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The challenges for teachers in the Cayman Islands

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by stubowler, Sep 6, 2014.

  1. stubowler

    stubowler New commenter

    I thought a discussion on the job rather than the islands as a holiday destination might prove useful for those thinking of coming over as it can be tough.
  2. kemevez

    kemevez Occasional commenter

    I couldn't agree more - it might prove useful. I can't wait for the discussion that unfolds.
  3. I'm also interested in hearing some real-life accounts. I have a friend who lives on Cayman Brac, and she has been trying to entice me over. She claims that teachers she has met say teaching on the Cayman islands is the best job they've ever had. I actually met one of those teachers this summer and although she was tired (having just begun the first week of the new term) she commented that she was quite content as she had attained one hell of a lifestyle.
  4. 576

    576 Established commenter

    My understanding is that there is a huge difference between working in one of the private schools and working in the govt schools.

    Also even in the govt schools - the Brac is very different to GC.


    a) A govt who think architects know more than teachers about what works in a school building.

    b) because of a) schools which were designed to be 'open-plan'.

    c) children who do not see the need for education because 'I'm Caymanian so they can't give an ex-pat a job if I want it' (they fail to get that they're up against Caymanians with qualifications from the private schools and that without qualifications they won't get the jobs)

    d) aggressive children (explained by SMT as they're from WB - there are mental health issues in WB)

    e) tropical storms & hurricanes

    f) frequent powercuts that leave you without a/c

    What did I forget?
  5. Erm...Caymanian staff who disappear to the "Credit Union" for three hours during the day or make appointments at the Dentists when they have a full day of teaching and then are gone all day. Jaded expats with status who work at the Ministry as Policy Advisors. Aggressive kids from East End, Bodden Town, George Town. A total lack of support in every way. No Staff Development opportunities ever.
  6. mrjack

    mrjack New commenter

    Bump, very interested to hear how this goes. How can opinions be so polar opposite ?
  7. sun seeker

    sun seeker New commenter

    Hi I am very interested in this thread as there are some jobs out there being advertised currently. info on staff make up, class sizes, how the department of education works or supports schools (or not) or basically anything else would be much appreciated.
  8. sicalifornia

    sicalifornia New commenter

    From all the reading online that I've done, I get the impression that if you work in one of the private schools you will have a fantastic time, but if you work in one of the govt schools you will have a bigger challenge (mainly in terms of the attitudes of the children).
  9. sun seeker

    sun seeker New commenter

    Hi yes it would seem so. I have always done challenging here in UK so that doesn't bother me really. Th jobs are SMT so it's staff qualifications and high level workings that concern me. The gov.out there seem to be showing real commitment to improvement but I need to know if thats true as without them behind a school you are wasting your time. Also cost of living is obviously high so the apparently 'good' pay may not go far. I have a family to consider too. If I went out there I would like to think I could make a difference.
  10. You won't make a difference. You'll leave frustrated and angry and feeling like you could have, if they let you. Believe me. I left with my head held high about what I achieved, under the circumstances I was put in, but it's got much worse since last summer when I left. Chief Officer and Chief Education Officer have both left their posts. The Senior School Improvement Officer leaves in two months. The Ministry doesn't understand the needs of education and any lip service they pay to improvement is just lip service. There is no money in the system and it will all be privatised soon because of a Govt agenda. Avoid, There are better places to work. Happier places.
  11. stubowler

    stubowler New commenter

    Well this all seems pretty accurate. I wanted to to start this because the island is very nice in places but the working environment in my view is quite challenging. This is important because the reality is that we spend a great deal of time committed to our jobs as teachers and our experience of work is significant where ever we are.

    Private schools pay a bit less but there is a distinct difference between the level of respect you can expect. Teachers in government schools have to tolerate very challenging behavior, even by UK standards. You certainly wouldn't send your kid through the government system here if he or she is coming from the UK system. Pay the CI$1080 p/m. You'll sleep easier.

    Frustration is the word. If you think that you are a well qualified, experienced and high performing teacher that's going to come in and raise standards-Think again. That will get you an interview, maybe. You will enter a biased, and unequal education system that is progressing slowly, very very slowly.

