Your Embassy in Times of Crisis

February 13, 2020


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

February 6, 2020

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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Master List of Schools w/ Top Savings Potential

January 9, 2020


There is more than just salary to consider when you’re looking for an International School with excellent savings potential. Airfare to home, the local exchange rate and income tax, among other factors, can make or break any Contract offer.

Beware of dazzling big numbers only to later discover your salary pans out to be worth less than a smaller salary in a less expensive place to live. All that glitters at recruiting time may not be gold.

In an effort to help colleagues around the globe identify schools with strong saving potential (in relation to all other factors), we invite you to participate in constructing a Master List of Schools w/ Top Savings Potential.

Your entry should include school name, country, city and, based on your experience, what you estimate to be the yearly savings potential. Sharing a bit about the cost of living and other pertinent factors will be helpful. Feel free to ask for savings potential information on a specific school.

For example: XYZ International School, Warsaw, Poland. I estimate my yearly savings to be about $10,000 US. The cost of renting an apartment in Warsaw can be high but everything else is about half the price of living in the United States.

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Beyond the School Gates

December 12, 2019

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

•••••

  If you frequent our Discussion Boards, you’re well aware our recent Survey revealed that nearly 50% of 650 surveyed teachers would break Contract if they could do so, consequence-free.

If you are ready to take the next flight out, it may help to know that seasoned International Educators will sometimes accept positions at poorly reviewed schools solely for the opportunity to experience a culture and country of great interest to them. It’s a bold move, but it is done all the time. If you’re unhappy with your current school situation, take pause. ISR encourages you to look outside the school gates to all your host country has to offer.

No one says it’s easy to rise above a school when everything about it flies in your face. Your objective, however, for going overseas was far more than to just be part of a school — you could have done that without leaving home. It’s YOUR choice:  You can wallow in the dissatisfaction of being at a lousy school and let negative feelings destroy the incredible overseas adventure you’ve worked so hard to earn, or…you can just let it be and do like seasoned International Educators and focus on, and savor, all that’s happening outside those school gates.

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A Gift that Keeps On Giving YOU

November 21, 2019

When I first moved overseas to teach in the early ’90s, landline phones and ‘snail mail’ were the only options we International Educators had to stay in touch with family and friends back home.

Problem was, calls home were prohibitively expensive, and when I could afford them, all I heard was an impersonal, distant voice on the other end of the line. As for ‘snail mail,’ by the time it arrived, if at all, life had seriously moved on. Maintaining relationships through the miles was so much more difficult back then…

Fortunately, all that has changed! Thanks to technology, last night I read my granddaughter a book over Skype. We laughed and giggled and shared a moment together. A few times a week I send loved ones photos and voice mails. I share my far-flung adventures, in and out of school and we often chat in real time. They keep me up-to-date on the happenings in their lives as well — videos of middle school concerts, athletic events, family get-togethers and the kids’ goofy mishaps await me nearly daily. I feel like I am part of their lives, and I am! I’ve discovered that, yes, it really is possible to venture out around the globe while maintaining close relationships back home.

These days, when I return home for the summer or holidays I’m no longer the distant family member dropping in temporarily from overseas. Through technology, it’s almost like I never left. This holiday season and all year ’round, give the gift of YOU.  Nothing says I love you and I’m thinking of you more than staying in close, personal touch.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from International Schools Review


International Educators Going It Alone Overseasj

November 14, 2019


Pulling up stakes and moving halfway around the world for an International Teaching position is a bold move. If, however, you’re part of a teaching team you’ll have your partner to rely on when the going gets tough. But what about educators who go it alone? What’s it like to move overseas when you have only yourself to depend upon?

For starters, going it alone will certainly put you out of your usual comfort zone, motivating you to experience new things, meet new people and take chances you might have never before considered. When you’re on your own, striking up a conversation in a coffee shop and making a new friend is more likely. Getting out to community events, plays, movies, parties and the likes can be more enticing when the alternative is staying home, alone.

Asked if they would have moved overseas alone if they knew back then what they know now, most educators answered with a resounding, YES! Educators who have gone it alone say they developed a new confidence in themselves and an entirely new side to their personality that would never have emerged had they stayed home or relocated with a partner.

Of course, not everything is perfectly rosy when you fly solo, and there are downsides to consider. The possibility of meeting that special someone may suffer overseas, and you’re bound to face some lonely stretches. You may even feel so intimidated by the overseas experience that you’ll have to fight the urge to head back home. Life can be frustrating when you don’t speak the local language or understand how things get done. Culture shock and the feeling of alienation are very real, the effects of which are intensified if you’re on your own.

