Which School Should I Choose for My Child?

Dear Dr. Spilchuk/ ISR On Line Consultant

Our family is considering three international schools in London, UK for our child to register in. We have applied to all three of them and it looks as though we will have a choice. Two of the schools have IB starting from Elementary through Middle School and into High School. The third school has the American curricula up to Grade 9 and then in high school, the IB Program begins (you have the choice of staying with the American curriculum at that point or putting your child in IB). The third school has a slightly better location for us as well as swim facilities, however…
Click HERE to read complete statement & Dr. Spilchuk’s response.

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For those of us who are international educators with children, picking a school can be less about our career needs & much more about the package that best meets our children’s educational, emotional & social needs while in lands far from home & family support.

As parents, we want to know which schools are academically solid? What art/music/drama/extra-curricular/counseling programs are considered outstanding? What team sports can my children play? Which schools offer a top-notch education? Is the school population diverse–will my child make friends & be accepted? These are pertinent questions for international parents of students. The big question is, where do you find the answers?

Our newest ISR Blog, Just4Parents, was created specifically with YOUR need-to-know in mind. If you’re looking for a place with open discussions on specific schools, or a focus on more broad-reaching concerns to international parents of students, ISR encourages you to take advantage of the Just4Parents Blog. As expat parents we want to pave the way for our children with wise decisions. After all, our children are our most precious resource!

Swim Suit Edition 2012

Summer is on the horizon & if you haven’t yet decided where to spend your vacation, you’re not alone. For those seeking secluded, pristine beaches, tropical get-aways, outrageous dive spots & locales where swim suits are the attire of the day, our Swim Suit edition may hold the answer!

From Thailand to Barbados, Sri Lanka to Bali, we have international teaching colleagues living & teaching in vacation havens around the globe. We all know that when we live abroad–as opposed to just passing through on the way to the next tourist stop–we become intimate with wonderful spots that lie well below the radar of commercial travel guides. These are the spots we’d all like to know about for the summer months ahead.

I learned about Ko (island) Phi Phi from a classroom aide. Another colleague told me about Carbarete of the Dominican Republic where we rented a beach house & spent the summer luxuriating in the warm tropical atmosphere. Sharm el Sheik on the Red Sea & Candidasa, Sri Lanka were two more super Swim Suit vacations I learned about from colleagues & otherwise would have missed.

Do you have a vacation spot where the water’s perfect, the sand shimmers, the locals welcome families & the overall ambiance envelopes you in a soothing, rejuvenating sea of relaxation that makes the rigors of teaching seem like a distant past? If so, please join us here at the ISR Swim Suit Edition 2012 to share your tantalizing locales & learn about other favorite discoveries.

If you’d like a photo to accompany your blog post,  please send as an email attachment along with some text to help us match the photo to your post.  internationalschoolsreview@gmail.com

International Teaching Distilled into 6 Words

We’d like to introduce you to the internationally acclaimed Six-Word Memoir project and challenge you to create one for your international teaching career.

Literary legend has it, Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Extremely popular on a variety of topics, many of you may already be familiar with Six-Word Memoir classroom lesson plans.

Composed on every imaginable topic, Six-Word Memoirs distill our experiences down to the bare essence. Here are some examples on various topics:

On Love – Psychic girl left me before date.
On Life
– Nobody cared, then they did. Why?
On Family – Almost a victim of my family!
On Joy
– Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult.
On International Teaching (We created 2 of our own) –
Teach, travel, friends around the globe. / Left home, found my real home.

Now it’s your turn to display your creativity and compose/post a Six-Word Memoir about your international teaching career.  Enjoy!

My Favorite International Teacher Blog

Blogging is now the preferred medium of International Educators for sharing overseas travel and teaching adventures with friends and family. With plenty of space for commentary, Blogs also provide ample room for photos, and even home-made video clips. Best of all, Blogs are designed for interaction between reader and Blog owner. Taking just minutes to set up a personal Blog, it’s small wonder Blogging has become so popular among international educators.

