Michael Pohl is Thinking Education … Are you?
With more than twenty years classroom teaching experience behind him, Michael now runs training and development sessions for classroom teachers in thinking skills and also in how to best meet the learning needs of gifted students in inclusive classrooms. He has run over 1800 workshops on the teaching of thinking for teachers and Principals in China, Taiwan Saudi Arabia, Spain, Vienna, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and across both New Zealand and Australia.
A former member of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, Michael regularly presents at local, national and international conferences on issues concerning giftedness, creativity and thinking.
With a Masters Degree in Gifted Education and formal qualifications in Adult Training, Michael is the Director of Thinking Education, currently working with many schools in diverse contexts on an on-going basis, returning many times to work with teachers as as they create a culture of thinking in their classrooms. He has worked in complex secondary settings in inner metropolitan settings, to remote schools in outback Australia, with clusters of schools in Wellington NZ, to International schools across Asia and in Europe.
Amongst his recent publications are books on the teaching of complex thinking, models and strategies for teaching and learning, inquiry-based instruction, another on a whole-school approach to the explicit teaching of thinking skills, books for the middle years of schooling and for teachers concerning the education of gifted students and numerous articles for national and international journals concerned with Gifted Education.
All are available from the Thinking Education website.
Michael currently has an on-going relationship with The Alice Smith School in Kuala Lumpur and the International European School in Taiwan and is due to revisit both in 2012.
Should you be interested in having Michael work with your school, or present to a local or regional conference, please feel free to contact him via the website at http://www.thinking.education.com.au or simply email at firstname.lastname@example.org reading
Have you ever wondered what teaching in London or Paris is like? Are you curious about Norway, Turkey, or the Philippines? Would you consider teaching in Kuwait, Indonesia, Zambia, Bangladesh, or Abu Dhabi? Education World interviewed four teachers who did more than just consider.
“I knew I wanted to see the world,” Donna Spisso told Education World. “I had a masters and eight years of experience when I left the United States. When I taught in Rockingham County, in Virginia, I took five years to save up for a two-week trip to England. At that rate, I was not going to see much!”
“I’ve been abroad for 20 years now. It began as a one-year break after ten years of teaching in New York City,” Laura Forish told Education World.
“If I had to do this all over again, the only thing I would do differently,” said Bill Jordan, “is to get out of stateside public education sooner than I did.”
“Although our lives have been very ordinary in one sense, they have been filled with adventure and new learning every day,” added Karen Dunmire. “Both our girls (ages 28 and 21) were born overseas. Our best friendships have come from the ranks of teachers who’ve chosen this life, even for a brief time. Our girls speak several languages and easily navigate around the world, as that has been their world.”
Those are just a sampling of comments from four teachers who have taught abroad. They have taught in more than 15 nations and have more than 60 years of combined international teaching experience.
For Laura Forish, that one-year break became a new way of life. Since her first foray into international teaching, she has taught at the American Community School-Cobham (England) and at American Schools in London and Paris. Twenty years later, Forish was still teaching abroad.
Education World: You have taught in what many people would consider “dream” places — Paris and London. Is it hard to get positions there?
Laura Forish: It’s all a question of being in the right place at the right time and being persistent. A solid rsum and a minimum of two years of experience is a requirement. Flexibility is also necessary because international schools do not have the same support services United States’ schools offer. Often one is called upon to wear a variety of hats. Although such places as the Munich International School are Christmas-card beautiful, for someone from New York City being in a city was very important.
EW: Did you know the language or about the culture before you left?
Forish: I spoke minimal French, but it certainly has improved. The language as it is spoken bears some — but not much — resemblance to the language as it is taught in textbooks. Culture shock is real and happens to everyone. It is not a fleeting thing but something that lasts through the years. Culture shock was just as real in the United Kingdom, so it should not be thought of as language-based only.
EW: As a foreigner, were you accepted?
Forish: Tough one. I’m always an expatriate American. Those with whom you bond tend to have similar backgrounds. Although they may be Brits or French, they have lived outside their culture. Except for a short stint in Guatemala, I have always lived in places where physically I “fit in,” and that’s a big difference. I can look the “native” when it’s appropriate and act the “foreigner” when I feel like it. For me, that’s a wonderful combination.
EW: What is life like as a teacher in France?
Forish: The physical environment may change, but teaching is something that changes very little once you’re in the classroom. In my current position, our day lasts from 8:45 till 3:30. After-school sports and activity programs run until 6:15.
EW: Was there anything special about teaching in the places you have taught? Were there negatives?
Forish: The big negative is professional. You’re out of the mainstream. Going to a conference is a big deal. Continuing education can be hard to arrange as well, although with online courses becoming more popular, that is easing some.
Another negative is compensation. I am not paid as well as my cohorts in the United States are. Some of this differential is because of the dollar to French franc exchange rate. Salaries vary greatly from school to school. In general, schools in what are considered “hardship” areas tend to pay better than those in “prime” locations: Paris, Rome, London. In my experience, this is based not on the cost of living in these areas but on the availability of teachers.
However, as I’ve done this for 20 years, I obviously feel that the positive outweighs the negative. I have met some wonderful people — as colleagues, as students, as parents of students, as neighbors.
