Should I Take My Kids Overseas (Like My Parents Did with Me)?

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Dear ISR,

     I grew up in International Schools around the world and sat in classes with the children of ambassadors, nephews of dictators, the grandchildren of rebel leaders. From the age of 10, I traveled with my International Teacher parents to locations in the world that most American children couldn’t find on a map. My classmates were the cream of the international crop and I, by association, was given the opportunity to dwell in their gilded world.  At the end of the day though, they were rich and spoiled and I was just the kid of the hired help, fine to play with, but not to make life-long connection with.

After years of living the jet-set life and coming home to a house with a housekeeper, driver and gardener, it was a rude awakening for me to return to America after graduation. I had nowhere near the finances to live as I once had and the other students couldn’t relate to my life in any way. I still, to this day, have conversations with new acquaintances where I can watch the person I am speaking to realize that we have no common ground to stand on. Being a third-culture individual can be a lonely life at times, even once you’re back on home turf.

Now, 15 years later, I’m a teacher with kids of my own. My husband, also a teacher, floated the idea recently of trying International Teaching. Our area in the mid-West U.S. is constantly experiencing budget cuts and layoffs and he thinks the move would be good for us economically. I’m concerned that by taking our daughters to an International School, I could be setting them up for the same future solitary lifestyle. The benefits are clear (better pay, better education, travel, exposure to new cultures) but I worry that the lifestyle of an International Educator could have long-lasting negative effects on our children’s lives.

Maybe some ISR readers have direct experience with this and would share their advice with me? Thanks ISR. Keep up the great work!!

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Your Own Wheels Overseas

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Besides getting back & forth to school, the doctor & grocery store, having your own wheels opens up a world of adventures you would otherwise miss out on if you always rely on buses & taxis. Car ownership means you get to avoid the hassle of having to hail a taxi, haggle over the price & find yourself at the mercy of a stranger at the wheel every time you go someplace.

   With the school year just underway, now’s the time to fill you in on the ins-&-outs of buying, owning & driving your own car. In this informative 2-part Article we fill you in on everything you need to know, including how to pick a quality pre-owned car & maintain it, even if you don’t speak the language or have any background in auto mechanics. So, let’s get rollin’ folks. Your adventure awaits!

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Have information to share? Have a question?
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Is Inclusion More than a Buzz Word at Your School?

specialneeds14563127In August of 2013, ISR published an Article titled, How Supportive of Special Needs Students is Your School? In this Article we included a list that names The Next Frontier Inclusion Foundation‘s 50 charter-member schools. Next Frontier Inclusion, in their own words, is a “non-profit organization that supports international schools in becoming more inclusive of students with special educational needs and exceptional talents.” Since 2013, The Next Frontier Inclusion has attracted scores more member-schools and been instrumental in helping schools world-wide in the area of inclusion.

Yesterday, new comments appeared on the Blog accompanying the above mentioned article.  The comments were written by a parent seeking advice on an inclusive placement for his 10-year old child. Included in his remarks the parent tells how the American International School Jeddah (a charter member of Next Frontier Inclusion) rejected his child’s enrollment application due to “‘mild motor’ issues that require the aid of a nanny as a safety factor in the restroom.”  We don’t know the entire story, but these comments troubled us and gave pause for thought.

Here is a copy of the parent’s comments: 

Dear Sir, I am in Jeddah. My child is 10 years old…he has mild motor difficulty that makes him need little assistance at the toilet for safety…he is mentally fine…he passed his grade 3 in Massarat school…a very good school for inclusion, very helpful and understanding…but unfortunately they haven’t boy section (for older students)…so I looked for international school…all schools with boy section rejected my child for his toilet-issue…needs a nanny for support at the toilet, only for his safety…so I looked for international mixed boys and girls to accept the attendance of a female nanny…

This school was the American International school in Jeddah…they unfortunately rejected us as well saying that he should be totally independent…how this could be said from a school with inclusion???

I wrote to you, hopefully you can help me…because we couldn’t find a decent school for my near normal child…hasn’t he the right to be in a decent place?? To study, to play, to mingle and to be accepted????

Thanks for your time…but I think the American International school in Jeddah doesn’t deserve to be in that list of schools with inclusion…”

(Name withheld)
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In 2013, comments posted to this very same ISR Blog reflect a similar reality expressed in the parent’s comments posted in 2016 (above). Here’s a few examples of 2013 comments:

“I have yet to see an international school with an appropriate and acceptable Special Needs program.”

“I’ve worked at 7 international schools and none of them had the least bit of services for special needs. In fact, the school did not identify these kids to us and left us on our own to figure out who was who.”

“New director seems bent on filling seats regardless of student needs and school’s ability to provide appropriate (or any) service.”