Blogs are actually more than a great way to share experiences with folks back home and can be of tremendous value to other International Teachers, especially those new to the international teaching adventure and looking for information. Reading about the experiences of overseas educators, particularly those in a region we may be considering for our next career move, helps immensely with the decision-making process.

International Teachers’ Blogs usually provide a first-hand look at what life is really like in various locations. A family Blog displaying a rewarding time for both parents and children can signal a family-friendly location. Photos strictly of fern and fauna may point to little available cultural activity. But, the real beauty of a Blog is that we can ask questions of the Blog owner, who can then personalize the information just for us.

We invite you to join us on My Favorite International Teacher Blog to share information about, and links to, Blogs of interest to International Educators.

Being Sick of Home is Hard to Cure

After the Holiday, I Don’t Want to Go Back (our previous Blog  topic) attracted insightful responses packed with sound advice. One provocative response really hit home with us at ISR. We would like to solicit your comments:

“I’m relatively new to the teaching profession (certified in ’07) and have a question for the author of last week’s Blog Topic: What great thing do you have waiting for you in the United States that would keep you here? I’d say, if you really want to meet the most miserable, dejected people on Earth, visit the teachers’ lounge in any U.S. public school! Corporatists have the man-on-the-street believing teachers are at fault for all of America’s social problems, and that they’re overpaid to boot!”

Another ISR Blogger wholeheartedly concurred:
“Brilliantly stated! Once you get out of the USA, you find a whole world of teaching and learning that is thriving and — while imperfect to varying degrees — honoring the very educational values that American culture is rejecting.”

ISR agrees — we as teachers are infinitely more free to teach and develop our craft overseas. Teaching abroad offers small class sizes, supportive parents, a violence-free environment, a high percentage of motivated students, and no political mandates such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). What’s your opinion? Would you rather be a bit homesick OR sick of home?

Guilt Trips From Home – Taking the Grand Kids Overseas

Leaving to teach overseas can negatively impact your relationship with parents and grandparents who question the soundness of your motives. Add grand kids to the mix and WATCH OUT! Feelings can intensify and confrontations are sure to escalate. And should the country you’re working in be featured on international news, your reasons for moving the children overseas are sure to come under additional intense scrutiny. Sometimes, family members get just plain mad—mad because you’ve taken away grandchildren and theoretically placed them at risk of alienation to their nation and family. Read more…

Is International Teaching a Career or an Adventure

The recent blog topic of whether or not teaching overseas is a good career decision prompted me to reflect more on my own desires and motivations to continue teaching overseas. A few people posted on this thread that teaching overseas was “just a job, not a career,” at least not a long-term one.  Among other worries, some expressed concern about the lack of job security, a pension, or a plan for retirement.
Like many other people who posted, I share a love for travel, adventure, and learning about other cultures. While many of my stateside friends might not understand this love for adventure (note their eyes glazing over as you tell them about your recent safari or hiking in the Andes), I would not trade my experiences for anything. Well…maybe until now. I DO have fears about whether I will face age discrimination, whether professional opportunities and growth will be limited, and whether I am doing the right thing for our family and young child.
My wife, also a teacher, and I are in our early 40s. We are at a stage in our careers where we don’t plan to ‘bounce’ around the world teaching at different international or American schools every 2-3 years. We have been at our current school for over six years, but plan to recruit next year. While international teaching has become more popular and while schools have grown and multiplied, I feel there are far too many schools that are “international” or “American” in name only.
This all leads to my never-ending reflection and stress when I weigh adventure, lifestyle, and happiness with job security, pension, and retirement. What would life would be like if we returned to the U.S. to teach? How would our international experience be perceived by potential employers in the U.S. and would it be valued? Most importantly, would we be happy and would we miss our lifestyle?
I am living my dream NOW – touring world-famous museums, hiking in the Himalayas, relaxing on beaches in Southeast Asia, learning new languages, and seeing things the average citizen of my own country could only dream of seeing – all things I am very grateful for!  How long can this go on though and is this idea of teaching overseas a career, an adventure, or a pipe dream?
The author of this post received a complimentary one-year ISR membership. Do YOU  have  a Blog topic you’d like to share with colleagues around the world? – Click here

Going International with Special Needs Children

Submitted and written by ISR member:

Going International with a special needs child can make it tough to find a good school match, but it is well worth the search on the front-end because the consequences of having a poor match of schools can be devastating for your child.

