Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight #38: Tareq Hajjaj (A teacher at The American School of Belo Horizonte)

September 11, 2018


Every so often International School Community is looking to highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight blog category.  This month we interviewed Tareq Hajjaj:

member spotlight
Tell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I very much consider myself a third-culture kid despite living 25/31 years in Western Sydney. This area is the most culturally diverse area in the southern hemisphere and I grew up experiencing both Australian and Arab cultures.

Born in Kuwait, I spent the first four years of my life there before migrating to Australia. Throughout my life I frequently travelled to Jordan to visit my extended family. My family originates from Palestine before it was partitioned. And previous to that, we have routes in Egypt.

My schooling and tertiary education were completed in Sydney. When I was completing my high school studies, I was considering teaching as my profession. Although, I decided to study a Bachelor of Commerce first knowing that obtaining a Masters of Teaching would only take two years of full-time study on top of that.

Throughout my tertiary studies, I worked in a variety of education and community welfare jobs. At that time, I never thought I would be embarking on an international teaching journey. I was very much a typical guy in his 20s in Australia. I loved Rugby League, Touch Rugby and cycling and all my travels with friends via domestic trips. By the time I graduated, I was ready to experience a life-changing international journey.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

During my last semester of university, I attended a job fair organised for the post graduate students completing educational courses in my university. At the fair were some recruiters looking for teachers to work in the UK and I immediately was interested. The process was straight forward. The recruiter organised an interview with herself and then a principal within a school. They liked my enthusiasm and how I was looking forward to the adventure and willing to learn about the UK curriculum. From there I had to collect documentation such as police checks, and I was helped to apply for a Youth Mobility Visa. Before I knew it, I was offered a short term maternity leave contract for a Grade 5 class and a few weeks after graduating, I was ready for a September start in the UK.

Before going to the UK, I took a detour to visit a close friend of mine in Shanghai for one week. He was about to begin his 2nd international teaching post. It was a wonderful visit which opened my eyes to a new culture.  It wasn’t long before I was back there teaching kindergarten.

In my first year of teaching I was extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to have completed six weeks of casual teaching in Australia, a semester block as a Grade 5 homeroom teacher in an East London public school, and being the first teacher to open the one of two new kindergarten classes (a first for the school). My life was very different; I met so many new people, learned how to speak basic conversational mandarin, enjoyed a diverse lifestyle in two major world class cities and grew a lot as a teacher.

member spotlight

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

I have worked in England (Brookside Junior School), Egypt (Cairo English School), China (Shanghai United International School, Fudan International School and Guangdong Country Garden School), and Brazil (The American School of Belo Horizonte.) In this time I have had the opportunity to teach Canadian British Columbian, UK National Curriculum, American Common Core Curriculum as well as the International Baccalaureate. All schools were fun places to work.

Cairo English School stands out as the school with a stunning campus. It had over 1500 students and chaotic hallways but the students were always cheerful and there were always many extravagant events going on around the school.

An even bigger school was Guangdong Country Garden School. They had over 4500 students! It was impossible to even meet all the students. I worked in the kindergarten. I remember the play times with over four hundred 3-5-year-old students running around in many directions. It was a boarding school, and it was common to see even kindergarten students still having lessons in the evening.

member spotlight

Both Fudan International School and The American School of Belo Horizonte are smaller schools with approximately 350 students from K-12. I was the Grade 5 homeroom teacher at both schools so I was given a lot of freedom in planning a lot of the curriculum according to the American Common Core and IB syllabi, and the school’s scope and sequence.

It is still hard to decide whether I prefer the larger schools or smaller schools. They both have their advantages. Every school was unique in its own way.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

I have been in Belo Horizonte for two months now. My impression is that Brazilians are very social and love to enjoy themselves. Every weekend there is loud music coming from different places in my neighbourhood and many social gatherings within my apartment complex. Just about everybody greets you in a friendly manner and people are usually excited to hear where I am from and speak of their desires to visit there.

Belo Horizonte is considered the Brazilian Belgium. It may not be known for having beautiful beaches like the other places in Brazil, but it is known for producing beers of good quality such as Krug Bier, FalkBier, Backer, Küd, Wäls and Artesamalte. To complement this you will find the popular night spot of Savassi heaving every weekend complemented by music festivals.

Whilst Belo Horizonte seems to be unknown from the outside world, it is the third largest city in Brazil. It boasts the most bars per capita with over 12,000 bars in the city. Most of these are informal sit down spots where you can enjoy an informal meal. Beagá (the city’s nickname which is its initials in Portuguese) also boast a fine arts culture with beautiful street art sprawled around the city. It is definitely a hidden gem (and ironically the mining capital of the country).

member spotlight

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

It is very important to be responsible and choose your employer well. That means finding out as much as you can about the position and the school, where you will live and information about the country you will be living in. After you have found out as much as possible, evaluate what is really important to you.

