Taking a Year Off

A year gap on your resume can be an unwanted stain that’s sure to prompt an interviewing school Director to ask for an explanation:  Were you just hanging out? Traveling? Did an emotional overload dictate a break? Is there an ailing parent in the picture? How did you keep up your teaching skills? Are you sure you’re still interested in International education? Or, maybe you’re in some type of legal or financial trouble?

If you have been forced to spend a year away from International Teaching because Covid wiped out your position, or you autonomously decided to stay/go home and play it safe, there should be little worry about this explainable gap in your resume. However, ISR definitely does recommend you document your explanation with a letter from your previous school explaining the consequences of the Covid Virus on your previous school and position.

Do, and we encourage you, be prepared for this next question:  How did you spend your year off? Killing time vegging in front of YouTube isn’t going to win you stature as a candidate. On the other hand, cultural experiences, personal development or an addition to your credentials will paint a much better image of you and say something positive about what you’ll contribute to the school atmosphere. Again, documentation is important and helps a school Director choose the best candidate.

If YOU decided to take a year off due to the Covid crisis, or your school decided for you, ISR invites you to ask Questions about and Share thoughts on how YOU will incorporate this gap into your resume.  Of equal interest is your impressions on how a year away during the Covid crisis may affect future job seeking efforts and how YOU show you utilized the time to make yourself a better and more desirable International Education candidate.

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A Recipe for Disaster

With the spread of the Coronavirus far more severe than when distance learning was substituted for the dangers of classroom instruction, ISR can’t help but question the wisdom of International Schools summoning kids and teachers back to the classroom.

Are YOU ready to go back? Beyond some parents’ resistance to their kids wearing masks and a noted lack of social distancing internationally, there is much to take into account when deciding whether it’s wise to reunite with your students:

Can Your School Admin Answer the Following Questions?

• What happens if a teacher tests positive? Will they need to self isolate for 14 days. Is that time off covered? Will every student the teachers have been in contact with need to do the same?

• What happens if someone living in or working in the same home as a teacher (spouse, child, housekeeper) tests positive? Does that teacher need to take 14 days off to quarantine?

• If the need arises, how will the school find a substitute teacher willing to work in a classroom full of exposed, possibly infected students?

• What if a substitute teacher is diagnosed with COVID-19? Does each student in each class they were in have to quarantine and get tested? Who is going to pay for that?

• What if a student tests positive? Does every other student and teacher they have been around quarantine? Does every parent get notified who is infected and when? Or will schools just send “may have been in contact” emails all year long?

• What is this stress going to do to teachers? How does it affect their health and well-being? How does it affect their ability to teach? How does it affect the quality of education they provide? What are the long-term effects on students and teachers of consistently being stressed out?

• How will students and faculty be affected when the first teacher in their school dies from Covid-19? The first parent of a student who brought it home? The first child?

Just like politicians, an administrator may employ broad, sweeping statements to garner confidence, yet fail to demonstrate an executable plan for achieving the stated objective. Imagine an administrator telling parents that the safety of their children is a top priority, yet no emergency evacuation plan is in place. Telling students to “run for safety when a siren blows” is not a plan for safety and certainly won’t be helpful in a pandemic. Likewise, there is no substitute for a solid plan in the face of Covid-19. Hoping for the BEST and failing to prepare for probable eventualities is a surefire recipe for disaster. Can your school admin answer these important questions?

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Survey Results = 90% Wonderful News

Our goal at ISR was to create a comprehensive Survey, the results of which would provide International Educators with a much-needed insight into the feasibility of a career in International education during the ‘New Normal.’ Here’s what YOU need to know:

The Good News

Based on 1,300 responses, 90% of International Educators currently under Contract said they are confident their Contracts will be honored for the remainder of the school year and beyond. A full 90% of all educators starting at new schools also said they feel secure knowing their positions will be there for them in the new school year. Wonderful!

The Not-So-Good News

The remaining 10% of Survey participants report that their current, or upcoming, international teaching position has already been terminated, leaving them unemployed. Most educators in this predicament report that their schools have not responded to emails and/or phone calls. That says everything you need to know about such schools. For information on how particular schools have treated teachers during the pandemic, see Name Your School & Comment on their Response to Covid-19. Many Recent ISR School Reviews also contain related information.

