The New American President’s Effect on International Education

On January 20th, a new American President, Joe Biden, was inaugurated into office. America’s relationship with the world is about to change. In YOUR opinion, will the hand-off of power in America help or hinder the average Western International educator’s image in the eyes of host country nationals? Take our short Survey.

As an International Educator, I believe the new American president will:

Please scroll down to tell us why you chose your Answer

Are you White enough?

by Alexander Charles Gardner-McTaggart (Alex McTaggart)

In many international schools, remuneration is based on where you come from. For example, Ex-pat hires, recruited abroad get the full deal. Ex-pat hires recruited locally get a lesser deal. Local hires, get an even lesser deal and unless you can ‘fit’ the field, you get no deal at all. Writing this now, I still find it difficult, as none of it makes any sense. Worse than that, it is stupid, ignorant, deeply divisive, and unjust. Yet, as most readers will recognize, this is the non-collegial reality that we call international schools’ teaching. 

When you walk into one of the ‘good’ international schools – the ones that can ask the higher fees – you will be greeted by a happy registrar who walks around a school campus of superlatives: theatre, pool, sports-fields, cosy student areas etc. The staff are helpful and friendly, educated and purposeful and for the most part, white and Anglo European. 

When you teach at one of these schools you walk into a world where payment is appropriate, working hours are decent, and benefits are the defining measure of its prestige as a school. Particularly if you are white and Anglo European. 

When you learn at one of these schools, you hear all the words, write them down, and repeat them when asked. They are about fairness, justice and making the world a better place. When you think about internationalism, you understand that being international, well-paid, and just, is about being White and Anglo European. 

When you sit down to think about it, none of it makes any sense, except in the most cynical and caustic manner. How can leadership of schools set up for a multicultural international reality officially condone, encourage and reward openly racist policies of recruitment, and fail so badly to address issues of criticality in thinking? We are all led to believe these issues are what they specialize in, and not what they fail in. When you research this phenomenon as I do, the truth ends up being clear, unjust, and entirely predictable. 

For most of its history, the field of international schools has been a small one, where the romanticism of the word ‘international’ became an alternative way to educate children of internationally mobile parents, and expats of various descriptions. In the grander scheme of ‘educational’ things, the field is mostly irrelevant. After all, research aims to find truth and generate knowledge so that the world we live in can be a better one. This is the purpose of knowledge and knowing, not having to repeat the same old errors and failures over and over like Sisyphus, but building on what works, improving what might, and avoiding what doesn’t. International schools tend to be quite clear that their international remit validates their approach to ‘making the world a better place’, to coin an International Baccalaureate (IB) adage. They have always been ‘alright thank you very much’, in that they have plenty of money, well-paid staff, and cohorts of students who come from comfortable backgrounds. 

Since 2001 the international school’s sector has expanded from 1 million students to nearly 6 million worldwide with now 500,000 staff – and growing. For perspective, England has around 475,000 teachers. What was once a small field is now nation-sized and remains small in one way only: in knowledge. Added to this, the diffused, and distanced nature of these thousands of institutions means that finding truth is expensive, arduous and mostly what researchers might call, ‘snapshot’ in nature. That means that there is little data available on the human reality of these schools and plenty on the ‘do good’ nature of their curricula, teaching, and outlook. The research has been skewed in this way, and it is understandable, as state education over the last 40 years has witnessed a dismal decline towards PISA stats, teach to test, and underfunding. For many, international schools represent a new hope where pedagogy is progressive, and teachers are valued. 

Finding knowledge is not a cut and dried matter. If you survey a thousand teachers and admin, you will find truth of a certain kind. It is the kind that policy makers tend to like, because you can put it on a graph, or chart, present it in a board meeting and talk about trends and averages. My search for truth is different. I look for lived reality, the stories, ideas, dreams, and experiences of those in education. This kind of knowledge is of the type that policy makers tend not to like because it shows what life is really like for those who live it. Not for those who live above it, aside from it, or distanced from it.

For this project, and over the course of two years I was connected with six of the most influential international school directors in the world in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. My objective was to understand their truth, see the world as they saw it, and allow them to express themselves and present their vision as they saw fit. Having collected this data through unstructured interview, observation and questionnaire I made sure they reviewed the data, and the findings just to be absolutely certain they were being represented accurately. With this done, I applied theory of the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu alongside the more general work from the field of educational leadership. This is called a theoretical triangulation, and lessens the impact of my personal interpretation, putting the focus on the social theory. 

