From the Fish Bowl Into the Ocean

September 5, 2019

Hello ISR, My 15-year-old stepson, who has never traveled a day in his life, is flying to Bangkok this week to live with my husband and me. Indefinitely!

Without airing family laundry, the gist of the story is that some months ago it was decided Clive (not his real name) would be best served if he came to live with his dad and me. His mother has adult issues to work through and we’ve all agreed there’s no reason to drag Clive through it.

Clive is your stereotypical, insular, home-grown teenager from small-town Alabama. I would venture to guess his only experience with anything international is ordering a “taco” from the “gringo” at the local “Mexican” food place. Just the thought of him landing in Bangkok in two weeks  is….well…..overwhelming. For starters, our school in Bangkok hosts 30+ nationalities.

I’m hoping when Clive gets here he’ll love it just as much as we do, and the many other students having a first-time overseas experience. He won’t be alone. Our students are warm and welcoming. I know they will accept him and help smooth his transition.

Immersing in this exotic, vibrant culture and making friends from around the world will be a pivotal experience in Clive’s life. Still, I can’t help worrying about taking him out of the fish bowl and throwing him into the ocean, so to speak. Our director is working with us and helping to pave the way for a successful transition. I’m sincerely glad for that!

Have any ISR readers been through a similar experience? Any suggestions, strategies, plans? I could use some input about now.

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Sex Education in International Schools

July 4, 2019

Hello ISR, I know this suggestion for a discussion topic is a bit off-key to those you usually address. With that in mind, I’m submitting my comments & asking if you would please consider taking them live. I believe there are many parents of international students who will find this conversation beneficial. Here goes:

Predictably, when Samantha, my 16-year-old daughter, tells us about her day at school, her comments follow a well-worn path. She talks about the state of affairs of her friends, excessive homework, the goofy science teacher & so on.  This evening was different as she went on to mention that the P.E. teacher (who’s also the Sex Ed. teacher) demonstrated the proper use of a condom. “Miss Wiggins gave us each a banana & a condom & said, ‘Now it’s your turn.'” What!?I exclaimed, trying my best not to overreact.

I’m good with the school including Sex Education, but I had no idea they were taking it this far. I’m not so sure I’m ready to think about the possibility of Sam soon jumping into the sack with her boyfriend. I’m wondering if Sex Ed. (emphasizing “sex”) may even be encouraging her to experiment? Or is Sex Ed. (emphasizing “education”) informing and helping her to mature with knowledge & safety in the forefront of her mind? That surely gave me something to ponder…

My first reaction, admittedly, was to lay the abstinence routine on her, but my conservative parents tried that approach with me & well….it didn’t work, as evidenced by Sam. So, I decided to ask Sam to what extent she & her boyfriend have taken their relationship. “NO,” she answered. “We don’t have intercourse, but we do other things.” I thought I’d better leave it at that & not probe for details (no pun intended).

After some days I decided to call the PE teacher. I thanked her for having the courage to tell it like it is regarding contraception. Miss Wiggins said she felt like she was making a positive difference in her students’ lives. I told her I had brought up the topic of maturity, consent & mutual respect with a partner, and Sam’s response was: “You think Mrs. Wiggins hasn’t taught us all about that, too? She definitely has!” Thank you, Miss Wiggins!

My question for the ISR Community is this:  Are all international schools like our school here in Brazil? Do international schools generally take a liberal view of sex education & prepare teens to act responsibly on their sexual desires? Or is this school an exception to the rule? I know for a fact that in my Midwest hometown they only teach abstinence, which, by the large number of teen mothers, is not working. I’m wondering how different things might be for Sam if we had not gone overseas…

Any parents, teachers, or admin out there who want to expand on this conversation &/or share their experience with teens & sex education in international schools? I’d love to hear from you!

Sincerely,
K


Surviving Summer Without a Housing Allowance

May 9, 2019

More than just a few things bother me about my current school. But the one that irks me most is that the housing allowance covers only 9 months. This leaves teachers with 2 choices:  1). Give up your apartment when summer rolls around & find another one when you return. Or, 2). Take what amounts to a month’s salary & hand it over to your landlord to cover June, July & August.  I opted to move.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t just pay the rent & spend the summer months in-country? Believe me, I would if I could, but I’m driven to go home & spend time with my aging parents & a handful of longtime friends. Like most international educators, I live in two worlds. I have a life back home & among other things, I continue to have financial responsibilities. Student loans are a biggie for me. Throwing away good money on an empty apartment is simply not an option.