The Unforeseen Complications

Impacting about 45% of International Educators who took our Survey is the very real inability to obtain a Visa due to government shutdowns. If you are in this category, ISR recommends contacting your school for guidance. They may have a temporary work- around should the problem persist.

The Future Looks Promising

Although nothing is written in stone and government responses to COVID-19 are changing and evolving from one day to the next, based on our Survey results ISR concludes the future for a career in International Education looks favorable at this time. See Decision Making in the New Normal for the most up-to-date Survey results.

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Back to School …. Already?


In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of International Schools plans to reopen as early as this week, some by choice, others by government order. ISR Asks: What will this early return to the classroom look like for students & teachers?
  • Will teachers & students all wear masks?
  • Will social distancing be achieved through reduced class size & staggered lunches?
  • Will a percentage of students stay on virtual learning to reduce class size?
  • Will everyone entering school grounds be temperature-tested daily?
  • Would you comply with a return order if your school called you back today?
ISR Member and Site Visitors Comment:
__________________________________
I’m not comfortable with it (an early return). I think I will be wearing a mask. I really miss the kids and they miss me, but I am more interested in first seeing the numbers in a week or two when those who traveled have symptoms appear. If a parent asked my opinion, I would tell them to keep their kids home if it’s possible or if they were worried. I would also encourage them to use a mask if possible. But that is not the school’s position.
There are a ton of guidelines to follow, many of which are near-impossible to enforce, but we’ll give it a shot. The government has mandated an opening so we have no choice. The only kids who won’t return are those with family members who are sick. If kids show symptoms at school, even mild ones, we are to send them home for 48 hours. Teachers are to also follow this rule.
__________________________________
My school in China is reopening for grades 9 and 12. I am not in-country but they sent out a video to all high school students on the requirements and it looks like a prison! I would not want my kid going back and do not understand the value of going back compared to online. Also, since 1/2 our staff is out of country many classes are still distance-learning and the teachers that did go back are getting an increased workload without compensation. For example, I was directed to find a teacher on campus to remove all items besides desks and computers from my classroom and make sure all desks are 1.5 meters apart.
______________________________
Schools in Shanghai are opening in grade-stages. April 27, 2 high school grades return. Other grades will return staggered by grades, upper grades first. We have been told to be prepared to return after May 6 but nothing is confirmed yet. This is direct information from the Shanghai Education Bureau. Kindergartens open last.
________________________________
When I see how the school has prepared, I’ll determine then how comfortable I am going back. Lots of people here are roaming around without masks and it makes me very uncomfortable!

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(Note:  Previous comments are from ISR Open Forum)

Slipping Through My Fingers


Dear ISR, I have relied on this website for many, many years. It has led me to incredible International Schools and detoured me from others that would not be a good fit. I’m ready to return abroad once again and had, earlier in this recruiting season, accepted a fine position in the EU for the 2020-2022 school years. However, with COVID-19, I now see this opportunity slipping through my fingers and would like to share and discuss this experience with other educators in the same boat.

As the situation is escalating in the US and around the world, I can’t imagine my work visa will get processed, or that the international travel ban will be lifted in time for me to begin in August. If “back to school” means e-teaching, the school can’t even place me on their payroll without the proper government documents. Without a work visa there is no job…

What does the future hold? At what point will the EU school be forced to rescind their offer? So many questions and concerns, yet very few answers! Life as we know it is in a holding pattern. Are teachers who were planning to make a move in a few months all seeing those plans slipping from their grasp? Any thoughts on this topic?

Sincerely,

(name withheld by request)

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Name Your School & Comment on their Response to Covid-19. Let’s Keep Each Other Informed


Firsthand accounts that describe how individual International Schools treat teachers during the Covid-19 pandemic will help us ALL to make informed career choices in the future. Schools which put teachers’ safety and well-being ahead of profits are schools where we all want to work.