What I found was that these leaders were very powerful, with freedoms and responsibilities that go far beyond what a national school leader may expect. This is good for policy makers, good for people who agree, good for those ‘on board’, and potentially disastrous for those who think differently: or are different. Welcome to the staffing reality of an international school. However, I found these people were unequivocal in their understanding of internationalism and global mindedness as the core aspect defining leadership in international schools. They drew enormous strength from their biographies of white, Anglo upbringings: service, hard work, merit, deep belief, and most of all, their values. This is what made them distinct. This is what made them successful. 

Time for a bit of light sociology. Bourdieu tells us from a social perspective that humans (agents) create ‘fields’ wherein they work. International school leaders exist in just such a field. Bourdieu posits that the more successful you are in a field, the more power you will gain, and the higher you will climb in that field. The schools I researched and the teachers in them are positioned at the top of the field, and if Bourdieu is to be believed, they play an instrumental part in defining what it is to be a successful international educator. The sociologist makes it clear that being successful is a direct result of how well the agent fits the field. That means that if your field is defined by whiteness, and stories of it, then you will be successful in it if you align with it. Conversely, if you do not fit the field, then you will experience something called ‘symbolic violence’. This means the field will reject you, and you will remain unsuccessful in it until such time as you either change or leave. 

Teachers cannot change their skin colour, nor can they change their past. Teachers are agents of transformative change, shapers of futures, and representatives of our planet to the young. 

My research found that the most senior leaders and policy makers of international schools lead the field without any open awareness of, or willingness to change the whiteness status quo they inherit. They live and embody a powerful and deeply ‘international’ reality through the lens of whiteness. These are the people, who by their own admission, shape and form the field of international schools. Despite this, they develop, monitor and sign-off on policy that privileges white, Western teachers and makes it difficult for the rest. In this way, these sites of transformation are sky-bound Elysiums where the teaching of emancipation and fairness is available to the white Western candidate who has the ‘right’ teaching qualification, the ‘right’ experience, and the ‘right’ degree. 

It is a curious situation. International schools are prepared to spend the lion’s share of their considerable budget on their white, Anglo-European staff. They retain them with expensive salaries, accommodation, repatriations, insurance, and the rest. By doing so, they actively define the field, and enact ‘symbolic violence’ to those unable to take part because they didn’t grow up in California or Berkshire or Melbourne, didn’t go to a tier one university, and didn’t train in ‘the West’. Are international schools (and by this I mean their directors and owners) really saying that some teachers are not as valuable and their contribution is worth less because they are not white Anglo-European? After all, they should know because as the name on the tin suggests, these schools are diverse spaces. It is stranger still that these schools which build their identity on values of multiculturalism and internationalism are unable to invest ‘the lions share’ of their budgets in teachers from non-white Anglo-Europeans. As if this were not enough, the question remains, why can’t international schools pay people the same money for the same job? (Some may, many don’t). Why is payment often due to local or expat status? What is this nonsense that keeps the illusion of a post-colonial advantage alive in the 21st Century? Not in some tobacco-chewing, gun-toting, white supremacist training camp, but in multicultural international schools. 

The reason is to do with something called ‘The International Gaze’. Where once internationalism was implicitly connected to sophistication, knowledge and even fraternity and solidarity, it is now much-changed, and refers more to material advantage. It is this tantalising ‘International’ advantage that these schools sell. The customers are the burgeoning upper-middle classes around the world and particularly in the global South. ‘The Gaze’ is a term that refers to how a person reacts under the eyes of a more powerful other: a patient to a doctor, a woman to a man, the colonised to the coloniser. It denotes the reaction to this power and corresponding appropriative/pandering behaviour that the gazed upon employ. The international gaze as applied by the parent-customer demands what it perceives to be advantage. It just so happens that this is, and remains, white Anglo-Europeanism. So, as this analysis shows, international schools, far from being nodal points of multiculturalism are in fact more likely to manifest as replicators of The International Gaze, not because they necessarily want to (and I am extending plenty of goodwill and ‘benefit of the doubt’ here), but because their market-orientation requires it of them. 

So, where now? What can we do as international educators? How can we change an entrenched system of injustice and bias that cloaks itself in a magic mantle of ‘making the world a better place’? How can this be possible when we model yesterday’s and today’s inequities in the very schools that seek to educate our future influencers and decision makers? What kind of systems will they put in place when it is their turn to lead? The ones we told them about, or the ones they saw us working in and profiting from? We are international educators after all, it is in our blood to seek positive change for sustainable futures. This is the question international schools need to ask themselves. What is internationalism? Is it a shared, collective representation of the diversity and difference of our world, brought together in peace and hope? Or is it defined by a privileged few, enacted by them, experienced by them, and even taught by them – by their rules and on their terms? 