Fortunately, there are varying degrees of how on your own you’ll be if you decide to go it alone. Better International Schools strive to minimize the stress on incoming foreign hires by providing solid support. Such schools handle utility bills, maintain teachers’ apartments, secure Visas, organize weekly shopping trips, and even supply transport to and from school. Additionally, they sponsor social events, making it easy for incoming teachers to become part of the established school community. In this scenario, teachers going it alone can immerse into the surrounding community at their own place while enjoying a more familiar and secure school-provided base from which to venture out.

ISR recommends you decide the depth of experience you’re ready for. Get all the information you need at your interview to help make an informed decision. Read Reviews and research, research, research! The majority of educators who have gone it alone say it was the best thing they could have done for themselves.

ISR Asks: Are you currently on your own overseas? What’s your take on the experience? Would you recommend it to others?

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Is ‘No Housing’ a Deal Breaker?

October 24, 2019

Caught up in the excitement of an overseas job offer, educators may be willing to overlook the inherent expenses and disadvantages of accepting an International teaching position that does not include furnished housing in the deal.

Security deposits add up fast! Think: apartment, utilities and internet. Shopping for household items such as a bed, couches, lamps, tables, and all the small stuff we take for granted back home (can opener, knives, forks, etc.) is not cheap. Before you know it you spent a full month’s salary, or more!

Schools know full well the costs associated with setting up complete households from scratch. They also know the legal and financial problems that often arise when dealing with local landlords who refuse to return security deposits and/or refuse to maintain their properties. Schools that choose to place the entire housing burden on teachers new to a country are schools that ISR feels take advantage of unsuspecting educators. As such, this may be a very telling indicator of what, if any, support you can or cannot count on from your school in the future, both in the classroom and outside of school.

The situation is further compounded when schools only pay a 10-month housing allowance, forcing teachers to pay out-of-pocket for the summer months or move out of their apartments. Apparently such schools place profit over the well-being of teachers. Additionally, teachers preoccupied with finding a place to live are not in a position to give 100% to their students. Everyone loses, except the school, which, of course, profits.

Is a lack of school-supplied housing a deal breaker? ISR recommends that teachers carefully weigh the pros, and especially the cons, of accepting a Contract that does not include furnished housing, or at least a stipend to cover deposits, furnishings and a school-trusted agent to personally help you find an apartment. Getting picked up at the airport upon arrival into your new country, dropped off at a hotel and told, “We’ll see you the first day of school,” has prompted many an educator to take the next available flight out.

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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.

ISR Invites your comments


From the Fish Bowl Into the Ocean

September 5, 2019

Hello ISR, My 15-year-old stepson, who has never traveled a day in his life, is flying to Bangkok this week to live with my husband and me. Indefinitely!

Without airing family laundry, the gist of the story is that some months ago it was decided Clive (not his real name) would be best served if he came to live with his dad and me. His mother has adult issues to work through and we’ve all agreed there’s no reason to drag Clive through it.

Clive is your stereotypical, insular, home-grown teenager from small-town Alabama. I would venture to guess his only experience with anything international is ordering a “taco” from the “gringo” at the local “Mexican” food place. Just the thought of him landing in Bangkok in two weeks  is….well…..overwhelming. For starters, our school in Bangkok hosts 30+ nationalities.

I’m hoping when Clive gets here he’ll love it just as much as we do, and the many other students having a first-time overseas experience. He won’t be alone. Our students are warm and welcoming. I know they will accept him and help smooth his transition.

Immersing in this exotic, vibrant culture and making friends from around the world will be a pivotal experience in Clive’s life. Still, I can’t help worrying about taking him out of the fish bowl and throwing him into the ocean, so to speak. Our director is working with us and helping to pave the way for a successful transition. I’m sincerely glad for that!

Have any ISR readers been through a similar experience? Any suggestions, strategies, plans? I could use some input about now.

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Takeaways from My Past Year Teaching Overseas

June 6, 2019

Let sleeping dogs lie. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Any port in the storm. Proverbial phrases all share one thing in common — they’re all profound commentaries on life & each came about through lessons learned, usually the long, hard way.

International Teaching is certainly no exception when it comes to learning lessons. If asked to reflect on YOUR past academic year overseas & to distill that experience into one or more concise proverbial takeaways, what would that look like?

For me it looks like this:

New-found faculty friendships are like an egg teetering at the edge of an unstable table. 

Clothes don’t make the wo/man nor do professional titles make a school leader.

