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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)

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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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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!

International School Community Member Spotlight #21: Eugenia Papadaki (An int’l school director currently working at The Bilingual School of Monza)

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

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 1.59.40 PMTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I am from Greece, have carried out all my higher education studies in England where I gained a BA in Foreign Modern Languages, an MA in Applied Linguistics and a PGCE (Post graduate certificate in Education) from the Institute of Education, London. I have taught in many educational settings in both the UK and in Italy. I have brought up both of my daughters trilingually from birth, who, now as young adults, speak several languages and who have been my inspiration for founding a Bilingual International school here in Italy 17 years ago.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

My first experience was at the International School of Milan.

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.

ISM: the diversity of languages spoken by the pupil population.

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

I have always been in an administrative position, but if I were to look for a job in an international school for me professional development opportunities and career advancement together with a collaborative learning environment and a real sense of community spirit would be the things that I will be looking for in a school.

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

Opportunity for growth, an eye opener.

Thanks Eugenia!

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 Italy like Papadaki?  Currently, we have 30 international schools listed in the Italy on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

American School of Milan (13 Comments)
Sir James Henderson School (7 Comments)
Bilingual European School of Milan (16 Comments)
The Bilingual School of Monza (8 Comments)
International School of Trieste (9 Comments)
Ambrit-Rome International School (7 Comments)
International School of Bologna (8 Comments)
International School in Genoa (10 Comments)
The English International School of Padua (12 Comments)

Discussion Topic: Standing at the check-out counter can get uncomfortable!!!

How much do you need to say when you are going through the check-out line?  Not much usually. Just get your items through the scanner, swipe your credit card, bag your goods up in a reusable bag that you brought and then you get on your way.

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 8.51.08 PMIt is not always that easy though.  Every once and awhile you get a cashier that decides to have a chat with you.  If you don’t know the local language so well, then situations like this can become a challenge for you.  Sure you know the word for “receipt” and “thanks”, but when the cashier strays from those simple words, things can get a little bit uncomfortable.  How embarrassing when you can’t understand what is going on?  How even MORE embarrassing it is when there are many people (locals) standing in line waiting for their turn and rolling their eyes at you?

Even if you do know the local language, it is not always an easy thing to speak up in public.  One colleague of mine just mentioned to me that even after 20 some years of living and working in her host country, she specifically plans the right time to go to her local bakery.  She prefers to go during a time when there are less people there; when they are not so busy.  Even know she is highly proficient in the local language, she is still uncomfortable at times yelling out her order when everyone around maybe judging her on her pronunciation, etc.  It is not always fun to let all the locals know that you are not from their country/not a native speaker.  Whether the other people in the bakery even care or notice, this is a very common feeling to have when living abroad.

Unfortunately you can’t live you life in your host country trying to avoid all linguistic encounters with the locals.  You must eventually go through a check-out line and you will eventually have a cashier trying to tell you things.
One time a cashier confused me by asking me whether I would like to charge more on my debit card so that I could get cash back by him.  That situation definitely threw me off-guard as not many cashiers are outwardly offering that service to their customers. I would guess that is more customer initiated.  Another time a cashier was trying to give me shopping tips; if I would buy three of one of the items I was purchasing, then I was to get a small discount.  Adding a bit of public service help to me, the woman just leaving the check-out counter told me in English that the discount wasn’t that amazing.6337012304_3f3f9f685d_z

Not all linguistic encounters with the cashier (while living abroad) though end up in embarrassment for you.  Some situations might end up being quite funny.  They might be quite memorable for you and a good experience; giving you a good story to share with your other expat friends.  One time in Spain, I was checking-out at a grocery store.  As the cashier was ringing up the items I was going to purchase, she motioned towards a one liter bottle of Fanta.  I thought she was trying to get me to buy it.  In turn, I told her no.  But the cashier kept on trying to give the bottle of Fanta to me.  Finally, I realized that she was trying to just give it to me for free as it was a special promotion (it was a new flavor of Fanta…pineapple!).  I told her “OH, es libre!”  Of course, some people around me and the cashier laughed a bit at me. The word libre does me free, but it is the word free that you would use like when you unlock a cage of a zoo animal and letting them be free. I should have used the word gratis.

