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The International School Community blog has moved! Check out our new blog and its updated design here.

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We have also added many new features to our website.  Go and explore to check them out yourself.

International School Community Member Spotlight #22: Laurence Myers (An int’l school teacher working at International School of Kuala Lumpur)

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

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 8.44.30 PMTell us about your background.  Where are you from?
I am originally from Athens, Greece with a father from the US and a mother from Greece. I was born and raised in Athens, Greece and attended a small international school (TASIS Hellenic International School, now International School of Athens). I have been teaching for 19 years internationally and have loved every minute of it!  

How did you get started in the international teaching community?
For me teaching internationally was almost an extension of my life as a student. As I went to an international school as a child I found the cross-cultural connections at such schools to be right up my alley. Of course, as is often the case, my inspiration came from my teachers and professors, the most powerful of which was that of Kostas Gabriel who presently teaches in Chennai. He was an inspiration in believing in myself as a child and I found that, when deciding on a profession, this also provided me with an impetus to assist students in similar circumstances. I also had some good friends who showed me the way, most notably Ralph Barrett who presently teaches in Abu Dhabi. Following their footsteps, and my heart, I was able to fit right in when professional life came calling.  After a couple years of teaching internationally I was hooked. The job offers the perfect combination of discovery and self-reliance with the added dimension of dealing with simply wonderful kids!

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 began my teaching at the same school I attended as a child, TASIS Hellenic International School. It was, and still is, a small school with much character and a small but very dynamic student population. It was here, as I took my professional baby steps, that I learned that students are often waiting for an opportunity to see the world in different ways. I taught both social studies and physical education at TASIS.

Following TASIS, and a short stint back in the US to receive my M.A., I taught for five years at Colegio Nueva Granada in Bogota, Colombia. For me this was an eye-opening experience. Like the Greek community, Colombians are open and really want to know about you as a teacher. I found this connection fascinating and discussions with my students in economics and government endlessly rewarding. The country of Colombia too, which had a shady reputation at the time, was a simply beautiful place to be!  Despite the media and the difficult political situation the travel opportunities there were tremendous and I still find that, in so many ways, Colombia is home for me as well. I am also happy to be connected to Colombia through my wife, who has been by my side since those days at CNG.🙂

My next stop, where I presently work, was the International School of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was here that my professional self was able to succeed in ways that I never imagined possible. ISKL’s professional development opportunities and the support that they offer their teaching staff allows for many teachers to become great leaders in their own right. Though the expectations are high, so too is the sense of professional community. Collaborative, supportive and engaging ISKL has given me the opportunity to broaden my understanding of teaching and learning. It is in Malaysia that my two daughters were born and so our connection to Kuala Lumpur will be life-long.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.
In Malaysia it is customary to point with the thumb and not the index finger. As our daughters are quite young trying to get them to remember to point this way is sometimes difficult. Traditionally we point, as most do in the west, with our index fingers. At one point when we went to a restaurant our daughter was pointing at something and we were overly concerned about what that might say about our cultural empathy. We tried very hard to get her to change her finger and were embarrassed to fail miserably. When we went over to the table and sat down to talk about it our daughter told us to look at the next customer, a Malaysian woman, who had just walked in. Sure enough, she was indicating things to the staff using her index finger. My daughter was vindicated and I quieted down recognizing that customs often change as cultures diffuse. Where we are often overcompensating in order to fit into the local culture, the members of that same local culture might be happy to use western gestures and norms.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?
As I have matured in my teaching, and as my family situation has changed (ie. single to married to having children) so too has my outlook on what is important in a job. When I was younger, of course, my impression of travel opportunities and cultural experiences was primary, as well as the reputation of the school. Now that I am older with a family I suspect that my next teaching post will be a bit closer to home and one where our children can also have a positive learning experience. It should be a school that allows me personal and professional challenge but also provides children with a well-rounded educational experience.

Specific thoughts on a new position (when that happens):
Is it in a safe location?
Does the school promote whole-child philosophy?
Does the school’s administration support teaching initiatives?
What is the “personality” of the school and does it fit in with our own?
Does the school support an environment of caring for people and for the environment?

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?
Discovery. Rewarding. Engaging. Relationships. Awesome.

Thanks Laurence!

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 Malaysia like Laurence?  Currently, we have 23 international schools listed in the Malaysia on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

Garden International School (19 Comments)
International School of Kuala Lumpur (55 Comments)
Nexus International School (18 Comments)
International School of Penang (Uplands) (9 Comments)
Dalat International School (6 Comments)
Mont Kiara International School Kuala Lumpur (8 Comments)

Member Search Feature Update: What positions do our 1980+ International School Community members have?