There’s no such thing as a secret at an International School if more than one teacher knows it.

Of course I didn’t arrive at these takeaways within days, weeks or even months after arrival to my new school. As the school year progressed, however, repeated incidents, experiences & observations soon jelled into solid conclusions about life at this overseas school. It was an eye-opening year & I’m all wiser for it.

ISR Says:  Now it’s your turn. What intrinsic understanding of the overseas teaching experience did you glean this past year overseas that can be distilled into concise proverbial wisdom & passed on to colleagues, some new & some not so new to the overseas teaching experience? Please Share!

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Feeling More at Home in My Host Country than My Own

May 23, 2019

Hello ISR, I’m an American expat who has been living and teaching in Sweden for the past 6 years. I find many aspects of life here much like how I previously viewed my own country: Open, liberal, and in many respects, progressive.

I love Sweden. From their stance on education, alternative energy, abortion and health care, to support for the arts, a free press and immigration, Sweden embodies what I’ve always loved so dearly about America.

The conservative wave, however, sweeping America since the advent of the Trump administration leaves me conflicted, frustrated and anxious. Yes, I am a liberal and I’m feeling exceptionally apprehensive about returning to America for the summer vacation.

Watching from overseas I have felt somehow immune to the turmoil I’ve been witnessing in America.  Distance seems to soften the blow and even allows me to tell myself it’s not as bad as it looks. Of course, there are people who welcome these changes and loss of freedoms, and this worries me.

The atrocious assault on women and the environment, the senseless and accepted mass murder of school children by gun lobbies, talk of war with Iraq, removal of funding for the arts, poor treatment of military veterans and the complete lack of decorum on the part of our president is upsetting to me, to say the very least.

Since when has the free press been the “enemy of the people?” Not since Hitler, as far as I know. Since when is investigation termed as spying? Since when did the health and welfare of big corporations take precedent over the people of a nation? Our Constitution has been breached by the very people tasked with defending it. The America I love is being eroded.

This week I’m flying home to visit family in mid-America. I’m having a hard time dealing with the thought I will be immersing myself in a country that is far different from when I left Her. I normally avoid traveling to countries that abuse its citizens’ rights and here I am travelling to my own country that is quickly falling into that category.

ISR, I’m asking if you would post my thoughts as I would like to hear from expats and educators dealing with the same conflicting thoughts as me. I know there are people who will tell me that if I love Sweden so very much, why don’t I just stay there? I’ve had that thought and am entertaining it. So thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts.

Sincerely,
An anxious expat

ISR Note: Bashing, name-calling or criticizing this author or the political views of participants in this discussion will result in an immediate and permanent ban from our Discussion Boards. We ask you stick to the topic. This is not a discussion on the pros and cons of the Trump administration. Please remember, we are educators!


Surviving Summer Without a Housing Allowance

May 9, 2019

More than just a few things bother me about my current school. But the one that irks me most is that the housing allowance covers only 9 months. This leaves teachers with 2 choices:  1). Give up your apartment when summer rolls around & find another one when you return. Or, 2). Take what amounts to a month’s salary & hand it over to your landlord to cover June, July & August.  I opted to move.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t just pay the rent & spend the summer months in-country? Believe me, I would if I could, but I’m driven to go home & spend time with my aging parents & a handful of longtime friends. Like most international educators, I live in two worlds. I have a life back home & among other things, I continue to have financial responsibilities. Student loans are a biggie for me. Throwing away good money on an empty apartment is simply not an option.

The school does allow us to store our belongings in empty classrooms while we’re gone. The problem is, all summer long the maintenance people & who-knows-who-else have complete access to these classrooms. Leaving anything of value for 3 months unsecured is not a good idea. Renting a storage facility (in scarce supply) or taking really valuable stuff with you could be the way to go. But what a hassle!

The practice of creating homeless teachers at the start of each school year throws all our lives into turmoil & severely diminishes the level of instruction. Personally, I’m not at my best when I’m preoccupied with getting my living situation in order. For those who haven’t found an apartment by the first day of school, admin recommends staying in a hotel (expensive) or bunking with a friend (problematic). It’s no wonder this school doesn’t hire many couples & absolutely no couples with kids. I can’t imagine what that would be like!

I do love it here. I have wonderful students & parents, & the city offers an endless array of cultural attractions. The school, unfortunately, is owned by a tight-wad. Still, I’m willing to put up with him, at least this one last time. Yes, I must be a glutton for punishment ’cause I signed on for a third year!