This comical situation is what happens all to often to expats.  You are in a situation that you weren’t prepared for ahead of time.  Because of the unpreparedness, you get nervous.  And because you are nervous, your brain does not think too clearly to either try and understand what was being said to you or get the words that you know in the local language out in the correct manner.  It is all part of living abroad I guess.  How boring and monotonous to go through a check out line in your own home country, when you can go through multiple check-out lines in your host country and experience the unexpected?

If you have a culture-related story to share about your experience living abroad, send us a message here and we will see about getting your story as a guest author on our International School Community blog!

International School Community Member Spotlight #20: Jack Murphy (An veteran int’l teacher currently working as an Int’l School Consultant)

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

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 8.53.56 PMTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I grew up on Long Island about 30 miles from New York City. I attended college in North Carolina and did graduate work at Notre Dame University. My career gravitated from teacher and coach to guidance counselor and then to college counselor. However, that developmental process took twenty years.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

I taught history and coached in Charlotte, NC for several years after military duty. At a certain point I decided to see more of the world and thought that teaching abroad might offer that opportunity. My first overseas teaching assignment placed me in a castle in Scotland. From that experience onward, with the exception of a few stopover years back home, I was to be an international educator.

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.

Many international teachers travel the world and work at a variety of schools. I may have taken that tendency to a different level.  During my career I taught, coached and counseled at twelve international schools located on five continents. The schools ranged from smaller to larger, proprietary and private, American to international, IB curriculum and otherwise. Each school was unique but each had energetic, vigorous and dedicated faculty. International teachers bring a certain active and innovative spirit to their profession and students thrive on that spirit. Two of my favorite places were at schools were in Amsterdam and Venezuela.  However, I had the most fun at the International School of Kenya and the Jakarta International School.

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

I have experienced many but one that comes to mind occurred at a golf course in Vietnam. After attending an EARCOS Conference in Ho Chi Minh City we took a short holiday in the highlands. We decided to play golf one day and arrived at a lovely course and small club house. Our clubs and equipment were taken by several Vietnamese women caddies but we expected to find them on the other side as we proceeded into the building to pay and shop at the Pro Shop. When we departed the building on the other side and expected to join up with our clubs and caddies we were surprised that the clubs were no where to be found.

After a few long minutes of confusion and panic, two Vietnamese woman pointed to the road and tried to give signal that our clubs were on the course or near the driving range. None could speak English so they pointed, laughed and acted out and what they needed to say. Then they drove us up the road to the driving range giggling all the way. When we arrived at the driving range, near the first tee, their was a French couple hitting golf balls and I immediately recognized that the tall man was swinging my clubs next my golf bag. As we approached I could also see that he was wearing my shoes and my golf glove next to my golf bag.

To make a long story short we cleared up the matter and I set out to play one of the finest rounds of golf of my life. The priceless part was watching the Vietnamese ladies enjoy the hilarity of the mix-up and take it all in stride with lovely smiles, soft giggles and an ability to bring warmth and kindness to what first appeared to be both a stressful and embarrassing to all the westerners involved.

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

When I looked for the next school it was the location that counted most. My purpose was to try a new place in a new region each time I moved schools. Secondly, I also wanted to grow with each move and I sought schools that might finance my own professional development and provide opportunities to attend conferences in my field.  And, of course, when I was a younger teacher I wanted to go places that had an active school and social life.

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

Exciting, inspiring, educating, challenging and fulfilling.

Thanks Jack!

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 Kenya like Jack?  Currently, we have 9 international schools listed in the Kenya on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

International School of Kenya (13 Comments)
Aga Khan Academy Mombasa (3 Comments)

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A settling-in allowance given to you in cash (local currency)!