After using the member profile search feature on the main homepage of International School Community, we found the following results: (updated from 12 August, 2012)

13 Activities Coordinators – (up 11)
3 Admissions Coordinators – (up 1)
24 Art Teachers – (up 13)
14 Assistant Principals – (up 12)
12 Biology Teachers – (up 5)
9 Business Office Workers – (up 7)
12 Chemistry Teachers – (up 4)
177 Classroom Teachers – (up 87)
2 Communications Workers – (up 2)
18 Counselors – (up 8)
23 Curriculum Coordinators – (up 10)
21 Department Heads – (up 11)
2 Development Workers – (up 2)
10 Drama Teacher – (up 3)
14 Economics Teacher – (up 6)
40 English Teachers – (up 21)
55 EAL Teachers – (up 22)
23 Foreign Language Teachers – (up 14)
4 Geography Teachers – (up 4)
20 Heads of School/Directors – (up 12)
11 History Teacher – (up 2)
23 ICT Teachers – (up 12)
3 Interns – (up 1)
10 Librarians – (up 3)
3 Marketing Workers – (up 3)
31 Math Teachers – (up 14)
12 Music Teachers – (up 3)
2 Nurses – (same)
77 Other – (up 42)
13 P.E. Teachers (up 4)
8 Physics Teacher – (up 6)
19 Principal – (up 12)
14 Science Teachers – (up 6)
13 Social Studies Teachers – (up 7)
24 Special Needs Teachers – (up 16)
1 Speech Pathologist – (up 1)
7 Teaching Assistants – (up 2)

Want to get a job at an international school in one of these positions? Log-on to International School Community and start contacting our members to get answers to your questions.  Many of our members definitely know about the life of an international school teacher at the school they currently work at and the schools they have worked at in the past.

Check out all of our 1981 members here.

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Selecting an international school: Tip #8 – Are the teachers fully qualified?

What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well?  There are many different kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations.  How important is finding out about if the international school’s teachers are fully qualified or not?  It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school at which to work.  So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at?  In this blog series, we will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.

Tip #8 – Are the teachers fully qualified?

This is not typically a concern with mainstream international schools, but it can be a concern with some newer schools and in certain regions of the world.

pic1104Some might say having qualified teachers from early years all the way to secondary school are essential for an international school to thrive.  Why then do some international schools hire non-certified teachers?  Of course there are many reasons why schools make such choices for their staff.

One reason is that qualified teachers are sometimes hard to come by in some (if not all) countries. Additionally, the more experienced teachers may not be considering positions at less established international schools.  In some parts of the world, the pay is low.  Being that certified teachers seek out positions that value their teaching degrees (that they have worked hard for), they might not even consider working at some schools where the pay and benefits are less than desirable.

Another factor that comes into play is timing.  Some international schools get into “binds” every once and awhile, and sometimes the best choice is to hire a less qualified (or not qualified) teacher to fill the position. That non-qualified teacher is just waiting and waiting for the right moment, when the stars align for them, to finally get that job at the nearby international school versus staying at the “language” school down the road.  Also, when international schools are trying to fill vacancies for the coming school year during not ideal times of the year (e.g. the summer months or even May), they might not have the same pick of qualified teachers as they would have had back in January and February.

Even another reason that international school hire non-qualified teachers could be related to money.  International schools (especially for-profit ones) are always on the look-out on how to save money. Hiring non-qualified teachers can potentially save the school money as they can sometimes pay them less.  If there is a pay scale at the school, they would most likely be on the bottom of it.Mr-Boli-and-Primary-186

Many educators without university teaching certificates are the ones that are already living abroad.  They maybe moved abroad when they got a job at an English-language school or had an interest in “teaching English” in a foreign country.  We are sure that there are some great English-language schools around the world, but most of the teachers at those schools would prefer to work at an international school; mainly because of the better pay and benefits.  More established international schools though won’t consider them because they might not have the exact teaching qualifications that they require. The less established international schools might consider these less-qualified teachers though, especially if they are scrounging to find quality candidates to fill their positions.

