Friday, March 30, 2007

Want a Private Education for your Children but You Cannot Afford It?

You need to teach overseas! Pick a country, any country, and there will be at least one international school there. International Schools offer private education for expatriate’s children worldwide. And, while most of the parents have to pay school fees, one of the conditions nearly always included in the contracts of international teachers is free education for the teachers’ children.

Did you know that there are over 4000 international schools worldwide, all requiring teachers to staff them, many of them offering excellent quality private education.

Picking a school that suits both your children’s needs and yours can be challenging, but it is possible. In a recent interview I conducted with international teachers, Maggie Hos-McGrane, an international teacher of 19 years experience said that after she had completed her research she’d found only 30 of the more than 4000 international schools suited both her and her children. If you have children, here are some things you should consider when applying for teaching posts abroad in international schools.

Is the school out to make a profit?
There are a number of different kinds of international schools to choose from, some are run by a board and are not designed to make a profit, and others are run by an individual or company in order to make a profit. Some are supported by companies or embassies, the list goes on...

As a teacher you will be concerned that the school’s educational philosophy matches your own. As a parent you want to insure that your children’s education is the priority of the school, rather than the amount of money spent on educational materials and the effect that will have on the school’s owner’s profit.

There are some directors or owners of international schools that may be more interested in the financial benefits of running a school than the education benefits to the students. Be aware, both as a prospective employee and as a parent.

Is the school accredited, or a member of an appropriate association?
International schools can become accredited by an organization that sets educational and operational standards for international education institutions. One such organization is the Council of International Schools (CIS). In order for an international school to become accredited by CIS, they must go through a rigorous appraisal process which looks at the staff and management, the facilities and, the quality of teaching and learning in the school.

If an international school is accredited, then you can be confident that the quality of education provided by the school is high. Most schools that are accredited by an organization like CIS advertise their status on their webpage, brochures and stationery. Keep an eye out for logos and such. These will let you know which organisations have a relationship with the school.

Other organizations that offer accreditation for international schools are NEASC, COBISEC, ISCIS and the Association of Christian Schools International, to name a few.

How many students are in the school?

This is particularly of concern for parents of high school aged children as the number of students in a school may affect the number of subject choices offered at higher levels. For example, if there are only 30 students in the graduating class, then the school will have to limit the number of subjects being offered to make it cost effective. For example, a small school may not have the numbers of students to run both business studies and economics. Or may not have the numbers to run maths higher, maths standard and maths studies. This can often affect profit and non-profit making schools alike.

Additionally, the number of students in the school can affect the number and type of extra curricular activities offered, and therefore your child’s opportunities to experience team sports and other activities that are usually run after school.

When a school has a large number of students, this can also mean that the school is more likely to have a well-stocked library, well equipped laboratories, up-to-date computer equipment and outdoor activity areas. This is usually true of larger schools simply because there is a larger pot of money to fund these facilities from.

On the other hand a school that has thousands of students, while usually offering a wide variety of subjects and activities for students, can often be an anonymous place for children. It is up to you to decide what a good balance is for you and your family.

Which curricula does the school subscribe to?
There are international schools abroad that offer what is essentially a national curriculum. In fact, in the case of many British schools abroad, it’s even called the National Curriculum.

You can find international schools that are running the national curriculum from America, Britian, Australia, Canada, France (usually taught in French), and so on. Securing a teaching contract in an international school that offers the national curriculum that you and your children are used to will help ease the transition. However, you are not limited by the curricula that you have taught in the past, international schools are generally looking for good teachers and realize that we can adapt and teach any curriculum.

When you are looking for a good school for your children, you may run up against some curricula that you haven’t come across before. For example, there is the school wide system offered by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO). The IBO offers the Primary Years Programme up to Year 6, the Middle Years Programme from Years 7 to 11, and the Diploma Years Programme for Years 12 and 13.

Which examinations will your children be working towards?
There are a number of examinations available for international school students, and you will need to understand the options before making any decisions about accepting an employment contract.

I mentioned the IBO previously as being a school wide programme. However many schools adopt bits and pieces of the programme. You may find that an international school offers the Diploma for the upper two years but offers the British IGCSE for Years 10 and 11. IGCSE is an examination based qualification, and the IBO Middle Years Programme has no formal examination assessment, students get a certificate and a record of achievement. Some international schools have a mix and match attitude to the curricula offered.

