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You Do What?!

When I accepted my first international teaching job, I was excited to keep teaching and to live in a new place. I was excited to be making more money and to add a new experience to my book of life. That’s about all I knew though. Now starting my second year teaching in India and looking back, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I don’t say this in a negative way either! This year has opened my eyes to so many new things and I am forever grateful for this opportunity.

Last year I asked you all what you wanted to know about international teaching and I am here to answer all those questions and more. This post will be more of the school/work side of things. Later I will write more about the social aspect.

What is an international teacher?

An international teacher can mean a lot of things. Some teachers only teach English, others are teachers in the sense of what you think if in the states. The types of schools can also vary. There are local schools, British Curriculum Schools, American schools, for-profit schools, among others. I teach Grade 3 in an American International School assisted by the United States (US) Consulate in my city. Think of it as a private school that has the support of the United States government with the goal of providing an American-style education to families who work for the United States in that city. We follow the same common core standards for the United States. We use common US curriculum programs. We use US standardized testing.

The American international teaching world is also a very “small” community. Many teachers at my school have worked with each other at different schools in other countries, or they know of each other through colleagues. For many people I’ve met at my school, international teaching is a lifestyle. They’ve been doing it for years. Those who tried to return back to the States ended up moving back abroad. They say once you get “bit by the bug” it’s hard to get rid of it.

Who are my students?

The school was started to provide a place of education for families who work at the US Consulate in my city. Many of the kids at the school are American (US Consulate families or teachers’ kids.) This population is not enough to fill all of the seats at the school so then the school is opened up to others. The rest of my students are mostly from other expat families. The car industry is pretty big here so families from all over the world send their kids to our school. Majority of my kids are Korean, but there is also a large Japanese and French population. We do serve some local Indian families but our Constitution and Bylaws state that Indian students can only make up 7% of our student population. When I first heard about this fact I was confused. As I grew to know more about India and the education system, it made sense. The short answer is that if there were an unlimited number of Indian students who are able to attend our school, this would take away from the other schools in the area. (As I learn more, I can share what I know.)

Who are my coworkers?

Many of my coworkers are from the United States, but I also work with people from Australia, Mexico, Britain, India, Spain, Ecuador, among other places.

Is it the same Grade 3 as in the US?

Yes! I am teaching the same standards in reading, writing, and math that I did in Atlanta. We use the Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Workshop program, and Bridges program for math. The social studies and science standards are pretty much the same too, but in the US they are state-specific, so instead we use the C3 Framework and NGSS. These units have been developed in-house. We also use WIDA as our ESOL program.

For specials my students take Music, Dance, Indian Studies, World Language (either Spanish or English depending on their English proficiency,) Physical Education, and Art.

One thing that is a bit different is the age range in the class. Because different countries have different requirements for schooling, everyone isn’t exactly the same age. I have kids from age 8-10 in my class at the moment. It doesn’t pose any huge issues from my experience so far.

*One thing I learned recently is that in Korea at the time of birth you are one years old. So my Korean kids born in 2013 are 10 in Korea, but by the American way of calculating age they are 9.

What are the major differences between your work in the States and in India?

There are MANY differences! Some I love, others not so much. I’ll highlight a few here.

  • This is the least stressed I have been at work ever!

    • In Atlanta I used to get to work an hour and a half before school started and leave almost an hour and a half after school ended. This was THREE extra hours that I was not paid for daily. I told myself that I would not take work home, so the compromise was that I had to stay at school to get it done. Also, three out of the five prep periods we got in a school week were scheduled with mandatory meetings. This gave me only 90 minutes a week to actually plan. Hence the reason I spent so much time out of my contracted hours at work.

    • At my current school I can say that I am usually at school only during my contracted hours. I have to be at school at 8am and I arrive between 7:45-7:55am. We get 30 minutes to ourselves in the morning to prepare. (Kids are allowed on campus at 8am, but they stay on the playground with supervision. I pick them up at 8:30am.) School ends at 3:30 and I can leave at 4pm. I usually stay until 4:30pm, but I only stay to workout before going home.

