Would You Put Your Kids in a Host National School?

April 26, 2018

..I’ve been offered a teaching position in China. The job comes with a great salary and a super benefits package. I’m ready to accept the offer but I am concerned about my two children. They have never lived abroad and 95% of the school population is local Chinese students.

My kids are 10 & 12 years old, flexible, adventurous and accepting. Still, I’m worried that a move like this could be too challenging for them.

Have any of you parents been in a similar situation? Did you accept the position? How did your kids handle it?  I realize all kids handle things differently but I’d love to hear any and all perspectives.

Thanks in advance for your help and support.

Sincerely,

China Bound??

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Leave No Task Behind

April 19, 2018

...If you’re returning to your current school after summer break, or moving on, a score of tasks are on the immediate horizon. As if final exams & report cards are not enough, there’s a zillion things you need to do prior to departure.

Tedious classroom inventories, equipment/materials return, preparing your room for potential maintenance crews & getting grades in on time can turn the last days of the school year into complete pandemonium. Add to this personal responsibilties such as travel plans & providing for maids, gardeners, phone/utility bills (if you’re returning after vacation) & the most organized among us can easily find themselves overwhelmed.

To complicate matters, some schools do not offer housing allowances for the summer months, prompting many returning teachers to give up their home to save money. This, of course, leaves the additional task of securely storing home/personal items until your return & then finding &/or renting new “digs.” If you have pets who are not joining you on vacation, the task can be even more daunting.

If you’re moving on to a new school, you have an especially difficult task ahead. In addition to the business of leaving your “old” school, you must arrange to ship your personal belongings, closeout cell phone/internet/utility accounts, collect deposits, sell the car/furniture, & perhaps hardest of all, say good-bye to dear friends. The big & little details of moving-on can be daunting & extremely time-consuming.

There’s far more involved in leaving a school for the summer break, or forever, than merely locking the door. Join us here to SHARE your must-do list, COMPARE experiences, ASK questions & OFFER ADVICE on how to leave no task behind.

  Ringo says: Well this time I am restricting myself to what I can carry on a plane – everything else has to go – a new way of living!

  Globetrotter1 says: We have had a similar problem with shipping to South America – an absolute nightmare – the cost of shipping was reasonable but the customs taxes (more than the cost of shipping) have forced us to have a major downsize. Most of our weight is books and clothes so we have had to take the hard decision of scanning most of our books. The remainder we will ship back to our home country and when we leave 3 weeks later for our next post we are all taking it on the plane (yes it sounds crazy but it is cheaper!). It helps to only fly with an airline which lets you take a lot on the plane!

  Allen says:  If you are returning to the same school, you may be able to store some items at the school. I was fortunate, my schools had a campus the size of a small university. If you are returning to the same apartment complex, you may be able to store items with the complex for the summer. Finally, friends who are staying for the summer or nationals that you taught with at your school could help you.

  Phil Johnson says: Having had 5 summers effectively homeless due to tenants living in my State-side home I recommend that if you can afford it, leave your house empty so it is there when you are bakc home. You do need a family member or friend to look after it though. Alternatively rent it for 6 months through the winter and get tenants to vacate afterwards, this adds to costs but at least you know where you are spending the summer.

  JMS says: Even when I am not moving on, I use the end of the school year as an opportunity to do some spring cleaning. I bag up old clothes or items I simply don’t use anymore and give them to my housekeeper or someone in need. I also come up with a summer “to do” list for my housekeeper, and give his number to the school so that they can contact him when they need to do the painting and repairs over the summer.

  Michelle says: My “old” school really helped out us departing teachers by allowing us to hold a “garage” sale–we made a party out of it and included the incoming staff by sending them photos of the bigger items (transfer of item for cash via the school), and one colleague sold their car to an incoming teacher. The parents also bought an amazing amount of our stuff plus brought music, treats, lunch and drinks galore for the all-day event. We got the word out to the neighborhood and the sale was a huge success!

Our flight, fortunately, is not until a bit more than a week after school ends and I’m glad we thought of that to give us time to unwind and finish up details of exiting the country and school/jobs. Our girls will have some play dates to fully say goodbye to their friends, too. I’ll be at home packing (while having a beer or two or…).

