What’s Everyone Doing this Summer Vacation?

For me, the absolute greatest part of teaching and living overseas is the travel opportunities. From my current school it’s a quick, inexpensive, flight to just about anyplace in Europe.

Amid protests and guilt trips laid on me by family back home, I decided to travel this summer. My brother and his wife took over my house in the States years ago so returning “home” leaves me crashing on the couch or in the spare bedroom. An entire summer is just too long for everyone.

My first stop is Prague, I’ve rented a car and aside from the cost of gasoline I’m having the time of my life. I have a tent and a camp stove and plan to spend just one or two nights a week in hotels. I’m meeting people on summer holiday in camp grounds and really getting a feel for the people and places I’ve visited so far. I have no definite plans, just a map and lots of time.

I’m curious what other international teachers are doing this summer. I’m hoping ISR will post this letter so I can hear from other teachers traveling on summer break.

Thanks very much and have a great summer, Phil. / Tell us what YOU’re doing this summer

Why Did Tashkent Ulugbek International School Close?

The School Claims Uzbekistan’s Bureaucratic Obstacles were Too Great. Teachers Tell a Different Story. This Could Happen to ANYONE!

What the School Says:

We declare suspension of our educational services for safety and security reasons.

The Tashkent Ulugbek International School was founded in 1995 by the SilmEducational Corporation (%60) in cooperation with the Department of Diplomatic Services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan (%40) and so far it has provided educational services that fully meet international standards. Our school is a regular member of ECIS (European Council of International Schools) as well as CIS (Council of International Schools) and it caters for students from twenty-four different nationalities from preschool through Year 12. Our school employs a fully international teaching staff selected from among qualified and experienced teachers from various countries such as Turkey, Uzbekistan, the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, the USA and India. Nonetheless, due to reasons which will be listed below, our corporation has had to discontinue all its educational services in Uzbekistan from 1 January 2011, without any purposeful bad intentions or meaning any harm to anyone.

1-    According to the current laws in Uzbekistan, shopping and making / receiving salary payments in a foreign currency are not permissible. Therefore, parents pay the school fees in Uzbek Sum and The National Bank of Uzbekistan is supposed to convert the amount that is needed for the salary payments of the school’s foreign staff and the money should officially be transferred in US Dollars to the related country. Ever since our school was founded in 1995, we have experienced serious delays and difficulties in converting and transferring our foreign teachers’ salaries; the final transaction we received was for the salaries of March 2009, which means our salaries have not been transferred for twenty-one months up until now, even though the money is available in our school’s Uzbek Sum bank account. When we contact the relevant bank, the answer we always get is “We are short of USD Dollars”. During this period we strived to maintain our educational services without delays and interruptions even though we were experiencing serious financial difficulties. It has financially become impossible to sustain the school as we strongly believe, with the help of our past experiences and observations, that these obscurities which are created by the current financial system will remain the same in the future as well; moreover the relevant authorities have always failed to provide any kind of assistance to us.

2-    As we have recently been hearing, foreign investors in the country are suffering from increasing negative attitude and ill-treatment such as numerous anti-terror teams’ assaults and inspections to ordinary business corporations (workers and staff of these corporations have been accused of possessing forbidden publications in their offices, which were in fact placed in secret by the above mentioned units prior to or during the inspections), difficulties that these people experienced in defending themselves, threatening the defense lawyers and forcing them to quit, unlawful imprisonment of some foreign staff and threatening of their families. Our corporation believes that our institutions are very much likely to be subject to similar pressures and we do have serious concerns about the safety and security of our services and staff alike.

3-    Bureaucratic obstacles in procedures such as permissions, customs clearance, transportation and payments that we had to deal with while importing educational materials; textbooks, laboratory equipment, computers etc.

Difficulties and bureaucratic procedures that we endured when we had to renew our work license due to the changes that took place in the educational system.

4-    It has become impossible to manage the risks that came along with the increasing problems and difficulties in the arrangements of our expatriate staff’s visa, registration, accommodation, flight tickets, health services and salary transfers. Although shopping and making payments in a foreign currency in the country are not permissible, we were directed to make payments in US Dollars for visas, registrations, rent of accommodations and some health services, which made these services impossible to receive.

5-    We have finally had to decide to suspend our educational services as we have serious concerns that unjust and unlawful ill-treatment, which a few other private educational institutions were subject to during their inspections (e.g. the language teaching centres faced accusation of extremism in December 2010), is very much likely to be directed against our schools as well.

We apologize for the inconvenience all this might have caused.