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.

Must-have #6: A settling-in allowance given to you in cash (local currency)!

You just get off the airplane.  You have what seem to be a million bags with you. You are quite tired from your long flight journey to your new host country.  You are frantically looking for the person that said that they were going to pick you up from the airport.  You find them and they bring you to your new place that will be your home for the next few years.   So many things on your mind, so many things to worry about, and SO many things to buy!

Sure, you can prepare ahead of time and get some of the local currency at a bank in your home country before you get on the plane.  Sure, you can make it a point to visit an ATM at the host country airport or try and find a local bank near your new house that has an ATM.  But even then, you will have to use the money that you have in your home bank account and for many people, they might not have the finances to support starting up a completely new life and home.

How nice then if the international school that you will be working at gives you a settling-in allowance on your arrival to your new host country?! Getting cash in the local currency straight away is definitely a perk and a very nice benefit to look out for when searching for a new international school at which to work.

International School Community members have a wealth of information to share! Here are a few comments about their experience getting a settling-in allowance at an international school they have worked at:

“As soon as I got off the plane and claimed my baggage, I met the school principal at the arrivals gate, he introduced himself, and handed me an envelope with 1,500,000 won (roughly $1,500). Seriously, it was that quick.”  – An international school teacher at Seoul International School (68 Comments).

“Upon arriving at our apartment, we were given an envelope with some cash in it. This was our settling-in allowance. It was enough to go to a Walmart-type store and get all the basics you don’t bring with you but need right away. Cleaning supplies/trash can/kitchen utensils (beyond the basics). The school already provided all the basic furniture, bedding, and kitchen stuff (pots/plates/cutlery) but all of the odds and ends were purchased with that settling in allowance. It was great to have local currency right away…but it sure didn’t last very long!” – An international school teacher at Graded School Sao Paulo (16 Comments).

“They gave the first month’s salary in cash upon arrival.” – An international school teacher at GEMS American Academy (Abu Dhabi) (23 Comments).

“Upon arriving in Tokyo, the administration at our new school handed us an envelope fat with 300,000 yen. The previous schools we had worked at never gave us a cash settling in allowance in the local currency, so we were not only shocked, but a little perplexed as to why we needed so much cash. But as our first week in Japan wore on, we realized how valuable it was to receive our benefits in hand. First, it meant we didn’t have to bother with transferring our money into yen and losing some due to exchange costs. Second, as renowned as Japan is for its technological advances, it is still mired in the dark ages when it comes to paying with plastic. Virtually every transaction, no matter the cost, is completed in cash. Having yen in our pockets made it much easier to do small grocery shopping and even to make larger purchases at furniture and housewares stores. Finally, not having to spend your savings,turn in receipts and then wait for reimbursement is a great perk of receiving a local currency cash allowance. It made our transition into our new home smooth and a bit less stressful.” – An international school teacher at Seisen International School (22 Comments).

“I didn’t get a settling in allowance really (boo!) we did get given an extra baggage allowance which we received in local currency when we arrived so guess that is something?” – An international school teacher at Greengates School (British Int’l School) (5 Comments).

“The Canadian Academy has a decent size settling in allowance. Seems large at first, but was used up quite quickly, as Japan is VERY expensive. So perhaps not as good as it seems. (I think it was about equal to one paycheck….?)” – An international school teacher at Canadian Academy (Kobe) (10 Comments).

Getting at least some help monetarily during your first days in your new host country is very much welcomed by all international school teachers!  Though you typically go through your settling-in allowance very quickly, it is still nice have.  At many postings, you often don’t get your first paycheck until the end of the month that you start working.  There are way too many things to buy during those first few weeks, that it would be impossible to wait until you get your first paycheck!  Not to mention all the money you end up needlessly wasting when you buy certain items impulsively at one store (because it is near to your house), not knowing that the other store (down the block) sells that same item for half the price.  I’m sure that has happened to all of us at one time or another!

