De-Stressing @ Your New School

August 27, 2015

Lazy time. Man in hat in a hammock on a summer day

For most of us, coming in as a new teacher at an international school means we have a lot of adapting to do. Culture, language, food, climate, students, the parents of students, a new house/apartment, city and currency of monetary exchange are just a handful of what makes up the “foreign” environment that awaits us.

With so much energy focused on the actual move, how can you truly comprehend what you’re committing to? Here’s a short list of some changes to expect and suggestions from teachers who have been there/done that, and have some unique strategies for adapting to their new environment. (1st published 8/’11)

What’s New When We Change Schools?
Culture, language, food, climate, students, parents of students, your house/ apartment, the city, currency of exchange, your classroom, internet availability, administration, colleagues and committee work, school procedures, transportation, shopping, entertainment, medical care, bill paying, banking, and well… just about everything. Even your name may seem to change and sound new in terms of the local accent.

So, what de-stressing strategies work when all your familiar reference points are gone? Over the years I’ve stuck with 3 strategies that help me get a good start at a new school.

My Top 3 de-Stressing Strategies:
1. I get to know the school secretaries, the head of tech and the head of maintenance. I want them as allies. I even make some effort to get to “know them” before coming and try to bring some small gifts to sweeten the deal upon our first meeting. At one school, the tech guy desperately wanted US backpacks for his children. By bringing them along as a gift, I insured his gracious help with my many requests in the first weeks of school. I was nearly always put at the top of the list. Beyond just a colleague, he became a friend.

2. Make your apartment/house your home and refuge. I bring familiar things that make me feel at home. My music, a few pictures, books, a board game, special soap, and any other easily portable knickknack that makes me warm and fuzzy. I also bring a good supply of my favorite comfort foods. There’s nothing like a few favorite things from a known environment to help make the transition into the unknown a lot smoother. At the end of the school day you’ll want a welcoming home refuge from the crush of newness.

3. I’m careful not to be overzealous in volunteering for more committees and duties than I am comfortable with. At a new school, with my attentions being bounced around like a ping pong ball between school and personal needs, the last thing I want is more to focus my attention on. The temptation is to jump right in and make huge contributions to staff and school, but in the end if I take care of “number one” first I’m a lot more effective when it comes to contributing to the team.

Now it’s your turn. Many of us are starting off the new academic year at international schools that are new to us. What techniques work for you? Sharing our personal strategies is a great way to support each other and help make the upcoming academic year a success, in and out of school!

JIS Teacher Neil Bantleman Freed from Prison

August 20, 2015

In Indonesia, Neil Bantleman and teaching assistant, Ferdinand Tjiong, have thankfully been freed after serving one year of a 10-year prison sentence. From the beginning, it was widely held that the men were indicted on slanderous charges fabricated by a mother who claimed the men had molested her son. The decision to free Neil and Ferdinand follows the court’s rejection of the mother’s $124-million lawsuit against Jakarta International School in conjunction with the alleged incident.

Throughout their ordeal Bantleman and Tjiong maintained their innocence and were supported by family, colleagues, parents, students and the JIS Principal. Their release marks the long awaited end to an agonizing ordeal. The prosecution will contest the judgment, but the consensus is they do not have a viable case. Read full story

It has been said that this case calls into question the integrity of the Indonesian legal system. Why can an influential parent with an agenda thoroughly manipulate a country’s judicial system and severely impact the lives of innocent people? Although the prosecution lacked concrete evidence, they did succeed in getting a judgment against the men.

We celebrate the release of Neil Bantleman and Ferdinand Tjiong. Justice has finally been served. In light of this incident and the growing dislike of Westerners in some locales around the world, ISR asks: Would the chance you could end up as a pawn in an influential person’s agenda deter you from accepting a position in certain locations?

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Teachers Flashing Tattoos

August 13, 2015

Dear Dr. Spilchuk 
/ Online Consultant, ISR

tiger-tatto84314753Dear Barbara,
 As a teacher of many years’ experience overseas, I have recently noticed a tendency for NQTs to arrive at a new posting flashing tattoos, nose rings and several ear piercings. They seem astonished when told that school rules require them to cover up and remove such studs. This year one young woman was very unpleasant about it and took every opportunity to ignore admin rules and display her tattoos as boldly as possible. In many countries, students and parents react to tattoos with horror as a sign of low social status or membership in some sort of triad. A number of my colleagues feel that tattoos and nose rings have no place in an international school – especially as rules forbid students from having them. Parents have complained that tattooed teachers are bad role models. I agree.

QSI schools prohibit hiring smokers — Will there be a need for school to ask if applicants have visible tattoos and nose rings in the future? What do other teachers and administrators feel, and how do they deal with this issue?

Hello ISR Fan,
I believe that we can all make personal choices for our makeup, jewelry and body art on our own time and in appropriate places. However, within schools, particularly International Schools, teachers need to set a higher standard than what may be acceptable for students. Teacher body jewelry and body art that has the potential to distract students from focusing on learning is just not in good taste and in many cultures, it is deemed highly inappropriate. My suggestion to teachers is for them to share this type of jewelry/art in more private locations.

Dr. Barbara Spilchuk / Online Consultant, ISR

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Hiroshima-Nagasaki: Students Pedal for Peace

August 6, 2015

pedaltopeaceDear International Schools Review, I am a teacher at Hiroshima International School. Our students are taking part in the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The group aims to promote peace by cycling nearly 500km from Hiroshima Peace Park to Nagasaki Peace Memorial Hall where they will present 1000 paper cranes to Nagasaki Peace Memorial Hall as a symbolic gesture of peace.

The significance of 1000 paper cranes originates from the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was 2 years old at the time of the atomic bombings and survived the blast in Hiroshima. She later suffered from leukemia and died in 1955, age 12. Whilst in hospital, Sadako heard of a Japanese legend that promised a wish to anyone who folded 1000 paper cranes.

peace61034336The ride, known as the ‘Peace Ride’, has involved the wider community with fund-raising efforts and donations We are now trying to get 1000 likes on our Facebook page to represent 1000 paper cranes. It would be great if you could Like and Share our page.