do it better. In the process, we keep learning something new about education most days.

One thing I would recommend is to get everything in writing and even then, depending on which country you are in, it doesn’t matter any way if someone decides to be unpleasant. If you are prepared to “roll with the punches”, while sticking to your principles, then teaching internationally can be amongst the best things you can do in education.

In 5 words: adventure, culture, education, difference, satisfaction.

Make sure the check out Andrew’s website which tells more about the services he currently offers to international schools.

Thanks Andrew!

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 Guangzhou like Andrew?  Currently, we have 8 international schools listed in Guangzhou on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

American International School of Guangzhou (12 Comments)
Guangzhou Nanhu International School (4 Comments)
Alcanta International College (6 Comments)
Guangzhou Huamei International School (5 Comments)
Clifford International School (8 Comments)
The Affiliated High School of SCNU (8 Comments)

continue reading

Highlighted Articles

Highlighted Article: An educator shares about his over 20 years of experience working at and with international schools (Part 1)

October 9, 2012


An educator shares about his experiences working over 20 years in and with international schools (Part 1)

I began teaching a long time ago, in a brand new high school, 35km south east of Melbourne, Australia. I was trained as a Science and Mathematics teacher, but, over the years, I’ve taught just about everything except Art – it has really helped to give me an understanding of how young people learn. I worked in secondary schools around Melbourne for a while, and had a stint as a government curriculum consultant in my district.

A friend had induced my former wife and I to go on a group tour to Bali, the first time I had been overseas (like many, many Australians). We then visited the same friend when she went to work in Penang, and then I was fortunate to be part of a trip to Los Angeles and Brazil through Rotary.

My former spotted an advertisement in the paper for Hiroshima International School. I applied, and got the job as the teacher of 25 grade 6 to 10 students. At that time, the school was in the process of planning a move from a small warehouse in the inner suburbs to a new school further out. We had two small children, and lived in a house about 1km up the hill (and there are plenty of them in Japan) from the school.

Living in Japan was wonderful, and we had a lot of amazing experiences. We made friends with our neighbours, even though only one of them spoke English, and we spoke virtually no Japanese. Everyone we met was very friendly. We returned to Melbourne after one year and resumed a normal suburban existence.

My true international career began much later, when things weren’t going that well in my life. I went to an information night for a recruiting agent. It was mentioned that Bali International School needed an IT person, so I went home, adjusted my CV accordingly, and got the job. I worked with some very talented teachers in a small school, and met my wife, Helen, there. During my fourth year, things didn’t quite go to plan, and I found myself helping a friend establish a small school, which became an economic casualty of the Bali bombing. It was at B.I.S. that I first became involved with the International Baccalaureate, through the Middle Years Programme. I really liked it, because it was in line with what we had been doing in secondary schools back in Australia. Bali was a good place to live, and we all worked hard and partied hard.

Helen and I found jobs at Sekolah Ciputra, in Surabaya. I was running their new international program, out of Melbourne, with 12 students out of 90 in Grade 12. Helen was a classroom teacher, but, during the break, successfully applied for the position of Elementary Principal. By the end of the first year, I found myself as Secondary Principal. We were there for seven years, and turned it into an excellent 3-programme IB school. A major factor was the professional development that we did with our colleagues every week. It was very difficult at first, because we were foreigners who were really changing the paradigms, but we persevered and still keep in touch with many of our Indonesian colleagues.

The school was in a large estate on the western outskirts of the city, and we had a great lifestyle, Golf, on a fabulous course, was part of the contracts, and we often hacked our way around. We could go for bicycle ride out through the villages on the weekends and there was enough to do in the city to keep us occupied.

Stay tuned next month for the 2nd part of this article.  In the meantime, make sure the check out Andrew’s website which tells more about the services he currently offers to international schools.

continue reading