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Posts Tagged ‘international school teaching’

Survey results are in: Which international school teacher conference do you prefer to go to?

The survey results are in, and it seems as if most visitors and members of International School Community who voted have had the most success at IB conferences.

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IB conferences/workshops can prove to be a very motivating and enlightening experience.  Isn’t that what going to conferences is all about?  Most people might say that teaching is viewed as a career, and with careers comes professionalism.  Many international school teachers aspire to be the best professionals in the field.  The IB (PYP and MYP too) teachers definitely have similar aspirations as well; to learn more and more about the new ways of thinking and teaching using inquiry.  They are also looking to learn more about how to make their students’ thinking visible.

But like many workshops that you may attend at international school teaching conferences, the benefit of the workshop you attend greatly depends on the instructor that you get.  It can also be said that the success of your workshop depends on the people that attend it as well.  So many different factors come into play, but when all of them line up correctly, you are most likely in for an enlightening experience.  Those types of workshops can really inspire you throughout the rest of the conference and stay with you when you return back to work.

In terms of staff development benefits, the IBO requires that the teachers working in approved/accredited schools get on going PD in the IB philosophy and latest strategies on how best to instruct students in their inquiry programme. Instead of using your own PD monies to attend IB workshops, very often the school will take the costs involved out of their own monies.

There are many factors to consider when deciding on which international school at which to work.  Knowing about the professional development allowance (or lack there of) can prove to be helpful information to know; just to see what you can expect in terms of you getting the opportunity to attend workshops and conferences while you work there.  Luckily on International School Community, we have a Benefits Information section in the comments and information part of each school’s profile page that discusses this very topic.

• Professional development allowance details.

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Taken from International Community School Addis Ababa (35 Total Comments) school profile page.

There have been many comments and information submitted in this topic on numerous school profiles on our website.

One International School Community member said about working at Mef Int’l School Istanbul: “IBO certified IBDP and PYP training provided. Outside speakers such as Virginia Rojas brought in to provide in house PD.”

Another member said about working at Western International School of Shanghai: “Most teachers don’t get any out of school PD their first year of contract. Depends on the needs of the school.”

Another member submitted a comment about working at American School of Barcelona: “The PD amount is 390 Euros a year. You can roll over this amount for 3 years. But the reality some people get more, it is not so clear cut on who gets what amount and who gets to go to what PD opportunity.”

If you are currently a member of International School Community, please take a moment to share what you know by submitting some comments and information about the PD allowances at your international school. You can start by logging on here.

Stay tuned for our next survey topic which is to come out in a few days time.

Survey results are in: How many more years do you expect to keep teaching abroad at international schools?

The survey results are in, and it seems as if most visitors and members of International School Community who voted expect to keep working abroad at international schools for at least 1-3 more years.

For many of us, I suppose teaching abroad at international schools is a temporary circumstance in our lives.  Some of us have international school colleagues that move abroad to teach, and after their one and only international school posting, they are now living and happily working back in their home countries. Sure, there is a chance of them moving abroad again, but it likely to not happen again.  Many people look for stability in their lives, and many people ultimately find that stability back in their home countries.

For other international school educators, when they start working at international schools, they can’t seem to get enough of this life.  Working at international schools and moving from country to country can be very addictive.  10 total people out of 23 voted that they will be working at international schools 7-10 more years and even maybe for forever!  The salaries/benefits, work conditions and standard of life must be quite attractive for these people. If things are going well and you are not having to worry about money, why not choose to stay working at international schools?  It is nice to not have to worry about paying for housing or any utilities for example.  It is also maybe nice to not have to clean your house or wash your clothes as you may be able to hire a house keeper to do those things for you in your current position.  These people might have met their partner while living in their host country and now have decided to stay abroad for the long term!

Then there are the teachers that have made the all-important (and possibly difficult) decision to make this year their last one (3 people in our survey have said that this is what their future holds for them).  To say goodbye to the international school teaching world is sometimes not an easy decision to make.  Livin’ the ‘good life’ will soon be ending for you, and you may not ultimately want things to end.  Also, the anticipation of reverse culture shock is not necessarily welcomed with open arms.  Cringe!

On the other hand, your current situation might just be a very bad fit for you, enough of a bad fit that you have decided to not take the risk of working at another international school.  A very negative experience at one international school might have you come to the realization that this life really just is not a good fit for you.