What the Teachers Say:
“The Turkish administration and staff fled ‘en masse’ at the end of December, without telling anyone beforehand (including the expat teachers). They notified the expatriate staff on Jan 6th, by sending them a poorly worded e-mail saying that our contracts had been abolished and if you were out of the country not to return and if you were in the country to leave. After promising to pay the teacher’s severance pay for January, they then reneged and refused to pay the teachers who were stranded here and who had no choice but to find a way to salvage their jobs…” Read reviews of this incident

BLOG this incident. Share your thoughts on the actions of the administration, teachers and ministry of education. Has anything similar that you know of taken place at other schools?

School Salaries Revealed

International schools often advertise that they offer a “competitive salary” or pay “on par with other international schools.” We’ve all seen the ads. Actual figures are rarely posted, and this is often because the salary scale (if there even is one) is so low it’s laughable and no experienced teacher would ever take it.

Recruiting fairs also tend to keep pay scales secret, often right up until the night before interviews begin. I remember anxiously awaiting my hot-off-the-press salary and benefits information for schools attending a fair slated to begin early the next morning. Why it took until 11pm the night before interviews made no sense…or maybe it did for schools paying so poorly that they’d prefer to keep it a secret!

To help resolve the problem of concealed pay scales, ISR has added a Salary Range field to our 16-point evaluation rubric that accompanies each school review. Beginning today, all new reviews will display this Salary Range entry:

Yearly salary range for teachers in US dollars

We value your opinions and ideas- ISR invites YOU
to Blog this topic

Going International with Special Needs Children

Submitted and written by ISR member:

Going International with a special needs child can make it tough to find a good school match, but it is well worth the search on the front-end because the consequences of having a poor match of schools can be devastating for your child.

Some schools flat-out state that teachers with kids who have any kind of learning differences or special needs, Need NOT Apply! This can be the danger of having an existing IEP and assuming it will be addressed in a competent manner.

Many  “need not apply” schools insist they are keeping a ‘high standard of education’ when in reality the teachers simply do not have a strong background in differentiated learning. The longer some educators have been teachers overseas, I have seen them hide behind the old fashioned instructional/traditional insistence that kids who learn differently are not capable of achieving great things when they have multiple strategies/assessments in their corners. Don’t be fooled. The best practice schools can manage a highly competitive IB or AP HS program and still maintain high expectations for kids with learning disabilities.

The state department uses some wonderful consultants through Families in Global Transitions. They are familiar with strong international academic support programs. You want to scour websites and read philosophies carefully. You need to ask extensive questions of existing staff because often those schools have experienced a turnover in academic support services.

Listen for that attitude of “all kids can learn and our job is to have have high expectations for them.” With the right environment, the small class sizes can be miraculous. In the wrong setting, when you add the transition stress and often the language differences, as well as your own adjustment and starting new jobs, settling in, and the dynamic of living in a fish bowl with your colleagues, it is hard to be the parent advocate the kids deserve.

With that said, however, the researches also say that the kind of lifestyle that opens up a kid’s mind and stretches their understanding of the world can also open up brain neurons they never knew they had.

We invite you to participate in this discussion, share information, ask questions and provide support.

Do feel free to list resources and the names of schools with comprehensive special needs programs. But school bashing is strictly prohibited and any such posts will be removed and the poster blocked.

More on The Sticky Situation of Classroom Discipline.

How can we help difficult students become cooperative class members?

We recently invited the ISR community to share their impressions of classroom discipline  in international schools. Here’s a synopsis of what teachers had to say:

• Powerful parents and school board members have influence far  beyond what many of us have experienced prior to teaching overseas.

• Job-ending results for disciplining the “wrong” child may be the outcome for an International Educator’s earnest efforts. See article

Several techniques to help difficult students become cooperative class member have been suggested: Handing a yellow card to a student, much as they do in professional soccer matches, works for some educators. Emphasizing a child’s positive attributes in order to begin a conversation with parents about their child’s poor behavior, is another.

Specifically, what techniques work for you that the rest of us can benefit from knowing about? Do you have a difficult situation and need advice? This is the place to ask for it.

The Sticky Situation of Classroom Discipline

Right from the start, it’s ideal to establish classroom policies and expectations with students and their families. As educators, we all expect that if we catch a student cheating or plagiarizing, there will be consequences. A drunk or drugged student  at a school-sponsored function? A child bullying or hitting another? There is no question consequences should follow, and with strong support from admin.

For International Educators, however, enforcing rules, expectations, and consequences  may result in a very different experience than back home. School boards, administrative school owners, influential parents and wealthy students may wield far more power and control over discipline than most Western educators have experienced in their careers.

Simply assigning a “time out” to an unruly primary child may cost you your job. Dare to fail  a student’s work because he/she plagiarized straight from the Internet and you could find yourself facing the Board of Directors to explain why you think little so-and-so could ever do such a thing, followed by “if you were a better teacher he wouldn’t need to copy…..”

