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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

    The right attitude?
  2. An attitude of general cynicism! I know Cayman far too well. In 2011, I was told to my face that the Govt Education system was fast approaching World Class. I was told that two new High Schools would be built, that an FE Centre would be in its new building by September 2013 at the latest and that things were amazing.

    Want to see something symbolic?

    All you need to do is come out of your classroom and look at the "new campus" next door. Is the yellow digger still there, behind the Art room and Automotive? It's been parked there since the building work stopped four years ago and the Govt is still paying for its hire. Two years ago, they phoned up the guy who hired it to them and told him to come and collect it. Nothing happened. Nobody followed it up.
  3. stubowler

    stubowler New commenter

    You clearly know me OhCayMan, I am intrigued as to who you are?
  4. I only know of you. I have friends where you work...some still there and some not.

    At the end of the day, the only advice I can give to anyone considering living and working in Cayman is to not do it now. There's an election in 2017, which means the campaign will start in early 2016 and each of the parties will be trying to outdo the other in terms of showing how Caymanian they are and how they'll get the expats out of jobs that rightly belong to their people.

    In terms of advice about the next steps after Cayman. There is life after. I know people who've gone to Asia, Africa and Europe and got jobs and are quite happy where they are. Working in Cayman deskills you to a certain extent, but not terminally and, as you say, turn a negative to a positive and highlight what you learned from adversity.

    Good luck.
  5. 576

    576 Established commenter

    I know what you mean.

    But my behaviour management was the best it's ever been by the time I left.

    A result of 2 factors

    a) weak and inconsistent management meant I needed my own behaviour management system

    b) I used my sanctions every single day - nearly every single lesson.

    Ironically, my first post post-Cayman the behaviour is the best of all the schools I've ever taught in so by the time I need those skills again I may have lost them.
  6. stubowler

    stubowler New commenter

    Well in a lot of what has been said in this thread has perhaps sounded a little negative/cynical by myself also so in the interests of balance here goes:

    There is an opportunity to stand out here if you are a good practitioner in your own country and come with the attitude that you want to manage your own house and do well. This may in fact lead to promotion as in fact it has. Many of the TLCs/Learning Mentors/Inclusion specialists etc are expatriates. So promotion can and is achieved.

    In my view it is also fair to say that there is a different perspective on work life balance here. Work is hard and the same things have to be achieved but there is a nice reward at the end of the week in terms of a beach at the very least.

    I have found it most interesting to be involved in the development of some of the systems I am used to back home, here in Cayman. This experience is challenging but helps you to develop and find things out about yourself. An example might be introducing a mechanism to share good practice or reintroducing open events.

    The experience of working and socializing with people from different often far corners of the world is useful also. It helps you professionally and gets you thinking about new ideas from different systems. You learn that perhaps you might not be right about everything?

    I always think that if you were to sit and write a list of frustrations from your teaching job in the UK and then right the same list when you get out here, you might find that if you are honest, the lists wouldn't look too dissimilar. Sometimes you have to look at the challenges in the context of you moving to another country with your family which is challenging anyway.

    Despite the difficulties out here you do have the opportunity to teach and make a difference to the lives of young people and make a contribution to an education system that is trying to develop. I think the trick is not expect too much too soon and realize that your best is good enough.

    Moving out here is one of the best things I've done and if I knew then what I know now, I would still have moved here. I am comfortable in the fact that what I am learning here will be useful to me back in the UK when I return. I've still got a few years left in me.

    So if you are considering coming out my message is simple: It's worth a try but know that it is not all Palm trees and Coconuts.

    MELLIS New commenter

    I applied for a vacancy as an Inclusion Specialist with the Cayman Islands government back in January. Having heard nothing by Easter, obviously I just forgot about it.

    Out of the blue I was given a Skype interview at the beginning of May. I felt it had gone really well and, despite much of the contents of this thread, I am keen to take up the challenge.

    However, again I have heard nothing. I've sent several emails with no response. Is this 'normal' in Cayman?
  8. stubowler

    stubowler New commenter

    I wouldn't give up just yet. If you email someone from HR they will get back to you or if not try a different person. Its challenging so if you come out here with that attitude you'll have the right mind set and will be able to get a good start. Being positive about what you can contribute and not trying to tell people that they are wrong or that you can do it better or you know best will help you. Its common sense really. Good luck.
  9. Oh, this sounds very normal. Recruitment this year has been very late indeed. Usually, it's completed by the end of April, but is still going on now. I spoke to somebody interviewing last week. You won't hear anything until they've interviewed every shortlisted candidate, then completed documentation, then met to discuss, then filled in more forms. And HR are not very good at communication or being efficient.

    I would say that this could take up to two months in a worst case scenario. I have seen plenty of good recruits lost because of this process.

    The best advice is to contact somebody on the panel who isn't HR, to be honest. They'll tell you if you're still in the running or not - if you are, they'll tell you straight and if they don't reply or try and faff, it means you're not. I would guess you were interviewed by an SSIO and possibly a Principal. I'd approach either - firstname dot surname at gov dot ky

    New staff will start work in 12 weeks, so bear that in mind if you are offered the move out there. Twelve weeks isn't a lot of time to sort your life out in the UK!. In reality, most newly recruited staff will come from Jamaica this year or will be Caymanian NQTs. Applications from the UK, Australia, US and Canada are massively down year on year for the last three years.
  10. The reality in Cayman is that you will start off with wonderful ideas and dreams of how you can improve a backward education system. You will bust a gut to show your colleagues and management how good you are and how your ideas will make everything better. They will all smile sweetly, let you run around after them, then not do a damned thing to make anything work. You will think you will get promoted as you are so much better than anyone else. You may even be promised responsibility for looking after a certain aspect of your school. This responsibility will come, but no promotion or pay rise. When you realise whatever you do is futile you will become disillusioned and start to see the cracks and the inherent racism and corruption that is rife throughout the islands.

