Can I Really Live on that Salary?

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An ISR Member has proposed the development of a useful tool for recruiting candidates. We invite you to participate in its development:
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“Dear ISR,
As recruiting season approaches, I thought it would be useful for us, as a community of international educators, to pool our knowledge regarding net salaries paid by individual schools throughout the International School circuit.

To clarify: I want to establish a ballpark figure per individual country/school regarding what is an acceptable net salary as compared to cost-of-living expenses for that area. The figure I’m looking for is exclusive of benefits (Let’s assume all the usual benefits apply) such as housing/flights/medical/etc. For ease, let’s consider a teacher with 5-10 years’ experience and the salary value in U.S. dollars (as used by most recruiting agencies).

For example: If I were looking at an International School in Thailand and the usual benefits were covered, then I would consider anything less than net 70,000 Baht per month ($2282 US) very low and possibly unacceptable. An acceptable salary range in Thailand might be something more like 70,000 – 120,000 Baht.

So, in summary, I’m proposing we ALL pool our knowledge of the countries where we’ve lived and post what we feel is an acceptable net salary on which a teacher can live comfortably and save some, too. I understand this will not provide perfectly sound salary advice to everyone, but it may help us as we set off on our quest to dance with the good, the bad, and the downright ugly! Who wants to play?”

Scroll down to share what YOU know about acceptable net salaries in relation to cost-of-living standards in various countries/schools around the world. It will benefit us ALL!

Speaking About Bullying

 Crisis in the International Classroom

Bullying is a deservingly hot topic right now. It is not just physical aggression such as a kick or a surreptitious pinch. It is also behavior such as purposeful exclusion and saying hateful words to others. Bullying behavior is not just direct meanness, but also indirect meanness, such as when a child or group of children tells everyone not to play or interact with one child. Bullying is also destroying a child’s reputation and likeability via the Internet, know as cyber bullying.

 In a Bullying Questionnaire (Dr. Dan Olweus), 524,000 American elementary, middle, and high school students responded, anonymously. Nearly 20% of elementary school students reported they had been targets of bullying behavior at least two or three times during the past month and in that same study, between 5% and 10% of elementary school students admitted to bullying others two to three times in the past month.

It is especially alarming to learn how little we teachers know about bullying that occurs among the students we teach. In a Canadian study, researchers observed behavior on the playground and in classrooms, and recorded an incident of bullying behavior on average of every seven minutes. Adults intervened in only 4% of these incidents. Even more amazing is the fact that when they observed classrooms, researchers noted that adults intervened in only 14% of the incidents that happened when they were present, while 71% of these same adults reported that they “nearly always” intervened in bullying incidents.

ISR would like to start the Bullying Conversation here. Does your school have a policy in place to deal with Bullying, including Cyber-Bullying? Do parents and administrators get involved with identifying and stopping those who bully at your school? Have you found techniques that work in your classroom and/or the social areas of school (hallways, cafeteria, playground) to prevent bullying? Do you, as a teacher, see an increase in Bullying amongst international students?

Weigh-in now with your thoughts on Bullying in International Schools: Scroll to read/post comments

Turmoil in The Islamic World

..Massive protests cause turmoil for expat teachers
..throughout Islamic world:

“Fury over an anti-Islam film spread across the Muslim world last week. At least four people — all protesters — were killed and dozens were wounded in the demonstrations in more than 20 countries from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. Most were peaceful but they turned violent in several nations, presenting challenges for the leaders who came to power in the Arab Spring.

Protesters set fire to the American School adjacent to the embassy compound and prevented firefighters from approaching it. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the school in Tunis was badly damaged and is now ‘unusable.”

How are you, your family and school administration faring in these troubling times? Is your school sending teachers home or out of the country? How are local people, such as your home neighbors, reacting to you as a foreigner? What changes have become necessary for additional security? Is there some way we, your colleagues, can help? Please add your comments below.

Which School Should I Choose for My Child?

Dear Dr. Spilchuk/ ISR On Line Consultant

Our family is considering three international schools in London, UK for our child to register in. We have applied to all three of them and it looks as though we will have a choice. Two of the schools have IB starting from Elementary through Middle School and into High School. The third school has the American curricula up to Grade 9 and then in high school, the IB Program begins (you have the choice of staying with the American curriculum at that point or putting your child in IB). The third school has a slightly better location for us as well as swim facilities, however…
Click HERE to read complete statement & Dr. Spilchuk’s response.

