What’s Your Take on International School Accreditation?

..ISR wants to hear YOUR thoughts on the topic of International School accreditation.  If you’ve been through the accreditation process or worked at an accredited International School, chances are good you have something to Share.

According to a major accreditation agency (who shall remain unnamed), the following characteristics are essential for an International School seeking accreditation:

 “The award of accreditation shows that the school:

  •  is devoted to its mission & vision for students
  •  has thought deeply about the services it offers to students, family and community
  •  invests time and resources for validation from a globally-recognized accreditation authority
  •  focuses on the quality of teaching, student learning, & student safeguarding and well-being
  •  is committed to the development of the students’ global citizenship
  •  has a suitable philosophy of education suitable for its students
  •  promises only what it can deliver
  •  is open to regular evaluation by its own school community and peer evaluators
  •  constantly seeks improvement in all areas of the school plans strategically for the future”

ISR Asks:  Reflecting on the accreditation process in which you participated (or witnessed from the sidelines), how were the foregoing ideals fulfilled by your school? For example,

  • Who determined, and how did your school define, a “global citizen?
  • Did/does your school encourage regular evaluation? (think: International Schools Review)
  • Who selected those teachers personally interviewed by the accreditation team?
  • Do you think the accreditation team may have been swayed by elegant dinners, fancy hotels and off-topic excursions?
  • Why are the needs and well-being of teachers noticeably absent?
  • Is the accreditation process transparent?
  • How were the majority of ideals, as above, quantified during the accreditation process?

Your perspective on accreditation will naturally be different from the standpoint of a teacher as compared to that of an administrator, as well as between that of a department chair and a department member. Should you choose to Comment on this Article, we courage you to preface your Comments with a brief, one-sentence introduction telling us from what perspective you are writing. For example: I am writing as a teacher on the sidelines, principal/director, counselor, teacher who was interviewed, etc.

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Do Corporate Schools Have a Heart?

Years ago I returned from a few pleasant years teaching overseas. Recently, however, I decided to throw my hat into the ring this upcoming recruiting season and head back to a life of teaching abroad.

Overseas, I taught in small, independently-owned International schools. Looking around at job opportunities now, though, I’m noticing the trend in International Education appears to have shifted to multi-national educational empires, with names like GEMS, QSI Schools, United World Schools and Nord Anglia.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but there does seem to be advantages to being part of a big, global network of schools:  established curriculums, sister schools that share resources, clear management structures, professional development conferences and potential lateral moves between schools, to name just a handful. The downside for me is this:  I’m not much of a corporate gal (hence the teaching degree) and worry about being a part of a huge, impersonal bureaucracy. Considering the size of some of these education goliaths, I’m concerned the needs and day-to-day affairs of the little guys (i.e. the teachers) might be overlooked. There is also the ever-present threat of the bottom line…Will the need to turn a profit overshadow the needs of the children?

Anyone willing to share their experience with large education companies as compared to smaller, more intimate schools? Are the corporate schools simply money-making machines focused on maximum profit, or are there schools with heart and community that happen to fall under a corporate umbrella? Should I stick with what’s familiar to me and recruit for a small independent school? Or take my chances in finding a corporate school with a heart?

Thanks for your input!

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Crucial 1st Days @ Your New School

How colleagues and admin perceive you during your first days at a new school can and will make the difference between a great year ahead and one that’s not at all what you hoped for.

In a way, you’re the ‘new kid on the block’ and you’ll be establishing a place in the neighborhood. Beyond smiling and introducing yourself to new colleagues, how do you go about becoming an accepted, contributing member of the faculty neighborhood?

The first (all-school) faculty meeting is a good place to start. The question is: Do you leap right in, expounding on all your great ideas, thus possibly contradicting teachers with already well-formed alliances? Or do you sit quietly, keeping your thoughts to yourself, leaving others to wonder? Neither extreme is advised.

You still don’t know who’s who, so jumping on the band wagon with a teacher or group, before you fully understand their position, could brand you as a nauseating admin cheerleader or a member of the ‘resistance.’ The best approach is take it slow, don’t step on any toes and avoid forming alliances, at least not yet. It’s hard to shake poor first impressions and switching horses mid-stream is not easy.

