Being Sick of Home is Hard to Cure

After the Holiday, I Don’t Want to Go Back (our previous Blog  topic) attracted insightful responses packed with sound advice. One provocative response really hit home with us at ISR. We would like to solicit your comments:

“I’m relatively new to the teaching profession (certified in ’07) and have a question for the author of last week’s Blog Topic: What great thing do you have waiting for you in the United States that would keep you here? I’d say, if you really want to meet the most miserable, dejected people on Earth, visit the teachers’ lounge in any U.S. public school! Corporatists have the man-on-the-street believing teachers are at fault for all of America’s social problems, and that they’re overpaid to boot!”

Another ISR Blogger wholeheartedly concurred:
“Brilliantly stated! Once you get out of the USA, you find a whole world of teaching and learning that is thriving and — while imperfect to varying degrees — honoring the very educational values that American culture is rejecting.”

ISR agrees — we as teachers are infinitely more free to teach and develop our craft overseas. Teaching abroad offers small class sizes, supportive parents, a violence-free environment, a high percentage of motivated students, and no political mandates such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). What’s your opinion? Would you rather be a bit homesick OR sick of home?

23 thoughts on “Being Sick of Home is Hard to Cure

  1. I was also recently certified and got my masters in teaching in 06. I left the US not really out of choice, but because no school would pay to have me. The reality of the situation was (and in some cases still is in the US) that they would rather take a teacher who has a BA or a less education so that they can pay them less and save money. I was at the time willing to teach in inner city schools and sent may application to multitudes of schools. I got a handful of interviews. Finally I had to leave the US and through a fluke landed an international teaching job. I have never been turned away at an international school for having too much education, only for having too little IB experience.


  2. I’ve been an international educator for 13 years, but this year I’ll be returning home to Canada. To what, I cannot say. I suspect I will have to wait to see what teaching opportunities are available to me, but one think I know is that I have had a WONDERFUL life as a teacher in Asia. Yes there have been challenges — serious health issues for my daughter, high cost of traveling has eaten up any savings potential, separation from family — but there have also been huge benefits. Few discipline issues so I can spend my time thinking up ways to teach better. Supportive administrations who respect my professional expertise. Parents who value what I do and know we’re on the same side.
    It’s scary and exciting heading into the unknown (strange to think of my birth country as “unknown territory”) but I have no idea what to expect with the schools there. And how does one region differ from another? I don’t want to hate my school, as my brother has for years (he has stayed in Canada) but just stay on for the pension. Maybe I’ll move out of teaching altogether, or move into another form of teaching.


  3. I find poo-pooing America’s public schools to be so myopic. Yes, they increasingly suck, but it’s nothing short of narrow-minded to say they are full of incompetent nitwits and those incompetent nitwits are wholly responsible. US public schools are manifesting the failure of MULTIPLE SOCIETAL SYSTEMS that used to be the foundation of our society and economy. They are being squeezed by external forces far beyond the control of any administrator, teacher or child.

    I find bad i-schools, like the one where I currently teach, to be far more morally egregious. I would never say I am “infinitely more free to teach and develop my craft overseas.” One is not free to do very much good teaching at all with a population of elitist layabouts in an ultra-conservative society.


  4. rca

    Couldn’t agree more. Great post.

    I see teachers, often US teachers, changing grades upwards at the request of US administrators or even without being asked to do so. When I look for clarification I am told how things are done in the US in this way.

    As more of thes scoundrels appear at International schools and get excellent results (LOL) there will be fewer and fewer places to go work out there.

    If you get a job selling cars rca and you need an assistant, give me a call.


  5. it’s interesting to see how teachers are leaving America and flocking overseas in search of a better life only to encounter a life that, although much better than what it is in the US, is not what it was years ago or is touted to be. Really quite symbolic of both the decline of the middle class and of the plight of the immigrant population…I’ve been international teaching for 15 year and would love to have a job selling cars in America


  6. I agree with many postings about teaching in the United States.
    Many U. S. teachers tend to inflate grades. However, if one fails a sports hero, pack your bags. A cursory review of scores
    on the state administrated tests are usually higher than the
    grade level benchmark results. Also, the focus on public
    schools in the United States is to indoctrinate rather than
    educate children. I have found my experience with international schools in four different overseas countries to be very rewarding.
    It has been a pleasure to get away from U. S. schools.