Comments? Please Scroll to Participate


This article also appears in Educational Digest International. It is based on the following:
Gardner–McTaggart,
 A., 2020b. Washing the world in whiteness; International schools’ policy. Journal of Educational Administration and History, p. online first

About the author: Alexander Charles Gardner-McTaggart (Alex McTaggart) is lecturer in Educational Leadership at the School of Environment Education and Development (SEED), of the University of Manchester where he is program director of the MA Educational Leadership in Practice. He is co-convenor of the Comparative and International Education Special Interest Group of the British Educational Research Association (BERA). His work is located in the critical paradigm and seeks to uncover truth and power in international education and educational leadership. Alex lives between Manchester and his family home in the Austrian alps.

Bibliography

Bourdieu, P., 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge(MA): Harvard University Press.
Gardner-McTaggart, A., 2016. International elite, or global citizens? Equity, distinction and power: the International Baccalaureate and the rise of the South. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 14(1), pp. 1-29.
GardnerMcTaggart, A., 2018d. Birds of a Feather: Senior International Baccalaureate International Schools Leadership in Service. Journal of Research in International Education.
GardnerMcTaggart, A., 2018g. The promise of advantage. Englishness in IB international schools. Perspectives: Policiy and Practice in Higher Education, 22(4), pp. 109-114.
GardnerMcTaggart, A., 2019. International Baccalaureate Senior Leadership and Christianity. Globalisation Societies and Education, 17(4), pp. 458-573.
GardnerMcTaggart, A., 2020b. Washing the world in whiteness; International schools’ policy. Journal of Educational Administration and History, p. online first.
Gardner-McTaggart, A., 2020. Educational leadership and global crises; reimagining planetary futures through social practice. International Journal of Leadership in Education.
Gunter, H., 2013. Knowledge production and theory development: The case of educational administration. Cardiff, s.n.
IBO, 2020. Mission. [Online] Available at: http://www.ibo.org/about-the-ib/mission/
ISC, 2020. ISC research. [Online] Available at: http://www.iscresearch.com [Accessed 28 December 2017].
Sahlberg, P., 2006. Education Reform for Raising Economic Competitiveness. Journal of Educational Change, 7(4), p. 59–287.


Important Updates: Name Your School & Comment on Their Response to Covid-19

Caught by surprise with little to no disaster preparedness procedures in place, scores of International Schools succumbed to the onset of the Covid crisis with little more than a knee-jerk reaction. Conversely, many schools proved well prepared for just such an emergency, with an already established and well rehearsed virtual teaching platform in place, along with well thought out emergency procedures and policies. Some of us were very lucky to find ourselves at such a school!

The question is: How are individual schools currently dealing with the pandemic (as compared to when the crisis first struck)? This is the information we all need in order to make informed recruiting decisions during this unprecedented season.

For example: A school initially reported by teachers to have started out on shaky ground in the face of the crisis may have later developed a viable plan beneficial to both students and teachers. Or, a school that initially attempted to keep all staff on board may have eventually buckled under financial pressures due to decreased enrollment, forcing the dismissal of staff and possibly a failure to honor Contracts. Additionally, a school in locations with Covid-related Visa restrictions may no longer be able to guarantee entry to their host country.

There is no end to current, Covid-related scenarios that could affect the lives and careers of International Educators. If YOU have up-to-date info to Share on the Covid-related status of your school, we encourage participation in our endeavor to provide ISR Members and site visitors with the information needed to make informed career decisions during this recruiting season unlike any other.

To participate: Please click below to visit our original Article. Scroll (or use control F on your keyboard) to find already posted information about your school. Then click the REPLY link following the comments and enter your updated information. Comments are date-stamped so readers will know which are the latest comments. Your post will be made anonymously, as always.

A Wireless Happy Holiday

Even though we can’t be home with family & friends this Holiday Season, you CAN spend quality time with loved ones through the magic of streaming. That’s our plan at ISR.
From ISR to You & Yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, wonderful Holiday & a heart-warming wireless trip Home!

Stressed Out School Leaders?