Considering the ideas of others and asking, in an encouraging manner, for clarification is a good first step. Letting other teachers know you are interested in what they have to say will encourage them to listen to your ideas, later, even if your ideas run contrary to theirs.

As days turn into weeks, you’ll have developed a good picture of the playing field and formed a few budding friendships. Now is the time to begin diplomatically introducing your opinions and ideas at faculty meetings and informal gatherings outside of classroom hours. Having an understanding of the opinions and motives of various groups and individuals will help you present your ideas in a way that is more palatable. At this point, if you contradict the ideas of others, they should be receptive because you have taken the time to listen and consider theirs.

Face it! You can’t please all the people all the time, and there’s a very real possibility you will sooner-or-later alienate someone or some group. Not everyone is receptive to ideas other than their own, and fragile egos are difficult to deal with. Passive-aggressive reactions and the poor-me attitude are the enemy of new ideas. They create a backwards, restraining motion rather than an atmosphere of moving forward with a synthesis of ideas. Such personalities are best politely acknowledged and then soundly ignored.

Above all, be friendly, get to know people on a personal basis, be a good listener, take it slow, and put your toe in well before you dive. Everyone likes and will listen to someone who they feel hears what they have to say. And who knows? You may even make some long-lasting friendships along your way to fitting in at a new school!

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Tutoring Adventures Overseas

Are you after a “one-on-one” teaching experience, a more family oriented relationship with students than is possible teaching in an International School classroom? If so, full-time tutoring could be your ticket to a rewarding overseas adventure.

An ISR member asks:

Does anyone have experience working as a full-time tutor? I don’t mean the sort of tutoring where an International Educator moonlights in an IS for a bit more cash, or works with individual students after school hours. I’m talking about the sort of vacancy where you’re hired by a wealthy family to be their son’s or daughter’s full-time tutor.

These jobs seem more common in the Middle East, Russia, and a few of the richer Asian countries. Clearly salaries almost always seem substantially higher than what you could earn in an IS, even one that’s a first-tier school. Around 1250 a week seems to be the going rate, which could only be bettered by a very small percentage of schools out there.

Does anyone have any experience doing this? What sort of experience/education level do you need to have a chance at a position? Is it worth the money, or does being at the beck-and-call of a rich family make it too much of a grind?

I’m aware of websites like ‘Tutors International’ and ‘VIPKid’ that would allow me to stay home and tutor online. What I’m asking to hear about is experiences of actually going overseas to live with a family (or in my own apartment), and be the exclusive tutor for one or two kids. Anyone?”

Thanks in advance,

B.

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Teacher Trap in Paradise

 

Hello ISR, Your latest Newsletter Article, ISS VP Looks Back to the Future of International  Education, brought back some not-so-fond memories of my brief “Directorship” in Guatemala. When Mr. Ambrogi stresses the need to support and encourage small, locally owned schools my guess is he isn’t referring to quite the situation, and/or school, I found myself in.

.Here’s my story:

I’d been traveling through Mexico and Central America for several months when I arrived at a delightful destination, a magical, lake-side Guatemalan pueblo filled with spiritual energy and an indigenous population living side-by-side with a community of foreigners. I recognized it as one of those special places in the world and I was eager to stay put for a while.

A week or so after my arrival, I was sipping my morning coffee in a funky, outdoor venue overlooking the lake, when a hippie-type, middle-aged woman seated near me struck up a conversation. I soon learned Maggie (not her real name) was the “Board chairperson” of the local “International School.” Coincidentally, I’m a retired, credentialed teacher, “perfect for the job,” she said. As our conversation (i.e. informal interview) progressed, she insisted I drop by and consider the recently vacated Director’s position. Wow! Here was a chance to remain in paradise indefinitely…I took the bait!

The school, lodged in a big, old house, consisted of 42 kids. The front and backyards, replete with barnyard animals, slides, swings and a fun obstacle course, rounded out the facility. Three young teachers taught the various grade levels, all mixed into “homogeneous” groups. Expats from the lake community needed a place for their children to go to school and they had created this little “hidden gem of a school.” I decided to give it a go and settled into the job.