“I worked at a school in Khao Yai, Thailand and was asked to work there as a Special Educator. It was interesting, once I started identifying students in the program as possible Sped Kids, I was told my contract would not be renewed…Oh yes this was after they got their certification first…”

With no intention of belittling the work of the The Next Frontier Inclusion Foundation or pointing a finger at American International School Jeddah, our question is: Are some International Schools simply masquerading as being “Inclusive” as a means to adding a more humanistic, caring mask to an otherwise purely profit-motivated operation? ISR School Reviews relate many incidences of International Schools flaunting the PYP, MYP, AP, IB, Best Practices, etc. as a means of attracting clients, but without completely subscribing to or meeting the requirements of the programs. Could the same be true of Inclusion?

But…is it a healthy place to live?

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When choosing a school for your next career move, it’s well worth the effort to research potential long-term effects a location may have on your health. Whether it’s air quality issues, the very real potential to contract malaria in areas that don’t practice vector control, heavy-metal poisoning from bathing in/consuming lead-tainted water, pesticide-laden produce, or exposure to spit on the sidewalk, the lack of environmental consciousness in both developed and developing nations can have serious, long-term effects on your health. And, of course, the resulting problems are especially potent in children, pets, and those with compromised immune systems.

Tainted water or the potential to become mosquito bitten will keep very few of us from accepting an overseas teaching position. But the air we breathe, the tainted food that’s the only food available, streets littered with garbage and its attending vermin, are most definitely causes for concern and reconsideration. Air pollution, such as seen in China and even Los Angeles, has been positively linked to higher instances of asthma, respiratory complications, skin problems and some forms of cancer. And we all know the problems associated with lead plumbing and mercury found on produce.

ISR recommends researching more than just a school and the local tourist sights. We’re all concerned about our health and each have a different threshold for what’s considered an acceptable/tolerable environmental situation. Air quality index, pesticide regulations, water quality standards, sanitary practices and pollution levels may be more than just potential inconveniences for some —- they could have major, long-term health consequences for both you and your family.

We invite you to use this Blog to ask questions and share information on the health concerns associated with living in locations around the world.

Going International with Health Issues

Hospital building flat style. Ambulance and helicopter, health and care, aid and doctor. Vector illustration

Finding yourself overseas, cut off from meds and treatments you need is an emergency best avoided. So…If you live with a chronic health condition requiring periodic medical care and/or daily medication, do take the time to research medical procedures and medications available in what may soon become your new host country.

Diabetes, hyper-tension, high cholesterol and a host of other nagging yet common conditions are readily treated in most corners of the globe. If, however, you’re living with a less common condition that could be outside the expertise of the medical community at your destination, you’re advised to research whether the treatments you require will be available.

If it is specialty meds you require, bring a hefty supply with you overseas and do this even if the drug is available at your destination. It’s not uncommon for supplies to become exhausted in some locales and shipping networks can and do break down. Don’t count on having your prescription mailed to you, either. Customs duties can be ridiculously absorbent and the time your meds spend in customs may be long….too long!

On a similar note, a member writes: When I returned to the States from the African continent last Christmas, I soon discovered I had contracted a nasty tropical disease. Feeling worse by the minute and dealing with a wide range of ugly effects, I was not able to get it treated in my North American city of 650,000 inhabitants as it was, obviously, an uncommon disease in this part of the world. Fortunately I had brought meds back with me at the suggestion of our school nurse who advised all teachers to bring a supply ‘just in case.’ Lesson learned: Don’t take anything for granted! Lack of available care and/or medicine can happen anyplace in the world.

This brings us to the topic of health Insurance. Normally, schools purchase what is known as “group insurance.” This means that one or two members of the group with a costly pre-existing conditions can and do cause the overall price for the group to soar. Health issues can be a deterrent when schools consider teachers for employment. If you do have a pre-existing health issue, thoroughly read the school’s health insurance policy to be sure your condition is covered. Don’t take anything for granted, or the word of anyone telling you…”I think it’s covered.” ISR Reviews attest to teachers who found themselves overseas with a costly condition not covered by their school’s health Insurance policy. As always, we recommend research and the sharing of information and experiences. International Teachers Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is All About!

We invite you to post questions and comments concerning
medical issues as they relate to the International Teaching experience.

Are You a Teacher or a Traveler First?

teacher55905287or-travelerNot everyone goes into teaching because they simply love children. Many of our colleagues entered the profession for the express purpose to live overseas & travel extensively. Interestingly, these individuals often discover they have an innate ability to teach & a passion for the profession. Had it not been for the lure of travel their talents may have remained undiscovered, to the detriment of International schools & students. Let’s consider these educators to be “Travelers first.”