  7. Just to add a slightly different perspective on things. I am UK teachers who has taught overseas before and is doing so currently. I feel there are good experiences an bad experiences teaching in every country on the globe and for every school in the UK i would not set foot in I could find teachers who love teaching there. I am currently teaching in a school that receives terrible reviews on the ISR site, there are teachers there who hate it and others who love it. I pesonally think that the reviews on here are potentially misleading but they were the views of those reviewers and I have to respect that.
    I will not be away long before I return and and make some change to my career direction. I will always teach in some way bt teaching will in future be a smaller part of my portfolio.
    For me the US is teaching overseas just as China is, just as Qatar is ad just as New Zealand is. I would consider going to teach in the US but I see it as one of the riskier options. My perception is that for an outsider, accreditation in the US is not easily achieved.
    My perception as an “overseas candidate for the US” is that the US has systemic problems in society generally that make the life of many teachers very problematic. These problems are probably amplified by movies such as 0ne Eight Seven but I am sure that the key issues raised by the movie are to be found in real life.
    I have met other expats who say they would never teach in the UK and the system is derelict. I would say that I think the UK system tends to be following the US system although 10-20 years behind just as UK society seems to be going the same way.
    I am home sick for home. I have a family including children and grandchildren and for me skype isnt as good as a real life hug. I am in my early fifties and married and we use the International experience as others have suggested. Opportunities to teach are opportunities to teach, they are all different and finding he one to suit yourself as a teacher is key. To say “I would never go back” seems odd to me as does saying “I would never teach anywhere else than”.
    The world is a big place and life is short, more so for some than others. One needs to do the work that one would prefer to do, where one wants to wherever possible. I think it was confucious who said “a man who enjoys his job never works a day in his life”. If that is at home or overseas is not for me important but it is a personal decision and our personal decision is all we can reflect upon and is certainly the only one we should criticise.
    I make decisions for me and mine and work hard to help those in my temporary custody learn and develop and this often involves working with teams of educators.
    I wish everyone here and ideed everyone eveyone a happy and successful 2012 whether teacher or not and whether “at home” or not. Make the right decisions for you and yours.
    Would I rather be a bit homesick OR sick of home?
    “Teaching” in a school is not required to be and educator and for me teaching is but a part of what I will reflect on in my final 30 minutes, and a fairly small part at that.


  8. Stay in the US, it’s the greatest! Nothing to see out here! Seriously though, RIP American Dream. And to my fellow international teachers who saw this coming and jumped ship years ago, it was nice to be treated like a human while it lasted, wasn’t it? Enjoying the deluge at the wrong end of supply and demand yet? We haven’t even hit midnight, either. Breaking even will be the norm as an overseas teacher in the next few years…


    1.’s already started..teachers are being treated like cattle at fairs, there is a huge influx of wannabes with serious credentials, and I’ve been hearing about little perks drying up and big perks on there way out…good times are over…international teaching will suck in a few years


  9. My first four years of teaching was in international schools in Latin america and SE Asia. Although there was some ups and downs I had really good all around experiences. I wanted to go back to the U.S. and give public school teaching a go. I am almost at the first semester mark and right now I would do almost anything to get back to international teaching. The problems were already well documented by previous posters and the highlights of teaching at international schools. I will just add that I felt when I was in international schools I disliked being around many of my fellow teachers who were just on a permanent vacation, and a couple of them that definitely should be no where near a classroom.

    I thought things were a bit more professional in the public schools and I was looking for more structure and a challenge. So I got a position at a smallish town high school, and it has been a brutal semester. I got to pull out at least a few years back in the U.S. to finish my masters I started at a local uni., and please my family a bit by being around a little more, but every single day I am trying to keep my sanity and drive to stick out teaching in a public school.

    I remember seeing a statistic in college about how 50% of new teachers leave the profession within 5 years. My first 4 years teaching in international schools I could not figure out why that was the case, because I enjoyed going into my job everyday. Now after one semester in a U.S. public school I can definitely see why that is a true stat.


