Tag Archives: teach overseas

I’m Not In Love…Your Job Search Survival Guide

This is a difficult and glorious time of year. And I’m not talking about going home and dealing with the family you haven’t seen since summer or gift shopping in Dhaka. I’m talking about those of you looking for work in the next phase of your international adventure.

It’s hard. It’s really hard. Especially as the number of the schools in the world grows exponentially and the education landscape is more complex than ever and schools are grabbing people up like Halloween candy.

Take a breath. A deep breath.

First of all, enjoy the holiday. I know many of you are making a quick holiday exit to one of the January fairs, but take some time away from that email and focus on the most important reasons you are living the life you lead besides job searching. The hunt goes on well into March and even April. (And that doesn’t include hiring in North America or other parts of the world).

So, here’s my survival guide for you staff and teachers and even administrators looking for that next post. I’ve had lots of experience on both sides of the proverbial table and have learned truly what it feels like.

So, here goes…

1) Be clear about who you are and what makes you special as a teacher. In other words, stand for something. This seems a bit odd for #1, but I read a LOT of CVs that seem to say the same thing over and over. Accentuate something that you’re really good at and passionate about and drive it home.

2) Stop job jumping. I know there’s not a lot you can do about that now, but I (and many Heads) skip right past the 2,2,3,2,2, years at posts. Believe me, I know what it’s like to be at a place that you feel is a big mismatch, but you only get one, two max on that one. Otherwise, you really need to come up with a better plan to stick around at a school or have a very clear reason why you are moving on. It’s okay if it didn’t work out but you need to differentiate yourself from the teacher tourists. And if you are a teacher tourist, you are at the end of the line!

3) Personalize your experience by telling a STORY. Don’t just talk in generalities about your skills. And be honest in that story, about your mistakes, your setbacks, your ability to overcome, your generosity of spirit, the who you are and how you handled it. Recruiters love that.

4) Do NOT interview or apply to a place that you cannot envision yourself at for FOUR YEARS minimum. That’s right. Four years. It’s not fair to you, it’s not fair to the kids that deserve the BEST teachers in the world. If in your heart you cannot imagine yourself at the school for a minimum of four years, then find a way to get out of the process. It’s better for everyone.

5) ALWAYS include your Head of School or Principal as a reference. I know it’s hard sometimes, but we recruiters get really suspicious when your only line managers are department heads and coordinators. That sends off a red flag and we call the Head anyway. Yes, we know that there are some mean directors and principals out there, but the reality is that you need to get on good enough terms to put them down on your list.

6) At LEAST read the mission statement of the school and tailor your candidacy towards what you believe the school stands for. I know that a lot of the statements are the same, but you need to familiarize yourself as best possible with how the school presents itself and how you put yourself towards it as a match.

7) Don’t fall in love. Whatever you do, don’t fall in love with a school. If you REALLY want a job, act as though you don’t, or at least that you have other options. Keep calm, present yourself in a light that is balanced and enthusiastic, but not desperate. In other words, SKIP the recruiter/candidate mixer. I’ve seen too many people embarrass themselves at these awkward events and you need to keep yourself together.

That’s all. Best of luck. Stay focused. Remember that if you are good, you’ll definitely get a job. And ALWAYS remember that everything you do is about making the world a better place for future generations, not so you can go mountain biking or skiing.

Best of luck, and here’s one of my favorites to keep you balanced in the search…

We Teach Who We Are

One of the many facets I appreciate about the education profession is the opportunity to begin each year afresh as part of a continuous cycle of renewal. The new relationships, new challenges, and new learning and growth opportunities offered during the school year bring us another step forward towards the self-actualization aspirations we set for ourselves, both as individuals and institutions. Serving a school community in this capacity in conjunction with the corresponding privilege of working with students is indeed a wondrous and meaningful experience for all involved.