My salary was $900 US monthly and I soon found I could just scrape by, without dipping into my travel funds, if I kept it simple. I also found out, unfortunately, that I’d be worked like a dog (apologies to all dogs) from early morning to late afternoon. I was teacher, principal, head maintenance man, curriculum guru, teacher-support system, sympathetic ear for lonely parents, government red-tape expert, barnyard animal caretaker, coach and student support system…an overwhelmed indentured servant, in other words. Sweet, soft-spoken Maggie turned out to be a real task master!

What soon began to bother me was that I’d see the kids’ parents driving late-model cars while I walked or took the bus in the stifling heat of summer. The parents were eating and drinking in restaurants while I survived on rice and beans. They enjoyed their boats and hobbies while I tended to their kids on a salary I could barely survive on, and without a lick of air conditioning. I was supposed to be traveling, enjoying life’s adventures in my retirement and here I was stuck in paradise without a pleasurable moment, or dollar, to spare!

When I eventually broached the issue of a pay raise it was met with, “There just isn’t any money.” The 3 teachers were each paid $600 monthly, equaling $2700 in total staff expenses. Then $400 for the school-house rent, a couple hundred for electricity and incidentals and we’re talking about approximately $3,500 in monthly expenses for the entire school. Seems cheap to run a school, right?

I questioned why there was no money for higher wages with 42 kids in the school? It turned out tuition was only $100US a month! Apparently, the parents had banded together and created what simply amounted to a cheap child-care service, kept staffed with unsuspecting travelers, like me, who came and went on a regular basis. And that, my friends, was the very end of my “unsuspecting” dedication to the “education” of these 42 children.

My bet is Maggie was back in the coffee shop the morning I left, “interviewing” for the Director’s position, while I was relaxing in the sun, out on far side of the lake, fishing and considering my next retirement adventure.

My advice to travelers offered positions in little, local schools? Look carefully before you leap! Your time is your life, after all.

Has anyone had a similar experience?

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ISS VP Looks Back to the Future of International Education

   On the cusp of retirement, vice president of ISS, Rob Ambrogi, recently published a thought-provoking article entitled, “Looking Back to the Future.” In Rob’s own words, “As I approach full-time retirement this July, I can’t help but examine and reflect upon my 47 years as an educator with both retrospective and prospective lenses…”  

In regards to Rob’s prospective lenses, one of International Schools Review original members forwarded us an excerpt from Rob’s article, along with a personal critique and a pressing question, Is the future Rob outlines, now?

Excerpt from Rob’s Article:

   It is clear to me that the future of this arm of our organization will depend on the development of school start-up and business models that acknowledge lower tuition price points, larger class sizes, lower salary and benefit packages, a greater number of locally sourced teachers with necessary professional development, and a higher rate of expat teacher turnover. I am convinced that careful management of these realities will produce very credible and valuable learning opportunities that will be sustainable and will serve students well. There is nothing in our mission that says we only serve young people in highly subsidized, expensive international schools. We need to change the negative narrative about these newly emerging schools and continue to find ways to directly and indirectly extend enthusiastic support to them. (complete Article)

ISR Member’s comments: 

   Rob describes the ‘international’ school where I work very accurately. I’m currently working with more local students, often requiring SEN and/or EAL support, more local staff hires, some qualified, some not, more turnover from ‘overseas’ hires (1-2 years) with a salary base that has not changed in over 10 years. If this is the ‘new reality,’ as described by Ambrogi, are some of us living/working, or at least aspiring to work, in schools, where the future is now?

As Ambrogi is retiring from his influential ISS position, he is, at least, acknowledging that the bottom-feeder schools are growing in number, and that more established international schools are feeling the pinch with the increase in competition. Some schools have opted to lower their standards (alongside other considerations) in order to remain competitive. How ISS, and other organizations, intend to support these start-up and business/schools, as he states, ‘directly and indirectly,’ remains to be seen, but it is a situation which needs to be addressed.

Agencies such as ISS are in the position to help, and I think they should, given that teachers are also starting to abandon some of their services (job fair, anyone?) as these agencies become less relevant in the hiring process.