ISR has received the following commentary from a concerned Member in regards to an article appearing on The International Educator (TIE) website, New Survey Reveals Worrying Levels of Stress Among International School Leaders:

Normally I refrain from participation in online (or in-person) leadership discussions. I find them needlessly pedantic and self-serving even during the best of times. During this current crisis, I have attempted to seek guidance several times through online “leadership” portals, only to be either ignored or rebuffed for a wide variety of reasons.

After trying for this long and through this many avenues I reach the same conclusion that teachers reach when leaving their profession (which as we all know, they are doing in record numbers), which is that nobody knows what to do. The adults in the room have deserted us and are waiting for those who remain to simply fix the situation so they can return and tell us what we have done wrong. I am reminded of the quote by Roosevelt about “the man in the arena” (gendered speech not withstanding of course). 

This crisis has exposed the worst of our profession. Principals and Heads of School deserting their charges and their post when they were needed most. Those same “leaders” then demanding teachers return in-person to expose themselves to pestilence and disease while sitting safely removed from their schools or within the safe confines of their offices. To then read these same leaders tell us all about how much stress they are experiencing is beyond appalling. How difficult it must be to collect a large paycheck, written in the diseased blood of teachers, students, and families! How much more could they possibly take, these poor heads and principals?

I am continually shocked and appalled at the tone-deaf and out of touch missives written by those who are entrusted with our most sacred charges. The lives of children and workers who have no choice but to weather this pandemic and carry on are deemed less important than the vacation homes and retirement accounts of the over-paid and under-worked administrators who couldn’t be bothered to stay in the countries that employ them. Our industry, built upon the assumption that foreigners can somehow educate better than locals, has been exposed as the predatory and transient thing that it truly is. 

If I seem angry it is because I am. Working where I have worked, doing what I love with the people that I respect, has never been accorded the same level of consideration that other heads and principals have had. How many times have those of us working in “low tier” schools been told that we are lesser than, our students and teachers lesser than, simply because of their nationalities and the color of their passports? Blame then my naiveté for thinking that, during a time of worldwide crisis, we could somehow dismiss this damaging notion that those on top deserve life and luxury more than those on bottom.

The United States Marine Corps has a concept enshrined in every ceremony and circumstance: the lowest rank is the first to eat, followed in turn by the second lowest, all the way to the highest rank. It is this organization, distributing benefits in order from most-needy to least, that has become (and remains) the world’s most highly regarded fighting force. What would international schools look like if they embraced this ethos? 

In closing I want those who have remained with me this long to think about one thing and one thing only: When this pandemic hit, when our families and loved ones were dying unable to speak to us except though a tablet device, when our students and teachers cried out for leadership, where were you? Did you stand with these people that you claim to lead, or did you slink off cowardly into oblivion? I beg you all, ask this question of your leadership. If they cannot answer in the moral affirmative, they are not leaders at all.

Sincerely,
a Concerned Educator

Comments? Please Scroll Down to Participate in this Discussion

Survey: 2020 Holiday Travel

How will YOU celebrate the 2020 Winter Holidays? Do you have travel plans or will you Shelter in place? Hands down, the most sensible, and possibly least appealing choice is to just stay put and maybe even self-quarantine.

Consider the following: Flying home to the United States and parts of Europe for the holiday, where the virus continues to rage, may be like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Traversing crowded airports in these countries could later prove fatal not only to the traveler, but also family and friends and later to colleagues and students upon a return to the host country.

As International Educators and emissaries from our home countries, we have the responsibility to not only teach responsible behaviors, but to embody what we teach. Still, there are educators among us with the… “It won’t happen here attitude,” who will ignore the warnings and put themselves and others in harm’s way. Our guess is they are few and far between.

What’s YOUR plan for the Winter Holiday?


Comments? Please Scroll Down to Participate in this Discussion Topic

How Do You Get to School?

Whether by Guagua, moto, metro, pedal power, foot power, school bus, beyoglu, habal, or behind the wheel of your own car, getting to school can be, and usually is, a cultural experience in and of itself.

How do YOU get to school in the morning?

An ISR member in Thailand tells us:

“I drive to school in my 18-year-old, not so dependable Mazda I got from an English guy moving back home. Time permitting, I take the back roads and avoid the ever-present morning police trap on the main artery. It’s about a 40-minute commute. We’re talking expansive rice paddies, Buddhist temples, swaying palms and oxen in the fields. The road to school is an adventure, and even more so the couple of times the old Mazda pooped out.