Moving back home has it pros and cons, and one must look at them carefully.  One reason to not move back to many of the states in the United States is that the job market for teachers is not so good right now.  There are many, many teachers applying for one position still right now.  Hopefully as the U.S. economy improves, more money for staffing and for school districts in general will become available which may lead to more jobs for prospective teachers.  I think the same thing is happening at many international schools right now.  Many international schools are looking for and actually finding more families with children to attend their school.  More students typically means a higher need for more staffing.  How nice would it be if the power was back in the candidate’s hand at the recruitment fairs; more options and opportunities for us!

There are many factors to consider when deciding to stay abroad or move back home.  Knowing about what kinds of teachers work at an international school and the average staff turnover rate can prove to be helpful information to know; just to see what others are doing who maybe from the same country and situation as you.  Luckily on International School Community, we have a School Information section in the comments and information part of each school’s profile page that discusses this very topic.

• Describe what kinds of teachers work here (local vs. expat, nationality, qualifications [or lack there of], etc.) and staff turnover rate.

There have been many comments and information submitted in this topic on numerous school profiles on our website.

One International School Community member said about working at Khartoum International Community School: “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.”

Another member said about working at Tsinghua International School (Beijing): “Can’t really comment too much on this as things may have changed. When I was there lots of staff were from North America, but what could be called “old Chinese hands.” They’d lived in China a long time. Other staff were Chinese with American passports. All were great, but at the time, not many were what you’d think of as north American trained teachers. Very high turnover when I was there.”

Another member submitted a comment about working at Colegio Granadino Manizales: “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.”

So how many more years do you expect to keep teaching abroad at international schools? Please share what your plans are!

Stay tuned for our next survey topic to come out in a few days time.

Survey results are in: How important is it to be able to communicate in the local language in your current placement?

The survey results are in, and it seems as if most visitors and members of International School Community who voted think that it is basically not so important to be able to communicate in the local language at their current placement.

Of course, knowing the local language is important.  We all know how closely related a language is to the culture that uses it.  On the other hand, how much can native speakers of English “get-away with” not communicating in the local language and only speaking English?  It is getting easier and easier it seems in many locations in the world.

So let’s say you are living in a place where it is very important to be able to communicate in the local language.  Do you have the “gift” of language learning?  Most likely you are thinking that all the other people around you have the gift and you don’t!  It is the argument that people (e.g. international school teachers) to talk about often and at length: can all people learn 2nd languages as an adult or is it just some people who have the gift and can do it much more “easily”?

It is always a topic of discussion for an expat and their other expat colleagues; your colleagues ability to learn (or not learn) the local language.  You often hear us saying to each other: “wow you are very good at (local language)!” or “You are studying a lot it seems and it is paying off” or “I wish I could speak as good as you.”  These comments or observations may or may not be exactly true, but it is definitely our perception of other expats around us and we are very sensitive to this issue due to our own ability or or lack of ability to communicate in the local language.

You might say it is important in every location to know the local language; it can greatly enhance your experience living in a culture and part of the world that is unknown to you. Even if the need isn’t there to be able to communicate in the local language, most of us want to put forth our best effort to learn it and not just give up so easily.  Taking risks, going outside of your comfort zone, and being willing to make mistakes would be part of a philosophy that a successful 2nd language learner would adopt.  Some countries even provide you with free language classes as a new immigrant there paid for by the local government.  That would make it even easier for you to take on this challenge to acquire another language.

Have you been in the following situation though?  One day you walk into a store in your current placement.  You start talking in the local language.   The person working at the store just immediately talks back to you in English.  Then the next day you walk into the same store, but different worker.  You ask if they know English.  The person says yes and proceeds to give you a lecture on how you should learn the local language and try and speak it.

Sometimes it seems like you can’t win some days.  Local people in other countries kind of act the same in this regards.  It doesn’t matter where you are, the locals definitely have their opinion about the second language learning abilities of the immigrants living there and how they should be able to use the language.  Many times though your exchange is very positive, sometimes too positive…when the local showers you with compliments about your ability giving you a false sense of your true ability in the language.  It is all a matter of opinion sometimes.  One local might think you are good, another one not so much.

I have even been in some countries (where there is a relatively small population speaking a certain language), and they just tell me “well it is not so useful to learn our language, you might as well just stay with communicating in English as all people here can speak it.” Funny that!

One International School Community member said: “On my current assignment in Copenhagen, I technically do speak the local language, since English is ubiquitous. However, I find it difficult to learn Danish as there is little opportunity to practice given my full time commitment to speaking English at work and taking on-line classes at night. On previous assignments in Japan and Bosnia and Herzegovina, I found not learning the language to be a stumbling block to communication and true understanding. Ultimately, learning the local language helped to further my interests to open up rich conversation about culture as well as to make a connection with others. I’ve noticed this helpful both inside and outside the classroom.”