International schools that run national curricula tend to prepare students for the related national exams. American schools overseas run a mixture of state curricula and AP courses.

I am primarily concerned with helping teachers get teaching jobs in international schools. Here I have listed just a few of the factors you’ll need to consider if you are interested to get a private education for your children by teaching overseas. While I don’t have any children of my own, many of my colleagues do, and they believe that the education their children are receiving abroad is better than what they could get back home, wherever home may be.

You can find out more about the benefits to teaching overseas and the pitfalls that await the unknowing newcomer by listening to Overseas Teachers Talk, a collection of interviews with experienced international educators.

7 teachers = 50+ years experience and every corner of the globe.

Teaching Overseas


I'll admit that I wasn't all that happy when the administrators at my school told me I had to go to the EARCOS conference. I thought I would find a better use of my time, I do have an assignment to write for my professional development course that I have yet to start! But I take it all back...

I have been attending workshops for the last two days, and I've learnt quite a lot. I've been attending mainly information literacy and information technology workshops. Wow, there's an awful lot I didn't know.

I've learnt about Wikis, more about using podcasts in education, how to construct eye-catching handouts that students are going to want to read and so much more.

I think the most exciting thing I've seen in the last two days is just what people are doing with podcasts to enhance good teaching practice. I know I've written a little bit about podcasts before, but I only scratched the surface of the great things you can do with Podcasts. I'm going to be looking into it further, and you can see what I post on my squidoo site dedicated to podcasting for educational purposes.

Another thing that has surprised me about the EARCOS conference is the number of people that have come from schools that aren't international schools. Now, you might have noticed that I promote teaching in international schools as the only kind of teaching institution in which you should be teaching, but even if teaching overseas isn't for you, you can attend the professional development conferences that we do. It's all good quality stuff.

Teaching Overseas Professional Development

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Did you get a chance to check out the EARCOS website?

I received my conference pack today. Because my school is sending so many delegates, we were able to get the conference packs delivered today, a day early. This means we don't have to go in tomorrow and queue with all the other delegates.

Don't you just love all the goodies you get in a conference pack? I received a clipboard covered in Thai silk, a traditional woven bag, a 'leather' bound notebook for taking notes and a couple of postcards. Sweet!

I've looked into the speakers and have marked in the conference logbook all the sessions I would like to attend. Luckily nothing on Saturday morning interests me, so I don't have to be in there until lunch time on Saturday. There are a number of sessions that will contribute to my professional development as a teacher, and a number of sessions that deal with issues particular to teaching in an international school, as well as subject specific workshops.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Teaching Overseas Professional Development

Sunday, March 25, 2007

EARCOS - East Asia Regional Council of Overseas Schools

EARCOS is all about collaboration and professional development for the international teaching community.

Every year they run a conference which is heavily attended by teaching professionals in the region. This year it's being held in Bangkok and the entire teaching staff from my school is going, including all the teaching assistants from the Elementary School! That's nearly 180 people.

Needless to say the school will be closed for two days so that we can attend the conference. I'm looking forward to a number of the presentations. To see what professional development is available in the Asian region for international school teachers check out the EARCOS website.

Weekends away

This weekend I've been to the Kwai Horse Camp. An amazing place just outside of Kanchanaburi (of Bridge over the River Kwai fame) run by two lovely ladies of 91 and 89.

Our bungalow 'Ban Buri' at the Kwai Horse Camp
I went with my friend Maggie from school and her daughter. We stayed in a wooden bungalow modelled on a traditional Thai house. We had bedrooms upstairs, and a bathroom to share. Downstairs there was an open patio where I spent a lot of my time during the hottest part of the day. It seemed to be so much cooler under there. You can see in the photo that the 'house' part was up on stilts.

The camp is quite rustic and the amenities are very basic. Everyone eats together in an open-sided dining room. I think that this is all part of the camp's charm.

There are over 30 ponies and horses for people to ride and the instruction is of excellent quality.

I enjoyed an extremely relaxing weekend away from the hustle and bustle of living in a large city. It wasn't much quieter because there were many natural night sounds to replace the sound of the city. But the sounds of nature are much more calming than the drone of citylife, in my opinion. I met some new people, learnt how to groom a horse and didn't think about school work once!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Just for fun!