The school population is really exciting. Many students are true global nomad. They’ve lived all across the world. In my current school, the 850 students from grades pre-K through the 13th year of the International Baccalaureate program represent approximately 45 nationalities. Roughly 50 percent of them hold U.S. passports.
EW: You’re a 30-year teaching veteran. In your opinion, is teaching abroad mainly for the young?
Forish: No way! Living in a different culture expands horizons and empathy levels. It’s not always easy, but it’s rarely boring.
Karen Dunmire and her husband, Denny, have been teaching abroad for more than 30 years. Currently, she is middle school principal at the American School in Warsaw, Poland.
Education World: You have spent more than 30 years abroad. Where have you taught?
Karen Dunmire: After the Peace Corps, Denny and I met and started our married life in a very remote boarding school of 700 in Sesheke, Zambia. Our first girl was born there. She was delivered by kerosene lamp in a government hospital. Very memorable and wonderful.
We returned to the United States to complete graduate degrees at Michigan State and then went to Indonesia. Our second child was born in Singapore. We came home to Lake Placid, New York, for what we thought was to be forever, but we stayed only two years, returning to Indonesia for two years and then [moving] to Abu Dhabi for three. In 1992, we went to Kuwait. In 1994, we moved to Poland, where we’ve been for seven years.
EW: Did this nomadic life affect your children?
Dunmire: Our kids were always ready to explore a new country. They have probably been the ones who’ve kept us moving. It is a wonderful life for families who are open to new experiences. We just kind of fell into this and love it.
Donna Spisso has taught in Spain, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the Dutch Caribbean. For the past six years, she has taught in Bangladesh.
EW: In Bangladesh, you were a foreigner in a country with a culture very different from your own. Were you accepted?
Donna Spisso: Bangladeshis like to be associated with foreigners. There is some status attached to it. Teachers are respected. It is harder to become part of the community in Europe if you don’t speak the language. In Bangladesh, everyone’s second language is English.
EW: What are the schools like in Bangladesh? Is it safe there?
Spisso: My school has approximately 600 students in pre-K through 12th grade. My day runs from 7:30 to 3:30, and we’re on a block schedule. We do have air conditioning, but when the power goes off, we lose it.
Safety? Driving a car in Bangladesh requires the utmost attention. At any given time, a motorist must watch out for men walking their cows or goats — they graze on the median sometimes. Women are walking to the garment factories. Rickshaws and taxis clog the roads, waiting for customers. Brightly painted trucks, horns blaring, stop for no one. People cross the street without looking where they are going! There are no sidewalks, no traffic lights, and no stop signs in our area — and if there were, no one would pay any heed!
EW: Why did you choose to teach in Bangladesh.
Spisso: Bangladesh offered a great package. In Europe, you pay taxes. In Bangladesh, we pay none. My school, like many others in the developing world, provides free tickets home annually; pays rent, utilities, and health insurance; and, for a nominal fee, provides a car and pays for its maintenance.
The trade off, of course, is quality of life. No one would agree to work in the developing world if the benefits were not excellent. If you work in Europe for only two years, you don’t worry about the future, and schools capitalize on that. If international teaching becomes your career, that’s a different story. You have to be able to save.
I find the students here very dedicated and their parents solidly behind their education. I have a lot of academic freedom and few discipline problems, and my husband and I are saving for our retirement. Travel is excellent. I have fulfilled my dream of seeing the world.
Bill Jordan taught in Norway, Turkey, and the Philippines and then created WWTEACH.com, to help other people find overseas teaching jobs.
Education World: Bill, you have taught in three very different places. Few Americans know much about the Philippines. What was teaching there like?
Jordan: It was in the Philippines that I found out why teachers rarely go back to teaching in the United States after teaching abroad. Where else can one be paid to hike a volcano, snorkel beautiful coral reefs, or learn about survival deep in the jungle?
My school had a resource center that rivaled those in universities. The science department had a full-time lab technician who took care of the labs. I’d just tell her what equipment I needed and poof — it was set up in my room. If I wanted to work with a video recorder, the equipment arrived — Hollywood-style, with a camera person to take care of all the recording while I just worried about teaching! I requested a small radio, and I received a brand-new $200 dollar portable stereo system in my room for the year. More than a dozen people staffed the large library. Ready and waiting to help, they were an interesting mix of locals and expatriates from all over the world.
EW: Did you have any teaching experiences that you think you will always remember?
Jordan: We had frequent power outages, making teaching computers challenging. I used pantomime to teach my beginning English as a second language classes. And I butchered the pronunciation of everybody’s names: Si-Nyong Lee, Nobuyoshi, Umer Khaldoon Aftab Ahmed …
Think of New York City and how different it is from rural Montana. The same is true overseas. Every place is very different from the other places, but it is always fun and exciting. In the Philippines, I learned that kids will be kids no matter where you are. Teaching, learning, testing, and sharing is fundamentally the same no matter where you live.
Students came and went constantly, but I never got used to the gifts they gave. Things like that just didn’t happen to me stateside. It was nice being in a place where teachers were valued.
Taken from the Education World website.
