Learning Support, or teaching students with Special Education Needs is consistently referred to as one of the most difficult jobs in teaching. And with good reason. Typically, we work with the most challenged students. This can mean anything from a simple learning disability to severe mental health disorders or life-threatening issues. Often it includes complicated family situations with parents who are struggling to accept their child’s challenges. I have even worked with students who were recovering from traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. Parents have broken down into tears at meetings, and students have flung chairs across the room in frustration.
But working with students is not the hardest part of my job. It’s the best.
No matter what challenges they face, they always rise to the occasion. Even when they fail to reach their own expectations, they often surpass mine. I am continually awed, inspired, and warmed by their perseverance and grit.
Ironically, the hardest part is working with the non-challenged. Teachers, by nature, tend to be highly intelligent people. For many of them, learning was easy and pleasurable. This makes it harder for them to empathize with students who don’t like school. For the most challenged students to be successful, they need everyone on their team. On the same page, in most cases, it’s easy to get everyone to agree that a child needs support. However, rarely will everyone agree on the best way to do it. This part is the most challenging. For a slightly hyperbolic metaphor, think of America’s response to mass shootings. Everyone agrees something needs to be done. Nobody agrees on how to do it.
The truth is, many international schools lag behind most public schools in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia when it comes to dealing with students with special needs. There are many reasons for this; the most obvious being the strict laws governing rights of the disabled in those countries. Most international schools exist in gray areas when it comes to disability rights and education, thereby allowing them to bypass laws protecting people with learning disabilities.
My current school, for example, has a special education department with a staff of five trained educators. However, for a public school of our size, our department would be woefully insufficient. We lack therapists, specialized counselors, psychologists, and other professionals that would otherwise be provided by a public school district. We do have IEPs and 504 plans, but as recent as five years ago we did not. Still, we are generally considered a well-equipped school.
Sadly, this is not the case in most international schools. Many do not have special education departments at all, and teachers are not equipped with the right kinds of training or support to deal with special needs. You might be lucky to find a school that acknowledges the existence of learning disabilities and has basic protocols in place.
When looking to work as an international school special education teacher it’s important that you talk to people other than the administrator. Ideally, you should talk to other teachers and ask how they support students with learning disabilities. Be sure to ask your prospective school about local rules and regulations governing learning disabilities. Also be cautious of administrators that want to grow their programs, as you may be signing on for more than you bargained for. Unless you have a burning desire to single-handedly create and manage a special education department, you should also be careful around these kinds of offers.
Special education is experiencing tremendous growth in international schools now, offering many unique opportunities. But with it, comes heavy responsibility. If you’re a special education teacher looking to work abroad, preparing yourself for a rewarding, yet challenging time.
This article was submitted to us by an International School Community member.
Using our unique Comment Search feature on our website (premium membership access needed), we found 29 comments that have the keyword “Learning Support” in them, and 20 comments that had the word “Special Needs” in them.
Here are some comments that shown a positive light on Learning Support programs at international schools:
“The St. Petersburg campus has recently added a learning support component to support teachers, parents and students.” – Anglo-American School of St. Petersburg (38 Total Comments)
“There are also student assistants. Student assistants are assigned to certain students or groups of students to offer them learning support. They move with these learning support students as they move classes and/or grade. Currently there are three student assistants at TIS one in Primary School and two in Middle School.” – Tokyo International School (63 Total Comments)
“The students are very delightful and respectful. It is a mixed ability school and there is a good number of students who need some support. Learning support has improved over the last few years, but it is still not adequate for all those who need it. The students are truly delightful and polite.” – Somersfield Academy (44 Total Comments)
“There are co-teachers in primary and learning support teachers throughout the school (in most subjects), depending on the specific needs of students in the group. This is an inclusive school that requires quite a high teacher/student ratio.” – Hong Kong Academy (67 Total Comments)
“We are in our sixth year of becoming an inclusive school, with about 2.5% of our population being special needs children–including Down Syndrome and Autistic students. There are three RTI teams and a “transitions” classroom to support learners with challenges (and our classroom teachers).” – International Community School Addis Ababa (80 Total Comments)
“The school offers a bilingual program for students in grades K to 12. DMS has a fully self-contained special needs Division within the main school.” – Dasman Model School (24 Total Comments)continue reading
There are many international schools to work at in Kuwait! How do these schools stand out from each other?
American Creativity Academy (in Hawalli)
We put two videos in this video highlight, as the concept for these videos was part of a project that the students at this school were given…we imagine. (A third one can be found here.)
