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How much did you know when you first moved abroad?

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by bebbs57, Aug 4, 2019.

  1. bebbs57

    bebbs57 New commenter

    Hey all,

    I'm moving to another country soon for my first international teaching post (having just completed my PGCE, tried to do NQT here but that didn't happen) as a Specialist Primary Computing Teacher. I accepted this role as it was the first role offered to me and didn't ask as many questions as I should have in the interview

    It's dawning on me how little I really know about the school.
    Questions like how many teaching hours a week?
    What Scheme of Work (if any) do we follow, what equipment do I have availible, what do they want me to teach (Primary Computing is so undefined)?

    I had a chat with one of the employees on LinkedIn which gave me some information.

    I'm fully confident I can rise to it given my background, but having no idea and being this close to starting my first teaching role is extremely daunting.

    I know there's no way to make this better, and it's just a case of waiting until I get to the school, then adapting. But has anyone else gone into thier first role abroad knowing as little as I do about the situation?
  2. TeacherMan19

    TeacherMan19 Occasional commenter

    That's quite a lot not to know. I'd suggest making sure you write everything down that you want to ask. Fire off an email to check it all. If you don't ask, you won't know! Just make it sounds professional and not like you don't have a clue.
    I'm always the person that asks the silly questions but it means I have all the answers when others won't ask anything and not know. Be ready to go with the flow and adapt.
    motorhomer and frogusmaximus like this.
  3. Ne11y

    Ne11y Occasional commenter

    In a different way, but I experienced something similar. Yes, a lot of flexibility and willingness to read and learn on the job helped a lot. You're making links with colleagues already: keep that up.

    To be honest, the biggest issue would be the support you get as an NQT. Support can vary immensely depending on the school and you need to be prepared to be flung into the deep end somewhat, even if they give you a lot of help. The NQT year can be tough wherever you are and you have chosen to do it far from home in a different setting from what you are used to.

    When it happened to me, I already knew the country very well and it helped me a lot. So I would prepare for being abroad, coping with a different culture and learning some of the language. If you can hit the ground running, so to speak, you will find it easier to focus on the work aspect and settle in to the job. If you're busy finding your feet culturally and professionally, things might get a little overwhelming.

    So in short, do what you can to prepare professionally, but don't neglect the value of preparing for the change in countries too.
    motorhomer and bebbs57 like this.
  4. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Mrs M and I took up our first overseas posts in 1991. Pre-internet, so the Central American Handbook (hilariously out of date) was our guide. Our learning experience began, and continued, as we drove from Connecticut to San Salvador via Mexico and Guatemala and two civil wars. The school was a mishmash: Dodgy management and fabulous pupils. Wonderful experience. Do your research but it will probably not be as you imagine.
    bebbs57 likes this.
  5. Ne11y

    Ne11y Occasional commenter

    To further my advice, some pithy, but worthwhile things to be prepared with:

    - identify some leisure related locations such as shops, restaurants, sports halls etc. If you're into tennis, find some places you can play, if you want to try some local food, figure out where you might want to go. It'll mean you'll have something to look forward to and you'll feel prepared.

    - SIM cards. Will you get a local one? Which will be the best deal? If you can work out which SIM card you want to get in advance, it'll help you have access to local services/internet early on.

    - What are prices like? Getting an idea of what to expect in the supermarkets can be reassuring: check out any online stores to familiarise yourself with local brands/labels/product prices.
    motorhomer and bebbs57 like this.
  6. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    I thought I knew lots, in fact I knew very little. My saving grace was that I was prepared to be flexible, kept my sense of humour and went with the flow. I expected things to be different and they were. Basic assumptions about customs and attitudes had to be revisited.

    My teaching overseas was a fab experience and that is why I will never teach in UK again.
  7. 576

    576 Established commenter

    I read a lot of negative (but true) things on here about where I was going.
    It wasn't great, so I wasn't there long but I have no regrets. I had some good experiences outside of work, I met some great people and I did better with my second and third international positions.
    motorhomer and blueskydreaming like this.
  8. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    I knew nothing except that it was a school and I would be teaching English. I got there and found a book room full of novels. No scheme, no units, no records of any sort, not even an indication of which novels were used at which grade levels. No other resources.
    I had a great time. Never looked back.
    motorhomer likes this.
  9. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    1. Google the school.
    2. Join an online site that reviews international schools (may be a fee)
    3. try and make contact with someone who works there that you trust to give you an honest account.

    This may be a moot point as schools cannot always guarantee to meet what they predictions prior to the start of the academic year.