To celebrate the return to the learning process and to frame our work for the year ahead, I shared the following quote with the American School of Brasilia’s faculty and staff:

jack

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” ~Jack Layton

The essential human qualities of love, hope, and optimism underscore the fundamental characteristics of what it means to be an educator, whether in the capacity of a teacher, family member, friend, or supporter. Students need role models who value deep and empowering relationships, who inspire hope for the future, and who are eternal optimists. Schools must be a place where students can achieve their potential in a safe and supportive learning environment that enables them to hope and dream.

In my humble and, albeit, biased opinion, I fully believe that the American School of Brasilia (EAB) is emblematic and embracing of Mr. Layton’s guiding principles. During the first week of school, I was reminded of how much our faculty members not only love their profession and the subject they teach, but also the deep level of care they exhibit for the wellbeing and the learning of our students. I was reminded of how much hope for the future is inspired by teachers, students, and parents, particularly through the positive energy exhibited through their relationships and mutual support. Finally, I was reminded that teaching and learning is an inherently optimistic endeavor. It is comforting to know that EAB’s faculty and staff are eternal optimists when it comes to teaching, learning, and the wondrous potential that can be achieved by all.

In his book The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer highlights the complexities associated with teaching, which extend beyond curricula, philosophies, and teaching resources, through his statement, “[teachers] teach who they are.” If this is true, then our students are most fortunate to be members of a community filled with talented and passionate people who are, “loving, hopeful, and optimistic”, and fully committed, through education, to changing the world to make it a better place.

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Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at www.barrydequanne.com.

Image Credit: Patrick Corrigan


2000.Acre_.Highlights.212

Sebastião Salgado: Genesis Project

I was grateful for today’s opportunity to visit Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis exhibition at Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil (CCCB). The legendary Brazilian photographer worked on the Genesis project from 2004 to 2011, engaging with the most remote locations on Earth. He describes his project as “my love letter to the planet,” with the goal of raising awareness about the beauty and majesty of remote regions of the world and the communities who still live according to ancient traditions. The following is a sampling of Sebastião Salgado’s photo exhibition.

Genesis Overview
From http://www.amazonasimages.com

Genesis is a long-term photographic project, in line with the main bodies of work carried out previously by Sebastião Salgado; for example, the series of reportages presented in Workers or the series on the theme of the population movements around the world, that appeared in Migrations. This new project is about our planet earth, nature and its beauty, and what remains of it today despite the manifold destruction caused by human activity. Genesis is an attempt to portray the beauty and the majesty of regions that are still in a pristine condition, areas where landscapes and wildlife are still unspoiled, places where human communities continue to live according to their ancient culture and traditions. Genesis is about seeing and marvelling, about understanding the necessity for the protection of all this; and finally it is about inspiring action for this preservation. The shooting of this series of photographic reportages began in 2004 and is due for completion in 2012.

Sebastião Salgado Biography
From http://www.amazonasimages.com

Sebastião Salgado was born on February 8th, 1944 in Aimorés, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He lives in Paris. Having studied economics, Salgado began his career as a professional photographer in 1973 in Paris, working with the photo agencies Sygma, Gamma, and Magnum Photos until 1994, when he and Lélia Wanick Salgado formed Amazonas images, an agency created exclusively for his work. He has travelled in over 100 countries for his photographic projects. Most of these, besides appearing in numerous press publications, have also been presented in books such as Other Americas (1986), Sahel: l’homme en détresse (1986), Sahel: el fin del camino (1988), Workers (1993), Terra (1997), Migrations and Portraits (2000), and Africa (2007). Touring exhibitions of this work have been, and continue to be, presented throughout the world.

Sebastião Salgado has been awarded numerous major photographic prizes in recognition of his accomplishments. He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States. In 2004, Sebastião Salgado began a project named Genesis, aiming at the presentation of the unblemished faces of nature and humanity. It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.

Together, Lélia and Sebastião have worked since the 1990’s on the restoration of a small part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In 1998 they succeeded in turning this land into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra. The Instituto is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education.

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Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at www.barrydequanne.com.