On the other end of the spectrum are educators who, after years of grinding it out in the trenches of public schools, decide to take a chance on a different perspective & enter the world of International Education. Many have very limited, if any, travel experience. We’ll consider these individuals “Educators first.”

How do you fit into the picture? Are you a Teacher or a Traveler first? Or maybe you’re equally both? We invite you to  take our brief survey. Survey results display in real-time so be sure to check back from time-to-time.


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The International Educators’ Bill of Rights – Protection we ALL deserve

  In the excitement of the upcoming recruiting season, as a newbie or seasoned veteran, remember that your first priority to yourself & your career should be to find out exactly what a school is asking you to commit to. Can this International School be counted on to treat their teaching staff honorably? Do they historically follow moral & legal rules of contractual engagement? Are they honest in their obligations to teachers & in compliance with their nations’ laws? While most International Schools are true to their word we can see on ISR that not all schools would be able to answer “Yes” to these questions.

Schools that withhold salaries, switch contract terms, substitute poor housing for promised housing, fail to reimburse visa, travel &/or shipping allowances, renege on health insurance & engage in other dishonest practices are not acceptable schools to work at by any stretch of the imagination. The International Educators’ Bill of Rights was created through the input of hundreds of educators working around the world who experienced just such abuses.

What would it take for a recruiting agency to bar a dishonorable school from their recruiting venue? Although we can verify that through the years a handful of schools have been banned from recruiting, based on ISR School Reviews there remains more than just a few schools that deserve to be sanctioned. And yet we find them listed to recruit at major venues this season.

Until the time recruiting agencies accept full responsibility for bringing abusive schools into compliance or banning them altogether, ISR recommends recruiting candidates consult the International Educators’ Bill of Rights as a yardstick by which to measure a school’s commitment to their teaching staff.

Why take chances with your personal well-being & your career? Before accepting an overseas teaching position ask the school Director if his/her school endorses basic rights for teachers as outlined in the International Educators’ Bill of Rights. You’ll be glad you did!

Click here to read International Educators’ Bill of Rights  
Click here to download/print International Educators’ Bill of Rights

Schools In Dangerous Locales

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    In response to our previous article, What Would it Take?, ISR asked international educators to weigh-in on the topic of salary packages attractive enough to get you to overcome your resistance to work in a country previously on your ‘no-go, no-way, no-how’ list of places to work.

     Signing on to a school in a local that doesn’t meet your criteria for language, geographical location, political and social outlook is one thing. But when rampant crime and the potential to get hurt are a very real possibility, that’s an entirely new ball game

     Of course we all have a different tolerance for dangerous situations and some people seem to thrive on danger. One thing I’ve noticed for certain is that school directors seem to have the highest tolerance for such situations and can even make light of them, especially when they are trying to sell me on their school.

     Lets stay safe and help each other avoid unforeseen dangerous situations. We’ve started a list of Crime Ridden Locations and encourage you to add locations and personal experiences. International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is All About!

We’ve started off the conversation with excerpts from ISR  School Reviews, Forum and Blog posts from ISR members and site visitors:  We invite your comments:

Venezuela

It’s not safe to go out after dark, and during the day most people keep their phones hidden and carry “rob money” just in case. 

My friends have been robbed in so many different parts of the city at any hour of the day.

When I walk outside, or when I take the bus or even when I take a taxi, I am always alert. I know who is behind me at all times and constantly taking precautions no matter what I am doing.

A young college student in my guarded condo complex was robbed at gunpoint at the bus stop right outside our gate.

I was only robbed once and it was only for some small change. I consider myself lucky.

I worked there for years and left because I knew too many people who had been shot, kidnapped, or had their homes robbed at gunpoint. No one is safe there anywhere, especially not if you’re a Gringo!

My wife was mugged and I was nearly gunned down just outside of our flat. And we lived in a rather posh area.

Bratislava

I was robbed twice in 4 months! If you go there you will regret it.

Philippines

I had two people pull a gun on me, and one was just outside a mall. So it is dangerous enough, and even more so if you were actually involved with drugs.

D. R. Congo

They broke in and tied up the teacher. Then they ram shackled the house and took everything of value. She wasn’t hurt and her maid found her still on the floor with her hands and feet bound with rope.

Ecuador

When my husband left the bank the teller must have had accomplices waiting outside because at the first traffic light he was approached by two men with guns. He had no choice but to let him in. They had him drive to a secluded area and tied him up in the back seat. Then they used the car to rob two houses. They left him tied up in the back seat of the car and fled. This sort of crime is not uncommon here.