Sometimes our tried-and-true discipline procedures are completely out of sync with our new culture and community, especially when students and parents may look at us as just another nanny or driver in a long line of servants.

We invite the ISR community to share their impressions  of classroom discipline in international schools. With the new academic year about to get under way, now is the time to support each other in this, often delicate, area.

Also See: More on the Sticky Situation of Classroom Discipline —  How can we help difficult students become cooperative class members?

From Agony to Ecstasy

August can usher in a period of dynamic lifestyle changes and major transitions for International Educators. A new country, new culture, new colleagues, new students, an unfamiliar campus and admin, new schedules, new challenges and new expectations top the list of what lies ahead—whew! It may all seem completely overwhelming and agonizing.

Add to all this “newness” the feelings associated with leaving behind friends, family, established jobs and lifestyles and you could experience some unexpected emotional turmoil, even a few serious chinks in your self-confidence and potentially some lonely times outside the school environment.

So, tell us, ISR readers: What advice and tips can you share with International Educators relocating overseas, perhaps for the first time? How do you advise acclimating to a new school environment and local community? How do you keep yourself strong, positive and emotionally healthy as you head to work as a stranger in a strange land?

For some, going from Agony to Ecstasy may require no more than experienced International Educators sharing experiences and wise words of advice. Thank you, ISR readers, for offering the helping hand a fellow colleague may be looking for!

The Future of International Schools Review. You Decide.

Thank you, ISR members!

Through your support, International Schools Review has grown into a global network of International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed. Entirely member supported, ISR provides educators a place to share the inside word on their international school experience.

Now we’re looking to you to help make ISR even better and are soliciting your ideas, comments and suggestions. From new site features, to ideas about new topics for the  school evaluation rubric, we appreciate your participation.

Thanks for your support! Have a wonderful summer! Add your Ideas below

A Perfect International School?

Many reviews on the ISR web site paint schools as Shangri-la for international teachers, while other reviews reflect the hue of a living hell. What makes an international school great? Is it a supportive administration, attentive students, a feeling of being valued as a staff member, enthusiastic parents, great facilities and  materials, colorful location, low cost of living, or is it an essential synergistic combination? If you could create an international school from scratch, or overhaul your current school, what qualities and characteristics would make it an outstanding school?

End of Contract Surprises

Transplanted from the ISR Forum

I was just told I don’t get return airfare of my home of record. Last year, some teachers got it, others didn’t. There is a very unclear, selective policy happening here! Honestly though, I’m not surprised. BLECH!!! Anybody else getting some last minute surprises???

I was promised there’d be a job for me by my principal who said he cleared it with the superintendent. On Monday I found out the other principal had promised it to someone else who is reportedly writing lesson plans already. I love those mornings when you wake up and find yourself in the center of a mine field…

My school hit me with these surprising details for foreign teachers who will be departing: The salaries for June-July-August months will be paid on regular salary days. So I’m leaving with the school still owing me two salary payments. If they chose to default, what then!? Nice, huh?

Giving Back to Your Host Community

I’m new to international teaching and will be moving to Africa this fall. I’ve always been involved in giving back to my community and most recently have worked as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, library literacy programs, and sponsored runs for charity/ environmental issues.

One of my motivations for moving overseas is to contribute to the world community, but being new to the international scene, I’m not really sure how to start. The director’s already told me about some school and community projects–they sound fine, but I know there’s so many more creative and innovative ways to get involved assisting my broader host community. Any advise/ideas would be much appreciated!

Home for the Summer – How will Friends and Family Respond to Tales of Overseas Adventures?

Last time I was home, my friends and family hardly showed any interest in conversations about climbing ancient pyramids, exploring temples in Cambodia or eating from push-carts in the streets of Bangkok. I’ve been overseas for a few years now and my daily life is far different from the folks back home. I don’t want to alienate the people closest to me and so  I’m thinking to make this homecoming a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” scenario. Any experiences  or advice to share?

What To Take and What to Leave Behind?

Of course, the answer depends on where you’re going. But for the perfect  “must take” list, some International Educators recommend bringing ear plugs for noisy sleeping environments, enough reading material for a year, US postage stamps so people traveling to the States can mail things for you, extra passport photos and a good map. With many of us getting ready to make an international move, and some for the very first time, what could be more timely than this Blog to discuss things to bring and things to leave behind?

Nervous About Your First Time?

Transplanted from the ISR forum
c
The contract’s signed. You’ve resigned your State-side teaching position. There’s still loads to do in preparation for leaving, when suddenly….reality hits. “What am I doing?”  Leaving family and friends for a far distant land can be a scary proposition. Is it normal to feel apprehensive and even overwhelmed? Do these feelings occur in seasoned overseas educators? ISR invites you to share your first time experience with colleagues preparing for their first time.

