Comment Topic Highlight

What insider information would you give to a teacher considering working at your school?

June 29, 2015


Oh, if we were to have all the insider information before signing the contract of an international school that has just offered you a job.  In theory, knowing the insider information about working at a specific school could definitely help you make a more informed decision.

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There are so many international schools in the world. Each international school is in a different situation. Even if you try and keep the most up-to-date with reading every review about the school that you can get your eyes on, it is difficult to know exactly what it is really like to work there.

But, the more you know, the better. Or is it the less you know, the better? Our guess though is that most teachers recruiting to work at international schools want to know as much information (good or bad) as possible; with a preference for firsthand information.

How then can you get this insider information?  One of the best ways is to have some communication with a veteran international school teacher. If you are already a veteran international school teacher yourself, it shouldn’t be so hard to find somebody who knows somebody who has worked at a certain international school.  The longer you stay in the international school community, the number of connections that you have increases.

Once you find a good connection, he/she is more than willing to share with you what they know and answer your burning questions.  The connection shares about what life is like living in the city, all the ins and outs of what it is like working at the school, how the money situation is along with all the other benefits (or lack of benefits), etc.  It would appear that there is actually an endless list of insider information topics.  This connection will most likely also tell you answers to questions that you never even had thought to ask.  The more information the connection shares with you, the more at ease (or nervous) you become. It definitely feels good to finally get some answers from real people who have recently worked there.

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But for the newbies, who don’t know many (if any) international school teachers yet, it would appear they have a much more difficult task of getting this insider information. Maybe they can try to get some insider information at the recruitment fair that they might have attended.  There are always other candidates that are walking around the hotel common areas.  These newbies might even try to starting chatting with some of the administration from the other schools.  You would be surprised how much administration enjoys talking about these insider information topics as well.

If there is one thing that is certain, people in the international school community love talking about the schools they currently work at or have worked at in the past. Insider information is what we want to know and what we are all craving to know.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to figuring out some of this insider information about working at certain international schools, so you can stay the most informed as possible. It is called: “What insider information would you give to a teacher considering working at this school?

Our veteran international school teacher have submitted a total of 71 comments in this comment topic (June 2015).  Here are a few that have been submitted:

“The secondary is laid back and you will enjoy it if you have good classroom management. There won’t be much actual support from admin regarding discipline. The elementary is micro-managed, meeting-heavy and overloaded.” – American International School (Abu Dhabi) (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)19 Comments

“One important thing to note right now is that the primary and middle school principals are leaving at the end of this year, and the director and the high school principal are leaving at the end of the next school year. So, there will be a complete change over of admin staff in the next year or so. There is no specific reason why these admin are leaving, just a coincidence that they are all leaving at the same time. Most of them have been at the school between 4-6 years.” – Copenhagen International School (Copenhagen, Denmark)244 Comments

“You are given a lot of autonomy to make it or break it in the classroom. The salary won’t make you rich, but you can live off it on a Mediterranean island for a couple years. There’s always something to complain about, and the facilities are sometimes more functional than glamorous, but all these reflect the island itself. You’re given everything you need to do a great job and the kids appreciate it.” – Verdala International School (Pembroke, Malta)22 Comments

“Working here requires a great commitment of time and energy to the school; though this may be said of many boarding schools, it may be that this one requires an even greater time commitment. Families with children struggle here as the local public schools have a different vacation schedule and the meeting schedule can be a little bit punishing; families with smaller children and two working parents are discouraged from applying. A very good school if you adore outdoor activities, it must be said, though there are already plenty of staff members to represent this side of life. The students are, in general, wonderful. As most are “pre-screened,” behavioral problems in the classroom are very, very rare, and many students are academic high-flyers. Teachers get a bit spoiled here based on the caliber of student and with the compressed timetable, you may find you leave behind many aspects of good teaching and resort to more lecturing, though the students seem to do well nevertheless. Housing here is varied; you may find yourself in merely adequate accomodations. Cliques among the staff make it difficult to find ones place socially within the school community. The school can be a very rewarding place to work, but the idea of the school as a miracle of education is not a reality, and there are many frustrations, especially in lack of commuication and the decision-making process at the top, that leave one asking how the school has maintained said reputation. In short one might gauge that of the new teachers in the past five years, many or most are not fully happy at AC, but only some to the extent of considering leaving. The turnover rate may well remain low. The upshot: Don’t be blinded by the reputation of the school in deciding whether to come here. Talk to staff members and students, for example, especially those who have left recently. This author remains glad to have had the chance to work here, but the challenges here have aged me.” – UWC Atlantic College (St Donat’s, United Kingdom)14 Comments

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A sit-down with an admin to go over each part of your contract

April 24, 2015


In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #14: A sit-down with an admin to go over each part of your contract

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Contract details can be easily overlooked. They are not overlooked because you are not interested in them (because of course you want to know ALL the details when you are in the initial stages after being offered a contract), but because there are too many fine details to fully understand everything you see.