  10. After two years teaching overseas, after teaching 11 years in U.S. public school system, I have decided I NEVER want to go home again. I don’t miss the fighting in school, the racism, and outside school I don’t miss the politics, the 24-hour news feeds, and the lack of respect towards teachers in general. I like living in a country (Indonesia) where if you tell people you are a “guru” that generates a positive response. I love being able to finally save money for the first time in my teaching career and not struggle monthly to pay my bills. I love it that when I teach a particular excellent lesson (and even not so excellent) that my students walk out of my class and say “Thank you Miss” as they leave. I don’t think more than a handful of students ever thanked me for my efforts on their behalf in a classroom in the United States.

    On the downside, I do miss tenure! I don’t like it that some administrators in international schools act like it is their little fiefdom and hire and fire people based on personality issues and not performance in the classroom. I also worry as I get older about “ageism” in international schools. I think that there is a tendency to favor younger teachers even if they have less experience. Maybe I’m wrong about this as my current school is my first international school. I guess we’ll see what happens at the job fair!


  11. Each country creates a unique teaching culture. Educators from the Commonwealth countries often seem to transition into the international teaching experience easier than are their American counterparts.

    The US has 50 different state school systems. Like the international arena, such confusion fosters many exemplary schools but, also, little fiefdoms; thinly veiled for-profit ventures, run by local businessmen and politicians. Subsequently, US teachers may be better at recognizing and questioning the top-heavy, profit-driven, management-centered international school. At my int’l. school, US teachers proved very irritating and quickly became the last hired and the first fired. Check out the job fairs your future int’l. school attends. If the US is not on the list, be forewarned. Diversity is not welcomed there.

    Having said that, it was only after entering international teaching that I was able to pay my bills, travel AND save money. I’m not going back to the US any time soon.


    1. I think one of the key things JP mentioned is the ability to save or even pay bills. I had student loans and tried to make in the US. I went even further into debt and was all of a sudden without insurance, permanent housing or anything of the sort. I picked up what little I had of my life and left for Europe. I spent the last of my savings to get to some school fairs, and I got hired. Now I can pay bills, I can save, and I can travel. Things I never thought were possible before. In the end that makes me a happier person not to stress everyday about how I’m going to live, and I am not overly concerned with whether the school is a teacher’s heaven or not. However, I should say that I am lucky to be at a school which I deem to be “good” and puts the students education first.


    2. Wow. So not attending a US job fair means a school doesn’t welcome diversity? How do you figure that? Hiring Brits, Canadian, South Africans or Singaporeans at fairs in Thailand, the U.K. or Canada means a school doesn’t welcome diversity?

      Nor do I think that the US teachers have some kind of inbuilt “B.S.-detectors” that mean they are “better at recognizing the top-heavy, profit-driven, management-centered international school.”


  12. I am a science teacher that has only been thinking about leaving the US for less than a year, but my desire to do so grows stronger by the day. I would like to teach in Dubai or Singapore. Over the last eight years I have never had my annual contract renewed and always due to “budget cuts” or if I angered an administrator. Schools in the US have become all about appearances and backroom politicking of peaople with their own agendas that have absolutely nothing to do with the students academic achievement or to cover theirs butts to satisfy some arbitrary learning standard set by the state government. Each year I go to more training classes, do more paperwork and administrative tasks and have less and less time to plan and teach effectively. It has become obvious to me after teaching in three different states and many different districts that American administrators and legislators do not want good teachers that stimulate the students minds and make them think for themselves in the classroom, just a warm body that babysits the kids and keeps them ignorant. Over the years I have been asked to fudge my grades to make the school look better, told to be quiet when I objected to the district extending a basic 9th grade Biology class into two years just to make so easy that anyone could pass it and most recently, asked to resign when I actually required that my AP Biology students do their homework and study. I was thrown into teaching an AP class with no training, then expected to perform miracles within just weeks of starting all the while having my planning time taken away from me for “meetings” and “training classes” almost everyday. The real trouble started when I told them that I would not attend anymore of these if scheduled during my planning time. I was working 15 hour days from 5:30am to 8 or 9pm every single day just to keep up with all the demands being placed on me. When I found out that my AP students were conspiring to get me fired by telling lies about me and that the administrators were more likely to take the student’s word over mine, I knew it was time to quit. It is these reasons and many, many more that indicate why the American education system will continue to decline. The teachers shoulder all the responsibilities and do all the work for less and less pay, weaker and weaker benefits and no job security. Who in their right mind would want to teach in the US like this? I truly hope I get hired overseas soon, because if I don’t, my teaching career will end now.