    This could well be gift (a golden opportunity)... you can do whatever you want sometimes. This can be a delightful experience. All you have to do is find out what the children want to learn, what the parents want, what is possible with what resources you have.
    You the teacher write the course. What a novel idea the teacher deciding what is in the best interests of the children. If there is nothing specified have a look at CLAIT the modular course. Adapt and create.

    Find out beforehand if you can. But you can prep before you go on the SOW front.

    That's the spirit.

    Quite natural when making a massive leap. Get on the horse and ride...

    I disagree, see above.

    In my case close, but I did ask but the TT is seldom set in stone. I worked with the TT manager who was a teacher and HoD for years in my first school. The TT would sometimes still be changing in January. (But sometimes people can't cope and do a flit even at good international schools.

    I disagree, do your prep. download as much as you can from the TES and anywhere else. Take it with you in case you have any probs with internet connectivity.

    If the school give you a laptop to use, you are laughing. Ask for a salary advance, this is quite common in international schools. Many good schools will offer this as a standard.
    Buy yourself a new laptop when you get there if you need one.

    Embrace the experience. Get that coffee on the 200th floor and photos to prove it. It can be wonderful world, even if sometimes you have to take some efforts to make it so.
    It can be the smallest things that can make life great. A Friday morning breakfast by the sea, (the middle East has Fri/Sat as their weekend).
    bebbs57 and Kartoshka like this.
  10. T0nyGT

    T0nyGT Lead commenter

    I tried to get as much from the previous teacher as I could but because he'd already mentally checkout out it was difficult. I arrived to find that we had nothing. And I mean nothing. There was not a single piece of paper. No students took anything home and there was no scheme of work. The teacher was basically just making it up as he went along (department of 1) and no one was checking.

    I would say to not "wait until I get to the school" though. That's just going to create infinite amounts of work. It's perfectly reasonable to be conversing with the headteacher at this point and trying to find out as much about what you'll be teaching as possible. It's weird that this didn't come up in interview though
  11. rachel_g41

    rachel_g41 Established commenter

    I think very many of us here would confess that, for our first international posts, we had no idea what to expect and no idea what to ask. Each time you move on you will know a little more about how things work and will have a better idea of what to look for and even so, once you get to a new school, whether it's your first, your second or your 7th, you will find things there that you never even thought of asking about. As above, find out as much as you can about the school and a bit of thinking about SoW if you think that will help.

    I like to be able to picture exactly where I'll be living as well as working. If I have accommodation sorted beforehand and know where i'll be, I use google maps and do a streetview tour to find what's round about me. Finding a little green area, or a cafe terrace somewhere close by is always plus for me.

    This - if your induction and/or first weeks give time, do some of the little things you'd do if you were on holiday, Some sight seeing, some eating/drinking out, some photos to send home.

    Stay positive, find out as much as you can and then just go with it. Good luck.
  12. HeroForTheDay

    HeroForTheDay New commenter

    I came to Thailand as a green 22 year old with no information about the school other than the general province area that it was located in; which turned out, not surprisingly looking back, to be in the middle of nowhere with barely any English speakers. After that I was dumped at the school by my "agent" and left to fend for myself. I guess the best piece of advice is to lean on your colleagues, be flexible, don't anger quickly but view everything as a learning curve. If you find the school is terrible a 2 year contract really isn't that long and your CV will appreciate your completing contract. The first few weeks will be daunting and you will possibly get homesick but if you view everything as an adventure you'll find its a lot easier to get through. Feel free to have a private conversation if you want some advice or my experiences.
  13. SecondPlace

    SecondPlace Occasional commenter

    Knowing what I do now, there is no way that I would take a job at my first international school. Which would be a shame as that is where I met my wife and started my journey in international teaching which has taken us to places we never imagined.

    Email the school to get some information on curriculum etc.

    But, I would suggest it's more important to be clear on practical living things - do you know how the housing works, can you get pictures of the apartment and the area, how will you get to work, will the school help you with bank accounts and phone contracts etc?

    These settling in factors will impact on how you perform at your job. If you can get clarity on these and you're looked after then you can get on with figuring out the teaching side of things.

    Good luck.
  14. frogusmaximus

    frogusmaximus Occasional commenter

    I worked in an overseas school in SE Asia. being new to the curriculum that was being used, I spent a lot of time familiarising myself with it prior to starting my post. Once employed, I wrote my own highly detailed yearly plans from scratch. Into my second year, I was invited to become part of the leadership team, to lead a key curriculum area, and one of my roles was to review the planning of each staff member. At that time it became clear that some staff were not handing in plans and others were simply handing in plans from previous schools with links to a different curriculum altogether they had not even edited. In fact, every member of the staff was doing something different in their classroom and the principal knew it, but was too weak to address it.