An ISR Member in Pakistan says:

The same taxi driver picks me up every morning and drops me off in the afternoons. Even from the back seat the 30-minute morning commute is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. As if traffic wasn’t intense enough, a couple of camels in the road along with the occasional water buffalo and the endless rickshaws, the commute gives you the feeling you’re in a real life video game. especially since there are no lane lines on the roads here.

An ISR Member in the Dominican Republic checks in:

It all depends on the weather, you know, and how much stuff I have to carry. On nice days I try to walk. I see the same smiling shopkeepers and neighbors along the way. I feel like a part of the neighborhood and often stop in at a small coffee shop for a espresso and breakfast. On rainy days I grab a Guagua.

How do YOU get to school in the morning?

Please scroll down to Participate

Thank You from ISR





On this day of giving thanks, as always, we are thankful for YOUR support throughout the year.

Teachers Keeping Each Other Informed
is what International Schools Review is all about!

Thanks to YOU, it’s ALL Possible

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday!

School Mission Statements: Fact, Fantasy or Promo?

A look behind the façade of well-crafted, lofty verbiage reveals most school Mission Statements are composed of unquantifiable promises, often nothing more than well worded promos intended to lure paying customers.

In 2011, ISR visited the topic of International Schools’ Mission Statements and asked teachers to comment on their school’s statement. Did the school live up to their Mission Statement? Here’s some excerpts from that Article:

…………………………………..

 “Eventually we came up with something that made us sound great. Only problem was…we were none of those things. It was a great piece of advertising and it helped the school sell itself to unsuspecting parents.

…………………………………..

I challenge anyone to find a school where the majority of staff can come to consensus on just what is a “global citizen.”

…………………………………….

“It should’ve just said: The school’s aim is make as much money as possible, to promise the world yet never deliver, to exploit staff, to provide students with crappy facilities and to forever function well below its potential”

…………………………………….

ln our experience, there’s a direct correlation between schools with reach for the moon Mission Statements and varying degrees of chaos. From parents and students calling all the shots and regular grade fixing, to an admin who could care less if goals are met, typical pie-in-the-sky Mission Statements offer no direction, organization nor measurable goals and lead to schools adrift like a ship without a rudder.

Fortunately, not all Mission Statements fit into the above category. Here’s a solid Mission Statement with quantifiable, measurable goals as shared by an ISR member.

ABC Academy challenges its students to academic excellence through the medium of a college preparatory curriculum and U.S. academic standards, with instruction in English language. ABC Academy values community service and responsible global citizenship and promotes the integral development of each student within a multicultural setting.

ISR asks: What’s changed since our first look at International School Mission Statements almost 10 years ago? With schools popping up across the globe, is competition encouraging a focus on measurable goals and a record of meeting those goals? Or have over-the-top, unmeasurable and unobtainable promises, solely designed to steer clients away from the competition, becoming the norm? What’s the situation at YOUR school?

Please scroll down to participate in this Discussion

Baking a Cake at Altitude & Other Unexpected Challenges of Living Overseas

Life overseas has its challenges. For most of us, developing useful language skills, making quality relationships with colleagues, and managing to acclimate to the daily maze of cultural issues may top the list. But, what of the little, unexpected challenges that tend to sneak up on us when least expected?

A completely unprecedented challenge came my way mere days after setting up my new house in Nepal, my first international teaching locale. I’m a baker by hobby and so set out to bake a double-layer chocolate cake for our director’s surprise birthday party. I soon discovered baking from scratch in Kathmandu’s high altitude would require a substantial readjustment to almost everything I took for granted about baking back home; and for that matter, Kathmandu would force me to reevaluate most every thing I took for granted about my life.

In case you’re interested, Kathmandu’s altitude means food cooks slower so temperatures and/or bake times must be increased …. but, by how much is really the question. Liquids evaporate faster at altitude so flour, sugar, milk and water require adjustment to prevent a too moist, dry or gummy batter. And finally, gases expand more at altitude making dough rise quite fast. It was easy to see: A new approach to baking was in order! It had been years since I pulled an utter flop out of the oven, and this cake most definitely was a flop, both literally and figuratively.

Most of what we take for granted back home and see as mundane and simple can take on an entirely new character overseas, especially when we try to accomplish a task as if we were back home. Reflecting on my early days in Kathmandu, I consider learning to bake at altitude an analogy of my time here. That’s because everything in Kathmandu is, like life, “at altitude” in one way or another.

ISR asks: What unexpected, challenges have YOU encountered and surmounted in YOUR life overseas?