Guatemala

About half the expats I know have been mugged/held up at gunpoint/pick-pocketed etc. But the number of ways in which your personal freedom is curtailed in societies like these gets old

When they can’t get ring off your finger they will cut off the finger. These robberies happened on the city busses. Don’t wear jewelry and if you do, make sure you can get it off.

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What Would it Take?

calculator6923345There’s more than a few places in this world where many of us would not be willing to live & teach. I had my reasons for wanting to avoid Pakistan, but the salary/package was so attractive I could hardly say YES fast enough. I loved Pakistan & my bank account literally grew exponentially. The Congo wasn’t on the top of my list, either, but the package was so absolutely alluring I couldn’t say NO, and again, I banked a ton of moohla & got in some outstanding travel adventures.

When I did finally land a job at my top-pick school, I took a 60% pay cut for the “privilege” of working there. It wasn’t long before I started to feel I was being taken advantage of, especially since the cost of living was far, far from cheap. I went from banking thousands a month to putting away a measly few hundred, if I was lucky. As a trade-off, I had completely derailed my progress towards financial security.

While money isn’t my top priority, it’s an important factor considering international teachers have no pension plans like teachers I know back home. So, while I want to see the world & live internationally, I do need to continue planning for the future.

Would I go back to Pakistan today? How about Kuwait, Liberia, or Egypt? From the comfort of my desk I will say NO. But, sitting across from a recruiter & in the excitement of the moment, bolstered by the promise of a great salary? I have the feeling I would say YES!

I think it’s fair to say we all have a figure in our head of what constitutes a great salary. Of the places in the world where you would not be willing to live & teach, what sort of salary/package would it take to get you to change YOUR mind?

Name your place & package:

Is This an International School?

international-kidsIf you ask a school owner what makes their school an International School, he/she may tell you it’s the international mix of the student body. Others may say it’s the recruited Western-educated teachers. Still others will point to their American or British curriculum.

If you’re teaching in what is termed an International School, you’re sure to have a different interpretation of what makes a school truly international than does the owner/director. Chances are you’ll question a school if the student body is composed of 98% local kids (some/many with dual citizenship)–does this influx of duel-citizenship passports qualify it for International status? Likewise, you have to wonder if an English-language curriculum is taught in strict lock-step with 3 other classrooms (same grade level), is this considered International Education? When all the kids on the school yard converse only in the local language, are they really international students?

From time-to-time we get letters from ISR members telling us that their current school, although represented at the conference as being an International School, has turned out to be nothing more than a glorified local school masquerading as something it is not. These same teachers tell us they would not have considered the job had they known at interview time that the term International was being used as nothing more than a thinly veneered part of a sales package.

In an effort to arrive at the definition for the term International School, we invite you to visit the Is This an International School? Blog and share your thoughts on the topic. With so many new teachers entering the field of International Education, here’s an opportunity for seasoned overseas educators to help newbies discover what they should be questioning at interview time.

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Please do not use this blog to comment on/evaluate individual schools
Click Here to tell colleagues about the international status of a specific school

The 3 Things YOU Absolutely Must Know Before Signing On

top-threeIf you were able to know just 3 things about an International school before signing a contract, what would those 3 things be, assuming, that is, you’ll be provided with absolutely truthful answers?

Michelle, an ISR staff member, said she would want to know: Does the school consistently honor its contractual obligations? Followed by, How international is the school? She elaborated, “A classroom of 30 Pakistani boys, some with dual citizenship, does not an International school make.” And third, How adept are the kids at speaking English? “Try teaching high school English Lit (think, George Orwell) to kids who can barely ask to use the bathroom in English!”

Ben’s response was completely different: His number one question, Can I see the benefits package? You know, air fares, moving, housing, insurance, that sort of stuff. Followed by, What sort of support can I expect from Admin? In other words, are teachers supported against powerful parents? And number three, Is there 100% academic integrity?

Both Ben and Michelle agree that having no more information than completely truthful answers to their 3 questions would be enough to base a decision to commit, or not commit, to an International school. Of course, both are seasoned International teachers who expect to experience some awkward situations with specifics of a new school, admin and location.

Without a doubt, singles in search of a vibrant social life will have different top priorities than couples. Seasoned International educators will have different priorities than “newbies”, while those traveling with children or non-teaching spouses will have different criteria still.

In our effort to make ISR an ever evolving tool to help our Members make informed decisions, ISR asks: If YOU could know only 3 things about a school before you signed/or refused a contract, what would those 3 things be? To help qualify your response, please precede your answer with a status update–(i.e.: I am single/married, have children, number of schools taught at, years overseas).