    I enjoyed my two years in Cayman, swimming with turtles, stingrays, dolphins; spending weekends sailing in the Caribbean; meeting a variety of people socially in almost any activity you undertake in the UK; making friends back in England jealous of my Facebook posts and every day photographs.

    But I would never ever go back and put myself through the frustration, anger, and total lack of any ability to move anything forwards in any way.

    Did you decide to stay in Cayman, StuBowler? When did you leave, OhCayman, as I think we may have overlapped with our frustrations?
  11. stubowler

    stubowler New commenter

    Still here SnorkelMonkey-this is frustrating I know Oh Cayman, despite the denial! I probably know you as well-such a small place! There are definitely challenges here. A friend once said-it is what it is, if you don't like it you get out. Not many stay, but I will although it is getting harder.
  12. RogerRoger99

    RogerRoger99 New commenter

    I think I know everyone on this thread! I left Cayman. I'm really glad that I did. Looking at what has happened since just reinforces this. Read the Baseline Reports, look at what's going on in the Department and the Ministry. When the last Expat person in the Department left, they blamed him for everything that had gone wrong. Now there's only one more Expat left and when he goes at Christmas, he'll be blamed too. Then they'll start blaming the Expat teachers (as they already have done). Time to get out.
    Winty1 likes this.
  13. Winty1

    Winty1 New commenter

    Thanks for everyone's comments on this thread. Your experiences are honest and extremely informative.

    I applied for a teaching post with the Department of Education in September. I then completed a second application stage consisting of 3 VERY long written activities - including lesson observation feedback, Child Protection scenario and data analysis of summation assessment. Now I have a Skype interview next week. I'm unsure when the job would start?? Perhaps February?

    I'm currently travelling India so I'm unsure how strong my Internet connection will be.

    Could anyone comment if there is a team spirit among teachers? Whether, as a 30 yr old woman from London I'd make friends other there?

    Many thanks,
  14. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    India offers opportunities. Not your cup of tea?
  15. katycustard

    katycustard Occasional commenter

    I spent 5 very happy years in Grand Cayman with my family, husband and 2 children. I think it depends on whether you are primary or secondary. Many primary schools had ex-pat headteachers. I would go back if I could, but it such an expensive place to live. Rent for a 3 bed house was $2000 per month, not to mention bills. However, when the hardest decision of the day is whether to swim in the pool or sea it's not a bad life. Secondary school, gov ones, is a different ball game altogether.
  16. RogerRoger99

    RogerRoger99 New commenter

    I would assume that they would want you to start in January. They haven't started their 2016/17 recruitment yet, so the post you're applying for will be because somebody resigned mid-contract. Having been on interview panels in Cayman, most people won't even read the stuff you've written until about 60 seconds before your Skype interview starts and won't really synthesise it at all. Good luck, but avoid like the plague
  17. RogerRoger99

    RogerRoger99 New commenter

    I think things may have changed since your day. There has been an aggressive policy to get rid of all the expat Principals and there is now one left in the whole Government system, in one of the High Schools. It is expensive too - $2000 for rent would be about right, with electricity and water bills adding maybe $400 a month to that, if you're careful, and at least $1000 a month as a monthly shopping bill for a family of 4, before you've even thought about school fees (don't put your kids in Govt schools) and entertainment.

    The recent awful review of the Govt schools is paving the way for Privatisation of education and the schools will be farmed out to the churches who will use them as a source of income and standards will just get worse than they already are. The Private Schools are okay, but just okay. There's been a lot of change there too - three High Schools with recent new Principals and a real change in culture and environment that isn't necessarily for the better.
  18. Winty1

    Winty1 New commenter

    I'm out here for the yoga, practing at KPJAYI.

    Despite doing a Skype interview at 11pm in a sweaty yoga Shala I was successful. Should all my paperwork is completed I'll be out there the 1st week in January.

    If anyone could put me in contact with some other teachers, accommodation agencies I'd be very grateful :)
  19. RogerRoger99

    RogerRoger99 New commenter

    I assume you've now arrived? You will have done all of the usual "sit in Mary Miller Hall for the day and get talked at" stuff. You should, hopefully, have somewhere to live now, which is hopefully within touching distance of the school that you're at. You probably won't have a car just yet and you'll cry when you see the prices of even an old rust bucket. You will have noticed how expensive everything is, especially coming from India and I guess you'll be teaching, which will have opened your eyes in the first few moments.

    If you're lucky, you're not working in one of the schools graded Unsatisfactory in the recent Inspections (which was everything apart from one Primary School and the one school that deals with Year 12 students). If you're not lucky, you'll have a quick handle on the job at hand.

    Send me a message if you need to get put in touch with some decent people who can help you through the first few weeks and months.
  20. Winty1

    Winty1 New commenter


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