It is a win/win when standards are raised, rather than the bar continuously lowered. And, at some future point, if these schools improve, with better support and more supervision, we might begin to see many more positive Reviews on ISR!
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The Relevancy of School Boards

I’ve experienced two distinctly different types of School Boards during my career overseas:

1) In-Name-Only Boards:  This species of School Board is common in schools owned by wealthy, host nationals who have the clout to destroy the reputation of Board members, all of whom are host nationals themselves. Powerless to do much beyond planning bake sales and the “International Fair,” this Board exists in name only. In parts of the world where prestige is more important than substance, adding a footnote to your business card that says “School Board Member” is what matters most.

2)  Rulers of the Galaxy:  At the other end of the School Board spectrum are Boards with real power. These Boards interview/hire/fire admin and teachers, make and enforce policy and may even determine curriculum. They are at the helm. They run the school. Teachers and admin follow their orders. There’s a certain amount of prestige associated with being on such a Board, usually composed of a representative from an embassy, a former graduate, and the wives of prominent expat business men with children attending the school.

Which Board is best?

Rulers of the Galaxy Boards can be efficient and exemplary, depending, of course, on Board members’ individual agendas and experience with education. If you get the right combination of people working together, an International School can become a model for International Education. It could be, however, quite the opposite. A Rulers Board may be nothing but meddlesome, misinformed, detrimental to progress and made up of one or more members with personal agendas to exercise. If you get one of these Board member’s kids in your class and the child does poorly…watch out!!

In-Name-Only Boards can mean less overall stress because no one is keeping close tabs on you, but they can also mean a less than stellar addition to your resume if everyone simply cruised through the year under an owner focused on profit at the expense of education. For a true patriot of world-class education, this dismissal of quality standards of education could provide its own type of stress.

ISR Asks:  What has been your experience with School Boards overseas? Are School Boards relevant in International Schools when Board members may have no background in the field of education? Are you more willing to deal with the stress of rules, regulations and potential dismissal and/or discipline by a School Board? Or would the stress of working for a school with all power at the top be more stress in the long run?

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Ushering in 2018 w/ ISR’s 18 TOP TOPICS

 

..Millions of International Educators frequent the ISR Forum & Blog venues to glean insights from colleagues & to contribute their own personal knowledge & experiences. Providing 46,457 posts from educators around the world, the ISR Forum is the place to find the information & support you’re seeking to make informed decisions. Additionally, the ISR Blog attracts well over a million educators, many of whom participate in over 300 timely topics introduced by ISR staff & site members alike.

Here’s the top 18 Form & Blog Topics from 2017:

Discussions from the ISR Forum

1. Best & Worst School Benefits Packages
2. Overseas & Over 50
3. Schools w/ High Savings Potentials
4. One Lying Director
5. Landmines That Can Blow an Interview
6. References Can End Your Career
7. Admin w/ Fake Credentials
8. Canceling a Contract After Signing
9. Is This Really a Career Anymore?

Discussions from the ISR Blog

10. Prospective New Teacher: Expectations & Advice
11. DODDS Hiring Question
12. American or Brit Certification/Credential for Non-Citizens
13. What’s your greatest motivator & biggest regret?
14. IB certificate or workshop?
15. Teaching in Singapore
16. Advice: Leaving Japan (JET), aiming for Europe
17. Single Parents
18. Canada – Foreign Teacher 

 

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.
.
 …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.
 .
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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How Long Do Intern’l Educators Stay Overseas?


The majority of international educators go overseas with the idea that they’ll check out international education, spend a year or so in some exotic location and then return home. Not surprisingly, 2 years turns into 3, then 4 and before you know it, it’s 8 years and counting!

Take our Survey to see how many years International Educators stay overseas. Clicking the “View Results” link at the bottom of the Survey will display up-to-the-minute results.

Take our Short Survey

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Duped & Ready to Walk

A couple of weeks  into every academic year I begin seeing a sprinkling of School Reviews that claim a slick school director duped the reviewer into accepting a job at their lousy school. My reaction to such comments has always been the same: stick it out, stop whining. YOU signed the contract. I couldn’t imagine that any school would be half as bad as what these teachers were describing…

Well, the tables have turned and I stand corrected. I now find that I am the victim of severe duping by a fast-talking director at a school not reviewed on ISR.