Please scroll down to Share

Teachers’ Impressions of Search October Fair

“Schools did not seem to be hiring or interviewing. Search emails stated that we needed to check the site and respond quickly. Schools were not under the same requirement…”

My feeling is that this is honestly too early and my spouse and I will likely have better luck at the January Fair. At least that’s what I’m telling myself...”

“Had 3 interview offers but none in locations I wanted. I submitted interview requests but have not heard anything. Seems like a bit of a waste of time & $$ for me…”

These excerpts are from threads on the ISR Member FORUM. Use the login button below to sign into ISR. Then return to this tab and use the highlighted links to go directly to individual threads.

What You Need to Know about Recruiting in the Age of Covid

If you’re contemplating or planning on recruiting during these unprecedented times, you’re probably searching for answers to some pressing questions:

    • Is it worth recruiting this season?
    • Should I stay put in my current position for job security?
    • Do virtual Recruiting Fairs hold a candle to the real thing?
    • Is the job market glutted with teachers who lost their jobs to Covid? 
    • Are schools hiring or being super picky because jobs are at a premium?

As a Community of International Educators, we collectively have answers to these questions, and MORE. ISR invites YOU to take a minute and share YOUR experiences and insights regarding today’s recruiting climate. Together we can piece together the information each of us needs to make informed career decisions in the age of Covid-19.

International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed
is what International Schools Review is All About!

Please scroll down to Share your experiences & insights

Adaptive Schools – Collaboration or Something Else?

I had started my fourth year at an international school in SE Asia. For the previous 3 years, I had deferred leadership of the Secondary School committee to an aspiring administrator we’ll call ‘Bryan.’ The first committee meeting commenced…

For more than an hour ‘Bryan’ explained, in great detail, his version of the 7 Norms of Collaboration, the cornerstone of Adaptive Schools. When I pointed out that leadership of the committee should rotate between individuals within the department, he replied that he  alone was the one who would set the agenda, because, as he put it, he had to “promote student learning.”

The Principal, new to the school, gave ‘Bryan’ authority over the entire Secondary School committee for the next 4 meetings, where he talked for hour upon hour about these Norms, and how this was going to become the basis for the entire school year.

What are the 7 Norms of Collaboration that fall under the umbrella of Adaptive Schools? And why do they require so many hours of explanation?

  • The 7 Norms of Collaboration
    1. Pausing before responding to others.
    2. Paraphrase what other people say to promote understanding.
    3. Ask questions to figure out what people are thinking.
    4. Put ideas on the table.
    5. Use data to create shared understandings.
    6. Pay attention to what you say, how it is perceived, and what others say.
    7. Assume that the intentions of other people are positive.

Are these not skills normal adults are expected to have? Listening, paying attention to others, asking questions…..why do educators need a framework for these things? Moreover, why are multi-day seminars and/or hours and hours used to discuss this dreck?

I understand needing programs related to curriculum or classroom management or other kinds of best practices. But this is nothing but behavior modification. It is based on the assumption teachers can’t hack it as professionals, and need to be told what to do and how to think, talk and act. It is also based upon the idea that behavioral modification will usher in a better era. This is the thinking of cults, not the open inquiry that true education requires.

Some may say, “Just go along to get along and stop making waves. Don’t take any of this too seriously.  It’s all just small requests.”  As for me, it’s not a small thing if you are treated like you’re incapable of functioning in a group. Also, consider it will suck the life out of you and hurt you as being a source of strength in the classroom, and in your life. Life is too short to be treated like a dorky automaton!

I welcome any defense of Adaptive Schools and/or the 7 Norms of Collaboration and I accept any criticism of the views expressed here. Open discussion is welcomed because that kind of discussion is almost impossible in a school environment where one is forced to toe the line with Adaptive Schools.

(Note: The views expressed in this Article are those of the guest author and not necessarily the views of ISR.)

Please scroll down to participate in this Discussion

Schools w/ Highest Savings Potential, 2020

Read this first:  Please do not evaluate schools or Directors on this Discussion Board or pose questions that solicit such responses. Do not hijack the topic of this Discussion Board. If your wish to ask questions about your suitability for employment, please use our Open Forum.



High salaries don’t always mean high savings potential. What could sound like a high-dollar job offer based on where you currently live, might, in fact, turn out to be bare subsistence living in another part of the world.

