Many teachers face problems when they get overseas – acknowledging why can help.
Having left your own safe environment suddenly you no longer have control (which as teachers we enjoy) over your world. As soon as you step out into the outside world in whatever country, you can be faced with
- street signs and scripts you cannot read (eg in Asia, Middle East etc)
- language you do not understand
- how to get the simplest thing done (fix a tap leak, AC problem)
- who to ask for help
It is similar to a new born chick who has just left the nest – since you lack confidence in your new surroundings you start out by going on small excursions, but then as you get more confident you go on further trips away from “the nest”.
This lack of control can be very difficult to deal with – some call it “culture shock”, I call it “dealing with the country” as culture has little to do with it. After about 4-5 months (around December time), hopefully you feel more at ease if you have made the necessary adjustments to continue living there. If there is still a feeling that you are not comfortable, at home etc, then it might be worth thinking about changing country. This might seem very early, but most schools offer an initial 2 year posting as it takes the first year to settle in. Some teachers realise after just a few weeks or a month, that they have made a mistake and want to leave. This can be problematic. (I will post another page on that soon.)
There are three important areas to your life overseas (in no particular order)
- school life
- social life
I am a firm believer that at least two out of these three things need to be good for you to enjoy working overseas, if only one of these is a problem, you can still work through it.
For example if the school is terrible and you have a great apartment and wonderful social life, you can probably survive two years.
Similarly if the school is great and you have a great social life, but a terrible apartment then you can manage.
But if only one of these aspects is good, or acceptable in your eyes, eg if the school is not great, the accommodation is terrible but you have a great social life, you will still be miserable (fact). I have seen it with many teachers and they can have a negative effect on the school and their colleagues.
Schools can be part of the problem
This is where some international schools are not too clever as they provide basic or even substandard accommodation and so straight away you have one out of three things which makes you miserable. Some schools however will admit that they made a bad choice of apartment and try to rectify it, or that the accommodation is not furnished to a good enough standard and get more furniture in. It depends on the administrators and what they want their school to be.