Everything here is contrary to what I saw (on the school’s website) and was told during my online interview. There’s no disciplinary support with known disruptive kids, and believe me, there’s plenty of real “prizes” at this school. There are no classroom supplies — not even pencils. The internet connection is so sketchy it might as well be shut down. There is no AC in the classrooms — it’s like a sauna in my room. Textbooks are all photo copied from one purchased edition. Software is boot-legged and glitches to a standstill constantly. To top it off, the director has proven himself to be an egocentric, buffoon who lacks any semblance to an educator.

I might be able to bite the bullet and put up with everything wrong with this place, but the crowning assault on my sanity is that the majority of students are local kids with poor, to non-existent, English skills. Try teaching high school Literature to a classroom of students who can barely muster enough English to ask to use the restroom, let alone read and discuss a story by Edgar Alan Poe. It’s like a bad joke.

The job was advertised online and not through a recruiting fair. So, if I walk out and don’t put this job on my resume, what might be the long term consequences, if any, of doing so? Also, what is the best way to bail? Should I give the school notice that I plan to leave ASAP or send them an email once I’m safely away and out of the country? I’m leaning towards the ‘wait until I’m safely away’ idea…

To those of you who have suffered the disastrous consequences of being mislead by a slick website and/or a fast-talking director, please accept my sincere apologies for having doubted you and thereafter posted such to the ISR Forum or Blog. Once I’m out of here, I’ll post a lengthy review of this place on ISR. Any advice would really comfort and reassure me at this time.

Sincerely,

Duped big time

Did You Choose the Right School?

Your first days at a new school can be a window into the year ahead.  From airport arrival to help transitioning into the school and community,  how your school treats you right from the start speaks volumes about the experience to follow. Which of the following describes your arrival?

Scenario 1. You knew you were off to a terrific start when the Director met you at the airport, escorting you to a waiting apartment replete with fresh linens, a few staples, plus a bottle of chilled wine. City tours, sampling local cuisine and organized shopping trips are just some of the things your school did to welcome arriving teachers. You’re looking forward to meeting your students and colleagues. You had a good feeling about this school when you signed the contract!

Scenario 2. You found yourself (and your luggage) left standing at the arrival gate. You called the school and no one answered. Hours later you took an unmarked taxi to an unknown hotel, hoping beyond hope that you’d still  be alive the next morning. You began to think that maybe coming here wasn’t such a wise idea. This thought was confirmed when you had to find your own apartment in a community you knew nothing about. Worse yet, no one seems to even have time to show you to your classroom! Yikes!

Tell us about your experience / Name your school (optional)
International Educators keeping each other informed is what ISR is about!

  • How did your expectations compare with the reality of coming to your new school?
  • Did the school and admin support you and your colleagues in settling into the community and school? Did you feel welcomed?
  • Did you ever have that funny feeling about working for this school and wish you’d listened to your instincts?
  • Are you just thrilled and pleased as punch to be embarking on a whole new international teaching adventure?
  • Do you agree that the first few days at a new school are very reflective of how the school will treat you later on?

(based & reprinted from an earlier ISR article)

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We ask that you stick to the topic and not review your school.
If you wish to write a Review, click here.

Is This Really a Career Anymore?

..Looking around on Search Associates and TIE Online, I’ve noticed something: salaries and benefits in this industry are going WAY down, everywhere…and fast! Is this because the pool of applicants is rising? Or, is it because the number of schools is increasing?

I read recently that the number of international schools worldwide will double in the next 12 years. I’m not an Economist, but I had thought that supply-and-demand would benefit a teacher’s financial perspective since the pool of teachers would shrink relative to the overall demand of schools.

But now I’m wondering:  Because there are more schools, could this mean just the opposite — the larger supply of schools means an increase in competition among them, and as a result, they have to lower tuition fees and provide a more comprehensive service. This inevitably affects teachers who have to work harder for less money, as a lower profit-margin will certainly come out of salaries.