The Educators Overseas website has some excellent information and resources on it for teachers interested in teaching overseas. They have information about traveling abroad and things to know before you go. There is also information about working in different regions in the world. They have many pages with different teaching-related resources and support. Different language schools and some international schools around the world use their services, in turn, they can help place you at one of these schools. One part of their website has interviews from teachers that they have placed. We would like to highlight two of those interviews on our blog: a teacher who is working in Kuala Lumpur and one who is working in Casablanca, Morocco.
Teacher in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kate Birbilis is currently a special needs teacher at an international school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Prior to her move to Malaysia she was a teacher at an international school in Cirebon, Indonesia. Kate is considered by her schools as a truly excellent teacher. She has had such a great experience teaching abroad so far in part because she places a higher priority on the quality of the school than the salary and she considers the country location as a whole, rather than just the location or attraction of the city.
What do you like about teaching overseas?
I am not sure how to summarize what I like about teaching overseas—there is so much to love. I’ve had two completely different experiences with both of my placements, but some of the main themes remain the same. I love opening my eyes to not only see how other cultures live, but experiencing their way of life. Teaching abroad takes traveling to the next level. You are not just visiting a community or country; you’re becoming part of it and it is becoming part of you.
You’re not just waving to schoolchildren as your bus passes by; you’re working with them day in and day out. Working with children in a school setting really helps you break barriers and make connections despite cultural and language differences. Smiles tend to be universal…
You’re not just learning how to say hello, thank you, and goodbye in another language; you speak it everyday at the market, on the street, and while sipping coffee with your friends at the café.
You’re not just tasting the national dish once; you’re learning how to cook it with your coworker’s grandma.
You’re not just watching a reenactment of a cultural celebration at a tourist spot; you’re helping your friends prepare for the upcoming event.
I love the quality of experiences that teaching abroad has helped me have. I’ve been able to build lasting relationships, grow as an educator, and see so many new places. I’ve come to enjoy the challenges that come with living abroad. Everyday is an adventure whether it is trying to figure out how to flush your new toilet or searching for orangutans in the rainforests of Sumatra.
What don’t you like (if anything) about teaching overseas?
I can’t say that I have had any negative experiences teaching abroad. Of course things are different than what I am used to, but an open mind is crucial. Different doesn’t mean bad, it just means different.
You are on your second overseas assignment, so you are somewhat of a pro now… what advice would you give to others who are thinking about teaching overseas?
ASK QUESTIONS! When a school contacts you, don’t rush to accept the job. I think it is important to ask as many questions as possible so you can have an idea of what life and work will be like once abroad. Before I accepted both of my overseas jobs, I e-mailed with the principals for weeks before I accepted the position. They also connected me with foreign teachers at their schools so I could get an outsider’s perspective. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the school, students, housing, salary, lifestyle, etc. With that said, keep an open mind as well. Life abroad will be different than what you are used to—isn’t that the joy of traveling?
Would you recommend teaching abroad through Educators Overseas?
Yes, I would definitely recommend teaching abroad through Educators Overseas. Teaching overseas was something that I always wanted to do, but really had no idea how to go about it. Once I started the process of job searching, I felt overwhelmed and had no clue where to begin. I also wasn’t sure how to differentiate between legitimate schools and scams. Finding Educators Overseas took away that unknown factor and put my mind at ease. After filing all of my paperwork with Educators Overseas, I was immediately contacted by schools. I found my first overseas job within 2 weeks. Another thing that I liked about Educators Overseas is that the schools contact you directly. There is no third party to hinder the process—they just introduce teachers and schools. Whenever I am explaining about Educators Overseas, I joke and say “it is like a dating website for teachers and schools. They make the introduction, but it is up to you to build a relationship from there.”
Teacher in Casablanca
Tiffany Harris is a teacher in an international school in Casablanca, Morocco. Here is a profile of her experience abroad.
What do you like about teaching overseas? Teaching overseas has allowed my eyes to open to new cultures and a new lifestyle. I am enjoying my adjustments this is allowing me to understand and be more conscious about how I treat or act around others. I live in an off school campus apartment where I am totally immersed in the culture. I enjoy learning the languages of French and Arabic. Many of the locals understand my difficulties with the language and are very helpful.
What don’t you like (if anything) about teaching overseas? Being overseas has taken away the in-dependency I had in the states. It is hard to lean on someone for everything when you are so used to picking up a phone or going into the store to take care of it yourself. You almost have to portray yourself as a deaf person demonstrating what you need through hand actions and barely speaking.
What advice would you give to others who are thinking about teaching overseas? If you are thinking about teaching overseas I suggest you go to job fairs to understand what the schools are asking for. That experience alone allows you to understand how different an environment you are entering is going to be. Make sure the country is a good fit for your needs. If you can’t live without a dryer or another accommodation then you may want to seek another place to venture to.
Would you recommend teaching abroad through Educators Overseas? Why or why not?Educators Overseas are the only reason I am living and teaching where I am. I would recommend their service because much of the work was taken out of my hand. I knew I had an impartial company working on my side if I had questions about going overseas and I felt the school wasn’t giving me the whole story.continue reading