American Educators Living Abroad: Voting Survey

November 8, 2018

Americans living overseas tend to ignore U.S. mid-term elections. This year, however, is different. The number of Americans living outside the U.S. who requested absentee ballots for the 2018 mid-term elections was up seven-fold, compared to the most recent mid-terms.

Of the more than 3 million American expats eligible to vote, just 6.9% of this group voted in the 2016 presidential election. With online registration now available, it’s quick and simple to vote with an absentee ballot, thus giving a stronger voice to Americans overseas.

For future reference: U.S. citizens can receive an absentee ballot by email, fax, or internet download, depending upon the state in which they are eligible to vote. See Absentee Voting Information for US Citizens Living Abroad.

ISR Asks: If you’re an American International Educator currently living overseas, did you vote in the 2018 mid-term elections?

Take our short Survey — let’s see how International Educators stack up!


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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.”]     


An International School Student Looks Back

August 30, 2018

I grew up in an International teaching family and for the bulk of my formative years travelled the world. I chose not to follow in my parents’ footsteps and am no longer a part of the International Schools community.

However, when a wave of nostalgia hits me I like to go on ISR and read about the schools I attended back in the 90’s. Over the years, I’ve noticed a startling theme running through many of the reviews of these schools.

It seems to me life in International Schools is no longer the fun-filled adventure of my youth. It looks to have become a life of drudgery, ongoing war with manipulative admin and hitting the roadblock of money-grubbing owners. I see an increasing rift between leadership teams and teachers culminating in an ‘us-vs-them’ mentality.

When I look back, I see my experiences through the rosy lens of childhood. I acknowledge there was probably a fair amount of workplace drama that I was not privy to as a student. That being said, I remember attending work functions where admin and teachers mingled. There were trips to see pyramids where the principal came along, not as a boss to my parents but as a family friend. I was dragged along to mountain retreats where, though I was bored senseless, the teachers seemed to delight in bonding through professional development, and frankly, a few too many drinks. I have trouble reconciling my mostly positive childhood experiences with stories I now read on ISR.

I know people tend to mostly write reviews when they have something to complain about instead of to share a great find. I know it’s easier to be inspired to write when you are full of vim and vinegar. But is the International School world of my childhood really this far gone?

Sincerely,

SD

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Would You Put Your Kids in a Host National School?

April 26, 2018

..I’ve been offered a teaching position in China. The job comes with a great salary and a super benefits package. I’m ready to accept the offer but I am concerned about my two children. They have never lived abroad and 95% of the school population is local Chinese students.

My kids are 10 & 12 years old, flexible, adventurous and accepting. Still, I’m worried that a move like this could be too challenging for them.

Have any of you parents been in a similar situation? Did you accept the position? How did your kids handle it?  I realize all kids handle things differently but I’d love to hear any and all perspectives.

Thanks in advance for your help and support.

Sincerely,

China Bound??

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Your New Baby, Overseas

March 29, 2018

When you get pregnant overseas the first question people ask is, “Are you going home to have the baby?” In my experience, giving birth overseas is no more nerve-wracking than in your home country. It is kind of scary and exciting anywhere in the world – such is the life of an international teacher!

This is my second pregnancy in a foreign country where I speak little, if any, of the host language. The anxiety of being somewhere where they might not completely understand me is more than balanced by the knowledge I don’t have to fly far away from my husband and family for the 6 – 8 weeks before the baby is born and then, in the end, have the baby on my own. I would much rather have my husband’s support and help for all those weeks than be able to talk clearly to a nurse for the few days I’m in the hospital. I’m pretty good at charades, and not surprisingly, people in all countries have similar concerns about babies, so health care professionals tend to anticipate or understand your questions.

I’ve been fortunate to find good quality health care as an international teacher. It pays to ask around, and see what other people – both local and foreign – have done. I’ve had excellent obstetricians whom I found based on the recommendation of other people who had children who have both spoken English to some extent. In one location, our insurance was fully comprehensive and we were able to use a private clinic with modern facilities. In South America the hospital was not quite as up-to-date but they were helpful and efficient, and had modern equipment, although it wasn’t always available – exactly like any regular public hospital with waiting lists and queues.