One final question then is how do you respond to the 2nd language learners of English in your home country (if that is indeed an English-speaking country)?  Surely, now you can relate better to their situation and be more sensitive to their ability level in English (if it is low).

In conclusion, what does the future hold for being able to communicate in the local language in your current placement in the future?  Maybe we will see there being even a lesser need to be able to communicate in the local language, maybe in some locations in the world you will need to know the local language even more.  How important is it to you in your current placement? Does your international school specifically look for teachers who are able to communicate in their local language?  Some international schools do consider it to be important if you are at a school that has a high population of local students whose parents don’t speak English very well.  Please share your comments about your current placement and how you use (or don’t need to use) the local language.

Survey results are in: How much does your school pay for your housing benefits?

The survey results are in, and it seems as if most visitors and members of International School Community don’t receive any housing allowance at all in their current placement at the international school at which they work.  The survey also shows though that there are just about the same number of teachers that are receiving housing benefits with many getting the rent and all utilities paid for by their school.

Some of my international school teacher friends don’t get any housing allowance, namely those that are living in Western Europe.  The ones that aren’t getting a housing allowance in these countries in Europe have a variety of different salaries too which is important to note.  Those in schools on the Mediterranean have lower salaries and many have to actually have a roommate so that they can more easily afford the local rent.  Those international school teachers working in Switzerland and in Scandinavian countries have higher salaries and are able to live more comfortably in a nice apartment all by themselves.  In turn, if your school doesn’t offer a housing benefit to you, then make sure to do your research on the local rental situation in the city that you will be living in.  Also, make sure that you look at your actual monthly salary and minus the rent that you will have to pay.  Then you will get a good indicator on what your actual salary will be after you pay your monthly rent bill.  After you deduct the costs of the rent, you still might come out fairly well when you compare your school with other international schools that actually offer housing benefits.

Which brings us to the international schools that do offer housing benefits.  How cool is it to not have to pay for your housing?  Without having to pay for your rent, you definitely have a different mindset about your money and how you spend it while living abroad.  If you don’t have a rent payment each month, you can more easily travel sometimes, you can go out to eat more often, and take taxis everywhere through out the city.  Basically the rest of the regions of the world are offering some sort of housing benefit: SE Asia, Asia, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa, South America, Caribbean, Central America, etc…They do vary though from region to region and whether they include the costs of your utilities or not.  All things to make sure you understand completely when considering a placement in these areas.  The quality of housing varies as well from region to region and city to city, even the housing that is available more for the expats living there.  Many times too, if your housing is included, you will most likely be living in already furnished housing.  Do you enjoy living in an apartment with used furniture (sometimes quite old, ugly-looking and rundown)?  Some international school teachers enjoy the fact that they don’t have to buy furniture during their placement (and have to worry about getting rid of it/selling it when they leave).  Some teachers though enjoy collecting/buying their own furniture, thus possibly having a more “homey” feeling in their home.

So, what does the future hold for the kind of housing benefits that will dominate in the future for international schools in 2013?  Maybe we will see less international schools offering this benefit, maybe some will offer it more.  How important is it to you, the housing benefits, when considering a job at an international school? Some consider it the most important as your rent is usually the biggest chunk of your monthly expenses.  Without that payment to make each month, you have much more money to spend on other things….namely traveling!

Recruitment Resources for International Teachers: The long list of things to think about! (Part 3 of 3)

There are so many things to think about and search for information about when recruiting.  Why not have all the links you need to reference all in one location?

Teacher Recruitment Checklist & Calendar:

Aug/Sept

Obtain registration material from recruitment agencies. Update resume and gather references.

Rethink and rewrite your educational philosophy.

Start mentally saying goodbye to your present school, even though you just started a new school year!

Oct/Nov

Register with one or two recruitment fairs and make travel arrangements, and the sooner the better.  If you want to get into the Bangkok fairs, you need to get your application in VERY early to be considered.

Contact and research schools of interest.  The vacancies are just starting to trickle in on the Search and Tieonline websites.

Dec

Finalize plans for the international job fairs.

Prepare 20 plus copies of your resume and 20 plus photos of yourself to include with it.

Get your suit dry cleaned and bone up on your interviewing skills.

Make a list of questions to ask the recruiters about their school.

Make a list of your priorities and / or what is important to you in a job.

Get ready to spend hours and hours of time on the internet researching during your vacation time, but don’t expect that many schools (if any) to get back to you over the break (they are on break too!)

