Feeling More at Home in My Host Country than My Own

May 23, 2019

Hello ISR, I’m an American expat who has been living and teaching in Sweden for the past 6 years. I find many aspects of life here much like how I previously viewed my own country: Open, liberal, and in many respects, progressive.

I love Sweden. From their stance on education, alternative energy, abortion and health care, to support for the arts, a free press and immigration, Sweden embodies what I’ve always loved so dearly about America.

The conservative wave, however, sweeping America since the advent of the Trump administration leaves me conflicted, frustrated and anxious. Yes, I am a liberal and I’m feeling exceptionally apprehensive about returning to America for the summer vacation.

Watching from overseas I have felt somehow immune to the turmoil I’ve been witnessing in America.  Distance seems to soften the blow and even allows me to tell myself it’s not as bad as it looks. Of course, there are people who welcome these changes and loss of freedoms, and this worries me.

The atrocious assault on women and the environment, the senseless and accepted mass murder of school children by gun lobbies, talk of war with Iraq, removal of funding for the arts, poor treatment of military veterans and the complete lack of decorum on the part of our president is upsetting to me, to say the very least.

Since when has the free press been the “enemy of the people?” Not since Hitler, as far as I know. Since when is investigation termed as spying? Since when did the health and welfare of big corporations take precedent over the people of a nation? Our Constitution has been breached by the very people tasked with defending it. The America I love is being eroded.

This week I’m flying home to visit family in mid-America. I’m having a hard time dealing with the thought I will be immersing myself in a country that is far different from when I left Her. I normally avoid traveling to countries that abuse its citizens’ rights and here I am travelling to my own country that is quickly falling into that category.

ISR, I’m asking if you would post my thoughts as I would like to hear from expats and educators dealing with the same conflicting thoughts as me. I know there are people who will tell me that if I love Sweden so very much, why don’t I just stay there? I’ve had that thought and am entertaining it. So thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts.

Sincerely,
An anxious expat

ISR Note: Bashing, name-calling or criticizing this author or the political views of participants in this discussion will result in an immediate and permanent ban from our Discussion Boards. We ask you stick to the topic. This is not a discussion on the pros and cons of the Trump administration. Please remember, we are educators!


What Would You Do?

March 28, 2019

Dear ISR, I’ve put myself in an unsettling position, so I’m writing in hopes ISR subscribers can give me some advice. Here goes:

On lunch duty last week, I saw a lone high school girl out on the soccer field who appeared to be vaping. Smoking of any type is clearly against school rules. Initially, I planned to issue her an office summons for smoking on campus. However, as I began to approach, the smell of marijuana was subtly wafting on the wind. She looked startled when she saw me observing her. I shook my head in disbelief and decided then and there to ignore the incident and simply walked past. I was glad she’s not one of my students.

Now what? Reporting her to school officials would entangle her in a drug-related offense and would serve no beneficial purpose, in my opinion. A report would also place both of us in a ugly, awkward situation involving potential parent/admin meetings and possibly even involvement of local law officials. Things could easily spiral out of control for this girl, her family, the school and myself.  

Jeopardising a student’s future over what has become a legal, recreational substance in many parts of the world seems beyond the pale. For all involved I feel I did the right thing. But, now I’m wondering what the consequences could be if this student relates the incident to her friends and word gets around. Should I simply deny knowing anything? Or…?

Advice or thoughts on my situation would be very welcome at this point. Thank you.

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How Does Your School Treat its Maintenance People?

February 14, 2019

Coming from the West, International Educators believe in treating people with respect and fairness. From the floor sweeper and the ditch digger to the doctor and the CEO, Western cultures are built on the right to fair and equal treatment. If those rights are violated, we have access to legal recourse. No one is powerless.

International school owners, on the other hand, have been widely known to exploit “powerless” workers. I’m talking about grounds keepers, maids and cleaners, cafeteria workers, maintenance men, construction personnel, guards, drivers and the like. The very schools that shortchange teachers on housing, health insurance and shipping, for example, are generally the same schools mistreating local-hire workers, in many countries with little to no recourse in the case of unfair treatment.

If you’ve experienced a wealthy parent with an over-inflated sense of entitlement, you’re no stranger to the dichotomy of money/power vs. ‘lowly teacher’ status. Now, imagine yourself a grounds keeper up against a wealthy school owner with this same self-serving attitude. If you dared to speak up you’d soon find yourself out of a job, and no doubt unable to use your current employer for a reference. With a family to feed and bills to pay you’d never rock the boat if you were this grounds keeper.

Wages for school work-staff are set by the school owner or school board, depending on the ownership structure. But that’s just the half of it. The day-to-day mistreatment of workers is almost always at the hands of the Head of Maintenance, who himself will be a local-hire. Having a bit of power bestowed upon him (and it is always a “him) by the school owner, the Head of Maintenance can summarily deny time off for doctor appointments, ignore safety concerns, demand long hours, expect unrealistic deadlines and essentially treat his staff like serfs. A little power in a society in which he, too, is powerless, has gone to his head.

School owners who underpay workers, and Heads of Maintenance who mistreat workers are a sad commentary on mankind and something we as educators have a responsibility to change. As teachers, when we see inequities we can go straight to the top and expose these injustices. If we don’t get satisfaction there, we can look outside the school. A visit to the local labor office or newspaper office may be in store. But, looking the other way is surely not the answer.

ISR asks:  How does your school treat its Maintenance people? If you, as a teacher, see injustices, what recourse do you or your colleagues have? Do you have advice for those teachers who would like to see improvements in how their school treats the local hire workers? Please SHARE!


Where Will Love Take…or Leave You? (part 2)

September 27, 2018

A two-part Discussion Topic composed by an ISR member speaking from first-hand experience

After the Leap and Beyond

If you find yourself falling in love with a host national overseas, you owe it to yourself to take the time to wonder about what might happen if you fall OUT of love.