    Its a melting pot of teachers from all over the place which can be challenging, but the real challenge is the diverse influences on the system itself, pulled towards the UK then the US and also the Caribbean. Its very difficult to implement strategies for progression.

    It is probably not a great career move although a short time here will develop you personally which you may be able to spin in a later job interview. If you want a clear picture of how hard it can be, see if you can get hold of the stats and calculate how many people come here from the UK/US/Canada/NZ and leave within two years or even at the end of the first. That figure will tell the tale.

    Oh I'm in the Caribbean, I can travel the area, and see places I've never visited or would not get the chance to. Yes, at a price and usually via Miami. A 40 minute return to Jamaica will cost around $350 per person. A flight to Miami will cost around $400 pp.

    The cost of island life in general is expensive. A two bed apartment is around $CI1200 pcm for anything like something acceptable although you could share. School fees as above per child although the sibling may be discounted. Electric/water/fuel/school lunches=CI$550 at least and your shopping bill for a couple will be around CI$650 p/m. A teacher can expect to achieve around CI$3750-4000 p/m. Oh and when you purchase your fist car you might cry. There is no resettlement grant-just a loan that you must pay back, and you don't move up a salary scale, what you sign you are on until your contract ends.

    Like I said the island is beautiful in most places and great beaches and lovely weather will spoil you but it is worth considering that all those great hobbies like kite surfing and sailing come at a price. It is much easier if you are in the financial industry.

    It is also worth noting that there is an underlying tension between expats and locals with locals resenting 'People coming in and taking their jobs.'

    In my view your experience will depend on a range of factors but if its sun you want you will certainly get that and if it is a challenge you want you will definitely get that also. Know the facts before you leap and don't expect too much. You are just passing through.
  12. True dat, StuBo. I take it you're leaving this summer?
  13. stubowler

    stubowler New commenter

    Who knows, you still here ohcayman?
  14. Oh, I left. Couldn't stand it anymore. Tried to make a difference and realised that I couldn't. I liked the beaches, but that was about it. Didn't meet one Caymanians teacher I'd ever want to work with again. Feel sorry for the expats still there.
  15. stubowler

    stubowler New commenter

    When you returned home was it difficult to find a job as a teacher? Were you able to use your experience here to your advantage? I would be interested in this and so I expect would others.
  16. The only real issue is that schools in the UK don't like recruiting by Skype, so you need to reassure them that you can appear in person, if needed. Of course, from Cayman, that's a long, expensive journey, but I can't think of anyone who has left Cayman in the last couple of years who was returned to work in the UK who hasn't got a job. In terms of international recruitment, you just need to be aware that the bulk of International Schools recruit in the November - January window, so if you're intent on leaving Cayman, the pickings may be thin on the ground as far as high quality jobs in the rest of the world.

    I do know that there are some staff who work in the Caymanian system who think they'll be stigmatised, I think that only happens if you stay for more than one contract.

    From my own personal point of view, people who work at my new employers just look at me with sympathy or laugh when I say I worked in Cayman, because they have heard all of the horror stories or know someone else who has done it/been there.

    I regularly talk to people who are still in the system and those who have left it. I don't know anyone who wants to go back and I hear that things have deteriorated since I left and I can't believe how anything could have gotten any worse. Have things got worse from your point of view?
  17. stubowler

    stubowler New commenter

    I think working in this scenario is as it was. It is always going to be tough for expats and it is unlikely to change, despite the recent EY report. In my view you are on a sliding scale out here. You start off weighted in favor of your experience here and gradually for most of the teachers I speak to, you move along until the costs out weigh the benefits. How long that takes depends on the individual in question.

    I would be happy to stay for a little longer . I think the idea of moving your family again helps to develop your resilience to the main pressures of being here. That said my scales are moving and I can't se myself being here too much longer unless I find myself in a position where I can really influence teaching and learning, which might be unlikely.
  18. You have no chance. No chance at all. The Christian Caymanians are already working against you, without you realising it and have been since day one. You were interviewed and appointed and initially managed by expats, don't forget that. You're now managed by Caymanians. There's a world of difference.
  19. stubowler

    stubowler New commenter

    Well, we will see. If not a nice extension to my holiday?
  20. You need the right attitude! My view is that there are much nicer places for a working holiday

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