Let’s help each other identify schools that we can depend on to support teachers in times like these. ISR invites you to Name Your School and tell colleagues about the support, or lack of support, your School is currently providing teachers in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. Keeping Each Other Informed is what International Schools Review is All About.

It’s easy to remain anonymous: Simply enter your comments below and fill in the name field with an incognito-type Username that will appear with your entry. Leave the Email and any other fields blank. If any fields have self-populated because you are logged into a WordPress affiliate site, remove the text and enter your newly-created Username.

Please Scroll down to tell Colleagues
about your School’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Feel free to include the name of your school with your comments

Your Job in the Shadow of Covid-19


If you’re wondering about the future of your International Teaching job, here are some factors to consider that will impact every school’s ability to keep teachers employed through the Covid-19 crisis.

This is by no means a complete list. If you have something to add that will help colleagues to evaluate job stability, please scroll down to participate.

Consider the following when determining job stability:

  • The number of expat parents who lose their jobs and the number of local business that permanently close will impact enrollment and job security.
  • Depending on the duration of the crisis, parents may begin to question tuition costs and seek less expensive, strictly online alternative schools and/or seek a brick-and-mortar school with lower tuition. 
  • Schools that launched and perfected a comprehensive virtual teaching platform may sustain a strong sense of community and maintain student population, as well as your teaching position (!), until the end of the academic year at least.
  • Schools with a high percentage of embassy families may have a better chance of survival because they’re not dependent on local funding.
  • Schools with multiple sections of one subject may let less experienced teachers go first.
  • Head and/or lead teachers could have a better chance of keeping their job.

Don’t Leave Your Career to Chance! Do your due diligence, ask questions, consider the points mentioned in this Article, and most importantly, Have a Plan. As seen previously in ISR School Reviews, there are schools that basically abandoned their teachers during times of political unrest. Believing such a school’s reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic would be any different is clearly not sound thinking.

If it becomes necessary, schools could enact Force Majeure. This would allow them to break the terms of your Contract due to extenuating circumstance. As such, a financially solvent school would award teachers a lump-sum payout and additional assistance as needed. However, financially fragile schools could simply shut down, leaving you stranded and unemployed in a foreign country and with no future employment on the horizon. ISR recommends you get the facts and plan ahead. 

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Spread the word! To what extent is your school supporting its teachers during the Covid-19 crisis? Submit a short Review and spread the word. Helping each other make informed career decisions is what ISR is all about!

Suing Our School Over Coronavirus Policy

In a knee jerk reaction to the Coronavirus, our school director unilaterally decided to change the dates of our spring break. Threatening us with loss of job, he ordered all teachers to stay in-country during the rescheduled vacation. The faculty is pissed!!

As a faculty we feel he should have at least had a plan in mind to help teachers obtain reimbursement for money already spent on travel plans – airfare / hotels, etc. He did not! I asked him why leaving the country would result in loss of job and was told it’s because we may face quarantine upon reentry, leaving the school short on teachers. As usual there was no concern for our needs, such as flying home to visit an aging parent.

Had Mr. School Director thought to organize a whole-school faculty meeting and present a valid reason for the date change he may have united us as a team working for a common cause.  Instead, he sent out an email to parents and teachers alike and then made himself unavailable.

There is no question we all need to act responsibly and do our part to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus. However, our director’s interest in changing the dates of our Spring break had nothing to do with public safety or stopping the spread of the virus. His sole focus was on the school’s profit margin. And… I have proof because I tracked him down and have the recording of our meeting to prove it. His attitude is quite revealing!

Our contracts clearly spell out vacation dates. That portion of our contracts has now been breached and the director refuses to address the issue or help us in any way.  As a faculty we have decided to seek legal representation in an effort to receive reimbursement for all lost monies. After all, his decision to suddenly change the dates of our spring break was based on a concern for profits with no regard to the teachers’ wellbeing of public safety.

I’d like to know how other schools have been treating their teachers during the Coronavirus pandemic. Surely the treatment we are receiving is not representative of international Schools as a group.

Thanks for all you do for International Teachers,
(name withheld on request)

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Survey: Will COVID-19 Keep You From Overseas?