Jan/Feb/March

Job fairs and lots of interviews. *Some smaller fairs are held as early as Christmas vacation!

Be patient and follow up on all leads.

Some things are negotiable before signing on that dotted line!

Ask if there are any teachers from the school you are interested in attending the fair… then buy them a drink and get the real scoop on the school!

Get Skype on your computer and practice your Skype calling skills so that you are an expert.

These months are also the time when you need to give your word that you are officially leaving your current school. (Some schools like in Europe are more flexible.)

April/May

Prepare for round two “job fairs in June” and follow up on any leads.

Realize that many job contracts are signed during these months, even though most international school teachers would like to know where they are going much earlier!

June/July

Transition, Pack up, and ship out!

Saying goodbye to your old friends and get ready to say hello to your new ones!

The overseas adventure begins (continues).

(Taken from the blog article from wwteach.)

Also check out all the comments and information about 1000s of different international schools around the world on International School Community!

Exiting an international school and giving feedback: How honest should you be?

Sometimes things are difficult or slow to change at an international school, especially political things or things connected to the host country/culture.  If a group of teachers is leaving at the end of the same year, sometimes the group would like to take the opportunity to “voice their concerns” to the schools to let them know which school-related things should really change before a new group of teachers comes in and is subjected to those things as well.  Sometimes the feedback is requested, sometimes not.  Also, sometimes your voice has fallen upon deaf ears or is directed to the wrong person when the person with “the power to change things” is not physically at the school on most days.

Excerpts taken from The International School Teacher website:

“Some questions for the IST community about exiting a school and feedback.

Many schools conduct exit interviews for departing staff, and I understand that some could be more productive than others.  What are your experiences with this?

At my school, feedback is not universally accepted, and many staff are nervous about offering constructive feedback for fear of reprisals.  With that said, many board members and administration would like to hear constructive feedback.  Here is what I’m considering: inviting departing staff members to compose an open letter to the board and the administration with specific feedback as to the positive attributes of the school, and those that could be improved.  Feedback to any specific individual would not be part of this letter, that seems inappropriate, that kind of feedback should be asked for specifically from an individual who wants to receive it.  Rather, this letter would focus on policies, programs, etc.

I suppose the idea behind the letter is that it would demonstrate a more unified voice, and would therefore be harder to cast aside at an administrative level.

Is this appropriate?  Am I missing something?

As international teachers, we have a pretty unique situation in the employee-employer world; in most other places, the only time you would have a mass exodus of employees would be when they are being “pink slipped.”  But, as International Teachers, this attrition is normal and natural—speaking as one voice would seem to be an opportunity unique to us.

Hmmm?”

Stay updated on the latest comments and information about hundreds of international schools on International School Community.

Blogs of international school teachers: You are the author of your own life story – Create your life!

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

Our 13th blog that we would like to highlight is called “You are the author of your own life story – Create your life!”  Check out the blog entries of this international school teacher who is currently working at an international school in United Arab Eremites.

Entries we would like to highlight:

International Teaching Fair 2/2010

“International Teaching Fairs are the traditional way to connect prospective schools with teachers.  I believe technology will be changing this practice more each year as it is less costly to interview via Skype than to send a hiring team around the globe.  Skype misses that element of personal connection which can be critical in creating a good fit between staff and school, although some principals with extensive international teacher hiring experience may not see that as a priority.  Online portfolios allow the applicant to upload files, photos, even videos and the administrator can choose what they would like to review.  If different documents are needed, a quick email to request and a few moments to transfer, is all that is required.  In my case, my use of rubrics was of interest and I was able to share specific lessons, rubrics I created and student work samples in several content areas.  The ability to upload immediately demonstrated my ability to respond to requests quickly as well as my organization and technology skills. The job offer that I accepted was the one where the process was all online, except for the one concluding phone call.  At the time of the fair, though, I had only sent this school my CV and resume.

Making the decision to go to California for the international teaching fair was, like most events in my life, attempted one step at a time.  I had the invitation.  I had the airline miles.  What I didn’t have was money for the hotel, food and other things needed while there.  Also, my professional clothes were in storage in Oregon.  I bought a couple blazers online and luck was with me as they coordinated with my slacks and blouses and fit well, too.  Investing in makeup and an awesome hair cut/color (thanks Michelle at All Things Beautiful Salon) was the most expensive part but incredibly important.  The last part was the hotel and associated costs, but thankfully, my tax return came through and I had the funds to make the trip.

