GOOD Things Are Happening!

October 3, 2019

These days, you can hardly turn on the TV or open a news source without being bombarded with bad news.  It can feel like the world is imploding…

The good news is, International Educators around the globe are creating student-powered Community Service projects destined to make a positive and lasting difference. 

In the words of the Dalai Lama: 
If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.

Here’s a sample of some projects IEs around the globe are spearheading in an effort to make the world a better place for one and all:

• Beach/river/lake/park clean-ups
• Planting trees
• Bake sales/carnivals to raise money for designated charity
• Adopting a local school – Help repair/paint and donate supplies
• Big buddy for kids at an orphanage/hospital
• Habitat for Humanity – teacher/students volunteer in building homes
• Packets for the homeless – socks, snacks, toiletries

ISR invites YOU to share what you, your school and colleagues are doing to make the planet a better place, one small step at a time. When we share our ideas, projects and insights with each other we become a source for positive change! Thank you!

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ISR’s Top Discussion Topics, 2019

September 19, 2019

ISR Weekly Discussion topics often prompt 50 to 100 (or more) insightful comments from our readers. If you missed any one of these timely and popular Discussions, now’s the time to catch up and join in:

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International
 Educators Keeping Each Other Informed
is what International Schools Review is All About!.

Slipping Out Early w/ My Possessions & My Sanity
(90 teacher comments)

Hooks-Ups & Breaks-Ups:  Taking Relationships Overseas
(82 teacher comments)

Back-Stabbing Director As My Confidential Reference
(62 teacher comments)

Why Don’t Schools Post Age Restrictions?
(88 teacher comments)

Back Home w/ the Job Search Blues
(68 teacher comments)

Are the Golden Years of International Education Over?
(53 teacher comments)


I’m Choosing to Have a Good Overseas Experience

September 12, 2019

An ISR Member Offers Timely Advice:

I”m in my second year at XYZ International  School. Is the school as spectacular as represented by the director at the recruiting fair? Not quite. In fact, it’s not even close.

It’s not a bad school. But certainly not what I was led to believe by our illustrious leader. Last week I decided to write what I consider to be a factual ISR Review of this school. I feel it’s my responsibility to keep other international educators informed.

As it turns out, our director follows ISR like a watchdog. As such, he called an emergency faculty meeting right after my review was included in the ISR weekly newsletter. Following his senseless rant we were all “given the opportunity” to sign what amounted to a gag order, the alternative being….“pack your bags and go.” Essentially, we were agreeing to never post information or opinions about XYZ International School to ISR (or any other website). Yes, we all signed.

Violating the new gag order carries some heavy consequences, culminating in immediate termination and prosecution….”to the full extent of the law.” By signing, we also gave the school the right to financial compensation for any perceived loss of revenue which may result from a specific school review. That is, if they can figure out who wrote it. Good luck with that!

It’s no secret what happens when you tell a child to keep their hands out of the cookie jar. Well, overnight two new reviews mysteriously appeared on ISR. If you know anything about ISR (and apparently our director does not) you already know your identity is completely protected when you submit a review. Whoever it was that posted the newest reviews did so knowing there would be no consequences, unless they included specific personal information that led straight to them. That they did not!

By mid-afternoon, via the school’s intranet (working for a change), the entire staff received an aggressively worded memo from the office. It looks like a witch hunt is on!

I know I acted truthfully and responsibly in sharing my experiences about this school. I also feel that for me, right now at this point in my life, I have a responsibility to myself to ignore the school’s shortcomings and make the most of this overseas experience. I’ve wanted to live in this part of the world for a very long time, and since nothing at this school flies in the face of my principles and/or integrity as an educator, there’s no reason to ruin this opportunity by obsessing on all that’s wrong here.

You can’t fix stupid and certainly not guys like the one running this school. If you’re in a similar situation, the choice is yours. You can focus on the negative and frustrate yourself until your blood pressure is off the charts, or you can choose to accept and work with the situation.

Is the glass half full or half empty? That’s open to debate and, to me, it kinda depends on what, exactly, is in that glass. My best advice:  Stay Positive!

Sincerely,

B.

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Do The Pluses Still Outweigh the Negatives?

August 8, 2019

I grew up in International Schools. Today, with a teaching credential and 3 years classroom experience under my belt, I’m preparing for my first ever International Teacher recruiting fair. I’m ready to get back overseas where life feels so much more authentic to me!

I recently discovered ISR and have been reading Reviews of schools I attended as a student (grades 4-12 in 4 different international schools). In my teen years I was well aware some stressful stuff was going on for the teachers, but not to the degree or magnitude of what I’m now seeing on ISR.

My question:  Do ISR readers who’re currently overseas think the positive aspects of living internationally as an educator outweigh the negatives, especially the really harsh stuff I’m reading on ISR?  Memories of life overseas are among my most treasured possessions and I’m willing to take the bad with the good….to a reasonable extent, that is!

Sincerely,
Grace

Survey:

 

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Thinking About Teaching in Dubai? Read This First

July 18, 2019

     It wouldn’t be fair to say all schools in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are represented by the comments that follow. However, one thing is certain, all Dubai schools are subject to the requirements of Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the consequences of which can seem archaic in relation to Western educational standards. If Dubai is on your list of places to live and teach, the following commentary from an ISR Member is something to consider.

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…..The first and obvious thing you should realize before coming to Dubai is that it is an authoritarian state. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that schools in the UAE are also authoritarian in outlook.