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In the Benefits Information section of the school profile page on our website, we have a topic related to the settling-in allowance: Detailed info about flight, shipping and settling-in allowances. Any other benefits (e.g. free lunches, etc.)?  There have been 100s of comments and information submitted in this topic on our website and many of them refer to the settling-in allowance you will get (or not get) working at that international school . Here are a few of those comments:

“You get one flight per two year contract. There is a 1500 USD appx. local settling allowance, and the school gives an interest free loan of one months salary to assist with settling costs. Shipping – be careful as if you are transitioning from another international post, you must use your home of record for quotations. Some people buy furniture, others rent furnished, some take out car loans, others buy 2nd hand cars. There are plenty of different options.” International School of Kuala Lumpur (55 Comments)

“At the end of your contract the school provides travel and transportation to home of record. Annual flight allowance (KIS pays up to Rs 12,000 / person once every term contract). Shipping allowance for staff on term contract upon joining and at the completion of service. Also there is a transportation allowance. Settling in allowance is given upon every term contract signed. Lunch / tea in our school cafeterias while the school is in session is provided to teachers.” Kodaikanal International School (25 Comments)

“VAIS paid for round trip airfare from the US to Hanoi and back to the US for school year 2011-2. For school year 2012-3, there’s a cap of $1,700. VAIS paid $500 settling in costs. For school year 2012-3, there’s no settling in allowances. There are no free lunches. Lunches cost $3.50.” Vietnam American International School (26 Comments)

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 offer a settling-in allowance?  Please share your experiences!

Staring at foreigners – the expat experience!

When we choose to live abroad we accept that things in our life situation will be different for us.  There will be many things that will be good changes for us and for sure there will be some things that will not be so good and might make us feel IMG_7268uncomfortable.  The amount of things that will be different for you depends on your personal background growing up and also where you end up living.  Since we all grow up in different countries (and also from different parts of that country) and have different cultural backgrounds, our perspective on what happens to us when living in our host country is definitely going to be varied and different.

One thing that might happen to you when living abroad is that you might find that the locals tend to stare at you a lot.  Mostly because you look may look different to them, surely that is what they might stare.  You would probably be staring at people that look different from yourself in your home country as well.  We don’t necessarily like to admit it maybe, but some might say that it is human nature to stare at other who look characteristically different than you.

DSC_8283But also, there might be a cultural norm difference that comes into play as well.  In some cultures it might be commonplace and even accepted to stare at another person in public.  Even if it is commonplace for them, it still might make you feel a bit uncomfortable…as it is not a culture norm for your home country.  It can be especially uncomfortable if you are getting stared at every day during your life living abroad!

You may start to miss being one of the crowd from you old life living in your home country, making you want to move back sooner than later.  You might think twice about getting onto a public bus knowing that it will be jam packed with only locals that enjoy peering and leering at you.

On the other hand, you may welcome the staring and find that you quite enjoy it…being the center of attention.  No one stares at your in your home country when you go shopping at your grocery store.  No staring might make those weekly visits more monotone and uneventful for you.

But what typically happens most of the time, is that you get used to the staring and start to not notice it so much.  It hard to ignore it though when the staring escalates into touching of your hair (if your hair is a radically different color to theirs) or them talking to their friends/family about you in front of your face while pointing at you.  The boundaries and cultural norms of how you can interact with strangers in public (that you may be used to) may not exist in your host country culture and it is something you should be aware of and be prepared to experience!

Human being all very inquisitive people, just like many other animals on our planet.  We like to figure out things and find out where we belong in a small group, a community, a city, a family, etc.  Part of that figuring out where we are and how we fit in most likely involves the staring tactic!

Feel free to leave a comment about your experience being an expat and living abroad in a foreign country.  Do the locals tend to stare at you?  If you currently live in another country, please take a moment to leave a comment about the host country locals on our website – www.internationalschoolcommunity.com

International School Community Member Spotlight #19: Andrew Vivian (An veteran international teacher currently working at MV Education Services)

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

(This member spotlight is a continuation from an interview we did earlier which can be found here.)