I learned this lesson when I came onboard at the American School of Kinshasa, DR Congo.  The year was 2002. Food, gasoline, and everything in-between was triple the price I was accustomed to paying. I’d been duped by a sly-talking school Director. Hidden taxes and cost-of-living expenses quickly turned what appeared to be a wonderful salary, into peanuts. ‘Buyer’ beware! 

Speaking rhetorically, does anyone enter the teaching profession to become rich? We all, however, want to live a comfortable lifestyle and sock away some coin for the future. With that in mind, it’s highly suspect when International Schools neglect to make salaries readily known. And, what of schools that stall right up to the night before a Recruiting Fair to make pay scales available? You can be sure they’re not waiting to wow you with a spectacular salary!

ISR asks:  Which schools, in your experience, provide salaries that allow for a lifestyle we’d all like to become accustomed to while also saving for the future? Which schools pay enough to kinda enjoy life but not enough to save a cent? Which schools keep you just above the poverty level?

Please scroll down. Name your School. Then, tell colleagues about the standard-of-living and savings potential inherent in the salary at your school.



 If you wish to go beyond the scope of this topic and compose an in-depth look at your school,  Click HERE to send a School Review


 

Taipei American School, Stranger than Fiction

Taipei American School has issues to address: bloated administrative salaries and a Board that unilaterally gave their Head of School the power to expel students and fire teachers at will are among the questions for which large groups of parents are calling for immediate transparency.

According to a 2018 tax filing, TAS held close to US$120,000,000 in net assets at that time. The highest earner on payroll, Head of School Sharon Hennessy, reportedly took home US$768,000. Director of PE, Health and Sports, Ryan Mueller (brought onboard by Hennessy to fill the newly created position, with reportedly no experience in education), earned a whopping US$1,000,000 in total compensation in four years, and then abruptly left. Questions, anyone?

Beyond financial concerns, a school counselor, accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student, abruptly left TAS to later be accused of sexual misconduct by two students at his next school. In a different incident, the rape of a minor by a 17 year-old student was settled out of court (the age of consent in Taiwan is 16), leaving TAS with more unanswered questions.

TAS appears to have all the trappings of a “who-done-it” movie. For an extensive, startling, behind-the-scenes look at life at TAS, GO to Tricky Taipei, a read well worth the time.

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Teachers, Students, Selfies & Social Media

It’s the last day of school and a high school student just asked you to pose with them for a selfie. Years ago you would have gladly leaned in and smiled for the camera. Today, maybe not! With teachers fired or disciplined for tweets and photos on social media becoming commonplace, it’s understandable why you might want to stay out of the “picture.”

Beyond selfies, it should go without saying that teachers ‘friending’ students on social media could be, and has been seen as inappropriate. Allowing students into your personal life is anything but professional. Imagine a last-day-of-school selfie appearing on a ‘friended’ student’s Facebook page with a caption you may never have imagined.

Do students who have already graduated fall into a different category? Hypothetically, taken by a classmate, the photo example shown below is of Mr. Y critiquing Mary’s creative writing assignment. After graduation, excited to share her multiple successes as a published author, Mary (not her real name) sends Mr. Y a ‘friend’ request.

Teacher tutoring high school girl with writing assignment

Recalling her school days in Mr. Y’s class, Mary posts this photo to Mr. Y’s Facebook page with a short “thank you” caption. Could a malicious parent or a student with a grudge, through recaptioning and Photoshop, turn this photo into something it is not, particularly since Mr. Y and Mary are social media friends? Keeping personal and professional interactions exclusive may be the best policy in all cases.

Public schools, for the most part, have rules in place for teacher/student social media relationships and selfies. Not all International Schools have done the same. ISR asks: Does your International School have selfie and social media rules in place? What do they entail? What are your personal feelings on the subject? Is it ever appropriate to ‘friend’ your students?

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China, a Bad Bet?

International Schools in China are dominating upcoming virtual Recruiting Fairs, practically outnumbering schools from all other countries, combined. Is this simply because China has more International Schools? Maybe not…

In the words of an ISR member:   China is becoming more belligerent. Teachers over there are included in the Communist Party’s massive database to say whether or not you’re a ‘good’ citizen. Scary. Arbitrary arrests without trial or reason are common. Do you think the UK or US would be bothered about a teacher, especially if the Chinese added some ‘sexual safeguarding’ concerns to their charge sheet? With a 99% conviction rate, a malicious parent with an issue against you could get you locked up, convicted of a sexual offence.