    • During the school day is the real shocker! Every day we have 2 prep periods (my kids have two specials) that amounts to 90 minutes of planning daily. We also have two recess periods daily. During the morning recess I never have a duty so that’s another 25 minutes that I can plan or use for whatever I need. There is also a 50 minute recess/lunch time. I have lunch duty one day and recess duty another. Otherwise I am free to eat lunch uninterrupted without rushing. We have one team meeting a week for 45 minutes.

    • So where I was only having 90 minutes each week to plan in Atlanta, I now have around 6 hours of planning time weekly. It’s a huge game changer. Now when I come home it’s still so much of the day left, I’m not overly exhausted, I can play with my dog, watch TV, and sleep well because I am not stressed!

  • Behavior management is not a focus here, like at all!

    • In many schools that serve Black and Brown students there is a huge focus on discipline. So much so that there are whole positions created around it. Kids are made to walk in line quietly, some teachers/schools go as far as walking with a finger over your lips, or asking students to “catch a bubble.” Detention and suspension rates are very high. Students are not allowed to use community spaces (ex. libraries) without their entire class being there. Silent lunches are a thing. There are behavior management programs that take up a lot of time (ex. Class Dojo.) The list can go on.

    • It is almost the complete opposite where I am now. We still practice the Responsive Classroom framework, but other than following routines and procedures and enforcing logical consequences, there’s not much else. There’s no rewards for attendance, or classes with the most points in a week. At lunch my kids sit wherever they want, including mixing classes. They are allowed to go to the library before school, and during recess time without a teacher. There is a sense of freedom that my kids have here that they didn’t have in the US. I knew in the US that many of the policies we enact in schools that serve students of color were harmful, but being here my eyes have been opened to a new way of doing things and honestly it has been VERY refreshing.

  • Schedules

    • In the States it was common for me to have 90 reading blocks, and 60 minute math blocks at minimum. Currently all of my blocks are 45 minutes and we are required to teach math, reading, and writing daily. We alternate units for social studies and science, so each quarter we teach only one of these subjects. We also go to the library once a week and we have a session with the counselor weekly.

  • Grading!

    • We use standards based grading! I am so glad that I am getting this experience because I always felt that the grades I was giving in the States was not informative. For example, if a kid got a B in math, this does not inform the family on what the child has mastered and where they still need practice.

    • There is a con to this though! Writing report cards takes SO much time. For every child we have to write an in-depth overview of their progress twice a year in all subject areas.

  • Support in the Classroom

    • Because we have so many language learners, there is an ESOL co-teacher for every two classes.

    • There is also a teaching assistant for every two classes. At any given time there is at least one other person in the classroom with me. I had to get used to this for sure!

What is the same?

  • There’s not enough time for everything!

    • International schools place a huge emphasis on learning done outside of the traditional classroom, hence the two specials daily, among other opportunities. This leaves only so much homeroom time, and at times I cannot stay loyal to the pacing guide because things take longer than the slated time.

  • Standardized Testing

    • My kids still take the MAP test. Granted it’s only twice a year, but it’s still a pain especially when so much of our classroom assessments are not traditional.

    • Most kids also take the WIDA assessment annually.

  • Kids are still kids!

    • They are curious, they love to learn, and they are still the BEST part of my day. I learn so much from them daily!

  • Family Involvement

    • It is my belief that ALL caretakers truly want what’s best for their child. We may have differing ideas on what that means, but it doesn’t mean one party cares more than the other. The families of my students are very caring, and supportive. I love having families in the classroom and when they are given the opportunity to show up, they do!

  • Professional Development

    • Both schools that I’ve worked at have placed a huge emphasis on developing teacher leaders. I have had multiple learning opportunities. I am glad that I can continue to improve my craft. I am grateful for administration that supports me!

    • This year I was able to do a book study with my colleagues once a month. We read the book Making Thinking Visible. I also did a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Workshop through NESA with many educators at my school over the course of 6 months. Lastly I participated in Intercultural Development Inventory training. All of this was covered by my school.

We are just beginning a new school year! There’s a fresh excitement especially since it’s our first time being on campus for the start of the school year in two years! This is Year Five for me! I am excited to continue growing and learning! I am excited to support a thriving classroom community! I am excited to see all that the year has to offer.

I hope this answers many of your questions and gives you some insight on the work I do here in India. If you have any other questions, ask away in the comments!

Love y’all!

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