Scroll Down to Participate in this topic

Everything You Want to Know About Recruiting….. but didn’t know who to ask

Recruiting season is nearly upon us! We know you’re eager to get the jump on the knowledge that will bring you success in finding the best possible opportunity for your recruiting energies.

You surely have QUESTIONS: Which recruiting fairs have the most job listings to offer? Are there countries that have age restrictions that might limit your search? How early do the fairs begin in your part of the world? How late do they run? Is there a more family-friendly part of the world? Where should you NOT go if you’re a single teacher? What should, and should not, be included on your resume–coaching skills,  IB experience, your non-teaching spouse coming with you? Is it wise to contact a school prior to a recruiting fair? Is it just a dream that you may be hired early without attending a fair, and how secure, exactly, ARE those promised jobs?

ISR is the place to ask your recruiting questions. Many of your colleagues who frequent ISR are Recruiting Fair experts! So, whether you’re a newbie international teacher or a seasoned veteran with twenty years of international teaching under your belt, be sure to check into the Everything You Want to Know About Recruiting Blog and share in the wealth of  Recruiting information!

Host National Principal Vs Foreign Hire — Is One Better Suited for the Position?

Dear Dr. Spilchuk / ISR On Line Consultant

The issue of the principal being a host national as opposed to foreigner is a big debate here. As I am the only educator on the School Board, I battle sometimes about prioritizing the schools needs. As a result, I have been requested to write an analysis of the qualities of a successful international school, mainly the characteristics of a successful international school principal. I tend to stress the need for a native English speaker and a qualified foreigner in that position; solely because we haven’t found a host national who fulfills the leadership role properly AND speaks competent English

I’d like to know what qualities are the most valuable in a principal: e.g. nationality, language silks, educational background, good relations with the teachers, academic knowledge leadership skills, competing skills,  social networking, business skills, administration skills, etc. If you can give me  a prioritized list or general description, I would really appreciate it…Click HERE to read complete statement & Dr. Spilchuk’s response.

Scroll down to share your opinion on this topic.

The Art of International School Management

Our previous blog, Safe, Sound & Far Away is focused on schools that use threats and intimidation to discourage staff from posting to the ISR web site. While this tactic apparently works in the short run, once safely out of the country, teachers clearly spread the word about these suppressive institutions.

Obviously not all schools see ISR as a threat. Among the many informative postings to this Blog, one that caught our attention closes with this comment from the director of The International School of Macao: “Issuing gag orders is not a solution. The best solution is to create a culture and community where feedback is sought and handled in more constructive ways. This is what we are working towards.”

This statement resonates harmoniously here at ISR. We’d like to share the complete posting from the Director of the Macao School and ask for your comments. We’re certain many of us will be standing in line at the next recruiting fair for a chance to work in this environment!

Howie says:
June 28, 2012
“As a school, we have taken a different approach to ISR. Considering that many prospective teachers are going to use ISR to check up on the school, I believe most schools monitor (or should monitor) the posts therein. ISR gives a perspective of a school. Multiple perspectives are needed in order to effectively gauge the culture of a school. We encourage all prospective candidates to contact as many people on staff as they want. When they want to know about the cost of living in Macau, we point them to a staff survey that lists differing perspectives.
At the end of each year, I forward the latest 2 reviews to all of the staff who are leaving and ask them to consider giving their own review–this includes staff whose contracts we have chosen not to renew.
This year someone wrote a scathing review accusing me of being a bully. What do you do? I chose to expose it to all of the staff. Why? I wanted staff to be aware of it for a few reasons:
1. Bullying behaviour has no place in a school. I gave explicit permission for any staff member to confront any bullying behaviour they saw in me or in anyone else on staff.
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2. I hoped that the person would come forward so we could find some reconciliation. Clearly this person was hurt.
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3. Remind staff of appropriate channels for feedback and concerns. If they couldn’t come to me then there were many others safe channels.
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4. Avoid the gossip mill. Hiding things only makes it worse. ISR is here to stay.

Do these concepts coincide with the reality at your school? If not, is there a way to introduce this approach to running a school for YOUR school’s management team? We’re certain many schools see ISR as a constructive tool as opposed to a threat and sounding board for “disgruntled” teachers. We encourage directors and teachers to weigh in on this topic.

