What If You Could Take Just 1 Suitcase?

February 25, 2016

Faced with an imposed restriction of 1 checked bag per passenger, I desperately tried to ship my 2 additional bags air-freight to Guatemala. No such luck! Availability had been booked solid until October. Apparently, luggage restrictions are common during periods of high demand for cargo space to Central America — which just so happens to coincide with the start of my school year. It was time to reevaluate what to take with me to the other side of the world.

Paring down my belongings to 1 checked bag proved a far less formidable task than anticipated. Books & CDs were moved to my Kindle & laptop. Reams of lesson plans & student handouts were saved for download at my new location. A web search revealed that prescriptions, toiletries & clothing in my size/style were easily available in Central America. Had my destination been Thailand, getting clothes & shoes to fit would have been nearly impossible, but in Guatemala it looked like I could get anything I might need.

As my suitcase began to fill I got a ‘warm fuzzy feeling,’ realizing I was bringing possessions that would make my destination feel like my new home. A favorite fry pan, pot & kitchen knife,  my well-worn/comfy walking shoes, an alarm clock that greeted me each morning with its soothing chimes,  a tranquil night light that greeted me before even the coffee cup & my goose-neck reading lamp were all must-bring items. My favorite space-age, insulated jacket (just perfect for planned hikes up volcanoes), a Swiss army knife given to me by my dad & thick woolen socks were all packed. Still there was room for more! So in went a portable water-purifying bottle, light-weight rain gear, some favorite spices & of course, my 2 favorite books for studying Spanish & touring the country.

With my checked bag packed to the brim, Egyptian cotton sheets, a small down pillow & as much to-teach-in clothing as I could cram into my carry-on completed the packing project–after all, I would need a teaching wardrobe upon arrival. With my laptop around my neck & cap on my head, I was ready. Or was I?

ISR asks: If you could just take 1 checked suitcase to
your next overseas location, what would you pack?

Get Ready to Move Overseas

February 18, 2016


With a successful recruiting fair under your belt it’s time to head overseas. But not so fast! There are loads of loose ends to tie up before departure time, some of which border on the ‘impossible to accomplish’ list once you’ve left home.

We’re all well aware that an overseas move is far-&-away more complex than just planning for a 2-week vacation. Still, many an International Educator has landed on foreign soil only to realize they failed to make adequate arrangements for managing their home-based responsibilities from afar. Two years away from home demands planning, & neglecting to do so can carry some hefty consequences. I lost my house through a snail mail forwarding snafu! It was a lesson hard learned. But rest assured: Disasters can be avoided with proper planning.

We all take daily commitments & responsibilities for granted such as our car, house, pets, student loans, credit card/mortgage payments, taxes, health insurance, utility bills, cable, internet/mobile phone contracts, medications & health care, getting cash from ATMs & keeping in touch with aging parents/grandparents who perhaps don’t text. If you’ve ever tried to manage any of these from out-of-country, you quickly learned “it ain’t easy”, especially with the recent regulation of financial institutions in an effort to prevent international money laundering–just try making changes to your U.S. bank account or mortgage payment from Egypt!

Beyond the sheer logistics of managing the specifics of daily responsibilities from a distance, some educators must take into account a new addition to the family while overseas. Parenting/adopting as a single person &/or parenting a special needs child are all-important elements of our lives to consider & plan for well in advance.

Over the years ISR has created many Articles & Blogs populated with the Comments of experienced International Educators who’ve transposed their lives to overseas locales. We invite you to visit the ISR Articles & Information Archives where you’ll find Articles & Blogs related to just about every aspect of making the leap into overseas living. We know you’ll agree: There’s much to be learned from those who have gone before.

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No Contract? No Deal!

February 11, 2016

contract104860520final“Your word is your bond” has long been a favorite slogan among recruiting agencies. What this jargon means, however, to you as a recruiting candidate is this: You’re expected to accept a verbal-only offer of employment at a recruiting fair as if it were an actual signed contract & then stick, indefinitely, to your word. With your future up in the air you’re told to wait for an actual contract to materialize. Unfortunately, sometimes it never does.