If you decide to come here, do not expect open, confident, consultative organizations that value your input or expertise on decisions or matters that impact your teaching/approaches to learning. Your role is to shut up and accept whatever latest BS initiative comes from the Ministry of Truth (head office). At least that’s how it is at my school…

A huge concern about teaching in Dubai is the need to satisfy the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) inspectors. They come around EVERY YEAR to rate schools. A good inspection grade attracts parents and means fees can be raised. As you can imagine, the impact of this annual inspection is brutal on the teaching staff. Teachers at my school teaching core subjects are prepared to work a 60-70-hour week with most of that time spent preparing detailed lesson plans and gathering data to support/validate their teaching and assessment. This emphasis on data is suffocating, not least because the majority of it is spurious.

Indeed, almost every department at my school is, to my knowledge, manipulating data to show progress amongst its students. This is encouraged by management through a policy that requires staff to provide re-takes of summative assessments until a student reaches their target level. As the head of Secondary at my school told staff recently: “No student has the right fail.” What his obfuscating edu-speak doesn’t appreciate is that if a student submits something of poor quality, the teacher MUST have the right to fail the student. It is very hard to convince someone of something when it is in their interests to not understand.

Besides overwhelming staff in terms of the volume of work, this no-fail system creates, even worse it encourages students to be lazier than normal because they will always have another chance to do well and the teacher will be forced to mark it until the requisite grade is reached. If a student fails to meet their target at my school, the teacher will, regardless of the student’s effort or work ethic, be held accountable. The result is that teachers are now simply front-loading by inflating grades to mitigate the possibility of any comeback against them.

As a result of such relentless pressure to justify and make visible every aspect of your practice to satisfy external organizations and parents, the outcome is a toxic culture and work environment. This is the only way to describe the bullying that is rife within certain departments as heads are put under pressure to provide evidence of student progress. If you value your autonomy and you have a modicum of self-respect and/or dignity, then this school is not the school for you.

Dubai itself is a place where people go to live life without actually living. Paradoxically, all life is here, but every experience is mediated through the artificial spectacle of consumerism and status. If that’s your thing, you will love it; if not you’ll hate every moment in this manufactured oasis. Good luck!

(The preceding is a redacted excerpt from a School Review added to ISR on 7/16/2019. ISR Members wishing to read the entire School Review can sign in and locate this UAE school on the Most Recent Reviews page. Then scroll to Review #11.) 

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Can a School Ever Really Be All 10s or All 1s?

April 4, 2019

…  Does any school really deserve all 10s or all 1s on the ISR School Review Rubric? I love my school. But hey! It just does not rate all 10s. In fact, it’s not even all 9s. Personally, I’m suspicious of any Review that displays an over abundance of 9s and 10s. Ditto that for Reviews with scores of all 1s.

Every rose has its thorns (I love that song) and International Schools are no exception. Just because I rate a couple of things a 6 or 7, it doesn’t mean it’s not a simply fantastic school. It just means the reality is this:  There are a few things you’re going to have to live with to be truly blissful here.

Like I said, I’m suspicious of Reviews with copious extremely high or low ratings. Take a school in France for example. I know for a fact the “Cost of living in relation to salary” category will never will be a 10 in overpriced Europe. My research (and every educator I know who has worked in Europe) tells me teachers have to take on an outside job just to make ends meet. The only person I can think of who would assign a 9 or 10 to the “Cost of living in relation to salary” category in a Western European school is an admin trying to attract candidates. Such misrepresentation makes the rest of the ratings look suspicious to me. I discount such Reviews.

Here’s another example of what makes me suspicious:  A school in Mexico City with a “Security rating” of 10 would make me wonder who’s behind the Review. Likewise, a score of 1 for “Community things to do” would be ludicrous for Mexico City with its endless museums, art galleries and cultural events. A low score in this category would render the entire Review useless in my opinion.

Can a school ever really deserve scores of all 10s or all 1s? I believe the answer is NO. Common sense and a bit of logic will help you to read between the lines and look for hidden agendas. When the ratings in certain categories coincide with what you know to be true about an area of the world, this is a signal that it most likely is safe to rely on the Review as a whole. However, if things seem out of sync with your intuition and common sense, most definitely, proceed with caution.

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Would You Teach Again at a Previous School?

March 14, 2019

At any school, 2 years, 3 years max, & it’s time for me to move on to a new school, a new adventure. I became an international teacher to see the world, not permanently transplant myself.

Would I teach again at any of my previous International schools? I’ll answer that with a resounding, NO! I’m glad for the experiences garnered at each, but once was enough for me.

One school Director’s idea of an intranet was his scribbles on the faculty room dry-erase board. We were all expected to pop in for updates between classes. At another school it literally took days & an act of God to get a photocopy or a few pencils for the kids. My last school made getting your paycheck a 90-minute after-school ordeal. Ridiculous practices like these were just a peek behind the curtain. I’m thankful for the experiences but I’d have to be a masochist to subject myself to such lunacy again.

I would, however, gladly return to most of the countries where I worked. Thailand, Romania & Pakistan are tops on my list. Recall of poor experiences at schools has faded, but vivid memories of the places I lived & traveled have made indelible imprints on my life. I’d say this:  I most definitely met my “see the world” goal!

ISR Asks:  Would YOU return to teach at any of your previous schools?

 

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