Schools can pay lower salaries as long as they have ‘X’ amount of well-qualified, ‘marketable’ staff who will ‘carry’ the lower-paid, less-qualified staff. For example, you see many more schools employing P. E. teachers from the Philippines, and Math teachers from India. These teachers may work for half of what Western teachers would earn. Many of these lower-paid teachers are great teachers, of course, yet they do not appear on the website of the American or British schools they work in. Who IS shown as staff on the web sites? The Western-certified teachers their PR marketers can flaunt, especially to Asian/new money markets.

In addition, salaries have gone down in the last 15 years. On Search, for example, there’s a school in Bahrain advertising for a ‘certified Native English speaker to teach math.’ The pay? $12,000 USD a year, not even minimum wage in some US states.

Is International Teaching turning the way of other mass-produced services and goods?  Are we becoming just a cog in the wheel? Are we a service that’s in demand, or simply like another disposable component in an ever cheaper cell phone? What will International Teaching be in twenty years when the market is squeezed further and technology takes a bigger market share? You may wonder: Is International Teaching still a wise career choice?

Any thoughts? Anybody else notice this trend?
(ISR Note: This post was adopted from the ISR Open Forum)

A Parent/Board Member Speaks Out on For-Profit Schools!

legal_matters44019925Dear ISR,
I read with interest your recent article about legal threats made by schools and their attorneys against ISR. Apparently, reviews considered critical of schools, or the people who run them, have the potential to hurt some feelings. From my perspective as an executive in a multinational corporation (currently living in Asia), I recognize this knee-jerk reaction. A loud threat from attorneys is the way of business everywhere in the world.

  I had a brief experience working as a substitute board member for the international school in which our daughters are enrolled. A sitting member became ill, had to leave the country for treatment, and I was invited to step in for the remainder of the school year. In my time there I saw that this school was in all ways focused on the financial advantages of “providing an education.” In many ways, they ran a much tighter ship than my boss at my corporate job. This experience opened my eyes as to the disparity between the sense of caring found in public schools back home and the hard line profit motive found in private schools. This was a startling realization for me. Schools and teachers carry an aura of hope to save/help the world; but the reality is, this private school, and I would imagine others, was purely a money-making endeavor.

  I believe international teachers need to keep this financial focus in mind when applying to teach at private schools. Owners most certainly see you as a commodity and your value for XYZ School may be simply to provide one small cog in the wheel that drives the school. Yes, you may be a superb teacher with a heart full of life-enriching talent and knowledge to share with your students and administrators. But, more importantly to the school, you are a Western face in front of the classroom, a promotional tool to get more wealthy local and expat parents to enroll their children. It may be hard to accept that you’re just not that special to these school owners and your opinions and suggestions, however well intended and enriching, may not be welcomed. That is simply the truth of operating a business focused on profits.

  During my time as board member, conflicts arose when a teacher (and his division) pushed for sweeping changes to align the school more with the American education system. Although the school follows American accreditation requirements and the school is considered an “American International” school, these costly changes were never approved and ultimately, the teacher was drummed out of the school in an ugly manner for his efforts. I, too, found that I was seen as a nuisance in calling for fairness when dealing with this teacher and his frustration over the situation. I could see that he was trying to implement his leadership skills to guide the school in becoming the best “American” school possible.

  I have a new-found appreciation for my children’s teachers and coaches. When faced with a strictly for-profit motive, these teachers consistently carry out their duties, act like enthusiastic professionals and deliver a top-notch education. I salute their dedication and commitment in the face of what must be, at times, a miserable experience. The reviews I have read of this school on ISR mirror what I saw happening as a temporary board member.

  That being said, I applaud the communication and advice shared on ISR. Teachers take care of each other by writing reviews to laud good schools and administrators, and warn about others. Parents like myself search the reviews to find where good people are directing quality schools, where teachers are treated fairly and with respect. That’s where I want MY children to go!

Just remember, it’s business as usual no matter what country you work in.

Sincerely,
(name withheld by request)

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Has the Boat Already Sailed?

downgrade_29328839From the ISR Forum: “I’m only too aware of the economics of my own country and that the quality of life for us as a family of four is being sapped. This is probably the underlying reason for looking at overseas schools.