Has anyone dealt with this situation? Does anyone have a creative solution?

Signed:  Movin’ Man

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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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Overseas Medical Emergencies

January 24, 2019

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!

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Feelin’ Like I Don’t Fit In

October 25, 2018

I’ve been here since September, yet … I just don’t feel like I’m fitting in. I love living overseas for all the obvious reasons & thinking about my new school I couldn’t ask for better. So, what’s my problem?

Recently I’ve noticed 2 things that unify our staff:  Drinking & kids. If you’re a drinker you’ll fit right in & always have someone to hang with. If you have young kids, play dates at the park will yield an instant bevy of friends who also have children. As for me, socializing around a bottle has long been a thing of the past. And kids? I don’t have any of my own, so hanging out with families who plan activities around kid-type stuff never quite works for me.

I am about 10 years older than most of our staff, something our director didn’t mention during the recruiting process. Years ago, if I was speaking with someone 10 years my senior, I’d feel as if I were in the presence of my parents or one of their friends. Could it be this is how our younger staff see me?

I decided it’s time to look outside school for social fulfillment. I love dogs, cats & pets in general so surely there must be a group of pet owners in this cosmopolitan city who meet to share interests. I like hiking & scuba diving (no ocean here, though), reading, board games, the gym, museums & I’m open to trying new things.

I discovered MeetUp.com not long ago & it’s been a good start. Through MeetUp I joined an expat book club & an art appreciation group that visits different museums around the area. There is life beyond bars and playgrounds! (I checked out CouchSurfing.com but it’s mostly for expats who are just passing through town.)

Moving outside my comfort zone & saying ‘yes’ to things I might have said ‘no’ to back home has helped me meet people & initiate some budding friendships. For example, taking dance lessons is something I’d never, ever consider back home. But, forcing myself to try activities outside my comfort zone has opened up a new world for me. We have fun at dance class–we laugh at ourselves & at each other, all in good fun.

Are you currently, or have you been in a similar situation? Do you have some insights to share with me & other International Educators?

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Where Will Love Take…or Leave You? (part 1)

September 20, 2018

A two-part Discussion Topic composed by an ISR member speaking from first-hand experience

Look Before You Leap...

If you’re a single international educator, living overseas and thinking about (or are already) dating a host national, you’ll be faced with some heartfelt discussions as you make the leap into a serious, perhaps permanent, relationship.

Dating in a foreign land can and will invite a slew of new issues, especially concerning your differences and how perspectives and cultural norms shape and guide your relationship. This is far more complex than you’ll encounter dating back home where both partners subscribe to the same cultural history with an intrinsic understanding of basic expectations. Not necessarily so between couples from two distinctly different cultures.

From birth, we’re bound by the norms of our culture. As mentioned, bi-cultural, bilingual partnerships are inevitably faced with some tough decisions:  Will you marry? If so, where? Back home (for you) or where you met? Where will you settle? Whose family will be seeing you more often?  Whose aging parents and family will benefit from you living close? Who will make the sacrifices regarding family/friends living a long flight away? Will both partners work? How about home and property purchases? And most importantly and consequential, what about starting a family?

With effort and mutual understanding, partners can overcome obstacles, discovering that love is love and we’re all human, regardless of customs and habits. Still, there are so many variables that make for a challenging course, it’s wise to consider what you are/are not willing to do for love before you get in over your head and your judgement becomes blurred.

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(ISR NOTE:  Stay tuned for Part 2 next week: After the Leap — The consequences of an overseas relationship that doesn’t work out

 

 


The Yin & Yang of Int’l Teaching

September 6, 2018

Just in case you didn’t already know, Yin/Yang is the idea that all things exist with inseparable, contradictory opposites such as rich and poor, large and small, dark and light, truth and lies. Within that structure of opposites there exists balance. Teaching overseas is no exception

The rewards to going international (Yang) can be great, while the difficulties (Yin) may be enough to make some of us stay home.  For readers contemplating a leap into International Education, ISR recommends you assess the potential Yin and Yang of your decision-making process.

The Yin of teaching overseas: Being away from loved ones back home during major life events, new-found friends and colleagues drifting away at school’s end, lack of a caring support network when things go wrong, a constant slight feeling of insecurity, difficulty getting by with limited language proficiency, the challenge of moving pets, hard-to-manage financial responsibilities back home, lack of job security and/or a pension.