You’re Under Arrest!

“Dear ISR, I’m about to embark on my first international teaching assignment and I’ve noticed lately on the news there’s a fair amount of overseas travelers who get arrested for one reason or another. My family is starting to obsess on the dangers of living outside the U.S. and the possibility of getting entangled with local authorities. Has anyone at ISR had any experience with this? I think my family, and myself for that matter, would feel a whole lot better hearing from teachers who spent some solid time overseas and can offer advice.

“From what I’ve read on ISR it looks like some schools cannot be depended on. Geez, in one situation the director actually departed for summer vacation and left this poor teacher to fend for herself against serious allegations. But really, what clout would the director of an “American” school have with local authorities anyway? I did read about another situation where an influential parent was able to get a teacher (who was arrested for driving with an expired international license) out of jail.

One reason I’m especially nervous about all this is because my new school is telling me  to come on a tourist visa and they’ll get me a work visa once I’m there. Is this normal? Can  I be arrested for working without a work visa? As you can see, I can use some advice!”

Just for FUN

The school year’s over! Let’s lighten things up for the summer months & step-back a bit from the more serious topics we usually tackle here at ISR…

An interesting topic, Just for FUN, recently appeared on the ISR Forum. Responses from participants caught our eye & aroused our curiosity, so just for fun we’ve decided to share this intriguing transplant from the Forum with the entire ISR audience:

It’s summer & I’m dreaming about traveling overseas. 
Just for FUN
, let’s talk about the following:
Best overseas food
Strangest overseas food you’ve tried
Best beer/spirits
Best festival/event
Best place you went for vacation overseas
Here’s how a few Teachers responded:
Mike
Best overseas food: Japan!
Strangest overseas food you’ve tried: raw Sea urchin
Best beer/spirits: Polish Beer tents on  warm spring day!
Best festival/event: Thaipusam festival in Kuala Lumpur
Best place you went for vacation while overseas: Kenya Safari
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PsyGuy
Best overseas food: Italy!
Strangest overseas food you’ve tried: Monkey Brains, China 
Best beer/spirits: Cold draft Tiger beer, hot South Asian day
Best festival/event: Full Moon, Thailand
Best place you went for vacation while overseas: Brazil
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Anon
Best overseas food: Everything on a Kerala houseboat
Strangest overseas food you’ve tried: Squiggly white African grubs
Best beer/spirits: German beer
Best festival/event: Munich’s birthday
Best place you went for vacation while overseas: Camera safari-India
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Now it’s YOUR Turn to Share YOUR Favorites!
Just copy the list with the yellow squares (above) into memory. Then paste it into your reply box –  next, supply the answers.

How Do I Get Outta Here?

ISR is receiving disturbing reports from teachers moving on to new schools at the end of this academic year. The word is, some teachers are receiving little, if any, guidance or support with the processes required to correctly and legally exit their current school and host country.

Teachers are reporting the following:

  • Information on school checkout policies is incomplete or non-existent, making it difficult, if not impossible, to complete the required procedures and receive final pay checks.
  • How to legally exit the country permanently has not been discussed at some schools, leaving teachers afraid they will encounter problems and/or detainment at the airport.
  • Information on how to make final payments to utility companies and/or landlords to assure no residual problems has not been covered.
  • Details on how to receive reimbursement for airfare and shipping of personal goods has not been shared with leaving staff.

What we’re hearing at ISR is some schools “wined and dined” teachers on their way in, but are now giving those same teachers the cold shoulder as they depart for new horizons. Left to one’s own devices in a foreign country, exiting safely and legally can be a daunting experience.

If you’re in this predicament and need advice, you’ll want to post your questions on the ISR,  How Do I Get Outta Here? Blog. Chances are another ISR reader has been at your school or lived in your host country and can offer advice. If you had a memorable experience departing a particular school in the past, you may want to share with colleagues so we can all avoid the same experience in the future.

Happiness Revealed

Today, on my way to school, I find myself caught in grid-lock traffic. I silently curse the local drivers and their lack of driving skill. Immersed in my own little world within the confines of my car, I am utterly detached from the wonders around me: The mahout teasing his elephant onward, the smiling woman veiled in colorful layers of fabric, hundreds of buzzy motor bikes transporting an endless cast of exotic characters, the imposing mountains in the distance, the low hanging clouds with rain on the horizon…..and where am I? I am someplace else in my mind, completely preoccupied with the minutiae of concerns that await me in the classroom, lesson plans for the benefit of students who may, or may not, wish to be educated.