One of my colleagues, who obviously has way too much time on his hands, sent me this link for a search engine with a difference. Check it out next time, it's much more fun than Google!

Ms Dewey

When it's really hot during the day, you do things at night!

It's heating up again in Thailand. It's regularly in the 30s C. Yesterday evening I went to a night market. It was lovely and cool, comparatively speaking. I had a lovely time looking around and finding some bargains.

It's almost like life in Thailand has no closing time.

I'm a little sad that the night market is being demolished in two weeks, sadly the powers that be think we need a new shopping mall rather than a quaint open air market.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Something Peculiar about this Time of Year at an International School...

I feel like a vulture picking over the bones of my colleagues.

Pretty raw picture, I know, and it's not stopping me from buying up all of my colleagues stuff!

This is the time of year when teachers who are moving onto a new international school are looking at selling off the stuff they don't want to take with them. I have managed to score a new rattan bookshelf. I'm really quite excited as I was thinking of going and buying a new one... but one of my colleagues is selling one! Cheap too!

Last year I treated myself to a water cooler which I love! I used to keep a water jug in the fridge, but when you're living in 34 degrees C, I tell you a water cooler is a must.

When you've secured your teaching contract overseas, you might want to ask to have your email address put on the school circulation list. Then you can see if there is anything the leaving teachers are selling that might suit you. The year I came here, I was sent this kind of information and could have furnished a whole apartment out of the stuff being sold.

You might not be into second-hand stuff, I'm a little wary of it myself, but some of the stuff being sold is of great quality! And only used for 2 or 3 years!

Teaching Overseas

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Handiest Little Gadget Everyone Should Have!

I want to apologise for being selfish and not sharing this little gadget with you before... I have no excuse as I use it everytime I'm on the internet and would find my internet activities difficult without it. "What are you talking about?" you say...

I'm talking about Roboform2Go, a little piece of software that encrypts and stores all your passwords for you. Then when you need to log in to your email, your Amazon account, your Ebay account, or your internet banking account (remember when you secure your teaching position abroad, you'll need to use the internet to maintain your banking relationships at home), you just click on the Roboform2Go button in your toolbar and 'wah-lah'!

Did you know that unscrupulous people can 'look' at your computer and 'see' what letters you type on your keyboard? This means that when you are at home, on your own computer, you can still get hacked and lose your personal information!

PLEASE don't let this happen to you! Roboform2Go stores all of your passwords using encryption (which means it's almost impossible for anyone to get the information out, certainly your average Joe can't do it) and when you log in to websites, you can enter just one password via an onscreen keyboard that you click with your mouse. How cool is that? You don't even interact with the Roboform2Go with your keyboard. Completely protecting yourself from 'key loggers'.

I refer to my Roboform2Go as my RoboCop!

Roboform2Go is very inexpensive and you can get a fully operational version free at the website. The free version isn't a trial version, you can use it for as long as you like! The only difference between the free version and the one I bought is the number of passwords you can store on it. I have an unlimited number and the free version has around 10, I think. I started with the free version and upgraded when my internet activities forced it on me!

My Roboform2Go does actually go with me. I have the version that you install on a USB drive. You don't need a large drive for this, 64mb will be sufficient. I can use my Roboform2Go on any computer that has a USB slot. That means when I travel, I can use it to protect my personal information in internet cafes and hotels.

Seriously, you need this! You should go and download the free version right now! Protect yourself from hackers and other predators on the internet.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

FAME - The Musical

I have just returned from viewing the Senior Musical at my school. This year they chose to do FAME, a real memory tweeker for me. I grew up watching FAME on tv every week. They were very true to the music of the time, well, except for the rapping of the lead character.

It was funny seeing the students play characters who were teachers. I wonder which teachers they used as inspiration for their roles?

The most surprising part of the evening was the band that played through the whole musical. They were really good. These are the only kids in the kids that I teach that you might say are rather challenging. And, by international school levels only, at a regular school these boys would be angels. I enjoy teaching them because they are real characters. And, as I saw this evening, they're talented.

It's great to work in a school that can produce a musical like FAME and have the full support of the students, parents and faculty. The two performances were sold out; I got my ticket from a student who had discovered other commitments after buying the ticket.

I'm glad I went, it was a fun show.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

From the Horse's Mouth, to use a cliche

I recently interviewed an experienced recruiter from a leading international school, here's just one piece of advice from him...