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More About the Worst Among Us – Alumni Accuse International School of Child Abuse Cover-Up

child-abuse30183278A frightening theme emerged from Readers’ responses to ISR’s previous article, Pedophiles Among Us. It came to light that educators have observed that in reaction to a student’s complaint of a pedophile incident, a school may actually attempt to cover-up the complaint instead of acting upon it. Obviously, public admission of a pedophile in the classroom would not be good for a school’s image or its financial bottom line.

Taking the cover-up theory one step further, some educators expressed the belief that discovered pedophiles may simply be asked to quietly resign. In exchange for leaving the school without a commotion, the school may even go so far as to write the teacher a glowing evaluation. Grievously, the purged pedophile is then free to seek another unsuspecting school, making the school they are leaving just as guilty as the person who committed the crime.

Could there be any truth to such comments? Certainly, very few, if any, schools would fail to act on complaints of a pedophile. The American School in Japan, however, allegedly may be one such school that failed to act, as reported in The Japan Times, March 2014.

The Japan Times informs us that several alumni from the American School in Japan have come forward to claim that their former teacher (noted marine biologist), Jack Moyer, sexually abused students on numerous occasions during his long-term employment at ASIJ (1963-2000). The claim asserts that ASIJ ‘s head teachers, on up to the upper Administration, ignored and covered-up student complaints of Moyer’s crimes and allowed him to continue working with children. It is believed that while working at ASIJ , Moyer abused as many as 32 female students, some as young as 9-years old.

Current Director of ASIJ , Edwin Ladd, and Stephanie Toppino, chair of ASIJ’s Board of Directors, recently revealed knowledge that Moyer abused students while working at the school. In a message to alumni, as reported by The Japan Times on March 20, Ladd and Toppino suggested the school had only learned of Moyer’s alleged molestations in November 2013. This is in sharp contrast to alumni’s statements.

To date, 12 alumni groups have stepped forward and created a Petition requesting a third-party investigation into allegations the school covered up complaints and failed to act during Moyer’s tenure at the school.

As reported in The Japan Times, alumni’s efforts to initiate a third-party investigation into wrong doings on the part of the school have been “stonewalled” by the current administration. It is reported that one Petition organized by 1979 graduate, Susan Larson, charges the school with failing to protect former students and continuing to brush aside complaints from survivors of Moyer’s abuse. Read the entire Japan Times Article

Allegations against ASIJ  appear to be in lock-step with the aforementioned comments in regards to ISR’s previous article, Pedophiles Among Us. In light of complicity allegations against ASIJ , a pressing question is this: When children can’t depend on their school to protect them and offer a safe and secure environment, then what?

Comments

Pedophiles Among US

child-abuse30183278This is an extremely unpleasant topic but in the light of recent developments, ISR believes it merits discussion among the international teaching community.

It has been recently discovered that a known pedophile had managed to elude authorities and work his away around the world teaching and molesting young boys aged 12-14. William Vahey, a 64-year old American and International Educator, worked in more than 7 international schools during his career.  At his most recent school in Nicaragua, he was exposed as a pedophile after his house maid stole a pin drive from his home and discovered vile images.  She delivered the pin drive to Vahey’s employer and when confronted, Vahey confessed that he had drugged and molested at least 90 boys while on overnight field trips. The dates accompanying the images on the pin drive corresponded to the dates of field trips with his students.

Police records show that in 1970, while studying for a teaching degree, Vahey was jailed for 90 days after pleading guilty to molesting boys at a swimming pool where he worked as swim instructor in California.  He was ordered to register as a sex offender for life, but after graduating from college in 1972 neglected to sign the Register. The more than 7 schools that employed him during his teaching career all failed to find records showing time served for his crimes. One International school explained they had vetted Vahey back to 1985 when he taught in the United States, and assumed that that particular school would have vetted his even earlier history.  They looked no further into his past. Vahey had slipped through the cracks.

William Vahey took his own life rather than face trial. His wife, Jean Vahey, was superintendent of Escuela Campo Alegre in Venezuela during the same period as Vahey taught there between 2002 and 2009. Jean Vahey was also Executive Director of European Council of International Schools. She has in no way been implicated.  A statement from the ECIS Board of Trustees can be found at the following link – http://www.ecis.org/page.cfm?p=787

Unfortunately, we find that the case of William Vahey is not an isolated incident on the international education circuit. An ISR Review reported, “…it was learned that Kwangju Foreign School has also received a certain notoriety from the fact that the pedophile, Christopher Paul Neil, was a middle school teacher at the school just prior to his capture in Thailand, in October of 2007. He was quite popular with students and staff members, and it came as a complete surprise to everyone when his photo appeared on CNN during Interpol’s manhunt for him. Korean Immigration has now gotten stricter about checking the backgrounds of people wanting to teach in Korea, because of this incident…”. 

