I Don’t Wanna Go Back!

July 31, 2014

homesick_2226423This timely letter from an ISR Member first appeared during winter break, December 2011. We’re reintroducing it today for the benefit of ISR Members who find themselves in this same troubling predicament following the long summer break:

Click Here for complete letter/ blog

International Educators Imprisoned on Insufficient Evidence

July 24, 2014

An ISR member writes:

“…..Neil Bantleman is being detained in a Jakarta prison along with an Indonesian teaching assistant, Ferdinant Tjiong. They have been held in prison for 10 days without being charged, held on what appears to be very little and highly questionable evidence. They face being detained without charge for many more weeks”….Read more

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Staffing Problem in Hot Spot

July 17, 2014

Dear Dr. Spilchuk,
I would like to get your professional advice on a ‘catch-22’ situation. In fact, I recently built a state-of-the-art Grammar school in a small city of Pakistan. I intend to hire one Principal, two Administrators (Entry Level) and two English teachers from abroad, and advertised in different newspapers. However, all the interested candidates are very much concerned about the security of Pakistan. I tried to the best of my ability to convince them that the city where the school is located is very peaceful and people are friendly and there is no security problem. Furthermore, the school building has been made in such a way that it fulfills all the requirements (e.g if you close 3 main gates of the building then nobody can enter into the school building.) If it is possible, please check the website http://www.kgs-kamalia.com for further information.

In conclusion, please help me in this matter.


Makhdoom Nazar Hussain
Tel: 0333-4225259 / Off Tel: 042-36665077


Hello Makhdoom Nazar Hussein
I can certainly understand the concern of the ex-Pat teachers you have been in discussion with already in accepting a contract to teach in Pakistan at this time. World news does not encourage ex-Pats to travel and/or work in Pakistan. One of our staff members lived and taught in Lahore from 1999 – 2001 and absolutely loved it. In general, the world changed since then and I can understand teachers’ hesitation.

Here are some things you can offer to encourage Western Administrators and teachers to come to your school.
1. Offer a strongly competitive pay package.
2. Include housing in a secure area in the package
3. Include medical insurance in the package
4. Include professional development funds/opportunities in the package
5. Include flights for immediate family members to and from Pakistan as well as on land transportation to your small city in the package
6. Include free school registration for children of the administrators/teachers you recruit in the package
7. Include a clear and comprehensive evaluation plan that includes immediate land and air evacuation for the administrators/teachers and their families, paid for by the school in the event of hostility, in the package
8. Offer serious prospective teachers the opportunity to travel to your city in advance of signing a contract to check out the security and safety situation for themselves, prepaid by the school. (At their expense but reimbursed upon the commencement of work, either in full or partially)
9. Be open to other individual clause negotiations with potential administrators/staff
Note: Our ISR staff member reports that his contract in Pakistan included all of the above, except #8. The contract additionally included a vehicle provided by the school.
It is very difficult for me to carte blanche support International teachers traveling to teach in Pakistan without seeing the situation myself. An additional suggestion I would make to you is for you to offer to bring an executive member of ISR or a teacher recruitment agency to your city in Pakistan to observe firsthand the situation. From that experience he/she might be able to report on the safety of the location, with some credibility, to the international teaching body.
Best of luck to you,
Dr. Barbara Spilchuk
Online Teacher Consultant
International Schools Review
Do You Have Anything to Add In Regards to Dr. Spilchuk’s Advice – Particularly Point #9 Above? 

Transportation in Your New Location

July 10, 2014

When you’ve just moved overseas & don’t have a car, you’ll find that buses, trams, trolleys, subways, mono-rails, taxis, 3-wheeled took-tooks, 2-wheeled moto taxis & even the school bus become viable modes of transport. Depending on where you are in the world, the level of convenience & safety you’ll enjoy using these modes of transport can vary greatly & is something you’ll want to seriously consider.