Some schools flat-out state that teachers with kids who have any kind of learning differences or special needs, Need NOT Apply! This can be the danger of having an existing IEP and assuming it will be addressed in a competent manner.

Many  “need not apply” schools insist they are keeping a ‘high standard of education’ when in reality the teachers simply do not have a strong background in differentiated learning. The longer some educators have been teachers overseas, I have seen them hide behind the old fashioned instructional/traditional insistence that kids who learn differently are not capable of achieving great things when they have multiple strategies/assessments in their corners. Don’t be fooled. The best practice schools can manage a highly competitive IB or AP HS program and still maintain high expectations for kids with learning disabilities.

The state department uses some wonderful consultants through Families in Global Transitions. They are familiar with strong international academic support programs. You want to scour websites and read philosophies carefully. You need to ask extensive questions of existing staff because often those schools have experienced a turnover in academic support services.

Listen for that attitude of “all kids can learn and our job is to have have high expectations for them.” With the right environment, the small class sizes can be miraculous. In the wrong setting, when you add the transition stress and often the language differences, as well as your own adjustment and starting new jobs, settling in, and the dynamic of living in a fish bowl with your colleagues, it is hard to be the parent advocate the kids deserve.

With that said, however, the researches also say that the kind of lifestyle that opens up a kid’s mind and stretches their understanding of the world can also open up brain neurons they never knew they had.

We invite you to participate in this discussion, share information, ask questions and provide support.

Do feel free to list resources and the names of schools with comprehensive special needs programs. But school bashing is strictly prohibited and any such posts will be removed and the poster blocked.

Cooks and Drivers and Nannies — Oh My!

Back home I could barely afford the occasional babysitter for ‘date night’ with my hubby. Here in Pakistan, however, I employ a live-in maid, driver, cook, gardener  and night guard — all for the grand total of about $400 US/month. It’s wonderful having these people look after my family and I’ve come to see them as friends, especially our driver who I trust transporting my kids to and from sport & social events.

A few of my Pakistani neighbors have complained I’m over-paying my help, causing their servants to be unhappy. One person from an outrageously huge house even had the nerve  to ask me to reduce my helps’ salaries. It’s clear why laborers prefer to work for foreigners.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, however. Our first maid stole my wedding band, the cook had an affair with the next maid, the new cook was not dependable, the first cook returned but left soon after, the gardener ran off with my lawn mower  and the night guard sleeps on the job.

Sometimes I feel like the local bank–my driver recently asked for $90 to help cover his child’s school tuition & uniforms, the cook needed $30 for a doctor’s visit & medicine. Then there is the double pay for various holidays. I’m usually happy to help but I’m not sure how involved I want to become in the lives of my house-staff. I’m afraid that they believe I’ve adopted them and their families. Still, the lack of compassion displayed by the neighbors bothers me.

Here’s the way I look it: If I give money to a charity there will, most likely, be some CEO taking home at least 100K. By giving directly to people who work for me it means every cent goes into their pocket. I feel good knowing they are cared for.

I’m fairly new to the overseas life style and would appreciate any advice from other overseas educators on the topic of household help. How involved should I become in their lives? What works for you?

Our Family Is Not So Happy!

After years of working toward our goal, we’ve finally accepted a job at a small IB school in China. Both my husband and I are so very excited! We’ve talked to a lot of staff at the school–we think it’ll be a great experience and a substantial foot in the door toward international teaching careers.

Our family is, well….not so happy! Not so happy to the point we are constantly told we’re making a huge mistake, that we’re tearing apart our families, wrong and childish for not settling down and popping out grandchildren. They’re mystified as to why we’d leave our country at all, “the greatest country in the world!”

So, experienced overseas teachers, how do you deal with everyone telling you what you’re doing is a horrible, life-destroying mistake? Do your families come visit to cheer you on, or do they continue to insist you’re ruining your and their lives? How do you deal or cope? It’s becoming increasingly hard to feel excited and happy about our decision when every family member around is telling us we’re doing it all wrong.