Photo Credit: Sebastião Salgado

School Breaks and the International Educator

 

Monkey Forest. Ubud, Indonesia
Monkey Forest. Ubud, Indonesia

We’re in the Home Stretch
With the school year winding down, teachers at international schools, and schools everywhere, are operating on a fever pitch to get everything done in order to conclude another school year.  From class trips, to school projects, to report cards and other administrative tasks, we are in the final countdown to summer break and the pace is full-steam ahead.  The excitement is palpable among students and teachers alike and everyone at the school is on a mission to make the end of the school year not only fruitful and productive, but fun and festive to celebrate the successful conclusion of students completing their current grade and moving on to the next.  At an international school, it’s not just saying goodbye to students who are moving up a grade or graduating, there’s the added emotion and drama of saying goodbye, to people (students, teachers and friends) who will be moving overseas to their next school or assignment.

Summer Vacation – the Ultimate Break
All the hard work and stress of the final weeks brings with it a handsome pay-off – summer vacation.  Yes, the break of all breaks. Perhaps this time-honored tradition is one of the greatest perks of the teaching profession.  Two whole months of rest, relaxation, and a time to reflect and enjoy family . . . it doesn’t get any better than that!  Of course many teachers utilize the time for professional development, while others may even pursue a second job over the summer for additional income.  For many international teachers this is a highly anticipated holiday because after almost a year of being overseas, many look forward to going home and spending time with family or taking the opportunity for extended travel and excursions.

Is this the end of Spring Breaks?
The upcoming break has got me thinking about this past year and the wonderful opportunities I’ve had, not just professionally while school is in session, but personally during the various breaks throughout the school year. The most notable and recent one for me was last month’s spring break. Ah, Spring Break . . . just the term alone conjures up certain images of American college students partying on the beach as if there were no tomorrow. Last year, in my senior year of college, I was celebrating a lot of lasts. My last homecoming week, my last final, my last class, my last spring break . . . I thought this is it – I’ll be entering the real world where I’ll have to kiss those cherished breaks good bye. But then I entered the world of international teaching where spring break is brought to a whole new level.

This is Not Your College Spring Break
In this, my first year out of college, I had three ‘spring break’ vacations already!  But these are not the spring breaks of college days with senseless partying in the sun and sand, but the kind that is a real adventure filled with travel and personal growth.   At first I thought as a teacher the breaks were really for the students and that teachers’ breaks would be filled with reading, reviewing curriculum materials, student reports, and catching up on work for the week ahead.  Was I wrong! For teachers at international schools, spring break, more than any other, is a time for travel! Right before break students get very excited for the upcoming vacation, but it’s not just the students — teachers get just as excited for the vacation time, if NOT MORE! 

I think it’s because as expats living in far flung corners of the world, everyone it seems, has made elaborate travel plans. The opportunities are incredible when you’re living overseas, so we tend to get very excited about the upcoming trips.  Moreover, it’s part of the culture of international teaching to use your time off to travel and expand your horizons by seeing new countries and learning about their history and culture.  This exposure only helps you as you interact and relate to your students and their families who hail from all over the world.  

A Trip to Vietnam
Last month these travels took me and two of my teacher-friends to Vietnam, where we set-out on a journey that stretched the length of the country starting at the Capital of Hanoi, and traveling down the coast via overnight trains to Ho Chi Minh, where we stopped and stayed in the cities of Hoi An and Nha Trang in between.

Vietnam is a beautiful country filled with lush, tropical vegetation, a verdant countryside, beautiful beaches, busy and bustling cities, and some of the most delicious food I have ever enjoyed.  I would have never imagined the immense beauty of this ancient land, based on the images and portrayals I have seen in movies and the media, nor would this have been on my list of places to visit. But thanks to living and teaching in the nearby Philippines, and to friends ready and willing to try something new, I was able to see first-hand what an amazing place Vietnam is.  I found this country so compelling and beautiful that I know I want to return here and also come back to see the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos.


