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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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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!

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!

New Survey: On average, how many interviews do you go to at a recruitment fair?

A new survey has arrived!

Topic:  On average, how many interviews do you go to at a recruitment fair?

Screen Shot 2013-01-20 at 5.19.24 PMIs this the year when the power comes back into the candidate’s favor?  If so, you may be looking at a nice number of secured interviews at the recruitment fair you go to this year!

Around seven to ten years ago it really seemed like a different story; there were many positions available and not enough candidates to fill the positions. With the power more on the candidate’s side, you might feel like you are very much in demand at the fair.

As of late, it seems like the international schools at the fair are very much in control.  They have a number of candidates to choose from, and most likely quality candidates at that.  More quality candidates competing with you to secure interviews might mean less interviews for you to attend.

Putting the topic of who’s has the power aside, if you are a top candidate with a lot of domestic and international school teaching experience, you might still be looking at going to seven-plus interviews at certain fairs.  On the other hand if you are just starting out in teaching and in the international school community, you possibly might be looking at only securing a few.

As experienced international school teacher veterans know, it is not so cut and dry like that.  There are too many factors at which to look.  It all depends too on “luck and timing.”  Anyone who is a quality teacher and a good fit for the school will most likely get short-listed disregarding your lack of experience.LucovichJobFairInterview-Cropped

Some teachers, however, go to the fair with a plan.  That plan is to seek out only a small handful of schools.  If they are unsuccessful at securing an interview at those schools, then that is it for them.  It is a bit stressful to attend a fair and have your hopes dashed as you find the two schools that you were most interested in is not interested in you “at this time”, the vacancy has gone away or it has already been filled. Unfortunately, in this circumstance, you potentially will end up not going to any interviews.

Other teachers are very open to where they would like to go.  For those teachers, they might indeed end up securing more interviews.  Typically, they do say that you should be open-minded to attend an interview even if the school is not the one you are necessarily looking at or even if it is not in a location you were originally considering.   It is a fine line though between being ‘open-minded’ and potentially just wasting your time and the school’s time.  Because of the electric feeling in the air, sometimes you get caught up in all of the excitement at the fair that it is just fun to go to all interviews that are presented to you. You never know what will happen and smart networking is always a good thing!

So, on average, how many interviews do you go to at a recruitment fair?  Go to the homepage of International School Community and submit your vote today!  You can check out the latest voting results here.

From the staff at International School Community.