How Do YOU Use International Schools Review?

“I’m new to international teaching and just recently became an ISR member. I’m frankly shocked at the number of negative school reviews on the web site. The truth is, I just completed an awful year overseas and had I seen the ISR reviews for my school I would never have come here. My question for veteran members of ISR is: How do teachers use the ISR web site to make informed decisions about a school? For example, my current school has a few very good reviews smattered in among the reviews that more accurately reflect my experience here. I could use some help with clearly reading beyond the words.”

The author of this post received a complimentary one-year ISR membership. Do YOU  have  a Blog topic you’d like to share with colleagues around the world? – Click here

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.

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!

My Strangest Interview

Interviewing for an international teaching position can have both strange and comical moments.  Although recruiting conferences can be serious business, there’s always room for the unexpected.  In My Strangest Interview, teachers relate “memorable” interview experiences.  Have something to add?

Interviewing with a school in Japan several years ago… I was single… after 45 minutes of intense questions the guy gets up to get a drink while I’m in the middle of an answer.  I finish and as he walks back he says, “Do you like Asian women?”  I have no idea what to say so I umm and ahh for a second and then say “I find them attractive.”  He practically yells out, “Then you’re gonna love Japan!”  He then tells me that although married he wished he had the opportunity to dabble.

I was interviewing for a job in the Philippines.  The interviewer came late, smelling of cigarettes. We sit down for a talk.  He asked a question and then leans in real dramatically for the answer.  He did this over and over.  Freaked me out.  I also was grabbed by some men from Saudi Arabia at a job fair.  They told me they had the perfect job for me: 5th grade Math and Science. But I teach History and English,  I said.  “You will be perfect”.  Will I like the job?  “No no, you will hate it, the kids are horrible”.  Will I be able to meet many Saudis and have a social life?  “No no, the Saudis hate foreigners.  But there are many nurses in Riyadh. They are from the Philippines. We can hook you up.”  Strangely enough, I didn’t take the job. Continue reading

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

Can You Afford to Take This Job?

The Answer May be NO

I just returned from Spain and I’m still spinning from sticker shock. Okay, I can live with high prices, but the global decline in the value of the US dollar, along with the resulting poor exchange rate, meant goods and services in Spain were costing me 50% more than the already pricey sticker-price.

The exchange rate last week was $1.50 US to €1.00 Euro. This bumped an €8 burger up to $12 and a €70 hotel room up to $105.00. Get the picture? A coke and burger at McDonalds came to $10.50. Ouch! For a short trip to visit friends I could deal with the expense. The idea of living and teaching in Western Europe, however, didn’t make financial sense. Unless, of course, I was paid in Euros and at a figure I could live with.

Who’s to blame for the sinking US dollar? I’ll avoid that topic but will say schools that capitalize on the situation at their teachers’ expense are without conscience. Such schools require parents to pay tuitions in Euros, (a strong currency) while teachers’ contracts specify a salary based on the weakening US dollar. As the dollar becomes worth less and less against the Euro, these schools are spending fewer Euros to purchase the dollars needed to meet teachers’ salaries. This means bigger profits. Of course, teachers are suffering while school owners get rich. Remember, teachers need to purchase local currency with their dollars and their dollar is buying less of it.

The Euro is not the only currency rising against the dollar. In some parts of the world the dollar buys 50% less of the local currency than it did a year ago. Imagine your salary staying the same but your rent doubling along with food and gas; all because it takes more dollars to buy the local currency. Exchange rates have a profound impact on International Educators and failure to research the economic realities of a particular location can and will have devastating consequences on your financial well-being.

If direction and momentum are reliable indicators, the forecast for the future of the US dollar is poor. In January of ’09 it took $1.28 to purchase €1.00 Euro. By December of ‘09 it took $1.51. This may not seem like a big increase but consider that in January ‘09, $1000 bought €781, by December the same $1000 bought only €662. A more startling way to view the change is to see that the cost to buy €781 rose from $1000 to $1179.68. At one time the dollar was stronger than the Euro, but that’s just a sinking memory, now.

For Americans at home in the United States, the weakening of the dollar is having a very positive effect. As the dollar becomes worth less it makes our goods cheaper overseas. Cheaper goods mean stronger exports and stronger exports equal more jobs. Does the US government want to see the devaluating trend reversed? Probably not! So keep your eyes open, do the research and make sure you can afford to accept a job offer that comes your way.