Dear ISR: I’ve been an ISR member for several years now. Based on what I’ve read, I’ve concluded that a percentage of reviewers go overseas with preconceived ideas and expectations. When reality doesn’t meet the fantasy, it seems they became frustrated and embittered, and then the next step is that they post awful reviews about their experience.
Let’s be honest — International teaching is not for everyone. For educators who think life overseas is going to be a typical teaching job similar to theirs back home, but transposed into a wildly exotic setting, there are some harsh realities to face. For the benefit of those of us who love the challenge of teaching internationally, I would ask teachers to consider the following before recruiting….
I often hear the phrase, “You need to be flexible to teach overseas.” This is true, yet I would say most people already consider themselves perfectly “flexible.” However, to make it as an international teacher you must truly be capable of accepting different ways of doing nearly everything, even when you know there is a better way. You must be “flexible” enough to remember you’ve been invited to educate students, not bend a culture to fit your ingrained ideas of how things should be. Real change starts from within an organization and until you accept what IS, you are not in a position to effect changes. If you can’t accept this philosophy and think everyone should jump to institute what, you, the great educator from the West is proposing, the answer to Am I cut out for this? is a resounding NO!
I hear teachers complain that their opinions are not taken into account when administrators make decisions. They feel belittled, unappreciated. The bottom line is this: Teachers are hired to teach. If I, as an administrator, wanted a mentor I would find one. I do listen to my teachers but anyone just coming into my school has little understanding of the community we serve. Their perception of what needs to be done, while appropriate and valid in their home country, may be completely out of place here. My job is to administer to the overall needs of my school, making decisions that take into account elements of a situation to which teachers are not privy. Again, if your ego tells you that you, as a teaching “professional,” should be consulted on every decision made at the school, the answer to Am I cut out for this? is a resounding NO!
Finally, I want to mention that housing, roads, school materials, transportation, communication, water/air/electricity quality, level of corruption, construction quality, and just about every other facet of life internationally may never, ever be like it is back home. If you are going overseas for an international experience, let it be what it is and experience it with all its ups and downs, its occasional discomforts and daily delights. No one suggests you have to like everything about it, but if you feel the need to reshape your school and community to conform to your perception of what’s “best”, you’re plainly not going to enjoy it overseas. Ask yourself the hard question and be honest: Am I cut out for this? Hopefully, the answer will be, for YOU, a resounding YES!
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Also see the sequel to this topic: I’m Not Cut Out for THIS