Would you teach in a country on the brink of civil war? How about one experiencing long-term drought or a recent military coup? Incidents and events some of us consider dangerous and to be avoided are seen by others as exciting, challenging adventures.

COVID-19, commonly known as Coronavirus, poses a unique danger and could well deter some otherwise adventurous Educators from venturing overseas. Fatalities from COVID-19 stand just over the 5,000 figure, yet seasonal influenza claims 100 times that  many lives on a yearly basis. The KICKER:  There’s NO vaccine or standardized cure for Coronavirus and it’s spreading unbridled. 

To learn how COVID-19 is affecting the careers of International Educators, we invite you to take a short ISR survey. Results are available in real time and should provide the information YOU need to make informed career decisions.

Select the statement that describes your situation in regards to
COVID-19:

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Impact of Coronavirus


Living in far-off, exotic lands, International Educators often feel somehow exempt, even insulated from a lot of what’s going on in the world. Time and distance have a habit of providing a false sense of security that does not apply to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

To date, China alone reports 92,290 confirmed cases, resulting in 3,130 deaths. Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan, France, United States, Philippines, Australia, Thailand and Taiwan have reported deaths due to the Virus. Yet this is not the complete list of impacted countries as the Coronavirus has reportedly spread to 66 countries and every continent.

ISR Asks:  What effect is the Coronavirus having on International Educators? Will Recruiting Fairs continue to attract large numbers of educators when the future of an offered position is uncertain? What about Contracts already signed for China and other areas where the Virus is prominent and spreading? Will there be financial compensation for educators who may find themselves jobless? How are those International Educators currently in areas with stringent quarantines and school shutdowns coping with the situation?

In an effort to keep each other informed, ISR encourages Members and readers to use this space to ask questions, recount experiences and offer sound advice based on their first-hand experiences.

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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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Aging Parents & Loved Ones Back Home

Hello ISR, I recently had a wake-up call regarding my aging parents living back in the States. I’d like to share the experience with other International educators with the goal of opening up a conversation. Here goes:

I’ve been overseas for 16 years, and although I was prepared for the news, it caught me off guard when my older brother emailed to say mom and dad needed more care and support than he could continue providing. He’s a family man with a wife and kids and lives about 15 minutes from the house where we grew up. I live in Singapore with my family.

I don’t think mom and dad believed they would live long enough to become dependent on their kids. Yet, the time had come. My brother put assisted-living on the table and fortunately mom and dad were ready to move on from the challenges of owning a big, old house. What if they had wanted to stay and dug in their heels? Then what?

This recent assisted-living episode has prompted me to investigate how expats cope with aging loved ones experiencing issues back home. Balancing my life overseas with future difficulties my parents may experience is certainly going to require a plan. I am working on it…

Part of this plan involves preparing my kids and husband for the slim possibility we’ll have to relocate closer to my family, or that at some time in the future I, alone, may need to return to the States for an extended period. It’s not pleasant thinking of my parents in ill health, but the future in this case is best not left unexplored.

Are you living far from loved ones facing health or age-related issues? Do you have a specific plan in place to cope with possible eventualities? If you would like to share your experiences and ask for and offer advice, this is the place to do it.

Warm Regards,
Megan

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Sex Education in International Schools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,
K

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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Nagging Health Problems and No Health Insurance

healthclaimform6642790Whether or not you’re dealing with a health issue, an attractive benefit of any International School Contract is health insurance–especially if it’s a comprehensive policy! My last insurance included worldwide coverage with just a $100 deductible. That’s a super perk considering that while back in the States one summer I had my shoulder repaired for only the cost of the deductible.

But what do you do when you have health issues or need emergency care and your new school’s health insurance policy has failed to materialize? We transplanted the following letter from the ISR Forum. It outlines a thought-provoking ‘personal health vs. insurance’ situation. We don’t have all the details but the poster does tells us his school knew of his health issues and his need for insurance prior to signing on.

“I began working at my school in July. In my contract it states that I will receive health insurance after I obtain my work visa. I foolishly assumed I would get a work visa soon after arriving.  This has not been the case. There are teachers who have been at the school more than a semester and who still have no health insurance. I also found out (or at least I’ve been told) that the school has already met the limit of employees who may receive work visas.