Another thing which is really helping is that I’ve hired trusted locals to come and help me clean our apartment, pack, sort, and dispose of unwanted items. This way they get a chance to make some extra money, while taking away some items themselves which can be sold or used in their own homes. They are also helping with languages difficulties when getting our deposits back from landlords, for example. These are people who have worked alongside us at school as aides and maintenance staff, so we’re also able to enjoy some more time with these helpers, our friends.

And finally, we were able to sell our car to a worker at our school, a good deal for him and an easy transaction for us. And, we get a ride to the airport with hugs and pleasant goodbyes!

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Teacher Trap in Paradise

April 12, 2018

 

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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UAE: Behind the Modernity

March 15, 2018

Planning to relocate to the UAE this upcoming school year? More than one expat has mistakenly allowed themselves to be lulled into believing the United Arab Emirates is a modern, progressive nation. Incredible architecture, modern roadways, world-class malls and high-line cars are all evocative of affluent, Western cities. 

But that may be where the comparison stops. Behind the mask of modernity, the UAE continues to adhere to a stultified, archaic system of laws that can entrap even the most savvy of travelers.

 Read on! These recent cases involving foreigners defy all logic and serve as a “heads up.” 

Teacher jailed for allegedly insulting the UAE on Facebook:  A British teacher has been locked-up in a vermin-infested jail in Abu Dhabi since October 2017. The charges? Writing an insult on Facebook. Christian Wilke, 39, was denied legal representation for 52 days after his arrest. At his hearing, conducted in Arabic, he was not told the charges against him and sentenced to one year in prison along with a stiff fine. He is reportedly being denied medical care and sufficient food. His mother fears for his life.

News articles about this case: 
British Teacher Jailed in UAE
British Teacher Sent to Hell Hole Jail in UAE

Man jailed in Dubai for WhatsApp message sent to crooked car dealer:  Yaseen Killick, 29, a British real estate agent, was jailed after sending a WhatsApp text message to the car dealer who sold him a car that broke-down just hours after driving off the lot: “How do you sleep at night knowing you’re ripping people off? I’ll see you in court.” This was enough to motivate the police to jail Yaseen as the dealer claimed he felt threatened.

News article about this case:
British Real Estate Agent Jailed After Messaging Car Dealer Who Sold Him a Lemon

British Woman Faces Jail in Dubai after Witnessing Bar Fight:  Asa Hutchinson, 21, an accounts manager for a global transport company, says she was not even there when a fight broke out between her friends and a man who was reportedly drunk. On their way out of the bar, Asa’s friends saw a man passed out on a bench. They took some selfies with the guy, who woke up and started throwing punches. It’s been reported that it is common in the United Arab Emirates for witnesses to be arrested and prosecuted just for being nearby.

News article about this case:
British Woman Faces Jail in Dubai

There’s More:  In September, a man was detained for ‘flipping the bird’ to another driver. In October a man was jailed for accidentally touching another man’s hip in a bar. In November a man was imprisoned for having smoked marijuana – before he had even arrived in Dubai. An expatriate couple was detained for 6 weeks for having sex outside of marriage.

You could take a hard stance and say all these people should have done their homework, learned the local customs and taken responsibility for themselves. Easier said than done. Some things are just unimaginable and beyond the foresight of a Westerner. Wherever in the world your next teaching assignment takes you, ISR recommend extensive research into the customs, traditions and laws.

More ISR Articles about problems for Westerners in the UAE:
Women, Rape and the Law in UAE
Collect on Everything a UAE School Owes You
Buying a Car Overseas Can Land You in Prison
Janitor at Al Rabeeh School Abu Dhabi Sentenced to Death

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Jewish Educators in the Middle East

February 1, 2018

Long before the turmoil we’re witnessing today in the Middle East, I was offered a teaching position at the International School of Aleppo, Syria. As a history buff, I was totally on-board by the prospect of exploring the vibrant cultures and history of the region. But….What would life be like for a Jewish teacher living in Syria?