The Yang: A decent paycheck and savings potential, eager students and generally great colleagues, interesting, nearby places to visit, breathing room from family pressures and expectations, personal growth from living in different cultures and languages, potential for living well above the socio-economic lifestyle of a teacher back in one’s home country, opportunities for lasting friendships with people of all ages from all over the world.*

International Teaching, like all aspects of life, is about getting your personal Yin/Yang balance right.  Can you deal with a polluted city as the trade-off to being near historic sites that make you swoon?  Is a small school with few resources worth the struggle in exchange for the opportunity to teach well-behaved students with a passion to learn?  For everyone, the sacrifices (Yin) they are willing to make for (Yang) pleasures will be different.

Of course, there is more Yin/Yang associated with moving and teaching overseas than mentioned here. Take your time and weigh your own personal Yin/Yang balance while making the commitment. Many International Educators say they were hesitant to leave their country behind but now don’t want to return. They’ve found their personal Yin/Yang balance. You can, too!

* from ISR Open Forum users

 

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An International School Student Looks Back

August 30, 2018

I grew up in an International teaching family and for the bulk of my formative years travelled the world. I chose not to follow in my parents’ footsteps and am no longer a part of the International Schools community.

However, when a wave of nostalgia hits me I like to go on ISR and read about the schools I attended back in the 90’s. Over the years, I’ve noticed a startling theme running through many of the reviews of these schools.

It seems to me life in International Schools is no longer the fun-filled adventure of my youth. It looks to have become a life of drudgery, ongoing war with manipulative admin and hitting the roadblock of money-grubbing owners. I see an increasing rift between leadership teams and teachers culminating in an ‘us-vs-them’ mentality.

When I look back, I see my experiences through the rosy lens of childhood. I acknowledge there was probably a fair amount of workplace drama that I was not privy to as a student. That being said, I remember attending work functions where admin and teachers mingled. There were trips to see pyramids where the principal came along, not as a boss to my parents but as a family friend. I was dragged along to mountain retreats where, though I was bored senseless, the teachers seemed to delight in bonding through professional development, and frankly, a few too many drinks. I have trouble reconciling my mostly positive childhood experiences with stories I now read on ISR.

I know people tend to mostly write reviews when they have something to complain about instead of to share a great find. I know it’s easier to be inspired to write when you are full of vim and vinegar. But is the International School world of my childhood really this far gone?

Sincerely,

SD

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Crucial 1st Days @ Your New School

August 16, 2018

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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Can’t Wait to Get Back Overseas

August 9, 2018

Hello International Schools Review. I’m an American who just spent my first-ever year overseas. I’m back in the States until mid-August and have to say, reuniting with my own culture in terms of having experienced life in another culture is a real eye-opener!

I’ve been teaching in a Latin American city with a somewhat European feel. I love it! Strangers greet each other with a “buenos dias” as they pass on the sidewalk. They smile and wish each other “buen provecho” in restaurants. There’s a standard level of decorum, civility, kindness and politeness I’ve not experienced in my homeland. Most assuring, there’s a welcoming attitude extended towards foreigners (that’s me). All this is in sharp contrast to the divisive sociopolitical atmosphere of alienation and mistrust I’m feeling right now in America. I find myself always feeling an edge of anxiety while home for this summer.

Never before have I seen so many prime-time TV commercials touting drugs for anxiety, depression, insomnia. I can see why! Yesterday, for example, I pulled out in front of some guy in traffic and he went ballistic on me, yelling obsenities out the window, flipping me the bird, all over something so insignificant. I wondered: Maybe he can’t affored his meds? Could he have a gun? Is going to take his private griefs and anxiety out on me because I was just the last straw before his breakdown? In my Latin American “home,” a driver would’ve just nodded in understanding and waved me on. But not here.

Then there’s the sudden proliferation of TV lawyers asking: Have I been in an accident? Have I slipped and/or fallen at work, or been discriminated against because of my age, gender, sexual orientation? There seems to be an entire army of lawyers ready to make anything and everything that happens to me someone else’s responsibility — and make money for themselves by doing so. They are at once contributing to, and a result of, the adversaries we’ve become.

Has it always been like this in America? I think not. Or, maybe this divisive atmosphere crept in so slowly and imperceptibly that I subconsciously adapted and accepted it as the status quo of life in the US? In any case, the atmosphere now makes me anxious and, at times, sleepless. People here, including myself, are seriously on edge.

I could go on and on but the point is, I’m so happy to be going back overseas this month! I’ve found something better, at least for me. I’ll be an International Educator for years to come and at this juncture in my life I will probably retire overseas.

Anyone else have the same realization after going overseas? Have you remained overseas? I’d love to hear about the transformation other educators have experienced going international.

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