It is a great idea; a challenge project for IB/High School students to create a marketing video for the school. There is not really a more appropriate stakeholder at the school to make a project like this. The students’ perspective about the school they are attending is probably one to listen to with regards to thinking about school identity and school improvement.
The kids look a bit nervous in the videos!
The sports fields look on the newer side. You can see the shadow cast over that one place for soccer as it most likely gets very hot during the day when students would be playing there.
The lovely blue colour of the sides of the buildings seems to make it stand out, in good way.
How nice that they have a canteen in the auditorium/multi-purpose room. Not all international schools have that!
The ending of one of those videos is very funny with some students helping another student slide down the hall.
Did not see many of the other teachers and students of this school of 2650 students…they must have filmed after school hours.
Currently on www.internationalschoolcommunity.com we have 19 international schools listed in Kuwait with 5 of them being in the city of Hawalli. Here are a just a few of them (The number of comments and information that have been submitted for each school is listed to the right of the link to each school.):
If you know about what it is like working at one of these international schools in Kuwait, log-on today and submit your own comments and information. For every 10 comments you submit, you will receive 1 month of premium access to International School Community for free!continue reading
v2012.03 – 3 March, 2012:
We have had a surge of new members on International School Community this past month taking us over the 300 mark. With 67 new members joining, we are now at a total of 326 members! It is so interesting to look at the range of members that we have so far: veteran international school teachers, teachers new to the international school community, teachers who are thinking about getting into our community, retired international school teachers, international school parents, international school directors, etc. All premium members are able to send unlimited private messages to other members on our website to contact for information and also to network with if you have questions about what life at a specific international school he/she is currently working at or has worked at in the past.
Go ahead then and send a private message to one of our members that is currently living in one of the many different cities around the world represented on our website. International School Community’s current members work at or have worked at over 115 international schools! Check out which schools here and start networking today!
Our 320+ members have now also submitted over 3300+ comments and information on our 1120+ international school profile pages. To celebrate these recent milestones, you can now get 50% off of your next membership subscription by using this coupon code: MARCH3241. With the discount, you can renew your premium subscription for as little as 5 USD! Just go to your My Account page and click on “renew your subscription”. This offer will expire on 17 March, 2012.
Premium members also have unlimited access to our 1126 international school profile pages. On each school profile page there are 4 separate comment and information submission sections: School information, Benefits information, City information and Travel information.
There are many international schools profile pages getting updated all the time. In the international school community, it is important we share what we know to help others make better informed decisions when looking for employment at an international school.
Thanks again for everyone’s support! For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy the beginning of spring!
From the staff at International School Community.
· TEN COMMANDMENTS OF RELOCATING OVERSEAS: #9 – Maintain a sense of humor, but most importantly be ready to laugh at yourself.
“When you are living abroad, there are moments when the locals are looking at you strangely. You might be thinking that they are making fun of you, being rude, or just plain staring at you. Most of the time though they usually don’t have an unkind intention towards you. The initial reaction is to…”
· Great resource: ISAT – International Schools Association of Thailand
“If your dream is to work at an international school in Thailand, the ISAT website can be a great resource for you…”
· International schools that were founded in 1947 (New York, Cali, Medellin, Rome, and Sao Paolo)
“The United Nations International School (UNIS) was established in 1947 by a group of United Nations Parents to provide an international education for their children, while preserving their diverse cultural heritages. What began as a nursery school for 20 children quickly grew, adding…”
· Overview of an int’l school #4 – Makuhari International School
“At MIS, at present, around 60% of our children are Japanese returnee children, the other 40% are either dual nationality or foreign children…”
· The Wonderful World of Int’l School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #6 – “Remember to research.”
“When interviewing at an international school recruitment fair, it is indeed a difficult task to be 100% knowledgeable about each international school you interview with. You do some final researching the night/morning before the interview, but…”
· Comments and information about hiring policies on International School Community #3
“The school goes through Search Associates. Teachers must have appropriate degree for teaching the subject of major concentration and by under 65 years of age. They are willing to hire interns for certain positions…”
Discussion Topic: Things I (an international school teacher) Have Not Done in a Year“After living abroad for so many years, I have forgotten all the things that you don’t do anymore. We used to have a different life, didn’t we? But now that you are living abroad, many of your routines have changed. Being that these changes have now become your new routines, you tend to forget about the things you used to do!Inspired by this blog entry by the Kirby Family, Things I Have Not Done in a Year, we invite our readers and members to discuss their list of things that they haven’t done in a year (or more for that matter).