I stayed at the less expensive hotel next to where the fair was being held.  What I had researched strongly suggested staying in the hotel where all the action was, but I was very glad to not be.  There were times that I needed to get away.  Staying in the same hotel is in the best interest of the folks hiring, but not as much for the applicant.  I was able to sit at the bar, reading and enjoying a dinner without having to wonder who else was around.  I could take off my teacher hat for awhile and just relax.

I woke up later than I anticipated, but really was taking my time, I think, to feel in control.  I didn’t want to be one of the first to arrive and the days schedule was long.  By the time I walked across the parking lot to the conference rooms I was nervous again.  There was so many people!  Going into the candidates “lounge” where the rooms walls were covered in sheets of paper listing the school, country and positions available, I noticed that most people had an intensity that I wanted to resist.  The tables were covered in laptops and I started to regret not bringing Brett’s, but I travel light.  I did end up using the hotels business center at a cost of $5 for fifteen minutes and calling Kelina to go online for me quite a bit.

Many people had printed special coordinating note cards, cv’s and other stationary needs.  That is not my style.  Many of the candidates also requested interviews with many, many  schools.  I only had a few countries that I would go.  Once again, I find myself in the position of being different than the majority.  Immediately, I started networking, introducing myself and asking, “What’s your story?”  I think that was my favorite part.  Talking with many teachers from many states and many with international experience, too.  We all got to be very friendly, supporting each others efforts and contributing to a positive atmosphere.

Interviews were all super short, most commonly about 15 minutes.  Some schools, especially the new ones, were prepared to interview dozens of teachers.  Other schools were obviously looking for only certain qualities and were limited their number of interviews.   All day Friday I participated in the process to secure interviews for the next two days.  Saturday was spent interviewing and chatting.  Saturday night was the “dinner” which was enjoyable, but not really helpful for me.  By this time, there had been some job offers and also many rejections.

A great part of the fair was the presentations from schools. All day, there were several small rooms where schools brought out their power points and marketing pitches.  Some were a hard sell, others not, but I loved them!  It was like the travel channel.  I learned about many countries and really confirmed by decision to focus on the UAE.

By Sunday, I knew that I was going to be one of the ones who left without a job offer.  I was okay with that and had faith that things would work out well.  Many of the candidates were very stressed by this time.  Sunday afternoon, I was ready to go but my flight wasn’t until the next morning.  Checking my email in the hotel business center I opened an email from the school in Abu Dhabi asking if I was still available.”

You’re What?!

“Telling folks that I have accepted a kindergarten teaching position in Abu Dhabi and will be living in Dubai has been fun.  Their reactions, both in facial expressions as well as in words, has ranged from, “Wow”, “No!””, “That’s great” and “Why?” to my personal favorite, “Are you out of your fricken mind?”

Usually, the first question has been why, a completely reasonable question to which I have several answers.  The quick answer is, because I can.  Another answer has been a short explanation on the three category system that Brett and I used while making the decision.  The categories were  1. quality of life  2. school for Brett  3. ability to save money with a possible one, two or three stars in each.  Staying in my position in Hawaii resulted in a score of 5, other options were discussed, but then the offer for the Abu Dhabi scored a 8.

The reason that I even started thinking about  it was because one evening, before the holidays, I was aimlessly googling phrases like “how to make money as a teacher” and “extra work for teachers”.  (In Hawaii, when the teacher furloughs started and my pay was decreased 9%, I started tutoring after school three days a week to make up the difference in my budget, but every month is still a struggle.)  International Teaching came up in my internet search and I thought it was a great idea.  A few days later, at a holiday potluck for staff at my school, I met a couple who were previous teachers.  They were visiting since they had returned from several years overseas.  Getting some direction as to how to proceed in my research, what recruiters to trust, what to watch out for, and sharing their satisfaction with their choice to teach overseas gave me good background information to proceed.

I applied to many, many schools online.  From Thailand to Taiwan, Singapore to Malaysia, Indonesia to Hong Kong – but the country that was my first choice was, from the very first, UAE.  I applied at a great school in Abu Dhabi, but didn’t hear back before I went to an international teaching fair in San Francisco.  At the fair, I had several interviews but not an offer.  (More about the fair in another post) When I returned, I received an email from the CEO of the Abu Dhabi school asking for more information.  I sent my online portfolio as well as links to my two websites for class use, and was very happy to accept the offer that soon came.

When I told Brett about the offer, the fact that we had only 6 hours to decide since this person was at different international teaching fair in Dubai didn’t faze him at all.  He called, emailed and texted his friends, both in Hawaii and in Oregon, and arrived at his decision in less than two hours.”

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