The school does allow us to store our belongings in empty classrooms while we’re gone. The problem is, all summer long the maintenance people & who-knows-who-else have complete access to these classrooms. Leaving anything of value for 3 months unsecured is not a good idea. Renting a storage facility (in scarce supply) or taking really valuable stuff with you could be the way to go. But what a hassle!

The practice of creating homeless teachers at the start of each school year throws all our lives into turmoil & severely diminishes the level of instruction. Personally, I’m not at my best when I’m preoccupied with getting my living situation in order. For those who haven’t found an apartment by the first day of school, admin recommends staying in a hotel (expensive) or bunking with a friend (problematic). It’s no wonder this school doesn’t hire many couples & absolutely no couples with kids. I can’t imagine what that would be like!

I do love it here. I have wonderful students & parents, & the city offers an endless array of cultural attractions. The school, unfortunately, is owned by a tight-wad. Still, I’m willing to put up with him, at least this one last time. Yes, I must be a glutton for punishment ’cause I signed on for a third year!

Has anyone dealt with this situation? Does anyone have a creative solution?

Signed:  Movin’ Man

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Overseas Medical Emergencies

January 24, 2019

From critical events where minutes count, to major issues that should be addressed ASAP, medical emergencies come in varying degrees of urgency. Hopefully, you, a family member or colleague will never have a medical event that needs absolute, immediate attention. But if it happens, knowing where to call for help, and available treatment options, can make all the difference.

Can you answer these questions? Where is the nearest hospital? Who do I call in the case of an emergency? Is there 9-1-1 here? What surgical procedures can be/are safe to be preformed in my local hospital? What type of incident qualifies for medical evacuation? Who do I call for evacuation? Does my insurance cover it? Should I get my home-country Consulate involved? If you’re not sure about any of these possibilities, you’ll want to get the answers before you’re in the middle of a panic situation where seconds count.

A minor surgery in Ecuador convinced me to be prepared…

I opted to undergo minor surgery in Ecuador for a frozen knee. Knees are not life threatening nor a medical emergency. However, my experience in an Ecuadorian hospital told me that had I been in a real emergency situation things could have turned out quite differently. Here’s my experience in a nutshell:

Picture yourself on an operating table in Ecuador. You’re awake because you’ve been given a spinal tap to nullify the pain of the surgery. You’ve been watching the arthroscopic operation in progress on a video monitor and chatting with the surgeon, when bang! The monitor goes dark, the overhead lights flicker and you’re all in total darkness. That was me, until a surgical assistant’s cell screen illuminated the area. The hospital did have a back-up generator, but couldn’t get its big diesel motor started.

Later, in the recovery room, I learned a guy in the surgical theater down the hall had survived open-heart surgery in spite of the 52-minute outage. This was cause for celebration. A year later I had the same knee fixed in my home country since the result of the surgery in Ecuador was never quite right. 

I had had the option to tough it out on a frozen knee or submit to surgery in the developing world. I chose surgery. That was a mistake with little consequences. But what if the medical event had been of a serious nature where the results of a bad decision could have been fatal? As ISR constantly stresses: research, research, research! This holds true for your medical options as well as with choosing an International School.

Embassies are usually an excellent source of emergency medical information as they will already have a plan in place for their employees. They can also recommend doctors and hospitals with whom they have had a positive experience. But, if you’ve been thinking your school Director will take care of things for you, that could be a foolish, even fatal mistake. He/she may know even less than you.

If you’re an educator working in a country with top-rated medical services, consider yourself lucky. If you’re in the developing world, it’s important to keep in mind that many, if not most medical issues can be stabilized or postponed until you can reach quality, qualified services. Additionally, bring the topic up at a faulty meeting. Long-time staff can be a good source of information–there are qualified doctors in every part of the world. Talk to the school nurse. ISR strongly recommends you do your due diligence before an emergency strikes. Be prepared for the unexpected. Then make a plan! You’ll be glad you did!

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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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