A Google search will uncover more than we’d like to confront. Our question is this: How can we, as International educators, protect our children from such abuse? How can schools uncover and expose those who would do harm? Whether you’re an administrator, a school Board official, or a teacher in an international setting, what is the cure for this insidious treachery that causes harm to children of the world?

Go to More of the Worst Among Us
Alumni Accuse International School of Child Abuse Cover-Up

ReConsidering Your Possibilities

comfortzone57074936Being an International Educator is all about putting yourself “out there” beyond your comfort zone, embracing new & different experiences. This is, after all, how we grow as individuals & as educators. In light of that, limiting your recruiting focus to just one or two locations seems contrary to the expansive spirit of the profession. Why not take a chance? I did & am I ever glad!

A couple of examples: I certainly had never considered Pakistan for a career move & when out of the blue I was offered a position, everyone tried to convince me not to go. I went to Lahore & loved it! The Pakistani people were gracious, the food & culture were outstanding, the students were a good group & with India less than an hour away (for example) the travel opportunities were spectacular. Although Pakistan was not originally on my limited, safety-zone list of places to go, in retrospect it should have been at the very top!

The Democratic Republic of Congo was not on my list either, but when I found a note in my recruiting folder at an ISS conference I decided to follow up, if for no other reason than to hone my interviewing skills. I did sign the contract & found the Congo to be quite a challenging experience, particularly since the school & location were grossly misrepresented by the director & his professionally-made video that painted Kinshasa to be a delightful tourist destination (this was Pre-ISR). Although the Congolese were warm & welcoming & I had fun resurrecting my high school French, the extreme poverty & complete lack of infrastructure at the school were horrendous. Looking back, I realize that the Congo changed my perspective on the world & international teaching in a profound way. Would I go back? Probably not knowing the situation as I now do. But it was a deeply enlightening period in my life, one that I’m glad I did not miss.

I don’t recommend you completely throw caution to the wind. There are most definitely some political hot spots best avoided. What I am recommending is that instead of limiting yourself to just a few possibilities, why not step out of your comfort zone, reconsider your possibilities & let the real adventures of your career begin!?!

Have YOU ever accepted a position at a school that was not on your list of desired places to live & teach? How did the experience turn out for you? Were you wonderfully surprised or shell shocked? We invite you to share your experiences with colleagues.  Please scroll down to comment.

How Supportive of Special Needs Students is Your School?

specialneeds14563127Just days ago, ISR received a letter from The Next Frontier Inclusion (NFI). We’re delighted to learn NFI is committed to supporting Special Needs Students in International Schools. This is the first such organization of its kind of which we are aware. A copy of the letter from Gill & Ochan Powell of NFI is posted below.

You’ll notice the letter includes a list of schools already affiliated with NFI & it looks like they’re off to a strong start. Of course, we all know there can be a huge chasm between word & deed, & for International Educators seeking positions at new schools, it may be useful to know to what extent individual schools actually do support Special Needs Students.

Reviews on ISR reveal scenarios in which Special Needs Students are tossed into the mainstream student population & potentially left to sink or swim. Without question, this approach drastically impacts everyone, students, families, teachers, admin & classmates, alike. Surprisingly, some schools consider this sink or swim “method” their full commitment to services for Special Needs Students.

Also to be considered are cultures that  keep Special Needs Students in the background & out of sight as if  they are a source of embarrassment. How Special Needs Programs would function in these societies should be of concern to International Educators, as schools may simply pay lip service to Special Needs Programs as a means to collect exorbitant fees from unsuspecting parents.

Of course, there are many schools earnestly implementing programs to meet the needs of Special Needs Students. But before considering an International school for your child or your International teaching career, everyone should be aware of the extent to which Special Needs Students are supported at that school. Is this a sink or swim school, or a supportive environment in which to grow & develop as a teacher &/or a student?

To help identify schools committed to the unique requirements of Special Needs Students, we invite ISR readers to share their knowledge about the dedication to Special Needs Programs made by schools on the Next Frontier Inclusion list, below. If you have experience with a school not on the list, please also feel free to inform colleagues on that particular school.

Together we can identify & support the schools truly helping Special Needs Students.

Letter from The Next Frontier Inclusion to
AISHnet (Academy of International School Heads), Headnet & ISR

Dear All,
We hope the school year has started well for you. From a reading of the “roll call” on AISHnet and Headnet, it would seem that international schools are flourishing, with many seeing record levels of enrollment and expansion.

The purpose of this news release is to keep you abreast of some of the developments in The Next Frontier Inclusion, Thinking Collaborative, EAF Staff Development Center and some new publications that may be of interest. Please feel free to share this newsletter and any of the attachments.