I’m the original author of  this blog post, and I just wanted to thank everyone so much for sharing their own stories and their thoughts and support. My husband and I read over each post together. It’s so heartening to hear from so many people.
That doesn’t change our families opinions, of course. They’re still going to dislike what we’re doing, but in the end, we’re the ones who have to get up every morning and live with the choices we’ve made, not them.

Thank you all so much. We’ll keep reading anything anyone has to add, because it’s just wonderful to hear so many encouraging stories. Thank you, thank you.

Help with International Shipping

 It’s been our experience that shipping agents, used-car salesmen and politicians have one description in common: ‘If they’re breathing, they’re probably concealing something from us.”

Shipping companies are particularly dangerous because once they have your precious, personal belongings in their “care”, they will hold them hostage until you pay all additional, trumped up charges. Everyone at ISR recalls being taken advantage of by a shipping company during one or more of their many international moves. This prompts us to endeavor to keep you safe with our article titled,  Don’t Get Burnt with International Shipping. We strongly recommend you give this article a read if you’re in the process of moving overseas or returning home.

“On my last move oversees the school’s shipper told me I would need to bribe customs $600 to retrieve my shipment due to missing documents. It turned out the documents were just “misplaced” when I produced a receipt proving they had been delivered by UPS to the same man asking for the money. On the return trip home 3 years later, the Stateside company tacked on a $300 sea inspection charge. I imagine that involved looking to see if my sealed crate was still on the boat mid-journey. Thieves!!!”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing your “big” international school has clout with their shipping company and this will keep you safe. The truth is, your school’s shipping company only contracts with the company that packs and sends your belongings overseas, and receives them on the return trip. Your school’s shipper may treat you right while in country, but they don’t have reciprocal agreements with companies around the world and commonly use a phone directory to choose the company that handles your goods in your city.

“I got an email this morning, from a shipper which said I need to approve the costs before they proceed with packing. The quote had me paying over $1400! My school provides 3.5 cbm which I thought was plenty, but the quote estimated I would need 5.0 cbm. I’m only shipping 2 office chairs & six or seven boxes. All my stuff is in a storage unit that’s less than 3.5 cbm and I’m probably using 20% of the space. What is going on!?”

It’s important to stay pro-active to avoid being ripped off by unscrupulous shippers. Those of us who have navigated the ordeal of shipping our belongings overseas are here to offer advice to teachers new on the circuit. If you have a question, advice or a good anecdotal story about shipping your goods overseas this Blog is the place to post it.

Nervous About Your First Time?

Transplanted from the ISR forum
The contract’s signed. You’ve resigned your State-side teaching position. There’s still loads to do in preparation for leaving, when suddenly….reality hits. “What am I doing?”  Leaving family and friends for a far distant land can be a scary proposition. Is it normal to feel apprehensive and even overwhelmed? Do these feelings occur in seasoned overseas educators? ISR invites you to share your first time experience with colleagues preparing for their first time.

What Are the Top 10 Things Teachers Should Do in Preparation for an Overseas Move?

Getting ready for an overseas move can be a seemingly overwhelming task.  My hunch is not many of us  get a good night’s sleep the evening before take off.  From arranging for visas to forwarding mail and halting newspaper delivery, there just seems to be a million-and-one things that need attention before we can “get out of  Dodge”.

If you’re an old hand at international moves, you’ve learned some valuable lessons. Here’s an opportunity to offer sound advice for  teachers new, and not so new, to the international teaching circuit. Teachers Keeping Each Other Informed is what International Schools Review is all about.

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Family Friendly Schools

family-kid-pic43139Many schools and locations are great for kids while others, simply are not. If you’re a single parent or a teaching couple with kids, you most definitely want to make choosing a kid friendly school a top priority. After all, if your kids aren’t happy, neither will you be.

My kids grew up overseas from kindergarten through high-school graduation. Although I’m no expert on the topic, here are some things I feel you should consider when choosing a family friendly school. Click to Read complete article.

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