Highlighted blogs of international teachers:
This international school teacher’s insight about moving back to your home country after teaching and living in Hong Kong is something we can all relate to:“I think I wouldn’t be completely honest if I said I was happy to be moving back to Canada. There are many things I am looking forward to about going back, foremost among them, being closer to our family, but there are many things I am going to really miss about Hong Kong, especially my job. In early June I included an article in one of my posts that I wrote in 2005 about what I will miss about Hong Kong. I’ve learned there…”* If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.
Only on International School Community will you be able to search for the perfect international school for you. Utilizing the School Profile Search feature on International School Community, you can search for the perfect school using up to 8 different criteria.
Search Result #1
1. Region of the world (All)
2. Curriculum (USA)
3. School Nature (Non-Profit)
4. No. of students (Medium: 300-700)
5. Country (All)
6. Year founded (16-50 Years Old)
7. Kinds of students (Mostly International)
8. Size of city (Medium: 750K-3 Million)
Check out the results of this example search on our blog!
(North Pine Christian College)
(Anglo American School of Sofia)
(Korea International School)
(A’takamul International School)
(Copenhagen International School)
(International School of Beijing)
“I worked at SRIS for three years. I taught Grade One and Grade Two in the time that I spent there. SRIS had a fantastic and diverse range of teachers that I felt privileged to work with. I learned a lot from them…”
Check out the rest of her interview on our blog here. If you’d like to be one of our next member spotlights send us a message here. Highlighted members will receive a coupon code for 6 free months of premium access!
v2011.08 – 10 December, 2011:
The holiday break is nearly upon us! Is it cold where you live right now? It is for most people in the northern hemisphere. There are though however some of us that are working in locations closer to the equator, and their weather must be quite nice right now. Some of us farther away from the equator have already taken out our winter jacket and even have progressed to the “heavier” winter jacket this past week.
So, the big question is: Why did we choose to work here? And that question is mostly directed towards the weather of your current location. The local people where you are living probably say to you, “Out of all the places you could have chosen from (In their mind…Barbados, Thailand, Rome, etc.), how is it possible that you have chosen this cold, miserable place? What they don’t realize is that some of us actually prefer to be in a place that has four distinct seasons. Some of us like like the snow!
There are many reasons to move to another country: Money, Travel, Love, Career, etc. We must be honest (not usually in an interview though) and admit that moving to another country based on its climate is very important for most international school teachers. That is why International School Community has included a category under the City Section on the school profile pages about climate: Describe the city’s weather at different times of the year. Here is an example:
Right now there are 38 comments and information that have been submitted in this category on a number of international school profile pages on our website.
Feel free to make your own searches (both close to the equator and farther away from the equator, depending on your preference!) for international schools based on your criteria on International School Community. Members with premium membership are able to do unlimited searches on our website. If you are already a member, you can easily renew your subscription on your profile page. If you are not a member, become a member today and get 1 month free of premium membership.
· 08 Dec The American School of Kinshasa (4 new comments)
(Kinshasa, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the)
“TASOK is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The School was re-accredited in 2008…”
· 08 Dec Dasman Model School (7 new comments)
(Kuwait City, Kuwait)
“The school offers a bilingual program for students in grades K to 12. DMS has a fully self-contained Special Needs Division within the main school…”
· 08 Dec Thai-Chinese Int’l School Bangkok (7 new comments)
“Tuition for 2 children studying at TCIS is free although there are annual student supply fees of Baht 15,000+ / child to be paid by teacher for education materials, PreK-Gr2 lunch/snacks, insurance upgrades, year books, ID card, and graduation…”
· Out of the thousands of international schools, people ask me why did I choose to work here?
“One year you are thinking that Asia is the place for you to move to the following school year, but then suddenly you open your eyes and you are actually in South America…”
· Educators Overseas: Helping teachers secure a job teaching abroad.
“There are many ways to secure a teaching job at an international school. The website Educators Overseas also offers such a service. Here is what they have to say about their philosophy of helping candidates find the “right fit” in their search to teach abroad…”
· The Wonderful World of Int’l School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #4 – “Being yourself is better, come what may, than trying to be someone else.”
“Even worse is when you realize mid-interview that you are indeed not the “best fit” as you had hoped you would be for that international school you have been wanting to work at that in the city you really had been wanting to live in…”
· Great resource: Association of International Schools in Africa
“Curious about what international schools there are in Africa? The Association of International Schools in Africa website has 100s of international schools listed that are found in many of the African countries…”
· Comments and information about salaries on International School Community #2 (Hangzhou Int’l School, American School of Bcn & Int’l School of KL)
“Our reps are in the process of renegotiation our salaries. It is a difficult time in Spain right now, so it is not likely we will get much of a raise. The board is focusing on…”