The international teaching experience is life changing, exhilarating, and can even be termed a peak experience. So, how is it possible to become blind to the newness and wonder of all that surrounds us in our host countries? Sights, sounds, smells and people we once marveled at can slowly fade into the background, replaced by workplace stress and commitments which eventually become our all encompassing reality. We’ve all experienced episodes of disconnect. For some it’s a fleeting experience, for others it’s semi-permanent or worse, a type of spiritual death.

Gratitude, a film by Louis Schwartzberg on TED, is guaranteed to reinstall the sense of wonder so easily lost in our busy lives, refocusing us on the reality that counts. We encourage you to take a few minutes to enjoy this film, and welcome your impressions and realizations after you’ve seen Gratitude.

Going Home to Stay

With the school year coming to a conclusion, some of us are anticipating moving home for more than just the summer recess. This transition can be both exciting and most certainly, daunting. There’s so much to consider and so many tasks to accomplish. It’s just like staring over! Fortunately, advice and comradery is not far away.

Claudia: “For me, coming home was a brand new adventure, and it’s amazing how even though family tell you how much they want you back, they have all moved on with their own busy routines that don’t include you. Even my parents! My husband and I found out about gatherings and outings we used to be included in well after the fact and we felt like outcasts. It was a weird time.”

Russ: “None of my friends really wanted to hear about my trip, or see pictures and they REALLY got tired when I kept bringing up stories and situations about how another culture solves the problem so easily. This is especially true of other teachers who don’t want to hear how great my students were, or how much easier things were.”

Edmond: “We’ve been out long enough. We have money in the bank, seen a good chunk of the world and are thinking of trying life Stateside again. It just feels like time to go home. We find we miss the football games, seasonal celebrations and the myriad of family gatherings. If we do go home and find it’s not as wonderful as we are imagining we can always go back out again. This might be easier said than done.”

ISR invites you to participate in our GOING HOME Blog to share experiences and concerns, ask questions and offer advice on this very important topic.

To Yard Sale or Not?

“Dear ISR, I’m getting ready to move overseas for the first time. I’ve got an apartment full of furniture, bicycles, kids’ toys, clothes, kitchen stuff and well, the usual things people tend to collect. I’m trying to figure out what I should do with all this stuff! Our school offers a moderate shipping allowance but not enough to ship the big pieces.

I’m definitely in a quandary at this point: If I sell everything I’ll for sure have a wad of cash. If I keep it all, I’ll have to pay storage for at least 2 years and that’s about $1800. I’d really like to know what international teachers already overseas have done with their belongs and if they later wished they had done something different. Thanks for your help with this question, any advice is appreciated.”

Still On the Fence About Teaching Internationally?

Are you considering going international & not quite sure the overseas life style is for you? You are not alone. A States-side teacher recently wrote to say: “I live in the U.S. & have a pretty great life. I have a stable teaching job that pays well with good benefits. I like the area where I currently live & am blessed with great friends. HOWEVER, I keep getting this pull in my gut towards travel & adventure. I want to see places & meet new people, explore exotic cultures, eat weird foods, be thoroughly challenged…”

f these comments resonate harmoniously in your psyche, you’re no doubt looking for some answers to help you get off that fence. Good news! Our States-side teacher posed 5 insightful questions, the answers to which are certain to help you decide which side of the fence is the right side for you. ISR invites experienced international teachers to lend a helping hand & shed some light on the following questions:

1. If you could go back in time, would you teach internationally or stay at home?
2. Are you financially better off teaching internationally?
3. Has it been easy to make friends or has it been lonely away from home?
4. What have been your favorite countries and/or schools?
5. What are the best things about teaching internationally? What are the worst?

My Favorite International Teacher Blog

Blogging is now the preferred medium of International Educators for sharing overseas travel and teaching adventures with friends and family. With plenty of space for commentary, Blogs also provide ample room for photos, and even home-made video clips. Best of all, Blogs are designed for interaction between reader and Blog owner. Taking just minutes to set up a personal Blog, it’s small wonder Blogging has become so popular among international educators.

Blogs are actually more than a great way to share experiences with folks back home and can be of tremendous value to other International Teachers, especially those new to the international teaching adventure and looking for information. Reading about the experiences of overseas educators, particularly those in a region we may be considering for our next career move, helps immensely with the decision-making process.