    1. A very interesting post. I have just been told that my contract is not to be renewed here in Singapore for the exact same reasons listed above – I just can’t keep my mouth shut. I have not taught in Dubai but Bahrain had very similar conditions, and it looks so good on administrators’ records when they leave no child behind. Don’t kid yourself; paradise-like conditions are very hard to find and cannot be generalized by country. There are good schools and bad schools everywhere.


    2. I agree with Chabin. See the blog post on grade inflation in international schools. Students conspiring to manipulate administrators or teachers happens everywhere that there is ridiculous pressure to “succeed”, i.e. take one path in life only and that is through an ivy league American university. When grades, not learning, are what they and their parents care about, the teacher is viewed as the enemy if kids don’t get an A. In Korea, they talk about anything less than an A being an “Asian fail”!


  13. The advantages of a teaching environment abroad as described by ISR sound about the same as those experienced when teaching at most private schools in the United States. Look at the ISR statement above when one word, “abroad”, is replaced by “a private school” and you’ll see what I mean.

    “Teaching [at a private school] offers small class sizes, supportive parents, a violence-free environment, a high percentage of motivated students, and no political mandates such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).”


  14. I think when the author mentioned that he was homesick, he was not implying that he missed his previous school environment. I could be wrong. Home for me refers to many things – family, friends, food, culture, climate and more. I am from a third-world country which has typical third-world problems but I love my country to dirt. I tell my friends that my love for my country is beyond my control because there seems to be something in my blood vessels that makes me love my country despite the numerous things about my country that drives me crazy.


  15. I have lived in New Zealand for the last 10 years and work at a school that I describe as a real high school. Just enough troublesome kids to keep life interesting and 95% really cool kids. We have just as many gripes about the education system (have a look at New Zealand’s NCEA system!), contracts, class sizes (no more than 28 please!) and other stuff that you hear around the world, but for the most part it’s a cool country to work in. People who have come and gone at our school talk about the collegiality of our staff and I think that is important in any school. If the staff works together and supports one another, you can get through almost anything.


  16. When I came to work for the first time in an international school, I thought I had died and gone to teacher heaven! Supportive parents, motivated students who love to learn, NO discipline problems, accountability yes but no daily emphasis on standardized test results, commitment to community service, I could go on and on. It’s a world of difference from teaching where I came from in Texas.

    I’ve never regretted my decision to teach internationally. Do I miss home? Sometimes but not enough to want to give this up and go back. Yes, I agree, there are good and bad international schools but I am fortunate that my first experience was/is a good one that keeps me going.

    I considered that my age (60) could account for my lack of being homesick but I’m not sure if that matters. The adventurous twenty somethings I meet enthusiastically embrace their new but temporary homes knowing they will go home to visit at least once or twice during the year.

    I’ll go home someday but for now, I’m enjoying myself too much to consider it.


  17. I agree with Wilbert. I have worked in a number of countries and schools. Each has it’s faults and advantages. For example, I loved working and living in Hong Kong and the salary was amazing, but I didn’t like the 10-12 hour work day nor the VERY demanding Chinese parents. I think schools in Australia as generally great places to work and the salary is good


  18. I’m sure that there are many places that have not-so-great environments in the U.S. That is not universally true. I teach at a great 6-12 public school that gives us freedom to do what we need to do and the support to match.

    I just returned after a 4 year stint overseas. I enjoy both. There are good and bad schools in both the U.S. and the international arena. I find that anyone who tries to talk in absolutes doesn’t know what they are talking about.

    With all of that said–My impression is that that things are not as good as they were internationally or domestically as they were a decade or more ago.

    The international market, imho, will only get worse as it becomes less difficult to discover and get to most places on earth. There will be more and more 2-4th tier schools, more people willing to work for ‘the adventure’ instead of a good wage, and it will make things increasingly unappealing for all except those the top schools.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.