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.

Comments? Have Something to Add?

Please scroll down to participate in this Discussion


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?

Please scroll down to participate in this discussion


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.

Comments? Please scroll down to participate


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.

Please scroll to participate in this Discussion


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!

Scroll to participate


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!