It is true that you can be a good teacher, even an excellent one, without a teaching certificate from a university. Experience in the field can definitely equal quality teaching, and parents and other qualified teachers shouldn’t be so turned off to working with them.  If you agree to that statement, maybe we shouldn’t be so caught up in whether an international school has an all-qualified staff.  We all work hard to do the same job, it isn’t as if qualified teachers would work any harder at the school.  On the other hand, it is important to honor the time spent when teachers do go an get diplomas in education.  Many people with university teaching certificates have worked very hard to make teaching their career choice and not just a “job”.  It can be a bit of an “unfortunate circumstance” and a downer when a qualified teacher shows up at their new international school to find out that their colleagues are all “English teachers”!
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On our website we have a specific topic in the School Information section of each school profile page that discusses the issue of which international schools have qualified teachers or not.  It is called “Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, nationality, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate.”  Our members have submitted 100s of comments and information in this topic on a number of different international schools listed on our website.  Here are just a few of the comments and information submitted in this topic:

“About 65% North American, 20% European and 15% local and other. All teachers are certified and have at least 4 years’ experience…”MEF International School Istanbul (27 total comments)

“The school has both Colombian and expat teachers. All of the expat teachers are North American and all are qualified teachers. The Colombian teachers are also well certified. There is not a high turnover rate at the school. Many expat teachers, though young, stay three or four years and some have been at the school much longer…”Colegio Granadino Manizales (43 total comments)

“High Staff turnover. Probably 1/3 local hires vs. expats. The qualifications can be low. Many first year teachers with no teaching degree. Most expats are Americans and Canadians. People do not stay here because the taxes are high, the frustration level with the administration is high, and the level of academic rigor is low…”American School Foundation of Mexico City (35 total comments)

“You will find a range of teachers from New Zealand to Canada, via UK, Egypt, Palestine, South Africa, Australia, France and more. Most teachers are expat hire. Local hire teachers are well qualified. The school is still only 7 years old so turnover rate is hard to reflect on. It ranges from 1-7 years at current time…”Khartoum International Community School (37 total comments)

“Turn over rate last year was very low. This year is different with several teachers in the Secondary school being pushed out. The school pays on time and there are good benefits. Many teachers in the Secondary school do not have formal teaching qualifications but they have good subject knowledge…”Western International School of Shanghai (57 total comments)

If you are an International School Community member with premium access, log on today and submit your own comments about the international schools you know about!

If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and automatically get one full month of premium access. You will become a part of our over 1950+ members!

International School Community now has over 1350 International Schools listed on our website!

At International School Community, we have 1356 international school profiles listed. We are adding even more international schools to our list every month.

Get answers to your questions about the international schools you are interested in by clicking on the geographic region of your choice on our School List page.

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It’s a great way to learn about different international schools around the world and gather information!  Who knows where you might end up living and working next?!

Currently, International School Community has the following international schools listed on our website (last updated on 21 February, 2013):

Sub-Saharan Africa (110)

North Africa (46)

Asia (97)


East Asia (198)


SE Asia (182)


Caribbean (32)


Central America (33)


Eastern Europe (79)


Western Europe (223)


Middle East (181)


North America (75)


South America (83)


Oceania (17)

Don’t want to spend hours and hours browsing through all the schools at the same time?  Try our school profile search feature to find the specific schools that you are looking for, faster!  Take a moment to check out some of our recent school profile searches that we have done using the school profile search feature.  Finding the right international schools for you has never been easier on International School Community!

Blogs of international school teachers: “Consider the Ordinary” (An educator at The American School of Tampico)

Are you inspired to start up a blog about your adventures living abroad?

Our 28th blog that we would like to highlight is called “Consider the Ordinary”  Check out the blog entries of this international school educator who currently works at The American School of Tampico (10 Total Comments on our website.) in Mexico.

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A few entries that we would like to highlight:

the American School of Tampico—my new home in mexico!

“Here is my beautiful school!!!!:) It sits on over 33 acres of land…Here is my classroom from the outside(the one with the circle window)…Here are pictures from the outside and inside of the classroom…Here are the lovely stairs up to my class (before these there are 2 other flights! haha)…”

It would be awesome if all international school teachers took as many photos of their campus to share with everyone.  It is important and very helpful to know exactly what the school looks like before you sign the contract to work there. Thanks for sharing pictures of the The American School of Tampico campus!

mi apartemento en Tampico

“My apartment is wonderful! The school provides it and they were so helpful, already had telephone hooked up, a little food and drinks in the fridge, and everything we needed set up!:) I’m so glad I’m here…Here is my roomies room- Her name is Robyn. We met her and her mom (Melissa) tonight..so far seems great!…There are 2 bedrooms (with AC) with bathrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, a large study room, a laundry room, and another room with bathroom that is in the back of the place—it’s all soooo big!!!…”

What a nervous situation…arriving at a new, foreign country and finally seeing the apartment that you will be living in.  Luckily for this educator, it turned out really well.  It is definitely a relief after having seen your new place, and then get started with making it your new “home”.   Also, meeting your new roommate can also be a bit nerve-wracking.  But you never know, the person just might turn out to a really good friend of yours.  What a nice surprise too when you take notice of the nice, big size of your new apartment.  Sometimes international school teachers get lucky when they are living in a city where their benefits package or salary affords them the opportunity to live a bigger apartment than what they are used to.