 

Relationships and Learning

One of my highlights each week is the eighty-minute Leadership Class I teach to high school students every second day. A pedagogical foundation that I always hope to include in the class is the application of theoretical constructs to practical situations through experiential learning opportunities. It was during a meeting with students this week, to follow up on their collaborative project work, when they concluded that the key to the success of their project was their focus on relationships. The students were referring to their decision to structure and lead learning activities for the lower school students who arrive at school at 08:00 during the Professional Wednesday late starts. During their first classes, the Leadership Class students struggled to run effective activities. However, after some coaching and reflections, the classes gradually became more effective and engaging. I asked the Leadership Class students about the reason for their success. The students’ eyes lit up when reflecting on the question and quickly recognized that their newfound success was based primarily on the fact that they had established deeper relationships with the lower school students.

Fundamentally, effective teaching is dependent on the ability to build strong relationships that are based on trust, mutual support, and understanding. In fact, it can be argued that relationships are the single most important factor associated with effective teaching and learning. Extending this concept, it can also be claimed that a school community is only able to collectively support student learning at the highest level through the relationships that evolve in terms of a partnership among parents, students, and the school. It was, therefore, encouraging to see so many parents participating in this week’s parent-teacher coffees and the lower school assembly (an estimated 100 parents were in attendance!), in addition to the gracious and generous efforts of the PTO and the U.S. Embassy to host a teacher appreciation event.

The week of May 5-9 is designated as Teacher Appreciation Week at EAB, representing an important moment in the school year when we recognize the outstanding work of our teachers. EAB is fortunate to work with a talented and committed group of teachers who make a difference every day in the lives of our students. Recognizing that my opinion is obviously biased, I do see the work of teachers as a “calling” for those who have a passion for working with students. In Parker Palmer’s book, The Courage to Teach, he corroborates the concept of teaching as a “calling” through his statement, “good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” The focus of this week has been to celebrate the identity and integrity of each teacher at EAB and the passion, talents, and professionalism they correspondingly commit to EAB’s students. Please join me in celebrating and thanking our wonderful teachers.

Among EAB’s greatest strengths are the relationships that are developed throughout the school community, which is representative of one of the most important factors contributing to student learning.

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Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at www.barrydequanne.com.

First Day of School Jitters

Back to School

The first day of school. Just that phrase alone conjures up reactions spanning the emotional gamut from happiness and excitement, to fear and dread and just about every other emotional state in between.

Until this year, my entire lifetime of first days of school came from the first person perspective. It was my first day of school, my new teacher, my new friends, my new classes, etc. I even remember laying awake in bed the night before fifth grade was about to begin, just as I had done on so many other Back-to-School eves, wondering, Will I like my new teacher? Will I make new friends? And the most important question of all, are my back-to-school clothes cool enough?

Butterflies in Stomach
This year was different. I once again had that familiar feeling of going back to school, but this time I was going back to school not as a student, like every other year, but as a teacher,* which surprisingly, still produced the same sensation of butterflies in my stomach that I remember feeling when I was a kid.

Why the nerves? Because I, just like every student who gets nervous for the first day of school, implicitly understand that a good first start can set the tone and mood for the rest of the year. Knowing this, I wanted to make sure that I could make the day as great as possible for the kindergartners that would be walking through the door on that early August morning. Additionally, I also wanted to make a good first impression with the students, their parents, and my colleagues.

Let the Games Begin!
As the morning bell rang there was no time for anxious worry because bursting through the classroom door was a swarm of five-year olds excited to begin their elementary school career! The children’s uncontainable skipping carried their curious minds to the various learning tools that were placed in every nook and cranny of the classroom. The tables and shelves were stocked with toys, puzzles, games, and books all designed to foster their natural curiosity. Some students gravitated towards the math center, while others stopped at the science exploration center. Then there was the writing center, dramatic play area, blocks corner and reading center where there were books, books and more books! Here was a fully rounded environment designed to facilitate learning through exploration, play and inquiry for all types of learners.

