Do International Schools Promote Colonial Racism?

Dear ISR,

Years ago, I worked as an international educator, happily exploring the world through the better part of my 20’s. With the increasing racial tension, violence and divisiveness here in the United States, my husband and I are considering taking our kids and reentering the circuit.

My concern is that while I will be introducing my children to different cultures and the wider world, I worry we will be jumping out of the ‘frying pan’ of racial tension in the U.S. and into the fire, so to speak. I’ll explain:

Part of why I previously left international teaching was my dislike of the culture of colonial-era social racism that pervades the whole concept of international education. Not in every international school, of course, but generally speaking the hierarchy tends to be:  A few (usually) white men in leadership roles, a bunch of white teachers, and a large group of grossly underpaid, host-national staff and teachers in subservient positions. This microcosm of the ‘colonial model’ of society is pervasive. I’ve witnessed it extend to off-campus life as well.

The idea that a white face bringing Western values and a curriculum such as CCSS or Cambridge is somehow perceived as superior to anything and everything local is colonial racism, at best. The narrative begins with school websites and brochures featuring almost exclusively white teachers and white students, and extends to the very fabric of the school itself.

Wealthy people around the world have apparently bought into the belief that a white, Western education is the expected path for their children. At least that’s how it was before I left the profession. For example, at one school that I know of, parents refused to allow their kids to be taught by a credentialed, African American who had been recently recruited. Rather than stand up for their teacher the school cancelled the contract and replaced her.

As a parent I worry that early exposure to the antiquated hierarchy of international schools is not the world view I want to instill in my girls. Short of only looking for schools in Europe, I am not quite sure how to avoid this dynamic. I am seeking feedback. Is the culture of international schools as white-washed and outdated as it was, or has social progress changed it for the better?

Sincerely,

Mrs. B

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Your Embassy in Times of Crisis


To what extent can you depend on your embassy or consulate for assistance in the event of an emergency situation? The Corona-Virus situation in Wuhan, China brings the question to light.

Knowing what you can expect from your government in a time of need could ultimately save your life and the lives of loved ones. Americans living in Wuhan report they were disappointed with the U.S. government’s response to the situation. Many say they wasted precious time assuming help was on the way:

• “Information about the evacuation flight was difficult to obtain. They [the consulate] never answered the phone. An outgoing message on an answering machine told me to go to the Consulate website for information. It was dated.” 

• “Consulate employees and their families got priority seating on the evacuation flight. Charging non-government employees $1000 per ‘leftover’ seat was without conscience.”

• “I could board the evacuation flight but was told to leave my Chinese wife and child behind. I stayed in China.”

Becoming familiar with your government’s policies and its past history of intervention in times of crisis is a must for expats. As witnessed in China, assuming your government will come to your rescue could produce a false sense of security with dire consequences. Following 9/11, International Educators living in Pakistan reported that the U.S. Consulate evacuated ASAP, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Have you had the occasion to rely on your embassy in a crisis situation? How did that  experience play out? Did it elevate your perception of your embassy or consulate and give you a feeling  of security and confidence? Or? What advice do you have for fellow expatriates?

Sharing experiences will help colleagues make informed decisions in the future.

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From the Fish Bowl Into the Ocean

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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Would You Put Your Kids in a Host National School?

..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

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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Saudi Arabia Levies Tax on Expat Families

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We’re all aware that most International Schools prefer not to hire ITs with kids and/or a trailing spouse, the obvious reason being the costs associated with relocating a family. Along this vein, Saudi Arabia has made teachers with dependents even less desirable by imposing a hefty “dependent tax” on family members accompanying expats working in the Kingdom. In other words, if you’re an expat working/teaching in Saudi Arabia you’ll pay a hefty, yearly tax to bring your family with you.

Here’s the skinny on the tax: As part of the government’s attempt to balance the budget, an expat working in the Kingdom with dependents will pay 1,200 Saudi riyal ($320 US dollars) per year, per dependent. Additionally, the “dependent tax” is set to increase yearly, reaching the equivalent $1296 US dollars yearly, per dependent. For a teacher with 3 dependents, $3888 is an astronomical yearly tax.

The future of the new “dependent tax” is uncertain, as many foreign workers have decided to send family members home, the consequence being that workers will most likely send money back home and not spend it in Saudi Arabia. It appears the plan may have unintended consequences and, as such, the tax may not be the answer to balancing a budget that’s been in suffering since the decline in oil prices.

ISR ask: What has been your experience with the new “dependent tax” and how are International Schools and teachers coping with this new expense? Are other countries targeting expats in an attempt to raise money?

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Survey Results: Overseas for 20+Years Prevails

 …Our recent Survey (How Long Do International Educators Stay Overseas?) reveals that the majority of Educators who go International, stay International and do so for the greater part of their careers, if not for their entire careers.
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 …Over 700 International Educators took our Survey. More than 400 report they’ve been living and teaching abroad for 7+ years. The 20+ years overseas group tops the Survey chart, making up 16% of the total responses. This is followed closely by educators falling into the 11-19 year groups.
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A logical sequel to these results is to look into what motivates so many educators to go overseas and stay there. Could it be that educators go abroad because jobs are scarce in their own countries; and when jobs do become available their years of overseas teaching are not recognized?  ISR hypothesizes: Teachers go abroad for adventure and stay when they discover they have more freedom in the classroom,  minimal discipline problems, and a far higher standard of living/savings than in their own countries. Do you agree?
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If you are in the 7-or-more years overseas categories, we invite you to Share what motivated you to go International and what later inspired you to stay overseas.
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Should I Take My Kids Overseas (Like My Parents Did with Me)?

third-culture-kids

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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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?

pollution103709774
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.

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

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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! 

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).

Just4Parents

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!

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…

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.

Going International with Children

True international schools are culturally diverse with a rainbow of nationalities represented. Eating sushi at a Japanese friend’s house, hearing Norwegian spoken between classmates, participating in cultural fairs or having Indian mothers paint henna designs on your kids’ hands is just a sampling of a “normal” childhood overseas.

If you’ve already lived internationally, you know daily living can be much easier than back home. Hiring a nanny, housekeeper or cook is an enormous benefit to any parent. When you get home from work, there is no cooking, cleaning, or laundry responsibilities — hooray! More time can be devoted to family. There are many delightful benefits to going international with children, not the least of which is watching your children become world citizens.

Of course, not every location is Shangri-La. There are important factors to consider when choosing a school & host country with your children in tow. Here are some points to take into consideration:

• Does the job allow a lifestyle that emphasizes family time?
• Are there medical & dental facilities that meet my family’s needs?
• Is there an acceptable level of stability & safety?
• Is trustworthy childcare available? Are English-speaking nannies affordable?
• Does the school’s benefit package include dependents’ tuition, insurance, & flights?
• Do the school’s programs meet my child’s needs?
• Is the school ‘family-friendly’, supporting teachers when family needs arise?
• Is the school population diverse? Will my child make friends & be accepted?

Whether you’re a single mom/dad or a couple, moving overseas with children of any age can pose extensive benefits. ISR invites you to visit the Going International with Children Blog & share personal experiences, ask questions & most of all, keep each other informed.

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.

Wow!
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.
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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.

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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.