On one hand, having a car may not be advisable due to unaffordability, dense traffic, tricky local traffic regulations, drawn-out registration procedures &/or intense parking problems. In some areas, however, opportunities to share rides may be very few & far between, public transport may be difficult or non-existent. You may find that just to get to work, having a car becomes absolutely essential.

Public & for-hire transportation, however, isn’t exactly trouble free. Being subjected to the prevailing style of driving in some countries, which can range from sane to complete chaos with no regard for stop lights, can be frightening from the back seat of a taxi or rickety old city bus barreling down the road. In some areas, women cannot drive alone. There is also the possibility of being robbed (or worse) when flagging down taxis at random. More than one ISR Review talks about being accosted by a taxi driver at knife-point. Women & families may be especially vulnerable.

I’ll leave the discussion of using public & for-hire transportation at random to those more experienced with it. Your input will be a valued addition to this Blog: Transportation in Your New Location

Owning, or having the use of a school-owned vehicle opens up new horizons in mobility. At 3 schools where I taught, each teacher was supplied with a vehicle. The autonomy a vehicle afforded me, without the responsibility of ownership, was an added perk to an already outstanding benefits package. Public transport is great, but there are times when you just want to jump in, shut the door, turn on the heat/ac & cruise to your destination while enjoying some tunes. With a car you also get to visit places you’d otherwise never get to see.

If your school doesn’t supply you with a vehicle & you’re in the market to buy a one, I recommend you take a look at the ISR Article, Should You Buy a Car Overseas? Here you’ll find extensive information on buying, owning & maintaining a car overseas.

How ever you choose to get around in your new location there are in’s and out’s of using public/for-hire transportation & owning/driving a school-owned vehicle. We invite you to contribute to the Transportation in Your New Location Blog & share experiences, give advice & ask questions. What’s your current transportation situation like?

Your School’s Housing Policy Could Reveal More than Meets the Eye

July 3, 2014

for-rent45171661 ..Something that has bothered me no-end about teaching overseas is the housing situation. I’ve taught at 3 schools & only one of them provided school-owned housing. The other 2 supplied a monetary allowance barely sufficient to rent a very “modest” apartment.  This moderate sum, unfortunately, did not cover the rental agent’s fees or the $600 I shelled out in the form of a “security” deposit. Nor did it cover any of my out-of-pocket expenses for furniture & the basic essentials of a kitchen, bathroom & bedroom. All this stuff set me back financially & it irked me that I had it all back home.  I even had to buy a refrigerator in one country! It all adds up super fast.  I consider it  unreasonable for a school to expect this of us & would say it  makes a strong statement about those that do. If we were relocating permanently, then okay — but for just a couple of  years? Really!?!

When I moved on to my new school (surprise, surprise) I lost my cleaning deposit at each location & sold everything I had bought at a big loss.   When you’re leaving & you have to dump the stuff, you’re in no position to hold out for the highest price. I figure I lost at least $2000 or more at each school. To add insult to injury, one school covered only 3 days in a hotel room upon arrival. After that I paid the bill until I found an apartment. It took 6 days to close the deal even after I said I wanted the place!

As you can guess, the first couple of months at the 2 schools that offered no school-housing were a disaster for me. I spent far too much energy looking for an apartment, furniture, arranging deliveries, getting utilities turned on & moving in, etc. I received no help from the school. This rough beginning set the tone for the school year & I will tell you the tone was “flat” at best.

Apartment hunting is difficult enough in your own culture, but you’re at a huge disadvantage when you don’t even know the neighborhoods or the laws that govern rentals in your new locale. I figure most schools avoid house renting for teachers because they know that landlords  can be money grabbers.  So, instead of going to bat for us with these tyrants, which would in turn allow us to focus on setting up classrooms & preparing for our students, they throw us to the ‘wolves’ when we’re fresh off the boat.  I will never again work at a school that does not provide housing. I now consider no-housing an omen of what is to come. At the 2 schools that didn’t provide school-owned housing it turned out to be a very bad omen for me.

Have you had an experience to Share or do you have some insight into this situation?

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