“However, after recently reading several ISR Blogs, I am concerned that the lifestyle and package of international teachers is on the decline. Many posts comment on the great packages they used to receive compared to the packages on offer now. Many posts are commenting on the increasingly high cost of living without an equitable increase in wages.

“Whilst I know we’ll never be millionaires, the opportunity to offer our kids a quality education coupled with a life overseas is definitely forefront in our minds. I am concerned, however, that once we leave the benefits of the ‘teachers pension’ and remove ourselves from UK teaching circles, we probably won’t be able to return.

“Will the future of International teachers be at least as viable as it is now? Do you think the boat has sailed? Should we weather the storm at home and forget the possibility of a better life? We’d love to hear some thoughts on this topic.”

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The 1st Few Weeks @ a New School OR With a Change of Director/Admin

The new academic year is under way. Some of our colleagues are new to their schools and others are returning to the same school, but with a new director/admin at the helm. How you’re treated the first few weeks at your new school or by a new director/admin will set the tone for the academic year to come. Here are two scenarios for new teachers to consider. Which category describes your experience?

Outstanding Experience: You were no doubt greeted at the airport, then wined, dined and shown the local sights and school campus over the following days. With support, you quickly began to know the “ropes” and started to feel at-home with your new living arrangement and classroom. Most importantly, you’re well on your way to forming relationships with colleagues, students and parents—those little, school-sponsored socials are real ice-breakers. Relocating has been exciting, exhilarating!

Poor Experience: When your new school tells you to go find a house and “We’ll see you the first day of school,” you know you’ve made a mistake. Some of our colleagues are sadly discovering that what they were promised at interviews has yet to materialize and probably never will. Starting the year with the feeling you’ve been taken advantage of by a smooth talker is an awful feeling, especially when your career is at stake, your family is miserable, and you’ve signed on for two lo-o-ong years…

Returning teachers who find a new director and/or administrator in place will find the occasion one for celebration or mourning. We all know a school’s character and overall atmosphere is strongly affected by the people running the show. Schools with great reviews can suddenly go “south” when new leaders take charge; while the opposite can also certainly be true when a focused leader takes the helm of a poor school.

ISR hopes the first weeks as a new teacher OR your first experiences with a new administration at your current school are rewarding and the prelude to an excellent year of international teaching. While those first days of reception to a new school or admin are fresh and foremost in your minds, we encourage you to share your experiences  and first impressions with colleagues who can benefit from your candid comments.

Want to discuss this topic with other international educators? Scroll down to comment.

Grade Fixing – Fact or Fiction?

Report cards for the first reporting period of the academic year recently went home for parent review. The question is, were these grades a true reflection of student progress? A number of teachers have reported they were directly or subtly made to understand that “every student will do well.”

A teacher recently wrote ISR to say that after a student achieved 4 ‘Ds’ on a series of exams, she was instructed to alter her method of grading and count each ‘D’ as two points. On a scale of 1-10, the four ‘Ds’ added up to eight or 80%, which equaled a report card grade of ‘B.’

Another teacher reports that he gave his student a ‘C’ on the report card and later noticed the grade had been changed to an ‘A’. When he questioned the director he was told, “This is an honor student, and to help you save face we raised the grade to what this student would have earned if you were a better teacher.”

Altering kids’ grades to keep the paying customers (aka: parents) happy is certainly the exception and not the norm. But the practice may be far more prevalent than previously assumed. ISR recently received a letter from a teacher outlining how his school expected teachers to alter the grades of a few students on a special list, “the wealthy and/or powerful client list.” This teacher felt belittled and betrayed, but also extremely concerned for these same students naively applying, and being accepted to Western universities.

Have you personally been asked to alter grades? What’s your school’s policy? In the end, teachers may experience a conflict of conscience in the short-term, but ultimately it’s the students who suffer from this deception. Exposing schools that encourage grade fixing on ISR reviews is one step toward curbing this practice. What are YOUR thoughts and experiences with grade fixing?

Working in International Schools – a Good Career Move?

I am considering leaving a well paid 9-5 office job (in which I can also travel and work abroad) to retrain as a teacher, all with the intention of working in international schools as a career.

