Home for the Summer – The Bond That Keeps Us Close

June 29, 2017

When I went overseas to teach in an International School I vowed to stay close to my family and friends back home. And I did. We Facebook-ed. I flew home every winter and summer vacation. I continued to be part of their lives, and they part of mine.

..As my years overseas turned into 11, 12 and more, staying “caught-up” with folks back home was….well, it wasn’t happening as I had planned. Not being there to experience life together on a daily basis put me out of touch. It didn’t help that I was returning home less often, opting to stay put and/or travel with colleagues sharing the international experience along with me.

..Long stretches of absence stealthily changed my relationship with family and friends. I’m far more than just a visitor when I do return home, but the “vibe” isn’t the same as if I were living there. I wasn’t around for my dad’s 82nd birthday bash, the birth of a good friend’s son, a wedding, a funeral, a graduation, a friend winning the battle with a dreaded disease, and the like. It’s shared experiences, good and bad, that grow relationships.

..It’s just not the same when you’re thousands of miles away witnessing life-impacting events on Facebook.  Through years and miles of separation I’ve slipped into the status of distant friend and even distant relative to some family members. I’ve been asked why I can’t be “happy” with good ‘ole American friends and neighborhoods. I keep my ever-expanding language skills to myself while back home. No one wants to hear about my like-minded colleagues/friends who share my “exotic” lifestyle. I’ve been accused of “bragging endlessly” about my around-the-world adventures when asked what I’ve “been up to” in far-flung posts.

..This summer I decided to make the trip home. No one wants to hear about, or can relate to my tales of climbing mountains to visit Buddhist Temples on rocky hill tops, scuba diving off tropical reefs in Thailand, or the fact I’m pretty good at three languages. Conversely, I don’t relate to their satisfaction in climbing the corporate ladder and amassing more and more stuff, most of it crammed into closets and the dank corners of garages. But underneath it all, we all know who each other is at heart, and that’s the bond that keeps us together through the years and miles. I just mostly listen and smile within, glad to be home.

To Share your experience and/or offer advice, please scroll down to Post.


Surprising Survey Results

June 22, 2017

Considering the quantity of School Reviews, both good and bad, that fill the pages of International Schools Review, our recent survey  What’s Your Next Step?  — produced some unanticipated results.

Of the 357 Educators who took our survey, a  full 80% of International Educators are staying in the game. Of the remaining respondents, just 5.3% said they will be breaking Contract.

It’s this number that surprised us. At ISR, we anticipated more Educators could be breaking Contract due to the increase in School Reviews from teachers obviously completely disgusted with their schools.

ISR Asks:

*  Is the fact 20% of International Educators are dropping out, some “unannounced” to their schools as of yet, an indication that job openings will be popping up in the near future? Is now the time to contact schools directly or are sudden vacancies just prior to the new school year a red light?

* Are International Educators willing to stick out truly awful schools, as reviewed on ISR, in order to keep the door open for a future opportunity to recruit for a better school?

*  Are International Educators willing to put up with the abuses outlined in some School Reviews simply for the opportunity to live overseas?

Please scroll to participate in this Discussion


June 15, 2017

With the academic year over or soon to be ending at International Schools around the globe, you no doubt have a clear idea of what the near future has in store for you. Take our quick Survey and check the real-time results to learn what’s up for your colleagues in the summer months and onward into the next school year. It’s always nice to know how YOU fit into the picture! Here’s your opportunity.


Go to follow-up survey results article


Comments? Please scroll to post

What Directors Look For in International Teaching Candidates

June 13, 2017

ISR asked School Directors to tell us what makes a successful International Teaching Candidate. Whether you’re hitting the recruiting trail for the first time, or a seasoned recruiting-fair veteran, Here’s what you should know to make recruiting season a success!

We’ve posted the top three responses that sum it all up

Director 1
I look for candidates who exhibit the following qualities – and I have put these in chronological order to include the various stages in the recruitment process, although they are not necessarily in order of importance:

• Candidate has personalized, well-designed, interesting CV with some detail about teaching responsibilities, extra-curricular commitments and recent relevant PD rather than just a list of appointments – a photo helps.

• Candidate is able to write a concise letter which demonstrates that candidate has read the job spec carefully and visited the web site. The letter should be structured appropriately and focused upon the profile given in the ad. It should be open, honest and communicative rather than an obvious clone, brim full of education-speak.

• It is good to see that candidates want to develop specific issues at interview and suggest ways in which this can be done, e.g. by phone, or video-conferencing, in addition to meeting for a formal face-to-face interview.

• Candidates should not be afraid during phone interviews to take time to respond carefully to questions and involve themselves in genuine dialogue. The difficulty is in not monopolizing the time or making responses too long – keep it succinct – and ask for clarification. Avoid rambling answers. Don’t be afraid to come back to questions later if there are important points that you need to make clear to the interviewer. In short, try to take some of the control of the interview process so that it is not simply a Q & A session.