The Next Frontier Inclusion (NFI) is a non-profit organization that supports international schools in becoming more inclusive of students with special educational needs and exceptional talents. NFI membership is now over fifty international schools and growing. We are a collaborative group that meets periodically to share knowledge and experience with respect to inclusive education. Please visit our web site: Next Frontier Inclusion

The following schools have joined NFI:

American Int’l School of Dhaka
American Int’l School of Jeddah
American Int’l School of Johannesburg
American Int’l School of Rotterdam
American Int’l School of Vienna
American School of Brazzaville
American School of Chennai
American School of Dubai
American School of The Hague
American School of Yaounde
Anglo-American School Moscow
Bangalore Int’l School
Beacon Hill School, Hong Kong
Beijing City Int’l School
Berlin Brandenburg Int’l School
Bonn Int’l School
Casablanca American School
Colegio Gran Bretana
Concordia Int’l School Shanghai
Concordian Int’l School, Bangkok
Copenhagen Int’l School
Ecole Nouvelle Suisse de la Romande
Hong Kong Academy
Int’l Community School Addis Ababa
Int’l Community School, Amman
Int’l Community School, London
Int’l School of Ho Chi Minh City
Int’l School Basel
Int’l School of Bangkok
Int’l School of Beijing
Int’l School of Berne
Int’l School of Brussels
Int’l School of Dhaka
Int’l School of Havana
Int’l School of Kenya
Int’l School of Kuala Lumpur
Int’l School of Manila
Int’l School of Tanganyika
Int’l School of Zurich
Jakarta Int’l School
Kongsberg Int’l School
Metropolitan School of Panama
Nagoya Int’l School
Nanjing Int’l School
Phuket Int’l Academy Day School
Singapore American School
SJI Int’l School, Singapore
UNIS Hanoi
UNIS New York
Yokohama Int’l School

Please Scroll Down to Post Your Comments

Is Teaching Abroad Right for ME as a New Teacher? by: Dr. Barbara Spilchuk, ISR On line Teacher Consultant

choice41516506Each year more and more university students are choosing to go abroad after they’ve finished their Education degree. Many come to me asking the question: “Is international teaching the right choice for me?” This is not a question I can easily answer for young people choosing to make their first teaching experience an international one. All I can do is tell the students to consider the following three questions:

Have you traveled abroad before? The answer to this question may seem unimportant; however, young teachers who have international experiences, even travel experiences with their families, have a greater understanding of the cultural differences they might experience when they go abroad. This greater understanding will set them up for a better chance of success in a country where the life experience is significantly different from what they are used to.

Are you LEAVING or GOING? The answer to this question is pretty critical. If a young teacher simply cannot find work in his/her own country, and s/he feels that an international teaching experience is the only option left to begin a teaching career, this is not the best reason for going abroad. Why do I say this? I say this because when you make a decision about your career, you should make the decision to GO to someplace, not LEAVE some place, for whatever reason. Every time I’ve made a decision to LEAVE some place, it has not been as productive for me as when I have made a decision to GO to a specific place. It is all in the mind-set. Let me explain:

If I am leaving some place for a reason that is not positive (i.e.: I cannot get a job, I’ve had an argument with my family or friend, I’m trying to escape an existing poor work situation), then my mind is not on the future….It is on the past because I have not reconciled myself with whatever the issue was that has prompted me to LEAVE. I have learned that it is better for me to be at peace with whatever situation is at ‘home’ before I decide to GO to a new place. This way my mind is fully situated in the future and I have a better chance of success with no regrets for my past. An exception to this rule is if    the situation ‘at home’ is a dangerous one that you need to remove yourself    from.

Do you have a specific place in mind where you would like to GO?  Have you done your homework on the host country’s people, customs, environment, politics? Not every international teaching location is good for every young teacher…or for every seasoned teacher, for that matter! Knowing something about the country you may be going to BEFORE you accept a contract can help you stay out of difficulty. Customs, traditions, religious beliefs, gender or racial issues or biases, economic demographics, attitude towards foreigners, health and safety issues, just to name a few considerations, should be explored BEFORE you sign a contract!

I shake my head when I get a letter from a young teacher that says s/he feels isolated or unwelcome within their community and they want to break contract. Did you check to see what the situation was in that community BEFORE you agreed to sign the contract? How did you check? Did you ask to speak to teachers already there? Did you talk to someone from your embassy? Did you research online? Did you read the ISR reviews of the school you would be going to BEFORE you signed your contract? Better yet, did you try to find a travel partner to go with? I always recommend that new international teachers go in pairs, either with their spouse or with another ‘newbie’. That way there is a built-in support system in the new location to help with the cultural and isolation transition.