If you’re not married, breaking up is simple. You each go your own way and nurse a broken heart. If you’re married, it’s more complicated. If you’re married with children, separating can become quite complex and one partner will be faced with challenges and issues that far exceed the scope of a divorce back home. Picture yourself in a court room in Indonesia for a custody hearing…

I’ve been there and done that. It was a nightmarish journey that left me with nothing. It was an experience that, as an overseas educator who has lived internationally 18 of the last 20 years, tainted my last three and a half years in said country. Faced with insurmountable odds, being pummeled by an incessantly biased farce to the point of provable family court corruption, and having lost $30,000, I threw in the towel. In the end, I had no choice, pushed to the brink of despair and hopelessness, I left my overseas home. Now alone, without my children, as a heavy-hearted, alienated, targeted father, I am focusing my energies on again getting settled in a new culture, a new nation.

I cannot fathom repatriation at this time, for I’d already been stripped of my identity as a parent and I couldn’t stand losing my identity as a traveler and expat. I must now rethink all that dating overseas entails, and where it will lead. I still have hope that horizons hold something rewarding—at least for matters of the heart, as I set out on this new international journey.

If you are hoping and expecting to date abroad, look further down the road, far past the excitement and romantic stages of dating, far past the various phases of long-term love and relationships, and consider your choices and what could happen if your relationship does not work out. Keep faith that mixed-culture relationships can and do work, yet always make your decisions with the realistic notion of what might happen if all fails—especially if children are in the mix.

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[The author, who has taught in Europe, Asia and Latin America, is a seasoned international school teacher, one who is now considering what countries lie ahead, sans family, while on a literary-minded sabbatical. The a fore-written articles are to bring light to such a topic.

[“I am setting out now to commence a detailed book on divorce and custody abroad, a difficult process that many have faced since travelers, migrants and expats first began falling in love internationally.  I’d love to hear of similar stories from overseas experiences.”]     


Where Will Love Take…or Leave You? (part 1)

September 20, 2018

A two-part Discussion Topic composed by an ISR member speaking from first-hand experience

Look Before You Leap...

If you’re a single international educator, living overseas and thinking about (or are already) dating a host national, you’ll be faced with some heartfelt discussions as you make the leap into a serious, perhaps permanent, relationship.

Dating in a foreign land can and will invite a slew of new issues, especially concerning your differences and how perspectives and cultural norms shape and guide your relationship. This is far more complex than you’ll encounter dating back home where both partners subscribe to the same cultural history with an intrinsic understanding of basic expectations. Not necessarily so between couples from two distinctly different cultures.

From birth, we’re bound by the norms of our culture. As mentioned, bi-cultural, bilingual partnerships are inevitably faced with some tough decisions:  Will you marry? If so, where? Back home (for you) or where you met? Where will you settle? Whose family will be seeing you more often?  Whose aging parents and family will benefit from you living close? Who will make the sacrifices regarding family/friends living a long flight away? Will both partners work? How about home and property purchases? And most importantly and consequential, what about starting a family?

With effort and mutual understanding, partners can overcome obstacles, discovering that love is love and we’re all human, regardless of customs and habits. Still, there are so many variables that make for a challenging course, it’s wise to consider what you are/are not willing to do for love before you get in over your head and your judgement becomes blurred.

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(ISR NOTE:  Stay tuned for Part 2 next week: After the Leap — The consequences of an overseas relationship that doesn’t work out

 

 


Tattoos & YOU @ International Schools

August 1, 2018

Once considered the stamp of non-mainstream segments of society, tattoos have shed their negative stigma & now enjoy the esteemed position of body art.

Spend an hour at the gym or the beach where exposed skin is the order of the day & it seems just about everyone is sporting tattoos, with some colorful masterpieces covering large amounts of body real estate.

Short of inked faces/necks, tattoos in the workplace have become acceptable & commonplace in Western societies. That said, not all societies around the globe have the same evolved view of tattoos. Many still associate them with low-class society or undesirable elements (think: prison inmates) of their cultures. What does this mean for tattooed International Educators?

..ISR Asks: Are schools & parents in more traditional societies willing/able to look beyond their cultural norms to accept that tattoos no longer carry a negative connotation in the home country of their children’s teachers? Or will tattoos stigmatize such teachers as unacceptable influences, potentially costing them a teaching position in certain parts of the world?

Do you have personal experience to Share on this Topic?
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Tutoring Adventures Overseas

July 26, 2018

Are you after a “one-on-one” teaching experience, a more family oriented relationship with students than is possible teaching in an International School classroom? If so, full-time tutoring could be your ticket to a rewarding overseas adventure.

An ISR member asks:

Does anyone have experience working as a full-time tutor? I don’t mean the sort of tutoring where an International Educator moonlights in an IS for a bit more cash, or works with individual students after school hours. I’m talking about the sort of vacancy where you’re hired by a wealthy family to be their son’s or daughter’s full-time tutor.

These jobs seem more common in the Middle East, Russia, and a few of the richer Asian countries. Clearly salaries almost always seem substantially higher than what you could earn in an IS, even one that’s a first-tier school. Around 1250 a week seems to be the going rate, which could only be bettered by a very small percentage of schools out there.

Does anyone have any experience doing this? What sort of experience/education level do you need to have a chance at a position? Is it worth the money, or does being at the beck-and-call of a rich family make it too much of a grind?

I’m aware of websites like ‘Tutors International’ and ‘VIPKid’ that would allow me to stay home and tutor online. What I’m asking to hear about is experiences of actually going overseas to live with a family (or in my own apartment), and be the exclusive tutor for one or two kids. Anyone?”

Thanks in advance,

B.

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