• When invited to a face-to-face interview (especially), be punctual and presentable. Useful to have CV and notarized copies of qualifications ready. Examples of any appropriate teaching resources to illustrate points is a plus – but ask if the panel is interested in seeing what is available. Candidates should be well-prepared to give a short lesson or Power Point presentation, although a good panel will have notified candidates about this in detail well in advance. Expect the unexpected. Be prepared.

• Appear self-assured when meeting a panel, shaking hands and make sure that good eye-to-eye contact is made with staff who reciprocate. Don’t be overly familiar since this is a formal occasion – but smile and be open and friendly. The candidate’s body language should be alert and purposeful and communicate an ability to deal with issues competently. Candidates should endeavor to explain points to all the members of the panel rather than develop a dialogue with one. This is much easier if the panel manages the interview well since many problems at interview are not the problem of candidates but of ill-prepared panels! Managing difficult questions is a key skill – knowing how to clarify the issues, how to develop a considered and pragmatic approach – and to acknowledge that solutions to problems are a team effort and not necessarily within the scope of one individual.

• Subject knowledge is a given, but I also look for real experience of teaching difficult concepts and skills effectively. Again, this is not a matter of falling back into edu-speak but of convincing me that the teacher has experience of different learning and teaching styles – and can illustrate this with evidence of materials or anecdotes.

• Candidates should be prepared to talk about curriculum matters, syllabuses and examinations with hands-on knowledge and experience, if appropriate. Even NQTs need to be au fait with the issues, with the available textbooks and resources and methods of assessment.

• I like to see that candidates build homework and a range of assessments into their planning, can demonstrate differentiation by task and outcome and can be imaginative, yet pragmatic, about engaging the individual learning needs of students appropriately, including gifted and talented.

• Candidates should be able to demonstrate versatility in teaching different subjects or levels and be willing to ‘go the extra mile’ in terms of providing additional learning support and extra-curricular assistance (or management of an activity).

• A good sense of humor is a must – especially given the frustrations of working within some international contexts. I look for candidates who do not take themselves too seriously all of the time – just when it matters. It is important that I feel that the candidate will be a good ‘fit’ with the rest of the staff, i.e. that they are tolerant and see themselves as in a ‘learning’ situation – as a team-player, or at least be willing to be a team-player.

• Sensitivity to students, staff (and parents) from a wide range of cultures is a must – and this needs to be communicated, e.g. how to approach teaching some issues in the humanities.

• I expect candidates to take a reasonable time in reaching a decision about an offer and be willing to ask pertinent (rather than irrelevant ‘stock’ questions) about the package and living/working conditions. Expectations should be realistic about what the school is able to to offer and the time-frame in which things can be achieved – but this, too, is a matter for the employer as much as the candidate.

• Once a decision is reached, it should be communicated expediently and all the administration needs completed with all reasonable speed – any difficulties being notified so that both parties are kept in the picture. This means regular meaningful communication to iron out problems or misunderstandings. Don’t rely on the school to do everything. Keep in touch. Don’t renege on agreements. (This goes for both sides). Openness, honestly and a genuine will to meet the needs of the other party within the boundaries established is prudent.

• Join the school with enthusiasm having made every (reasonable) effort to contact those who are already working in your team. Make a note of any short-comings or issues that affect you fundamentally and present these positively and try to be part of the solution. Avoid producing a looming list of general whinges. Good candidates who stand the test of time need to be adaptable and resilient and look for ‘silver linings’ in clouds – work through the channels (if they exist) and be exhaustive about finding equitable solutions to problems before raising a red flag….or writing about grievances to ISR before thrashing it out with those who might just listen to you, if you really gave them the chance.

Director 2
Know the curriculum, whether it be IB, AP, IGCSE, or whatever. Have curricular objectives in mind. Be able to discuss a pedagogy that will take students through a given curriculum. Have a couple sample lesson plans ready to discuss. Be conversant about your classroom management style. Always ask questions about the school’s retention rates, student-to-teacher ratios, extra-curricular obligations, and anything else about which you can think. Administrators love when candidate teachers ask questions about their schools. It means you have been listening and thinking.

Do not, upon first arrival to an interview in a job fair, ask about salary and benefits. This leaves the impression that you are only there for the money. When I was a young man, my father told me, “Never trust somebody who asks about money first.”

Do not take the first job offered. Make sure that you meet with every interested party. There is nothing wrong or impolite about saying, “I have another interview to attend. Can we speak further about your school later today (or tomorrow)?”

Do not hesitate to ask about negative online postings about a particular school. This shows the administrator that you are well-informed and thorough. These are excellent qualities in an international educator.