The biggest adjustment for me compared to friends with children born in their native countries is that we are missing the extended support of loved ones. It would be lovely to have Grandma drop in and watch the baby for an afternoon or have various aunts and uncles to share stories and help out with chores. But for us, living overseas as international teachers there’s a cycle of making friends and new ‘family’ networks in each country, and we have found everyone to be very kind and generous with their time and advice. Teachers club together at the school and bring you meals. They may casually mention the time they were up all night in Singapore with their infant 15 years ago and divulge what they did to sooth them back to sleep. People moving on share armloads of baby clothes or maternity clothes suited to the climate you’re in. In both countries the average-sized woman has been considerably smaller than me so this last type of generosity has been extremely helpful. If the school generally hires people starting young families, then you probably won’t need to take clothes or equipment with you – there will be a circulating supply. Most parents (myself included) are happy to pass it on rather than lug it elsewhere.

For my first child I read a tonne of pregnancy and baby books, but then, so did my friends elsewhere in the world. The internet was a helpful source of information, too, and there are lots of websites where you can sign up and get weekly email about your current stage of pregnancy or child development, with doctors’ advice and current medical information. It was reassuring to me to read that what was happening to me overseas was what would happen ‘back home’ and to be able to ask my doctor if he was going to do a certain test, or follow a given procedure, and why. Although my personal preference if I were at home would be to have a midwife, I feel the level of doctor-provided care overseas has exceeded what I would have received in a city in North America. Whether it is due to having good insurance, or being a foreigner, or that there is more personalized attention in other medical systems, even with the language barrier I have rarely ever felt marginalized, ignored, or poorly cared for. The sole exception to this was in the hospital in Hungary with our newborn son, when I was having difficulty breast feeding, and the nurse on my ward was particularly uncommunicative, and I didn’t know how to complain or ask for a different nurse. Otherwise I have never thought I would be better off in another country.

One piece of advice I would pass on is to read the maternity/paternity leave policy of any international school very closely, if you even think there is a remote chance it may apply to you someday. In some places it is not written in the contract, but included in a staff handbook, that your contract says you will abide by. Some international overseas schools will not grant leave at all within the first two years of your contract (i.e. You will lose your job) which could force you to choose between having the baby and having your job. Other schools grant you leave for anywhere from 2 weeks to several months, but many are not inclined to grant extended leave or flexible schedules because of the difficulty of finding quality long-term substitutes. In Hungary, we got 73 working days off, not to extend over summer break. This amounted to 3 months more or less, which if it was directly before or after the summer holiday, meant you could stay home for 4 or 5 months. At my school in Ecuador we get 6-weeks leave. I am fortunate that my baby will be born 6 weeks before the summer holiday starts, but if it were to arrive the last day of class before our 8-week holiday, I would be back at work with no more ‘break’ than any other teacher. Worse, if it were born mid-year, I’d be back at work after only 6 weeks. This is all good to think about if you are fortunate enough to be able to ‘plan’ the timing of your baby in any way!

Another factor to consider is whether you’ll be able to afford the quality of childcare you want once you return to work. In many countries you can afford domestic help but will you want to leave your infant with the person who does the laundry? Nannies with good recommendations and experience with young children have been harder to come by than good doctors or baby equipment! It didn’t matter to me whether I could communicate the nuances of exactly where it hurt during labour as much as it matters to me what you give my child for snacks and entertainment while I am away. Maybe I’m unusual in this way – but labour is much, much shorter and less hassle than living with a spoiled kid, the result of an overindulging nanny.

An unusual side benefit of being pregnant overseas is finding out the local customs and traditions about parenthood. This can be a little frustrating if the advice is persistently offered and counter to your own preferences, but mostly it’s amusing. Who knew that you were supposed to sleep with the window open, drink a pint of beer a day, sing each night before sleeping, pray to the house spirits for the safety of the unborn child, or not take a new baby outside for 6 weeks, keep socks and shoes on all children up to the age of 3 at all waking moments (ha!) or feed babies Coca-Cola if they were fractious? Not that I have followed any of the customs I’ve heard about, but it certainly was interesting to hear about how other people deal with the craziness of having children.

