Is Teaching Abroad Right for ME as a New Teacher? by: Dr. Barbara Spilchuk, ISR On line Teacher Consultant

March 28, 2013

choice41516506Each year more and more university students are choosing to go abroad after they’ve finished their Education degree. Many come to me asking the question: “Is international teaching the right choice for me?” This is not a question I can easily answer for young people choosing to make their first teaching experience an international one. All I can do is tell the students to consider the following three questions:

Have you traveled abroad before? The answer to this question may seem unimportant; however, young teachers who have international experiences, even travel experiences with their families, have a greater understanding of the cultural differences they might experience when they go abroad. This greater understanding will set them up for a better chance of success in a country where the life experience is significantly different from what they are used to.

Are you LEAVING or GOING? The answer to this question is pretty critical. If a young teacher simply cannot find work in his/her own country, and s/he feels that an international teaching experience is the only option left to begin a teaching career, this is not the best reason for going abroad. Why do I say this? I say this because when you make a decision about your career, you should make the decision to GO to someplace, not LEAVE some place, for whatever reason. Every time I’ve made a decision to LEAVE some place, it has not been as productive for me as when I have made a decision to GO to a specific place. It is all in the mind-set. Let me explain:

If I am leaving some place for a reason that is not positive (i.e.: I cannot get a job, I’ve had an argument with my family or friend, I’m trying to escape an existing poor work situation), then my mind is not on the future….It is on the past because I have not reconciled myself with whatever the issue was that has prompted me to LEAVE. I have learned that it is better for me to be at peace with whatever situation is at ‘home’ before I decide to GO to a new place. This way my mind is fully situated in the future and I have a better chance of success with no regrets for my past. An exception to this rule is if    the situation ‘at home’ is a dangerous one that you need to remove yourself    from.

Do you have a specific place in mind where you would like to GO?  Have you done your homework on the host country’s people, customs, environment, politics? Not every international teaching location is good for every young teacher…or for every seasoned teacher, for that matter! Knowing something about the country you may be going to BEFORE you accept a contract can help you stay out of difficulty. Customs, traditions, religious beliefs, gender or racial issues or biases, economic demographics, attitude towards foreigners, health and safety issues, just to name a few considerations, should be explored BEFORE you sign a contract!

I shake my head when I get a letter from a young teacher that says s/he feels isolated or unwelcome within their community and they want to break contract. Did you check to see what the situation was in that community BEFORE you agreed to sign the contract? How did you check? Did you ask to speak to teachers already there? Did you talk to someone from your embassy? Did you research online? Did you read the ISR reviews of the school you would be going to BEFORE you signed your contract? Better yet, did you try to find a travel partner to go with? I always recommend that new international teachers go in pairs, either with their spouse or with another ‘newbie’. That way there is a built-in support system in the new location to help with the cultural and isolation transition.

There are so many things to consider when choosing International Education as your first choice when moving into your education career after completing university. I encourage you to think things over carefully and if you have questions or comments, just scroll down and post your thoughts. I’ll be keeping an eye on this Blog and will be more than happy to help you with your decision-making! 


Can We Help the World by Teaching ‘Entitled’ Kids?

March 21, 2013

entitled34361540It’s no secret a large number of our International school students come from families belonging to the uppermost financial echelon of their societies. As such, many of these kids are accustomed to enjoying the extreme privileges that come with such status, but without ever having taken part in the efforts required to earn those entitlements. For us as teachers, it should come as no surprise when these students expect ‘As’ in exchange for efforts that deserve ‘Cs’ at best.

While teaching in South America, I encountered entitled students for the first time. Our school was conducting a Science competition & at first sight the projects impressed me as nothing short of brilliant–skills in mathematics, industrial drawing, metal fabrication, welding, painting & carpentry were all evident in the creation of these projects. Later that year, however, small groups of these same students created and built teacher-assigned projects during school hours. I discovered they could not draw a workable diagram or nail two boards together. It was obvious they had not built the Science projects so celebrated just a few months earlier!

As we all know, domestic help is commonplace overseas: Workers clean house, wash the car, do the landscaping & prepare meals. But it’s an entirely different situation when household help create entire projects for students & even do their home work, particularly since these same children, propelled by their family name, will go into prominent business & government positions.

As International educators, we have the rare opportunity to influence these students & in essence, the future of their countries. Wow! What an opportunity! The question is, How do we reach these kids of the ‘silver spoon mentality’?

ISR invites you to share your successes with privileged students & relate how you went about motivating such students to work to their greatest potential.

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Really? A Web Site to Evaluate International Teachers?

March 14, 2013

surprise12156095International Schools Review provides a venue for International educators to share information about International schools and administration. Recently, ISR caught wind of the possibility that a site specifically to evaluate International educators may be in the making. We cannot concretely verify the information but the future possibility seems to be very real.

Teachers in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, and Wales are already evaluated on RateMyTeacher and RateMyProfessor, two popular teacher-rating sites already on the internet. Imagine a web site titled RateMyInternationalTeacher where students, parents and administrators would be provided an opportunity to share their impressions of YOU.

Specific problems we foresee with such a web site include the broad cultural divide. For example: International educators essentially immerse themselves in academic and social cultures far different from their own. Parent and student expectations in these cultures may be quite different from the expectations placed on a teacher back in their home country. Thus, a host-nation parent’s review of an American teacher in Oman (for example) may be based on criteria the International teacher doesn’t aspire to meet. Being evaluated on a set of criteria that exists outside one’s own culture seems detrimental to an educator’s career.

What’s YOUR perspective on the advent of web sites designed to solicit reviews and rating of International educators?


Are International School Directors Above the Law?

March 7, 2013

constitution19624112From the ISR Forum: “I find it difficult to understand how Americans who head International schools think they have the right to ignore American laws. I guess it’s just because they can!

“Our new Director states in job ads that he is looking for teachers under a certain age. Bingo, age discrimination! There is no retirement age here and the school’s former Director hired qualified teachers and did not care about age. There is a fairly large exodus happening at the end of this year which suits our new Director just fine. Now he can hire all the ‘little Miss Sunshines’ he wants who will bow and scrape and worship his ‘vision’.

“This year I tried to form a Teachers’ Association. Over sixty teachers and staff members signed up, but our new Director is trying to shut us down. He can barely contain his resentment and arrogance even though the American Constitution gives us the right to convene as stated in the Bill of Rights. He wants me to produce ‘data’ for the Talent Committee to submit to the Action Committee which is made up of administrators who get the final vote on whether or not a TA will be allowed. Ridiculous! In the US he would certainly be facing a law suit.

“I don’t understand how an American, one who heads an “American School” with students from the US embassy, is able to completely put aside US law, leaving us all vulnerable to his whims. I was toldcriminal that an American who breaks US constitutional law is subject to legal proceedings in the US, even though his actions took place on foreign soil. I’m not saying I am going to start a law suit, but I would like very much to hear from International educators on the topic of International Teachers’ Associations and teachers’ rights.”

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