For me, as I have moved around a few times in my 7 years of teaching. Now I am more inclined to look for supportive school that will offer me 2-3 year contracts and ongoing professional development so I can take my teaching pedagogy to the next level.

member spotlight

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

An amazing and unforgettable experience.

teacher

Thanks, Tareq Hajjaj!

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 one year free of premium access to our website!

Do you think you have what it takes to be a veteran international school teacher like Tareq Hajjaj?  What character traits does it take?  We have an article on our blog that discusses this very question. It is called the “Top 10 Character Traits of a Seasoned International School Teacher“. Read the whole article here.

continue reading

Comparing the Schools and Comments

Comparing the Schools and Comments: Working in Brazil

August 26, 2017


Around the world, there are cities that have more than one international school. Many times there is an American school, a British School, and an international school that uses an international curriculum.

Some cities, though, have MANY international schools!  When that is the case, how do the comments about each school compare to each other?

This blog series looks at comparing some of these comments, all coming from international schools in the same city.

brazil

Brazil

Currently, we have 22 schools listed in Brazil on International School Community.

13 of these schools have had comments submitted on them. Here are a few that have the most submitted comments:

International School of Curitiba (11 Total Comments)
Escola Beit Yaacov (14 Total Comments)
Escola Americana de Campinas (12 Total Comments)
American School of Brasilia (15 Total Comments)
American School of Belo Horizonte (46 Total Comments)
Graded – The American School of Sao Paulo (39 Total Comments)
Pan American School of Bahia in Salvador (23 Total Comments)
Pan American School of Porto Alegre (25 Total Comments)
School of the Nations (32 Total Comments)

Hiring Policies

“Single teachers and teaching couples with out dependents are preferred. Maximum age that they can hire is 60 years old.” – Pan American School of Bahia in Salvador

“You would have a hard time getting hired at this school if you have a non-working spouse.” – Pan American School of Porto Alegre

“They go to Atlanta, UNI, and they use Search Associates as well as TIE sometimes. You may also write the school directly and interview over Skype.” – School of the Nations

brazil

School Campus

“The campus is beautiful, but the current buildings are struggling to meet the demands of the growing student population. A new main building is planned in the next 5 years. The area around the school campus is nice. In the past two years many bars and restaurants have been popping up all around the neighborhood.” – American School of Belo Horizonte

“School is located in a residential neighborhood, near all important amenities. School is close to a lake.” – American School of Brasilia

“Surrounding the school there are nicely taken care of garden areas. There are what seems to be full-time people going around and taking care of the greenery.” – Graded – The American School of Sao Paulo

Housing Information

“Staff are housed in nice apartments right next to the school. Everyone lives in 1 or 4 buildings in the same complex. You are responsible for your electric bill, which is usually not significant.” – American School of Belo Horizonte

“The dwellings come with basic furniture and appliances.” – Pan American School of Bahia in Salvador

“Furnished apartment provided with utilities included: electricity, water, condo fees.” – American School of Brasilia

“Total US dollar equivalent of annual benefits comes to approx: $15,800. The School provides modestly furnished housing for teachers on temporary visas who are single, providing a one or two-bedroom apartment depending upon single or shared accommodation; (b) for a married teaching couple with no children or with one child, and who are temporary visa holders the School provides a two-bedroom apartment or equivalent. All housing contains the following appliances and furnishings: stove, refrigerator, beds, sofa, dining room table and chairs, washing machine and basic kitchen utensils. The School will retain ownership of these items, which will be kept in good condition by the Teacher. The School will pay the rent, condominium fees, and property taxes related to the apartment/house. The employee is responsible for all other expenses, such as utility bills (water, electricity and telephone bills) but installation and maintenance charges for these utilities as well as Internet connections (not usage) shall be at the School’s expense.” – School of the Nations

brazil

Health insurance and medical benefits

“Medical insurance, which includes dental and life/disability insurance.” – Graded – The American School of Sao Paulo

“International health insurance is subsidized 100% by the school, and the medical facilities in Porto Alegre are often superior to those found in North America. International coverage is through Clements.” – Pan American School of Porto Alegre

“Medical insurance is provided which includes dental coverage as well. Excellent local health care and also for international travel.” – Pan American School of Bahia in Salvador

“All recruited foreign hire, be they on temporary visa or permanent residency visa, are covered by both a local health plan administered by the world’s largest insurance company, the Allianz Group, as well as an international health plan when traveling abroad, administered by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Medical and hospital treatment abroad is covered up to US$ 100,000 and no limit is stipulated for treatment inside of Brazil. Basic dental care is also provided.” – School of the Nations

(These are just 4 of the 65 different comments topics that on each school profile page on our website.)

brazil

If you work at an international school in Brazil, share what you know. Consider becoming a Mayor for unlimited premium membership!

continue reading