First Things First
While the young students were eager to learn and get started, I too, as a new teacher, was equally eager to start teaching! But I immediately remembered what I learned in orientation the week before. We were told that the first days of school are all about making sure each student feel emotionally connected and secure. More important than jumping into the curriculum, is the need to make real one-on-one connections with each student and to help them form connections and friendships with their fellow classmates.

Breaking the Ice
It was clear that some students were already making friends, as they clutched onto each other’s hands and explored the classroom together, while other students were shy and reluctant to interact with their peers, and instead, seemed more focused on taking in the classroom setting itself. Kindergartners, like adults, need certain “ice-breakers” to help them warm-up and feel comfortable in a group setting. One way to do this is to encourage them to share some personal facts about themselves in a safe and encouraging environment.

Personal Connections
A dialogue is started to spark a naturally curious mind to want to know more about the person sitting opposite him or her in circle time. Questions are asked to promote conversations such as; Does anyone have an older brother? What is your favorite food? Is anyone else’s favorite food sushi? These questions immediately show students that they have something in common with their classmates and help to enhance the newly formed social relationships that are being forged. This in turn enhances student motivation because only when a child feels emotionally secure and happy in the classroom is the soil ready to start planting the seeds of learning.

Aristotle Knew
By the end of the day, even the shy students had already made new friends. It was encouraging to see them pairing-up as they set out to explore the classroom together. Watching them decide amongst themselves who would go first, and what they would do next, was almost as gratifying as seeing the smiles on their little faces. It reminded me that even with all our new research and insight into how children learn that more than two thousand years ago, Aristotle had it right all along when he said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

*Actually I am a teacher in training at an internship program at The International School of Manila.

First Impressions

So far, this opportunity of living and working overseas is nothing short of dreamlike. As I navigate my new environment and my first days here, I am struck with the following impressions:
· Living Conditions – The accommodations provided for staff here are amazing. My new
apartment is a big step-up from my college housing of the past four years! The number one
reason why the move overseas and settling-in has been so smooth is because the school has completely taken care of my housing arrangements. From furnishings, to décor, to appliances and electronics, the only thing I had to do was put food in my fridge!
· Help – The main difference between living here and back home is the help. Having household help in Manila is very customary. A colleague referred me to his ‘helper’ who I interviewed yesterday, and after a successful chat, I hired her on the spot! Let’s face it; we all know teachers never have enough hours in the day so having a fantastic home which is already taken care of is a tremendous benefit!
· Interesting People — I am surrounded by like-minded people who are engaging, warm, friendly, and here because they are passionate about teaching and they’re willing to go anywhere this profession takes them.
· Beautiful Campus — The facilities at ISM are first-rate and beyond compare of any of the public schools I have ever attended or seen in the U.S. The other benefit of working in this environment is that all of these amazing resources are not just for students; teachers also have access to the facilities. I can now look forward to introducing some new and fun hobbies into my routine, such as rock-wall climbing, tennis and swimming!
· Orientation – The first week of the new faculty orientation is both professional and personal and designed to make everyone feel at home in their new working environment. Transportation, meals, multi-faceted presentations including tips and insight into Filipino culture and understanding the school’s values and culture are all intended to help new staff settle in and become part of the community.
· Cared for – That’s how I feel because everything has been thought of and provided for the
incoming staff. Not only have the transition information and formal presentations been
incredibly helpful, but the personal interaction with school staff has been equally helpful.
Returning teachers are friendly and go out of their way to introduce themselves in the hallways or make time in their schedule to meet you and just answer any questions that you might have.
· Great opportunity – I realize that the opportunity for professional development at this school is outstanding and I plan to take full advantage of the various resources they offer. Everything from guest speakers, workshops, certification programs and conferences are all available to the staff here. These tools are designed to enhance the teaching/professional skills of all ISM faculty and staff which ultimately enhance each member’s ability to contribute positively to the school community.