    At that time, the school had no IT curriculum and I offered to be involved in the process of writing a framework as a point of discussion so we could generate one. I was told that it was not necessary as one would be implemented the following year. I think they thought of me as a bit of an arrogant interloper. Eight years down the line, nothing has been done about that and teachers in each year group do their own thing for IT with no guidelines whatsoever. A well know accreditation body assessed the school during that period and failed to identify this oversight, among many others, and why I scoff at seeing their stamp of approval on school websites.
  15. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    One or two send messages to an ancient swamp-dwelling beast that is rumoured to lurk around this TES forum.
  16. bebbs57

    bebbs57 New commenter

    Hey guys, cheers for the responses, they're highly appreciated.

    I'd asked a few questions via e-mail to the school and someone who worked there, but there's still so much more to know. Schools now closed until later this month so I'll have to wait till I get there for more questions I imagine. I'm very ready to adapt to the school though.

    Managed to find an incoming collegue who is also in the same boat which is quite nice. I'm not too fussed with the support NQT wise as i've worked in education for a while and i'm a specialist teacher, plus international schools have less contact hours and more PPA time usually (I hope this is the case here).
    I'm getting into the language and finding myself a few important places in the city so hopefully culturally I should adapt quickly.

    I've managed to find a few places for acitivities such as a gym and a salsa club (though the lanuage barrier might make the latter harder!)
    Luckily UK sim cards can be used in the EU (till October potentially ruins this) so thats not a big concern of mine either. Hopefully there's an induction week where we can sort anything else out.

    Good to know other people have been in similar situations with varying levels of success!

    Have googled the school (so little information about it, made applying for it really hard) and looked at reviews on ISR, last reviews were around 10 years ago and they weren't amazing! A coworker I spoke to spoke well of the school though which is nice.
    I'm busy reading loads of the resources from Raspberry Pi and the Hello World magazine (great magazine!) so I'll have a bank of projects and can let children choose a bit more themselves.

    I'm definitely going to see the contract out regardless as 2 years isn't a whole lot of time in the grand scheme of things. That first experience sounds like a nightmare agent! I'll have to keep an open mind.

    I've finally managed to get information on my apartment (location only and price), still not clear on much else life admin wise (bank, internet etc).

    I'm not sure what to take away from this. Despite your efforts to improve, doesn't sound like much changed and that sucks...
    I guess the one good thing to take away is that most International schools are disorganised so I can most likely expect this.
  17. Dramakween

    Dramakween Occasional commenter

    I must admit that when I first read your post I thought to myself, good grief, that’s a lot not to know, and then I thought back to when I went to teach abroad early in my career. I knew very little! I knew the country I was going to and spoke the language, but I didn’t know that particular area and it was not what I was expecting. I thought I knew the curriculum, but I quickly discovered that my head of year was completely clueless and winging it all the way. Extreme lack of resources, no schemes of work, no info passed on from one year group to the next. Initially this useless head of year, who was a lot older than I, tried to make me feel incompetent, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that she was using my forward planning, which I had to submit a week in advance, for her lessons! I stopped submitting my plans and she didn’t say a thing, as she knew I’d rumbled her. I spoke to the head before I left the UK, and he avoided telling me the truth about where I’d be living, so that was an unpleasant surprise on arrival. But don’t let my experience put you off! There’s lots of very good advice in the replies above. Find out as much as you can about the area and the school. Try to speak to someone who is already there before you go. You have the internet (I didn’t), you have Google Earth. Go out equipped with as much as you can find out in the time, and get stuck in. And remember: all new jobs are difficult at first. Give it time. I stayed 3 years. Good luck!
  18. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    Doesn’t sound ideal.
    To be fair to the accreditation team, accreditation doesn’t involve close checking of the curriculum for any subject. The school must describe what subjects they teach and how they feel they are doing, along with some other bits, and the visiting team must be satisfied that it’s sufficient. It seems everyone else (sorry) was reasonably satisfied about what was happening with IT, so maybe it isn’t atrocious? Kids graduating up the top with reasonable skills?
    To be fair to IT, it is the toughest subject to write a curriculum for. By the time you finish, it’s all out of date. ISTE does a decent job with a framework, but that’s all 21C skills, not specific tech. Many decent schools allow tech teaching to be quite flexible and responsive rather than prescriptive.
  19. rouxx

    rouxx Lead commenter

    Check UK fair use policy for your provider. Easy to fall foul of it if in Europe for a longish time.

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