I have health issues and the prescriptions here run me more than $300 a month. I met with the school’s director about the issue and let him know that I could not afford to pay this amount for my prescriptions (salaries at the school are very low and living costs are high in this country). He confirmed that it might be quite some time before I receive medical coverage. He never got back to me. Yesterday I received a contract offer from a school whose salary and benefits are more in line with what I’m used to with international schools. I will have health insurance (and a paid apartment) immediately upon my arrival.

The school seems to genuinely want to help students of all means, although it can also be said that the school does not give equal concern to the teachers. I doubt that they could do anything to me legally, but I guess that I’m looking for affirmation that I have a right to just up and leave. If I end up in the hospital for any reason here in this country, I face financial ruin.

ISR wants to know what our readers’ take is on this situation. Would you have advised this poster to arrive with 3 months’ worth of prescriptions and a means to get more through whatever channels he/she was using prior to going overseas? Should the school have been more upfront about the insurance situation?  As insurance policies are a major benefit, should they definitely be in place if offered in a contract? Additionally, since insurance policies, unless restricted to just local use, are normally provided through Western insurance companies, is the idea that a work visa is needed to secure such a policy suspect? Should the school have changed its insurance procedures so all teachers would be immediately covered? At what point does a school become responsible for their teachers’ personal needs?

Medical Tourism for International Educators

No matter how finely tuned your body might be, how young, toned, athletic and healthy you are, your body is still a machine that moves you through your work day and around the world on your teaching and travel adventures. There is likely some medical or cosmetic procedure out there that you want or need to be your best self, professionally and personally. Who wouldn’t like their teeth to be a little whiter, their chins fewer in number, or the pain in their shoulder or knee to permanently go away?

As an international educator, aren’t you fortunate! Living the life of a teacher abroad puts you in the perfect spot to take advantage of the latest trends in medical and cosmetic/plastic services and quality after-care. Over 40 countries are marketing their medical services and attracting international patients to Medical Tourism (a.k.a. Medical Travel or Health Tourism). The foremost and major benefits of Medical Tourism may be the huge reduction in cost of treatments, reasonable and brief waiting periods for appointments, and quality service followed by superlative convalesce assistance and care. The Health Tourism marketplace includes spa and wellness treatments for those who seek alternative treatments such as acupuncture and aroma therapy, biofeedback and hypnosis, massage therapy, music therapy, and ayurvedic care.

Medical Tourism includes medical and dental procedures of every possibility. Consider the availability of such procedures as: cosmetic and plastic surgery, joint replacements/resurfacing/repair, spine fusion, liver/kidney/bone marrow transplants, LASIK or cataract eye surgery, heart procedures (bypass, valve replacement, angiography, stenting), cancer treatments, weight loss surgery, hernia repair, laparoscopic gallbladder removal, diabetes treatment, vasectomy reversal, invitro fertilization, stem cell therapy, and dental care such as veneers, restoration, implants, crowns, and root canals.

A comparison of costs shows that medical and cosmetic care abroad is healthy for your wallet as well. For example, compare the cost of a knee replacement in the U.S. at up to $50,000 to the $10,000 you are estimated to spend in India. Or, angioplasty, at up to $57,000 in the U.S. compared to $9,000 in Thailand. How about comparing a face-lift in the U.S., up to $15,000, to the $8,000 it would cost in Mexico. Similar cost effective treatments, in everything from teeth whitening to liposuction, can be found in a country near to where you are teaching. Popular packages of care such as dental care in Ecuador or Guatemala, total hip or knee replacement in Costa Rica, or gastric bypass in Mexico can be found online. Wellness care is so affordable so as to be possible on a yearly basis, out-of-pocket.

Medical facilitators can be found to assist with language/culture barriers, transfer of medical information, and can provide the convenience of one-stop shopping for the person who requires their services.

There is, of course, thorough homework to be done if you are considering Medical Tourism for yourself or for a loved one. However, you’re right at the forefront of availability while being a teacher abroad. Aren’t you fortunate!

Take care and stay well!