From there, we spent a year in Guangzhou, China, at Utahloy International School, with Helen as Primary Principal and me as Head of Science. Guangzhou, despite the air quality, was a really nice place to live. We started off in an apartment in town, while we looked for a place big enough to hold our material possessions – for us, home is where we live, and we take our furniture and everything with us, so relocation costs are substantial. We ended up in a ground-floor apartment out of town, but only a cheap 30-minute taxi ride to “the action”. The shopping was the main attraction, particularly for Helen,

We were asked to come and work at a school in Jakarta, and relocated, because we wanted to continue teacher training and we love Indonesia. Things didn’t work out, and we decided to try our hands at consulting, because we have a lot of connections with Indonesian private schools and Helen is a well-established Primary Years Programme workshop leader for the IB. After a year and a half for Helen, and a year for me, we are keeping the wolf from the door. Helen does a lot of IB workshops around Asia, and is working with the management of a school in East Jakarta. I’ve done one workshop for the IB, a few in Jakarta and one in Beijing. My main work has been a couple of tours doing school inspections in Dubai. I’ve done some course writing and prepared some teaching materials for a couple of organisations. We have just finalised our working visas and our Indonesian company, and will, hopefully, be expanding our business soon.

Teaching internationally has been great for us. We’ve had a few heartbreaks, but, overall we have been able to save money, travel, and every day brings a new experience. We have been to most of the countries in Asia, and some amazing places in them. We speak Bahasa Indonesia, so, when we see something interesting, we can ask questions. One of our delights in Surabaya was just walking through the villages behind us, and talking to the locals.

We’ve had a lot of funny experiences, and no really dangerous ones. For example, we were on a boat up river in Kalimantan, after visiting the orang-utan sanctuary, when the boat broke down, 50 km from the port. We literally hitch-hiked with a passing fisherman. Enroute to Tibet, we stopped in Chengdu, in China. We caught a taxi to a restaurant recommended in a guide book. Half-way there, we realised that we didn’t have the hotel’s card, so we had no way of knowing where to go back to or how to communicate it to anyone. After dinner it took us two taxi rides and a 1km walk before we recognised a landmark.

International schools are funny places – some are excellent. Also, the “true” international schools now make up only a fraction of the places in which you can teach internationally and in tougher economic times, in Asia, at least, they have increasing numbers of local students anyway. Overall the positives tend to outweigh the negatives. Our philosophy is that we want to make a difference, so that working in host-country schools that offer IB programmes is our preference. Not everyone is comfortable in these sort of schools, but they are the places that give real insight into other cultures.

Many people like to teach overseas for the change in locale. That is a factor for us, but it is more about the sort of school we work in. For us, working in IB schools has been fabulous. We have been to most of the regional conferences over the past ten years and have met so many talented, committed people. We get to visit schools and help teachers do it better. In the process, we keep learning something new about education most days.

One thing I would recommend is to get everything in writing and even then, depending on which country you are in, it doesn’t matter any way if someone decides to be unpleasant. If you are prepared to “roll with the punches”, while sticking to your principles, then teaching internationally can be amongst the best things you can do in education.

In 5 words: adventure, culture, education, difference, satisfaction.

Make sure the check out Andrew’s website which tells more about the services he currently offers to international schools.

Thanks Andrew!

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 Guangzhou like Andrew?  Currently, we have 8 international schools listed in Guangzhou on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

American International School of Guangzhou (12 Comments)
Guangzhou Nanhu International School (4 Comments)
Alcanta International College (6 Comments)
Guangzhou Huamei International School (5 Comments)
Clifford International School (8 Comments)
The Affiliated High School of SCNU (8 Comments)

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: An organized trip to help you get furniture for your new home.

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.

Must-have #5: An organized trip to help you get furniture for your new home.