“This couldn’t happen to me” is an unrealistic attitude. International Educators on the circuit for some years are all too familiar with the case of Neil Bantleman, an International Educator in Indonesia who spent 5 years in an Indonesian prison after being falsely accused of sexual misconduct by a local, influential parent. EU, US and citizens of other countries are NOT exempt from what life may bring in a foreign country. Fact is, they may be seen as a prize to be paraded in front of the cameras.

China’s new “security” policies enacted in June, 2020 give unprecedented powers to the government. The US and UK, as a result, updated travel advisories. The State Department of the US has warned that Beijing is enacting a propaganda campaign to “falsely” accuse US citizens of “fomenting unrest in Hong Kong.”

Is one or more of the many International School in China soliciting for teachers on your radar? If so, ISR strongly encourages you read the attached Article. There may be more than just the Coronavirus causing International Educators to give China a pass.

US & UK warn travelers of risk of arbitrary arrest in China & Hong Kong

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Virtual Recruiting Fairs – Too Little, Too Late?

Back in the day, long before broadband, landing an International Teacher position was dependent on finicky, old fax machines and land-line phones. Faxing a 1-page resume plus a cover letter from my school in Thailand to a prospective school in South America in 1989, cost me a hefty $45 U.S. and that’s because I got lucky and the document “transmitted” successfully down the tired old phone lines on the first try. 

Brick and mortar recruiting venues made sense at that time. We sent our documents to one of the big recruiters and they acted as a central clearing house of sorts, putting teachers and schools together for a frantic three-day, face-to-face event known as a Recruiting Fair (often referred to as a “cattle call”). You finagled time off from your current job, plunked down thousands of dollars on airfare, accommodations and fair attendance fees, and hoped for the best.

Today, all that’s ancient history. Thanks to modern technology the need for a recruiting venue has all but disappeared. Whoever got the idea to “Skype” for an International Teaching position had the right idea. As early as 2009 “Skypeing” for teaching jobs was already happening and being talked about on ISR Discussion Boards. Here is a glimpse into the past:


2009Will Skype Replace the  Fairs?  2012Skype Your Way into an Overseas Teaching Position.  2019Survey: Are  Recruiting Fairs Headed for extinction?

Less than 10% of 447 educators surveyed in 2019 found positions at Recruiting Fairs

Slow to get with the trend, recruiting agencies have recently organized virtual Fairs. A great many schools and educators, however, have already been successfully recruiting for years using Skype-type venues, without the need for a high priced middleman. Are virtual Fairs too little, too late? 

ISR Asks:   Have YOU participated in a virtual Recruiting Fair? Were you hired at the Fair or was the event basically a ‘meet and greet’? Is there any advantage to recruiting through an online Fair as opposed to going it alone? Considering we are living in the age of social distancing with large gatherings at the top of the list of taboos, what effect do you think coming late to the virtual recruiting arena will have on the future of recruiting agencies?

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Teachers of Color Overseas – What’s Changed?


In our 2009 ISR Discussion Board, Teachers of Color Overseas, we asked International Educators to comment on life as a teacher of color in the arena of international education. We posed the following questions in September, 11 years ago:

International Schools teach diversity. Are ‘minority’ teachers well-accepted in the International teaching arena?

Do non-Caucasians find it more difficult to enter the profession? Are ‘minority’ teachers treated differently by parents and/or students?

It has been reported that some schools are just looking for a ‘white’ face to sell the image of an American / British education. Have you found this to be true?

Educators across the globe responded. Hundreds of teachers shared experiences and perceptions, and offered advice. Some even shared email addresses, inviting private conversations. The overall atmosphere of the 2009 Teachers of Color Overseas Discussion Board was supportive and informative.

Skip forward to 2020 and ISR began noticing hate-type speech creeping into Teachers of Color Overseas and other similarly related ISR Discussion Boards. A handful of lurkers had unfortunately begun to post spiteful, prejudiced comments in response to Discussion Board participants with whom they disagreed. Considering the recent global protests for racial equality, we would expect to see the opposite. We, of course, removed all such comments.

What’s changed since 2009? Why has 2020 taken on such a different persona? Is today’s proliferation of social media providing a platform for cowardly haters to hide behind? Do haters feel more emboldened in the shadow of the current US ‘president?’ As an International Educator, do you feel the profession is becoming more diverse or succumbing to negative forces? Are parents and students realizing a ‘white’ face is not a prerequisite to be a teacher?

ISR invites YOU to revisit the topic of Teachers of Color Overseas 
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