International Teachers’ Blogs usually provide a first-hand look at what life is really like in various locations. A family Blog displaying a rewarding time for both parents and children can signal a family-friendly location. Photos strictly of fern and fauna may point to little available cultural activity. But, the real beauty of a Blog is that we can ask questions of the Blog owner, who can then personalize the information just for us.

We invite you to join us on My Favorite International Teacher Blog to share information about, and links to, Blogs of interest to International Educators.

Teaching in Indonesia May Be Out Next Year!

In 2013 an alarming education policy will take effect in Indonesia. The new legislation, Peraturan Pemerintah Republik Indonesia Nomor 17 tahun 2010, has far-reaching implications for international educators wishing to teach in Indonesia. Here are the basics of the legislation as explained to ISR:

1. “National Plus Schools” [nat’l curriculum + internat’l curriculum, eg: Cambridge] will now be called “International Schools.” This means that for every foreign teacher there must be 3 local Indonesian teachers. Foreign teachers will only be allowed to teach English and NOthing more, as all other subjects will be taught by locals.

2. Schools currently called “International Schools” will become “Foreign Schools.” NO Indonesian citizens will be allowed to attend these schools.

It appears international teachers in Indonesia will be relegated to teaching ESL. If this bill affects your plans, please join us here on the Indonesia Education Legislation Blog to share information and ideas on this topic with other international educators.

International Teacher Initiation

“I suppose I’ve now been initiated into the world of international teaching. I have been completely blindsided and deceived by my admin who informed me I will not be getting another contract. This, despite two glowing performance appraisals over the past two years at this school.

In the end, although I was praised for having a high level of competence and skill in the job, they pointed out a fuzzily-defined personality trait of mine as being the reason for non-renewal.

My question is this: What do I say to prospective employers when asked my reasons for “resigning” (as I was given the option to do) after the initial two-year contract

Also, should I make a case to my recruiting agency over this? Any help would be much appreciated!”

I was Happy Until I found ISR

“I recently accepted a post at a school and start in August. I’m beginning to sell house, car, everything. But now, two weeks later, I am really worried…I just discovered ISR! Ouch! There’s one bad review after another about “my” new school! I wish I knew whether these reviews were teachers just letting off steam after a bad day, or if I should be seriously concerned. I am giving up my whole life here at home for this post abroad. Now I’m just not sure what to do. I was happy until I found your web site! Now? Any suggestions on what to do next?”

Would You Stick It Out? Or Run?

When you find yourself in an intolerable school situation do you stick it out or run for your life? Opinions vary, with each side of the dilemma adamant about its position:

I’D RUN FOR IT: “There is no honor in suffering. The idea that working at a rotten school in a lousy country, educating a do-nothing population with no interest in academics will somehow make you a better teacher or a better person is pure malarkey! Suffering is suffering no matter how you cut it & the less time of your professional life you can spend doing it, the better. Some schools are so god-awful, shifty, & immoral, the most honorable thing to do is to call it a day & RUN!”

I’D STICK IT OUT: “I could have run away from the job, but I felt the experience would actually serve me well in the future & that as a professional I could learn from what was happening in the school. My colleagues thought that if I left without notice & the school could not find a replacement, the children’s education would ultimately suffer. As an educator first & foremost, I could not leave the students.”

HOW ABOUT YOU?

Could A Confidential Reference be Killing Your Career?

“Dear ISR, I’ve received some positive responses to my applications for international teaching positions. But, in 3 instances after the recruiter contacted my confidential referees, interest cooled down, making me wonder what the problem might be.

I am absolutely sure referees 2 and 3 are very positive and complimentary. But I’m less certain about my current employer for whom I have worked for almost 5 years, and under whom I really feel I have been poorly and disrespectfully treated.

The fact is, I’ve only listed my present Director (with permission) on the basis that it is usually expected the current employer be included. I am, however, beginning to think he is damaging my prospects. This is pure speculation but a distinct pattern is emerging that leads me clearly to this conclusion.

I do know he almost certainly scuppered another potential appointment 3 years ago when the head of the school I was applying to informed me that my Director said I was under contract and therefore not eligible to apply. This was not true because the new contract being offered for the next term had not yet been presented to me.

This is really a bad situation. How about some advice…..anybody?”