I was excited at the prospect until I came across the ISR web site and found extremely bad reviews for almost every school featured, usually relating to bad management, bullying of staff, corruption, poor pay and unfair dismissals.

I can assume that most people on this site are international teachers and I would therefore love to hear your opinions on the career in general. Is it a worthwhile career? Have you regretted your decision? What would you do if you were me?

Also, is it easy to find a good school or is it pot luck? Would you want to do it long term or only for a few years?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Many thanks!

What makes an International School a Tier-1 School?

National universities have long been ranked according to a system known as Tiers. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia in the US, and Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College in the UK appear on the list of Tier-1 institutes. Inclusion on this prestigious list is subject to a clear set of specific criteria.

With no similar system for rating international schools, overseas educators appear to have adopted the concept of Tiers, creating their own comparative system based on salary, first-hand experience, and the impressions/comments of colleagues working at other schools. Academic quality does not appear to be part of the equation for what makes an international school a Tier-1 school.

The idea that an international school would be considered a Tier-1 school, based merely on high salaries and glowing benefit packages seems questionable. While we agree it’s important to be remunerated for your talents, a pocket full of cash is no substitute for a host  of other important attributes that should be considered for a top rating.

With the intent to reach a consensus on what qualities constitute a Tier-1, Tier-2, or Tier-3 international school, we invite you to contribute to this topic.

Outstanding Moments in International Teaching!

When a student’s love of knowledge and learning blooms right before your eyes, you know you’ve made a real difference in a child’s future. Adhering to a curriculum is the standard expected of us all, but quality teaching goes beyond the simple transfer of knowledge and extends far into the realm of helping students become all they can be. I’m sure most teachers in international schools have had their own Outstanding Moments in International Teaching.

For me, a peak moment took place years ago while working in Eastern Europe. I had been teaching my middle school music classes Christmas and Chanukah songs in preparation for our winter musical. I noticed two 8th grade girls who always loved to sing were now sitting tight-lipped, refusing to sing the Chanukah songs. After class I motioned them to come see me and I quickly learned they would not sing Chanukah songs because they “hated Jews.” Why did they hate Jews? “Because our parents told us Jews are bad people.”

I had a good rapport with these girls and they were two of my favorite students. Hoping to show them the fallacy of their parent-influenced thinking I explained that I’m a Jew and asked, “Don’t we get along just fine?” They looked at each other, and then one turned to me and said,”Too bad. We used to like you!” Out the door they went. I was stunned. What sort of Pandora’s box had I opened?

At our next rehearsal they sat silently during the Chanukah songs while I respected their right to do so. At the close of class I again motioned for them to come see me. I asked what experience they had with Jews that led them to adopt their parents’ thinking? I learned neither had a Jewish friend and didn’t associate with the Israeli kids at school because they thought them to be ‘pushy’. I offered the idea that maybe it was just this particular group of kids that was pushy and not all Jews. Was I pushy, my wife or kids? I named some other Jewish students I knew to be on the shy side. I could see I had slipped a sliver of doubt into their strong convictions.

The next rehearsal they again sat silently during the Chanukah songs and once more I motioned them to my desk. With much trepidation I asked if they were simply ‘puppets’ that thought exactly as their parents told them to think. “Shouldn’t you be your own person and make up your mind for yourself?” I asked. “If your mother hates ice cream does this mean you do, too? Wouldn’t it be better to have your own experiences with people and things and then decide for yourself? Can you take the actions of a few and say everyone acts that way?” They looked shocked and walked off to lunch. I wondered if this would be my last day teaching at this school.

To my complete delight, both girls were enthusiastically singing the Chanukah songs at our next rehearsal. After class they came up to see me and said, “You’re right. We have no experience with Jews to make us hate them.” I used that opportunity to extend this idea to other issues in their young lives, and I could see the idea of tolerance and open-mindedness bloom right then and there in these two young girls.

I share this experience with ISR readers to open the topic of memorable moments in international teaching for your comment. What moments in the classroom or as a coach or as an administrator have reaffirmed your love of teaching? What lessons have brought a joy of learning and of life to the realization of your students? What have been your Outstanding Moments in International Teaching?