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Blogs of international school teachers: “Expat Educator”

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

Our 10th blog (http://expateducator.com/) that we would like to highlight is called “Expat Educator: Every child. Every lesson. Everyday.”  This international educator seems to be quite experienced, having been in education for the past 16 years.  Check out the blog entries of this international school teacher who is now working in Hong Kong at Hong Kong International School.

Entries we would like to highlight:

International Students Go to Camp: The Importance of Play

“When I taught in the US, students went to Outdoor School. The Oregonian children learned to read the age of a tree, the names of major plant species, and experience the Northwest natural habitat.

Imagine my surprise when I first learned that my international school students go to Camp to play. So this is a really long recess? I wondered. I’m sacrificing hot showers, quality food, and personal hygiene so that students can PLAY?

While I admit to Facebook grumbling about ants in the shower, plastic beds, and food representing only the white and brown food groups, I have come to see the value in free play for tweens in my setting.

Here is what I notice:

1. My students get a break from over-scheduled lives.
Many parents in my community buy into the philosophy of Amy Chua, believing that the best way to love children is to push them to achieve. Highly achieve. Lest one think this phenomenon is reserved for parents of Asian heritage, many of my students’ parents are former Ivy-leaguers and/or CEOs of international companies and expect nothing less from their children. The pressure to succeed is enormous.

By adding play time to our annual calendar in the form of camp, sports days, and field days, students develop the skills they will need to run the major companies of the future. They learn emotional control and practice social skills that can make them better leaders.

2. Students practice independence.
While students often have enormous amounts of academic pressure, many students do not learn to do chores such as changing beds, sweeping floors, or scraping dishes. Like students in many international school communities, my students’ families employ domestic helpers. At camp, students make their own beds and clean their own cabins. They are required to scrape plates and pile their dishes.

3. Students don’t miss their electronic devices.
We spend a great deal of time and effort enforcing “screen-free zones” at school. No student has ever verbally expressed missing an xbox. Instead, they play Uno, Spoons, and Blockus.

4. Students return from camp different than when they left.
As I type this, I’m thinking about two of my new students who, until this week, were quite shy. One student was spotted taking leadership in her group’s cabin clean-up efforts. Another one has been given a nickname – and he smiles whenever he hears it. Camp allowed him the opportunity to show off his amazing tennis skills, earning the respect of the other class athletes.”

Culture Shock and the Expat Educator

“If you’re a new expat teacher (or an expat teacher in a new setting), you may be wondering what the #@!*% you were thinking when you decided to move.

It’s normal. Perfectly normal. You probably moved in late July and are heading into the dreaded period of anxiety associated with culture shock. Even in countries lovingly termed “expat lite” (i.e. Hong Kong, Singapore) the most mundane things can be frustrating.

An example…
I’ll never forget the first time I wanted to send a check in $US to someone in America. I left school early to make the hour-long trek so that I could get to one of the branches. I arrived to find the branch closed with a sign indicating they closed at 4:30. Seriously? 4:30? I took the hour-long bus ride home.

The next day I left school even earlier, racing out the door after the students left. I arrived at the branch.
“I’d like to get a check in US dollars,” I said.
“You’d like to check your account?” the woman asked.
“No, I’d like a CHECK,” I tried to enunciate clearly as I made the universal hand motion for a signature.
Poor gal was still confused. She went to get her colleague.
I waited. And waited. Branch doors started closing. Security guards were glancing back and forth between their watches and me.
The colleague arrived. “Check?” she asked. “I can get you a checkbook.”
“A checkbook in US dollars?” I asked.
“No, [local country] dollars.”

I burst into tears. The ladies at the bank branch looked at one another, wondering what to do with the foreigner dripping liquid from unsanitary facial orifices.

Flustered, the ladies started handing me forms. One of the forms had to hold the necessary clues to the mysterious transaction request. The forms helped me deduce that chequebook is spelled with a que. I quietly cursed Webster. Finally, I phoned a colleague. Turns out I wanted a demand draft.

Normally, I’m pretty level-headed. I don’t generally curse dead dictionary authors. But, for a task that would take me 10 minutes in my home country, I had invested almost three hours of travel time over two days and I couldn’t figure out how I was going to pay my US credit card bill on time. My head spun into pictures of credit card penalties and bad credit rating reports. I was convinced my credit card would be shut down and I wouldn’t be able to buy a DVD player to replace the one I first bought that wouldn’t play DVDs from the US (Region 1? Why in the world would countries make DVDs that couldn’t be played elsewhere?). If I could just get the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice to play, I could ruminate on the problems of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and cry over something that wasn’t my current situation.

When I finally pieced together that string of thoughts, I wondered if I needed counseling. How would I pay for counseling without a credit card??? The blubbering started again.

Fortunately, I had read up on culture shock and, a glass of wine later, I realized the irrational behaviors could all be traced back to the predictable stage (okay, maybe it was a few glasses bottle of wine).”

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

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