For what it’s worth, I recommend checking out the local health care and absorbing what others have to suggest before deciding to go home to have a baby. It is certainly the right path for some, but has been rewarding and delightful for me to be pregnant and have kids overseas. Plus, you get some great stories to tell the kids when they grow up! (Reprinted from an earlier ISR Article)


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The Elephant in the Room

March 8, 2018


An ISR reader recently sent us this entertaining photo. He asked:  Would we invite teachers to compose their own conclusion to this scenario? Sounds like a fun break from the seriousness of recruiting, doesn’t it? So, here goes!

..We’ve been living in Malaysia for more than a year. Wednesdays are my short days at school and I usually try to head home a bit early to enjoy the house to myself, at least before Jane and the kids arrive home. On this day, though, someone had left the sliding glass doors wide open… 

 Bang!! A chair rebounding off the wooden floor drew my attention just as I was about to set foot inside. What the *@#!?  I struggled to make sense of  it all as, breathless, I snapped this photo and retreated. To my amazement, though, what happened next was the strangest thing of all… 

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Jewish Educators in the Middle East

February 1, 2018

Long before the turmoil we’re witnessing today in the Middle East, I was offered a teaching position at the International School of Aleppo, Syria. As a history buff, I was totally on-board by the prospect of exploring the vibrant cultures and history of the region. But….What would life be like for a Jewish teacher living in Syria?

The recruiter was upfront with answers to my questions: I would be exposed to anti-Semitic remarks from students who use the term “Jew,” accompanied by derogatory expletives. I should keep my Jewish heritage secret. If I decided to travel to Israel, my stamped passports could bar me from re-entering Syria. Common sense and prudence said loud and clear: Don’t go!

Today, in my position (as Moderator of the ISR Forum), I was intrigued by this recent thread:

Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby ap410 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:07 pm
I’m considering applying for positions at a few schools in the ME (Bahrain, UAE, and possibly Oman), but I’m concerned that since my children and I are Jewish, we could run into trouble, hostilities, etc. We’re not super religious, but my kids have a habit of singing the Dreidel song in December, and I don’t want them to feel like they have to hide their religion. Does anyone have experience with this in the ME? Thanks!

.My first reaction was, ‘Are you kidding!?’ My opportunity was pre-9/11. What could it be like today for a Jew teaching in the Middle East? International Schools do tend to promote diversity, tolerance, inclusion, equality and a host of Mission Statement ideals. But … as we all know, life can be quite different outside that supposed safe haven.

Here’s some positive and negative Forum Comments that illustrate the dilemma…

by reisgio » Mon Jan 29, 2018 9:12 pm  For goodness sake, don’t take your innocent Jewish children to the Middle East!… I wouldn’t be comfortable having my children basically hide their identities just so I could work somewhere exotic. What’s wrong with you?

by justlooking » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:35 am This has not been my experience working in four international schools in the ME in Egypt, Oman, Morocco, and Dubai. All the schools were top tier with a very international student body. I found most people respect Judaism and Jews; it’s Israel that’s the problem. As long as you’re not espousing pro-Israeli sentiment, you’ll be left alone.

by Nomad68 » Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:54 pm I really would not recommend going to places like Saudi, Kuwait or Qatar even if you hid your Jewish identity. The anti-Jewish sentiments would shock you.

 by shadowjack » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:45 pm 7 years in Saudi. Our Saudi friends had Jewish neighbours and didn’t care.” “Israel is not a good country.” They knew the difference between the two, that’s for sure….

 My purpose in calling attention to this topic is to hopefully encourage ISR Members to initiate a place where my Jewish brothers and sisters can turn to for first-hand information on what it’s really like for a Jewish International Educator to live and teach in the Middle East, a decision clearly not to be taken lightly.

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