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?



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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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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.


China Bound??

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