When you read vacancy advertisements for international teaching posts. Don't assume that you won't get the job just because they're asking for applicants with a Master's Degree and you don't have one.

'Nothing ventured, nothing gained' is the response I got when I asked about this in the interview. Regardless of whether you exactly match what the school is asking for, you should submit your application pack.
Overseas Teachers Talk - an Interview Series with International Teachers
International schools are looking for great teachers, and that doesn't always mean years spent getting academic qualifications!

You can check out this interview and 7 more in Overseas Teachers Talk - an Interview Series with International Teachers.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Do you travel much? Do you want to travel more?

As an international teacher I only teach around 185 days in a year. That means I have around 12 complete weeks vacation each year. I'm not counting long weekends here either!

So, I guess you could say that I travel loads! I've just bought new luggage tags for my back pack that I'm really excited about. I'm sure you're wondering how anyone can get excited about luggage tags! Well, these are bag tags like no other!

You see, Globalbagtag provides worldwide 24 hour protection for my luggage using the internet. And it's not just your luggage that's protected, Globalbagtags protect your home from thieves as well.

Your address isn't on the tags, your address is held on the Globalbagtag database and is only accessible to airport security and airlines via a secure internet website. Random thieves cannot check out your luggage tags then go and rob your house while you are away on a trip.

Does this sound good to you? I was so impressed with the idea that I bought myself a set. I haven't travelled with them yet, but they're on my bags ready for my next trip. They're pretty stylish too!

Just think, when you secure yourself a contract teaching overseas, you can inform Globalbagtags of your new address and start travelling right away, with complete peace of mind!

That's what I'm doing...

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Teaching in a Muslim country.

There are over 4000 international schools worldwide. Many of them are located in countries where the official religion is Muslim. In light of recent events, this may put some teachers off from applying for teachng positions in these countries. I hope this article will shed some light on what your life would be like living in a Muslim country.

You would probably be expected to follow the Arab calendar for holy days and holidays. The people I know who have taught in Muslim countries have worked 5 days a week, but the weekend was always either Thursday and Friday or Friday and Saturday. Additionally schools are usually shut for a short holiday to celebrate Ramadan.

Depending on how strictly a country follows the teaching of the Koran, families where the main income earner is a female may not be able to find teaching positions. This is because some Muslim countries have work permit regulations that preclude women from being ‘head of the household’. In these countries, teaching couples are welcomed.

In most countries men and women will be expected to dress modestly. For women, this may mean wearing a head covering, or it may simply mean being covered from shoulder to knee.

You may be expected to live in a compound. This will mean that you and your family will live in a gated community with other expatriate families. This can often work out very well for families as there will be other children to play with and the very nature of a gated community should afford parents some piece of mind with regards to a child’s safety.

Teaching in a Muslim country is a personal choice. You should ensure that you know what cultural differences you will experience before you sign a contract. One source for researching culture shock and the differences between what you're used to and what you can expect in a new country are the Culture Shock! Guides.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Parent Teacher Conference - Kelly's style

Today was parent teacher conference (ptc) day. So from 7am to 4pm, students and their parents were invited into school to meet with the teachers. There were no classes scheduled for the whole day.

I had a fairly good day. I only had one interview which was tough.

I thought I'd share my philosophy on handling ptc days with you. I get bored saying the same old stuff to parents. So I avoid making appointments with the parents of those students I don't have any concerns about. Now this does mean that I really only have interviews that start off rocky, because the students and their parents do not necessarily want to hear what I have to say... but it also means that I only had 6 appointments today!

What did I do with all my time? I got all my Year 11 projects marked ready to hand back tomorrow. Now I probably could have used my time more effectively, but I also spent some time hanging out with my colleagues in between appointments.

I had a few drop-in parents who wanted to talk to me, and they were somewhat surprised by my '(insert child's name) is doing very well, you shouldn't have any concerns. I will contact you directly if that should change.'

Okay, I'll admit, I'm not that brief! If a parent makes the effort of sitting down to speak with me, I talk to them about their child. But, not making the appointments in the first place means I can focus all of my energies on the students who need parental support to achieve.

I had some very successful conversations with parents today and I hope the 6 students that have been causing me some concern will pull themselves together.

6 out of the more than 100 I teach is pretty good odds, don't you think? You gotta love teaching abroad. International school kids are a delight to teach.