It is not ideal to arrive the first day/night in your new host city only to arrive at your new apartment and find it VERY unfurnished.  It doesn’t necessarily start you on the right foot with regards to settling-in with your new life when maybe you do not even have a bed on which to sleep.  For sure there are many international schools out there that place their new teachers directly into furnished apartments or houses (e.g many international schools in Asia or the Middle East), but there are still quite a few international schools that can’t offer that same benefit. And even if your new apartment is furnished, many times it is not FULLY furnished with all the things you need and would like to have.

So….what to do then?  The first step to getting new furniture into your house is typically by going to in nearest IKEA in your new host country.  Now how do you get there (or another furniture store)?  Navigating the public transportation in a new city when you don’t read or speak the local language can be a bit stressful and a bit of a headache.  Taking a taxi in many European cities is just not the norm and can get quite expensive. Even if you take public transportation there, how will you get all your new things back with you?  We all know we leave with many more things than we thought we were going to get when we first walked in!  It would be a must then (since you most likely will not have a car) to pay the IKEA shipping fee as you are checking out.  In some countries that fee isn’t so bad, but in others, it can get a bit expensive.  Don’t forget too, that everything will be in the host country language, including the drivers of the IKEA shipping truck that comes to your house in a few days.  Trying to let the drivers know that they have the right place (when and if they finally arrive) will be one of your first stressful (or very funny) culture shock moment for you, that is if you are not able to speak a word of the language of the locals.

How great would it be then if your new school helped to coordinate your first visit to IKEA?  There are some international schools that appoint a go-to person for all new teachers.  This person will plan many trips for you around the city, but most importantly, they plan the all important trip to IKEA.  A colleague of ours has worked at a school where this go-to person was actually the director.  The director even offered to drive his own mini van to IKEA himself.  He also offered for the new teachers to use his credit card to pay for all the purchases at the check out when the new teacher’s own credit card didn’t work at the register because it was first time they used it overseas or something (of course that new teacher paid the money back to the director as soon as they could).

Another colleague of ours worked at a school that had a go-to person that even organized a large moving van to come and take the purchases to each of the new teachers’ homes after the shopping trip.  The guys driving the moving van even brought the furniture items up from the street level, up many flights of stairs to some teachers’ apartments; very lucky indeed!  As an additional benefit to the new teachers was the ability to request help putting the furniture together from the school’s custodian (up to around 3 hours).  Not having to put together your new IKEA furniture is just what you would dream of having, especially after exhausting day of being a new teacher at an international school. Oh, and we forgot to mention that the new teachers also got an nice, sizable allowance from the school to spend on buying furniture as well!

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In the Benefits Information section of the school profile page on our website, we have a topic related to housing – Details about the staff housing or the housing allowance. If there is no housing allowance, how much are rent costs and utilities?  There have been 100s of comments and information submitted in this topic on our website and many of them refer to the potential furniture needs that you may require. Here are a few of those comments:

“Housing is provided for single teachers. There are five schools houses about one or two blocks away from the school campus. Houses are not coed. Each teacher gets a bedroom and a bathroom and shares living space with 2 to 4 more teachers. The houses come fully furnished and they are equipped with appliances.” Colegio Inglés A.C. (Torreon) (12 Total Comments)

“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 (11 Total Comments)

“Apartments are located at Riffa, within 10 minutes drive of the school. They are within walking distance of most amenities. Most apartments are two/three-bedroomed, with good sized rooms, kitchen and two bathrooms. Most of the teachers reside in two apartment buildings close by to each other. All apartments are fully furnished. All items that you may want to purchase to personalize your apartment are readily available in homeware centres. Rugs and other traditional Arabic items are readily available at affordable prices. Apartment water and electricity bills (up to BD8) are paid directly by the school. Telephone bills are paid by the teacher.” Naseem International School (Bahrain) (19 Total Comments)

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 organize a trip to help new teachers get furniture for their new homes?  Please share your experiences!