Can You Negotiate a Higher Salary?

Transplanted from the ISR forum
v
Forum poster – Is a salary offer a take-it or leave-it proposition?  I want to come back to the school with a number at least 5k higher.  Will schools shut the door if you just ask for it? Other benefits seem fine.
x
Reply – if you’re looking to wheel and deal with a for-profit school for a higher salary or extra benefits, don’t be surprised if, after you’ve signed on the dotted line, they nickle and dime you to death and perhaps aren’t so willing to approve your request for a PD trip or new materials for your classroom.  So maybe your negotiation skills would be better served to meet the educational needs of your students rather than your pocketbook.  Just a thought.
x
Forum poster – If you think that I am going sacrifice my own fiscal well-being so that the school can save money, you are naive.  I am not a missionary and I am not interested in working to enrich the owners of a school.  I am a professional, who can help students learn with experience and expertise. I will participate in a fair exchange: my knowledge and work  for money.  I’m going to get paid every single dime I am in a position to earn…
x
What’s your opinion and feelings on this topic?

Medical Tourism for International Educators

No matter how finely tuned your body might be, how young, toned, athletic and healthy you are, your body is still a machine that moves you through your work day and around the world on your teaching and travel adventures. There is likely some medical or cosmetic procedure out there that you want or need to be your best self, professionally and personally. Who wouldn’t like their teeth to be a little whiter, their chins fewer in number, or the pain in their shoulder or knee to permanently go away?

As an international educator, aren’t you fortunate! Living the life of a teacher abroad puts you in the perfect spot to take advantage of the latest trends in medical and cosmetic/plastic services and quality after-care. Over 40 countries are marketing their medical services and attracting international patients to Medical Tourism (a.k.a. Medical Travel or Health Tourism). The foremost and major benefits of Medical Tourism may be the huge reduction in cost of treatments, reasonable and brief waiting periods for appointments, and quality service followed by superlative convalesce assistance and care. The Health Tourism marketplace includes spa and wellness treatments for those who seek alternative treatments such as acupuncture and aroma therapy, biofeedback and hypnosis, massage therapy, music therapy, and ayurvedic care.

Medical Tourism includes medical and dental procedures of every possibility. Consider the availability of such procedures as: cosmetic and plastic surgery, joint replacements/resurfacing/repair, spine fusion, liver/kidney/bone marrow transplants, LASIK or cataract eye surgery, heart procedures (bypass, valve replacement, angiography, stenting), cancer treatments, weight loss surgery, hernia repair, laparoscopic gallbladder removal, diabetes treatment, vasectomy reversal, invitro fertilization, stem cell therapy, and dental care such as veneers, restoration, implants, crowns, and root canals.

A comparison of costs shows that medical and cosmetic care abroad is healthy for your wallet as well. For example, compare the cost of a knee replacement in the U.S. at up to $50,000 to the $10,000 you are estimated to spend in India. Or, angioplasty, at up to $57,000 in the U.S. compared to $9,000 in Thailand. How about comparing a face-lift in the U.S., up to $15,000, to the $8,000 it would cost in Mexico. Similar cost effective treatments, in everything from teeth whitening to liposuction, can be found in a country near to where you are teaching. Popular packages of care such as dental care in Ecuador or Guatemala, total hip or knee replacement in Costa Rica, or gastric bypass in Mexico can be found online. Wellness care is so affordable so as to be possible on a yearly basis, out-of-pocket.

Medical facilitators can be found to assist with language/culture barriers, transfer of medical information, and can provide the convenience of one-stop shopping for the person who requires their services.

There is, of course, thorough homework to be done if you are considering Medical Tourism for yourself or for a loved one. However, you’re right at the forefront of availability while being a teacher abroad. Aren’t you fortunate!

Take care and stay well!

From Public School Teacher to International Educator

How do you make the transition from classroom teacher in Wichita to international educator in Doha and beyond?  A public school teacher from the US recently wrote ISR:

“I ‘m a veteran (19th year) elementary, public school teacher interested in international teaching.  I would very much appreciate some feedback on what qualities are advantageous to having a successful experience as an international teacher.  What helped to make your experiences successful….?”

If you’ve made the transition from public education to international teaching and have experiences to share with teachers entertaining the idea of taking the leap, we invite you to add your comments.

Directors Who Badmouth Teachers

Badmouthing can take many forms and what is not said about you to a prospective school can be just as detrimental as a negative comment. Speaking in a flat, dull tone or making remarks that hint at a less than stellar performance can paint a negative picture of you. “I’d rather not comment” could be the most damaging obstacle to your chances of landing a new teaching position. You can do something to stop a badmouther.  Read Complete Article