a day/night at the beach…

“I went to the beach for the first time last Saturday here in Tampico! It was great. I stuck my toes in and waded up to my ankles, but didn’t swim yet. The foreign staff from school went for a birthday barbeque for Michael—he’s our librarian. There was great food, a campfire, fun people, and sand, water, and sun—-all in all it was a beautiful day and a fun time:)…”

It is great to take in all the new places that you can go to in your new city, especially if your new city is on the coast of an ocean so that you can enjoy its beaches.  Some international school teachers are very luckily indeed!  It is also important to say yes to any opportunities to go out with the school staff.  Being open to exploring the city and to get to know the staff better are two important things to try and accomplish your first few months working at your new school.

Want to work for an international school in the Mexico like this blogger?  Currently, we have 23 international schools listed in the Mexico on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

American School Foundation of Guadalajara (15 Comments)
American School Foundation of Mexico City (35 Comments)
The Peterson Schools (Cuajimalpa Campus) (11 Comments)
Colegio Atid (17 Comments)
American School Foundation of Monterrey (16 Comments)
• Instituto San Roberto (15 Comments)
American School of Durango (12 Comments)
Colegio Inglés A.C. (Torreon) (12 Comments)

If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A dinner outing with the director and administration

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 your 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 about the ones we have discussed so far.

Must-have #7: A dinner outing with the director and administration

IMG_0063-1In some cultures it is very much of a bonding moment between people when they share a meal together.  It is a time when you can really relax and have some nice conversations with each other.  Getting to know your director and other new teachers in this kind of setting will help you with future encounters with the director and also with your potential new good friends. Having a meal with your bosses can really start your relationship with them on the right track.

How nice is it when the administration treats you to a nice dinner out somewhere in your new town?  It really just sets the stage right to have a great start to your first year.  Sure it is not that important and of course it does not have anything to do with your job specifically, but it is nice to get some bonding time with the other new teachers as well as your new bosses. Also, there is the fact that you probably don’t have so much money when you first arrive to be going out to eat at a nice restaurant. Plus, you probably do not even know where the good restaurants are just yet anyway.

If there is not a dinner planned though for all the new teachers, it definitely feels like something is missing.  If there is a dinner planned, then there are a few scenarios that might happen.  Most often the admin plans a dinner out in the center of the city at a nice restaurant.  You can really take in your new “expat lifestyle” in this scenario!  If you have a director that is a little bit more personable, he/she might invite you over to have dinner at their house.  In this scenario, the director is really making an effort to show the new teachers that they are now “one of the family” on the staff at the school.

A less desirable scenario is when the dinner is just held at the school itself. Maybe the admin staff will get the cooking staff to make something special for everyone. Having the “dinner out” at the school is probably not making a very good impression on the new teachers, but depending on cooks, it could actually be quite nice.  Another way to not make the best impression is to have the dinner at some cheap restaurant (just across the street from the compound where all the teachers are living) with little planning involved on making the outing special in any way.

In either scenario, the conversations and experience had at the “dinner out” with the new staff will surely be ones that you remember.  A fun time is usually in store with a lot of laughter.  Take it all in because this dinner-out evening is just the beginning of your new and exciting expat life in your new host city.

Some members on our Facebook page have shared about eating out with their administration during the new teacher orientation week they experienced at their international school:

International School Geneva – Campus des Nations – “At IS Geneva there was barely an orientation week (just 2 half days) let alone any sort of dinner.”

International School Singapore (10 Comments) – “The head of school throws a BBQ dinner for the new teachers and one later for all staff to mingle with the new staff.”

Discovery College (Hong Kong) (5 Comments) – “We had a dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Also a drinks/appetizers with the larger ESF organization.”

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Not that you would ask about this topic at your interview or anything, but it might be important to ask the administrator who’s interviewing you the details of the new teachers orientation week.  You do want to know how they support new teachers to make a smooth transition.

On International School Community we have a number of principals and directors of international schools that are members. Currently, we have 20 Directors/Heads of School that have joined.  Some of the international schools they work at are:

The Bilingual School of Monza
• International Community School Addis Ababa
Olive Green International School
International School of Dusseldorf
ABC International School (Tokyo)
International School Groningen
Garden International School

Log-on today to check out the many comments and information submitted in this section topic!  Become the most informed you can be when it comes to finding out the benefits an international school offers to its new teachers.

So, does your international school include a dinner out with the director and administration as part of their new teacher orientation?  Please share your experiences!