Contracts can also be easily misunderstood. Maybe you already “read” the contract, but it would be safe to say that you would not completely understand everything you “read”.  International school teaching contracts definitely contain parts that are using language you may not be familiar with. If it contains parts that are specific to the rules/laws of the host country, then it is very possible that you might not be so familiar with that jargon in terms of what a certain part is really trying to say.

Another reason that contract details could be easily overlooked is that you also might be looking at the contract with rose-colored glasses; meaning you are just focused on the more positive aspects of the contract instead of the parts that might actually give you cause for concern.

There might even be additional things that are NOT on your contract that you are entitled to. For example, in Denmark you are entitled to take off a certain number of days to be with your children, but it might not necessarily be spelled-out for you in the contract. Good idea to ask around or have an admin tell you about these entitlements straight away during new teacher orientation.

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So, if an admin did sit you down and went through your contract sometime during the new-teacher orientation, it would be nice if they went over the follow parts:

Duties and responsibilities – Making it clear what you need to do is exactly what all new teachers want to know. Sounds simple, but they can be easily forgotten to be explicitly explained to you. Admin might think the duties and responsibilities that you will have will be implied or learned about by talking with your colleagues.  Of course, if that is the case, new teachers often find themselves just learning about these things last-minute!  Also, it is good to know up front what is required of you so that you don’t feel obligated to do the extra things an admin might ask of you.

School year and work day – It is important to know how many work days that you in the year; well you can look at the school calendar for that.  But what about what is required of you for each day of the week?  Maybe you need to arrive 30 minutes before school starts and 30 minutes after school ends.  Some days you might be required to stay longer for meetings, which days are those?  Are the meetings optional? Some international schools are doing that now.  All important details to know before you get caught not following those rules.

Workload – How nice to sit down with somebody who can give you an honest picture about how much you will be expected to work. How many reports will you need to write each year and how often will they be sent out to parents?  Even more important is how do the reports look like?  Writing multiple reports in a year definitely increases your workload.  The admin could also give you an honest picture of how much the other teachers are putting in extra hours.

Other parts of the contract you would most likely want to discuss with your admin are salary, retirement, housing benefitssettling-in allowance, insurance, curriculum duties, etc.

So, does your international school set up a time for your to thoroughly discuss each part of your contract?  Please share your experiences!

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Luckily on International School Community we have a new comment topic that specifically addresses this issue of getting reimbursed.  It is called: Details about the teaching contract. What important things should prospective teachers know about?

We have 23 comments so far in this topic on our website since it is so new. Here are just a couple of those comments:

“Read your contract carefully. do not sign an unsigned contract. contracts signed by the teachers have been changed and then signed by the owner. If you have issues with the owner his first and only reaction is to tell you to take him to court where he will happily drag the case out to cost you a lot of money.” – 
Makuhari International School (Tokyo, Japan)23 Comments

“They reserve the right to interpret, change, manipulate dates, avoid transparency when dealing with staff regarding their contracts. A teacher that recently left at the start of the year discovered there were several things in the contract that actually conflicted with Japanese labor law. Fortunately for them, they consulted with an attorney and were able to avoid paying a one month penalty for leaving on short notice. By the way they left because they lost several thousands of dollars due to mistakes the school made regarding visas that they were unwilling to rectify.” – Seisen International School (Tokyo, Japan)51 Comments

If you currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the recent past, share the information and details about the contract that you have at your school. You can find easy access to all international schools on our Schools List page.

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We also have a useful Comment Search page. Using a keyword search of ‘Contract‘, we found 160 comments.  Here are a few comments from those results:

“This has changed a LOT. Flight in and out at the end of contract. No mid-contract flights. No settling-in allowance; it is a repayable loan. Lunch is free.” – Phuket International Academy (Phuket, Thailand)43 Comments

“The school will help with negotiating a contract if you don’t read Spanish. Your apartment will either come with a phone or you’ll use your cell phone. Cell service is cheap, usually less than $15 US a month, data plans cost more. Be careful with smart phones because they are easily stolen.” – The American International School of Guatemala (Colegio Maya) (Guatemala City, Guatemala)40 Comments

“Airfare for initial contract to Panama and departing flight for end of contract(typical initial contract 2 years). When renewing contract “home leave” flight per yearly renewal as well as renewal bonus. You can also ask for the funds from your annual ticket so you can use towards the “summer” travel you wish.  Settling in money of $1000 (all), moving allowance between $500 (single) and $750 (dependents/family). When leaving said to also get some “departing” relocation money, your “retirement fund” of 1.5% annual salary school sets aside for you per Panama Law, and money for your airfare if wishing to buy your own ticket.” – International School Panama (Panama City, Panama)38 Comments

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