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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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:
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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)

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!

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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Overseas Medical Emergencies

From critical events where minutes count, to major issues that should be addressed ASAP, medical emergencies come in varying degrees of urgency. Hopefully, you, a family member or colleague will never have a medical event that needs absolute, immediate attention. But if it happens, knowing where to call for help, and available treatment options, can make all the difference.

Can you answer these questions? Where is the nearest hospital? Who do I call in the case of an emergency? Is there 9-1-1 here? What surgical procedures can be/are safe to be preformed in my local hospital? What type of incident qualifies for medical evacuation? Who do I call for evacuation? Does my insurance cover it? Should I get my home-country Consulate involved? If you’re not sure about any of these possibilities, you’ll want to get the answers before you’re in the middle of a panic situation where seconds count.

A minor surgery in Ecuador convinced me to be prepared…

I opted to undergo minor surgery in Ecuador for a frozen knee. Knees are not life threatening nor a medical emergency. However, my experience in an Ecuadorian hospital told me that had I been in a real emergency situation things could have turned out quite differently. Here’s my experience in a nutshell:

Picture yourself on an operating table in Ecuador. You’re awake because you’ve been given a spinal tap to nullify the pain of the surgery. You’ve been watching the arthroscopic operation in progress on a video monitor and chatting with the surgeon, when bang! The monitor goes dark, the overhead lights flicker and you’re all in total darkness. That was me, until a surgical assistant’s cell screen illuminated the area. The hospital did have a back-up generator, but couldn’t get its big diesel motor started.

Later, in the recovery room, I learned a guy in the surgical theater down the hall had survived open-heart surgery in spite of the 52-minute outage. This was cause for celebration. A year later I had the same knee fixed in my home country since the result of the surgery in Ecuador was never quite right. 

I had had the option to tough it out on a frozen knee or submit to surgery in the developing world. I chose surgery. That was a mistake with little consequences. But what if the medical event had been of a serious nature where the results of a bad decision could have been fatal? As ISR constantly stresses: research, research, research! This holds true for your medical options as well as with choosing an International School.

Embassies are usually an excellent source of emergency medical information as they will already have a plan in place for their employees. They can also recommend doctors and hospitals with whom they have had a positive experience. But, if you’ve been thinking your school Director will take care of things for you, that could be a foolish, even fatal mistake. He/she may know even less than you.

If you’re an educator working in a country with top-rated medical services, consider yourself lucky. If you’re in the developing world, it’s important to keep in mind that many, if not most medical issues can be stabilized or postponed until you can reach quality, qualified services. Additionally, bring the topic up at a faulty meeting. Long-time staff can be a good source of information–there are qualified doctors in every part of the world. Talk to the school nurse. ISR strongly recommends you do your due diligence before an emergency strikes. Be prepared for the unexpected. Then make a plan! You’ll be glad you did!

Comments? Do you have advice or comments to add to this Discussion?
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