There are so many things to consider when choosing International Education as your first choice when moving into your education career after completing university. I encourage you to think things over carefully and if you have questions or comments, just scroll down and post your thoughts. I’ll be keeping an eye on this Blog and will be more than happy to help you with your decision-making! 

Can I Really Live on that Salary?

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An ISR Member has proposed the development of a useful tool for recruiting candidates. We invite you to participate in its development:
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“Dear ISR,
As recruiting season approaches, I thought it would be useful for us, as a community of international educators, to pool our knowledge regarding net salaries paid by individual schools throughout the International School circuit.

To clarify: I want to establish a ballpark figure per individual country/school regarding what is an acceptable net salary as compared to cost-of-living expenses for that area. The figure I’m looking for is exclusive of benefits (Let’s assume all the usual benefits apply) such as housing/flights/medical/etc. For ease, let’s consider a teacher with 5-10 years’ experience and the salary value in U.S. dollars (as used by most recruiting agencies).

For example: If I were looking at an International School in Thailand and the usual benefits were covered, then I would consider anything less than net 70,000 Baht per month ($2282 US) very low and possibly unacceptable. An acceptable salary range in Thailand might be something more like 70,000 – 120,000 Baht.

So, in summary, I’m proposing we ALL pool our knowledge of the countries where we’ve lived and post what we feel is an acceptable net salary on which a teacher can live comfortably and save some, too. I understand this will not provide perfectly sound salary advice to everyone, but it may help us as we set off on our quest to dance with the good, the bad, and the downright ugly! Who wants to play?”

Scroll down to share what YOU know about acceptable net salaries in relation to cost-of-living standards in various countries/schools around the world. It will benefit us ALL!

Speaking About Bullying

 Crisis in the International Classroom

Bullying is a deservingly hot topic right now. It is not just physical aggression such as a kick or a surreptitious pinch. It is also behavior such as purposeful exclusion and saying hateful words to others. Bullying behavior is not just direct meanness, but also indirect meanness, such as when a child or group of children tells everyone not to play or interact with one child. Bullying is also destroying a child’s reputation and likeability via the Internet, know as cyber bullying.

 In a Bullying Questionnaire (Dr. Dan Olweus), 524,000 American elementary, middle, and high school students responded, anonymously. Nearly 20% of elementary school students reported they had been targets of bullying behavior at least two or three times during the past month and in that same study, between 5% and 10% of elementary school students admitted to bullying others two to three times in the past month.

It is especially alarming to learn how little we teachers know about bullying that occurs among the students we teach. In a Canadian study, researchers observed behavior on the playground and in classrooms, and recorded an incident of bullying behavior on average of every seven minutes. Adults intervened in only 4% of these incidents. Even more amazing is the fact that when they observed classrooms, researchers noted that adults intervened in only 14% of the incidents that happened when they were present, while 71% of these same adults reported that they “nearly always” intervened in bullying incidents.

ISR would like to start the Bullying Conversation here. Does your school have a policy in place to deal with Bullying, including Cyber-Bullying? Do parents and administrators get involved with identifying and stopping those who bully at your school? Have you found techniques that work in your classroom and/or the social areas of school (hallways, cafeteria, playground) to prevent bullying? Do you, as a teacher, see an increase in Bullying amongst international students?

Weigh-in now with your thoughts on Bullying in International Schools: Scroll to read/post comments

and…Baby Makes 3 – Planning a Family Overseas

If you’re planning to start or expand your family while overseas, be aware  that not all schools view pregnancy in a positive light. In fact, some schools  see pregnancy as an irreconcilable disruption to a teacher’s duties and grounds for dismissal. Be extra diligent about doing your homework before deciding on a school–you certainly don’t need any surprises for your family  or career when you announce, “We’re pregnant!”

Doing your home work is about more than just your school’s maternity policy. Also  consider: Should you have your baby in the host country or return home? Will not knowing  the local language be a problem for you and your spouse? What’s the professional level of medical care in your host country? Can you find quality child daycare when you return to  work? These, and other questions are topics you’ll want to thoroughly explore.

To start your decision-making process we recommend that you read the ISR Article,  Planning a Family Overseas. Written by a veteran international educator who brought  two boys into the world while teaching overseas, this article offers sound advice and discusses many of the pros and cons of having a child overseas.

For answers to questions pertaining to your own personal situation, we invite you to visit our Overseas Pregnancy Blog (scroll down) where you can ask specific questions about the maternity leave policy at various schools, the level of medical care available in locations around the world,  and any other questions on your mind. If you have started or expanded your family while overseas and wish to share the experience and possibly answer queries from your international colleagues, the ISR Oversees Pregnancy Blog is the place to visit (scroll down).