The recruiter was upfront with answers to my questions: I would be exposed to anti-Semitic remarks from students who use the term “Jew,” accompanied by derogatory expletives. I should keep my Jewish heritage secret. If I decided to travel to Israel, my stamped passports could bar me from re-entering Syria. Common sense and prudence said loud and clear: Don’t go!

Today, in my position (as Moderator of the ISR Forum), I was intrigued by this recent thread:

Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby ap410 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:07 pm
I’m considering applying for positions at a few schools in the ME (Bahrain, UAE, and possibly Oman), but I’m concerned that since my children and I are Jewish, we could run into trouble, hostilities, etc. We’re not super religious, but my kids have a habit of singing the Dreidel song in December, and I don’t want them to feel like they have to hide their religion. Does anyone have experience with this in the ME? Thanks!

.My first reaction was, ‘Are you kidding!?’ My opportunity was pre-9/11. What could it be like today for a Jew teaching in the Middle East? International Schools do tend to promote diversity, tolerance, inclusion, equality and a host of Mission Statement ideals. But … as we all know, life can be quite different outside that supposed safe haven.

Here’s some positive and negative Forum Comments that illustrate the dilemma…

by reisgio » Mon Jan 29, 2018 9:12 pm  For goodness sake, don’t take your innocent Jewish children to the Middle East!… I wouldn’t be comfortable having my children basically hide their identities just so I could work somewhere exotic. What’s wrong with you?

by justlooking » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:35 am This has not been my experience working in four international schools in the ME in Egypt, Oman, Morocco, and Dubai. All the schools were top tier with a very international student body. I found most people respect Judaism and Jews; it’s Israel that’s the problem. As long as you’re not espousing pro-Israeli sentiment, you’ll be left alone.

by Nomad68 » Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:54 pm I really would not recommend going to places like Saudi, Kuwait or Qatar even if you hid your Jewish identity. The anti-Jewish sentiments would shock you.

 by shadowjack » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:45 pm 7 years in Saudi. Our Saudi friends had Jewish neighbours and didn’t care.” “Israel is not a good country.” They knew the difference between the two, that’s for sure….

 My purpose in calling attention to this topic is to hopefully encourage ISR Members to initiate a place where my Jewish brothers and sisters can turn to for first-hand information on what it’s really like for a Jewish International Educator to live and teach in the Middle East, a decision clearly not to be taken lightly.

Have an experience or information to share?

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Saudi Arabia Levies Tax on Expat Families

December 28, 2017

..

We’re all aware that most International Schools prefer not to hire ITs with kids and/or a trailing spouse, the obvious reason being the costs associated with relocating a family. Along this vein, Saudi Arabia has made teachers with dependents even less desirable by imposing a hefty “dependent tax” on family members accompanying expats working in the Kingdom. In other words, if you’re an expat working/teaching in Saudi Arabia you’ll pay a hefty, yearly tax to bring your family with you.

Here’s the skinny on the tax: As part of the government’s attempt to balance the budget, an expat working in the Kingdom with dependents will pay 1,200 Saudi riyal ($320 US dollars) per year, per dependent. Additionally, the “dependent tax” is set to increase yearly, reaching the equivalent $1296 US dollars yearly, per dependent. For a teacher with 3 dependents, $3888 is an astronomical yearly tax.

The future of the new “dependent tax” is uncertain, as many foreign workers have decided to send family members home, the consequence being that workers will most likely send money back home and not spend it in Saudi Arabia. It appears the plan may have unintended consequences and, as such, the tax may not be the answer to balancing a budget that’s been in suffering since the decline in oil prices.

ISR ask: What has been your experience with the new “dependent tax” and how are International Schools and teachers coping with this new expense? Are other countries targeting expats in an attempt to raise money?

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Be the Reason Someone Smiles

November 23, 2017


.. 
It’s easy to take so much in our lives for granted: friends, family, health care, good food, clean water, shelter, employment…the list goes on. Life is good for International Educators! But, sadly, not for everyone. Five minutes peering at the evening news is quick confirmation that we are truly among the fortunate.

 ..This Thanksgiving season ISR encourages you to play it forward and perform one or more random acts of kindness for a stranger. Make someone smile this Thanksgiving — spread Good Will, Foster Kindness. It’s a wonderful way to give Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving from ISR