Finding yourself jobless as a result of a broken recruiting promise, with no recourse, should not be an option. In the opinion of ISR, schools that participate in recruiting fairs without a prepared contract to offer are either too disorganized to work for, hiding something, at odds with their school board, or consider International Educators just another commodity required to ‘outfit’ an International School.

The world functions on formal contracts. Why should an International School be the exception? When financial institutions lend money, all parties guarantee their commitment to the terms of the deal with a signature – No contract? No Deal! The same is true of a job offer in the corporate world as each party affirms their agreement/commitment with signatures on a contract – No contract? No Deal! It follows then that based solely on a mere verbal promise of employment from a school located in a foreign country, NO rational International School recruiter should expect an educator to reject another solid opportunity/contract that may come their way while waiting for a promised contract that may never materialize. Yet international educators are often blackballed after waiting indefinitely for a verbal offer to become a signed contract & finally, in desperation, accepting a contract from a different school, one that is organized & prepared to offer them a real deal – Deal Done!

We don’t deny teachers have verbally agreed to job offers, only to continue looking for a “better” offer. Likewise, schools have made verbal commitments with the best of intentions & later encountered circumstances or a “better” candidate that led them to not honor their word. There can be extenuating circumstances & as such, if a school cannot offer a written contract at a recruiting fair, ISR believes a legally binding Letter of Intent should be issued with a financial penalty clearly stated if either party defaults. Put your money where your mouth is!

Enforcing a Letter of Intent & even a signed contract is difficult when the parties involved are located in different countries. That’s where the recruiting agencies come in. Based on their concern for the well-being of both the teachers & schools they “invite” to recruit through their venues, the agencies should accept responsibility for a pay-out if it becomes necessary due to default by either a teacher or school. As such, recruiters would act as an insurance company of sorts, keeping both schools & educators protected. Might some schools, directors & educators find themselves uninsurable based on past records? How recruiters choose to deal with schools or teachers after covering a default would be up to them & the fine details remain to be worked out. Until that time, our position is – No contract? No Deal!

What’s Your Take on this Topic?

How ‘Fair’ are Recruiting Fairs for Expat Teachers?

February 4, 2016

needajob15470498For educators currently living/teaching overseas, recruiting fairs are risky business. First off, you must resign your current teaching position. Then, shell out thousands of dollars to attend a recruiting venue you think offers the best chance to land a job. There are no guarantees!

Should your recruiting efforts yield anything less than a contract in hand, you’re potentially facing upcoming unemployment, and without the necessities of life in place to return to in your own country. Just the thought of such consequences is stressful.

   Looming unemployment was my situation after resigning a position in Guatemala & failing to find a position at the ISS Fair. Each & every school which had expressed interest earlier in the season had filled all the positions I was qualified to teach by the time they got to the venue. I did then scramble to find schools I thought might be a good fit & managed to secure 2 interviews. I left the fair with a firm handshake & a promise of a contract, which 2 loooong months later turned out to be empty words, leaving me with no job, no home, no car, no insurance, no school for our children…..disaster!

  When you’re currently living in your own country & decide to attend an international teaching recruiting fair, it’s simpler. You go to the fair & if you find a job, just inform your current boss you’re leaving. But for teachers currently overseas who risk financial/emotional security to attend a recruiting event, the stakes seem unreasonably high. Especially so since no one seems to care enough about educators’ well being to send an email saying, “Oh, by the way, we filled the position you were interested in.”

    Is there a solution to this dilemma? Or, as some international educators have suggested, are we really just disposable commodities to be traded with little regard for our well-being? ISR suggests international schools at least have the ethical decency to update candidates as to the continued availability (or not) of advertised openings & do so on a continual, daily basis. Something as simple as posting to a web page would accomplish this & spare many educators costly, often devastating surprises. What do YOU think?

Comments &/or Solutions Are Invited