Director 3
At the top of my list is a teacher that I feel can teach. I’m looking for a person that is dynamic, enthusiastic and passionate about teaching. Anyone can relay information. If I find myself having to generate interest in you and what you have to say, I can only imagine the poor students. Next thing you’ll be writing to ISR about lack of discipline when the real problem is, well, you know who.

Do come prepared to teach an impromptu lesson on a topic of my choice. It may, or may not, be related to your field. Asking you to do this will give me a good idea of your ability to break down information into small, logically sequential packets that are easily comprehensible by students. The most successful candidates may even look around the room for any impromptu, hands-on materials that will help me further understand. Be creative, engage me in as many learning styles as possible. If you don’t do it naturally, chances are you won’t do it in the classroom. Demonstrating you can make do with what’s available impresses me. At my school, supplies don’t always arrive as planned. The developing world has its problems, and schools in such countries obviously have problems as a result.

Be personable, but not overly familiar with me. This is a formal interview, not an invitation to watch the game and have a beer. If you’re overly friendly and casual with your future boss, I’m concerned you will not be a leader among the students, but rather a friend–there is a difference between being a friend and friendly. Come dressed appropriately. Yes, you may wear tennis shoes and casual dress in the classroom but demonstrate at the interview you know and respect the difference between the two situations. I can’t have you showing up to the PTA meeting or Parent-Teacher Conferences in shorts and flip-flops.

I do need to feel you will stick out the tough times. My school is not perfect. It has problems. If I feel you will obsess on minor points and exude negative energy, I will not hire you. The internet may be down for hours, even days. The copiers may all be broken on the same day. The taxi drivers can go on strike at any time and the power company may make a mistake and shut off our power on Monday morning. I often set up a situation at the interview that allows me to see how you act when things don’t go as you expected. What you do is as important as what you say when you interview.

Ask questions. Take an active part in the dialogue. A person who asks questions is a learner and inquisitive. These are two important qualities in an educator. If you’ve read negative things about my school on ISR or other web sites, ask me about the comments. I’ll answer honestly. This is a two-way dialogue and I want you to feel that you are making the right choice for you. If you don’t ask questions, I’m concerned.

7 Nations Close Borders with Qatar

June 8, 2017

A sudden turn of events may adversely affect International Educators planning to, or currently working in Qatar and the surrounding region:

Monday, June 5 – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Libya, Yemen and the Maldives collectively cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Citizens of these countries have been banned from traveling to Qatar, living there, or traveling through the country. Citizens of the aforementioned countries have 14 days to leave. The UAE and Egypt gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave. Middle Eastern airlines are canceling all routes to Qatar. The participating 7 nations have closed their airspace, along with land and sea borders with Qatar.

Qatar has long been accused of backing militant groups, including so-called Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda, which Qatar denies. It is believed that wealthy individuals in Qatar have made donations to terrorists and the government has given money and weapons to hard-line Islamic groups in Syria. Qatar is also accused of having links to a group formerly known as the Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate. The countries closing their borders with Qatar say they are doing so for security reasons.

While the US, UK and other Western nations have not levied actions against Qatar, the consequences of the 7 participating nations is sure to have an effect on teachers from every nation working in the region.

To discuss the significance of these events in relation to living/teaching in Qatar & the Gulf region in general, please Scroll down to participate.

For more information:
BBC  News
Aljazeera News
The Hill


Departing Thoughts

June 1, 2017

Whether you’re departing your International School for the very last time, or just heading home for the summer break, countless experiences have influenced how you’re feeling about saying goodbye. Some of us have had the experience of a lifetime and depart with reservations. Others of us will say we had a so-so experience but are ready to move on. Still others will say…This sucked–I’m glad to be out of this hell-hole of a school!

With summer vacation and/or completion of Contracts on the horizon, ISR asks: What are YOU thinking/feeling as you prepare to depart your school?

We’ve supplied a writing prompt to get you started. Just copy a statement (in green, below) that applies to you, paste it into the Reply Box and let ‘er rip. Keep it short or go into detail–it’s up to you.

Prompts & Examples

Prompt 1: As I make plans to leave my school for the very last time…
(sample reply – your experience may be different) I’m experiencing mixed emotions. I’ve formed some wonderful friendships with colleagues and host nationals. The kids have been a joy to teach and the parents have been supportive. I probably could have stayed longer but I just want to see what else is out there. I’m not getting any younger. I hope my next school is as special as this one. (Optional – Enter School name)

Prompt 2: As I make plans to head home for summer vacation…
(sample reply – your experience may be different) I feel relieved and ecstatic to be leaving this poor excuse of a school and putting this nightmare to rest for at least a few months. I’m seriously thinking of not returning at the end of the summer. I don’t think I can face another year of this. (Optional – Enter School name)

Now it’s YOUR turn. How do YOU rate your upcoming exit on the Depart-O-Meter?