Saturday, April 12, 2014

Teaching overseas is really a hit or miss proposition as one school owners rant suggests

     With so many school districts and counties having budget problems and the threats of constant layoffs have some teachers looking to teach overseas. I checked this option out for myself but with sole custody of a child, there are too many complications to going overseas for me but for you, it may make total sense. The issues both pro and con will be saved for another article but teachers looking to becoming 'expats' this may be something for you to look into. 

While you will not make as much as a veteran teacher overseas as you will in Michigan or elsewhere, the money isn't the thing, its the money you can save living on a lower cost-of-living, adventure and so on. For good schools, they pay for decent housing, give you a ride to work, airfare and bonuses. Those are for the good schools. Many will entice you but in many countries, a contract is just a suggestion and the law in many courts is not on your side.  One unidentified owner below has a charter school type model and is out to make a profit with teachers and students not being number one. Here is his side of the story.

  A School Owner Talks About Teachers’ Complaints

“The next time your members think to complain about not being happy with this and that, I ask them to consider how they are displaying the same sense of entitlement they don’t like to see in their students.”
Dear ISR, I have been a member of your web site for years. I am the owner of a moderate sized school in a developing nation. I employ 25 expat teachers and I am always very interested to know what teachers are saying about my school on ISR. (International School Review). Regarding things they complain about, I would like to discuss three points and hopefully you will share what I have to say with your members to give them a chance to respond.
1) Professional Development: A common complaint among my staff is a lack of school sponsored professional development. When I interview teachers I make it abundantly clear I cannot/will not send teachers to an in-service in another country. Airfare, hotel and conference fees would add up to substantial expense for the school. As professionals, I feel it should be a teacher’s responsibility to keep up with developing practices in their field. What’s wrong with webinars? I don’t see teachers going to these conferences at their own expense. I have flown in “experts” to deliver PD and the teachers complained, perhaps justifiably, that many of these self-proclaimed experts are far from competent.
2) Housing: Housing can be a big issue. I rent 20 places and pay huge sums each month in rents alone. We have a maintenance staff that maintains the apartments for the teachers, and while the houses aren’t villas and don’t have pools or gyms, they are nice little homes in a safe part of town with facilities, including A/C. It’s what I can afford. I supply a bus that picks up/drops off teachers each school day. Some teachers are satisfied with their housing and others not so much. I don’t see it is my responsibility to support teachers at the level to which they would like to aspire. If they want to live in a better place, they can take the equivalent of the school-provided house and add some money of their own. But they don’t want to do this. They want me to pay as if I were mom and dad.
3) Air Fare, Shipping Allowance and Dependents: Our contract includes round trip airfare. I pay to bring teachers into the country from their home of record and pay to fly them home two years later. I do not pay for non-teaching spouses. I obtain Visas for teachers but dependent spouses must pay for their own Visa plus fees incurred. When there is a dependent spouse and child, I pay the airfare for the child and offer free school tuition for that child. The teacher must pay the expense for a second child including 50% of the normal enrollment fees. For teaching couples I pay all airfares, Visas (up to two children) and school tuition. For shipping I pay two suitcases overage for each teacher and one per child. Trying to ship anything through customs here is impossible. I do not pay toward teachers’ accompanying pets.
I think the Airfare and Visa allowance is very fair. I purchase over twenty-five tickets and pay more than 60 extra bag charges. Some teachers complain about the route we sent them on or the length of stop overs. Some complain I should pay for them to return home every year. Some think I should supply more shipping allowance. Some love their pets as children and expect me to honor that attitude with a plane ticket. My position is I can only afford so much. If a teacher wants to upgrade they are welcome to do so, yet I have seen very few do it.
In Conclusion: My school is what has been termed a “for-profit” school. Of course it is! I started this school with my own money and a big loan. I’ve risked a lot. I chose to open a school because I love education and think it is the path to many things in this world.
But let me be clear. I am not a philanthropist and I do not have endless amounts of money to finance this institution out-of-pocket. I need to meet my expenses and put a few dollars in my pocket. Yes, I live better than the teachers and I drive my own car. I have lived in this country my entire life and worked hard to get where I am. If I were to “support” the teaching staff on a level similar to what they are used to at home, I would be forced to short-change the school. In addition to teacher-related expenses and their salaries (that most local people would give their right hand for), I have the school buildings to maintain, heat/cooling, water, gardeners, maintenance and office staff, cafeteria staff, taxes, bank loans, government officials, text books, computers, science labs, classroom supplies, and by far the biggest expense, teachers’ salaries.
So the next time ISR members complain about not being happy about every little this and that, I would ask them to consider this: They are displaying the same unattractive sense of entitlement they don’t like to see in their students. If I gave any more to the expat staff I would have to start taking away from the students. The students are the reason for the school. Teachers looking for someone to treat them like their parents did should consider the bigger, richer schools. Some teachers who demand a more comprehensive package are better suited for these schools.
A ‘proud of my for-profit school’ owner

There are many great jobs teaching overseas and my recommendation is to really research schools that are attending job fairs (the recruitment season is winding down in June) and some schools are great and others are a view of a 'living hell.'  I will have a retired Waterford Schools teacher talk about what he has loved about South Korea in the future as he has been there for several years. Because many people kick the tires on this, the following characteristics will benefit you but by no means should they be your only measuring stick.

1. Being young is better than being experienced. (Salaries, visas)
2. Being a married teaching couple is really key to a plum job. (Two teachers with one living arrangement save the schools money).
3. Having 0-1 child. Usually the first child is free for education and often both children are   educated free. South American countries do not like kids and pay poorly. If you have 2+ kids, you will have a tough time getting a good job.
4. Teach multiple subjects. Believe it or not, teaching language arts is seen as a coveted placement for most schools.
5. Be flexible and open minded on countries. Kuwait is really great at most schools. China, Japan, South Korea are as well. I was offered several jobs. None made me want to go to court to get approval for my daughter to go with me.
6. Do your research. Consider a $25 investment for a one year access to International Schools Review and read to make an informed decision.
7. Single parents of children (especially men) are not the best candidates for the best jobs.
There will be many more observations from those that went another time.

Roy J. Akers