The Journey to School

The Journey to School: Dulwich College Suzhou (Suzhou, China)

May 25, 2015


The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who worked at the Dulwich College Suzhou (Suzhou, China), described her way to work there as follows:

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One of the first things most of us did when we got up in the morning and opened the curtains was to check out how bad the fog of air pollution was. If I couldn’t see the lake past the tower blocks of my compound it was pretty usual, if I couldn’t see the apartments opposite me I knew it was really bad and people would be wearing masks to catch the coach. When I checked the AQI index on my phone, and if it was above 250 pmi, then I knew we wouldn’t be letting the children outside at the breaks or lunch-time. Thankfully the school has installed air purifiers in all classrooms though.

I lived on the 18th floor of a 30-story tower block and sometimes it would take a while for one of the two elevators to reach me. It was a pretty walk through the gardens surrounding the towers, I enjoyed watching people walking backwards to exercise and beating their arms to increase their circulation. After a cheery ‘Ni Hao’ to the security guards, I would join my colleagues waiting for the bus. Dulwich spread its staff out amongst approximately ten compounds with no more than two to a tower and no-one on the same floor as you, for privacy. It was always good to chat and pass the time in the morning. Soon the big red maroon coach would pull up and once again there would be a chorus of ‘Good Mornings’ as we climbed on board. There were four coaches assigned to pick up staff from various areas of Suzhou.

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The temperature on the bus never seemed right, either it would be much too warm with the heating on and the windows steamed up with condensation or we’d be cold. Suzhou, inland from Shanghai is definitely in an area with four seasons. I would amuse myself admiring the canals beside the roads with weeping willows and flowering shrubs and sometimes the odd boat. Within twenty minutes or so we’d be pulling up at the Senior School, then it was in through the gates with more ‘Ni Haos’ and sometimes a salute from the guards (depending on who you were with) and I’d look up at the iconic Dulwich tower as I stepped into the foyer and went over to the Coffee Bar to get my morning café latte.

The coaches only had one pick-up time at the compounds and if you missed it (which I often did) you had to hail a taxi. The school provided us with taxi cards for most places in Suzhou, including the school, in Mandarin, so it was easy to direct the taxi-driver who often didn’t speak English, 25 RMB and twenty minutes later I’d be at school exiting the cab saying ‘Xie xie’.

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I soon tired of missing the bus and paying for taxis and bought myself an electric bike. This is when the journey to school became fun! I’d go down into the parking garage below my apartment building and unplug the charger. After putting my helmet on I’d steer it up the narrow slope to the compound roads. Then climb on and off I went. My bright blue ebike reached a top speed of about 42 mph and I felt safe on it because in SIP, where I lived, there were separate bike lanes. It was when I zipped along on the ebike that I really discovered Suzhou. I found I left earlier in the morning on the ebike and I enjoyed steering round the water trucks cleaning the roads, or the people sweeping up. Often as I passed a shopping mall there would be a large group of people doing Tai Chi in beautiful silk clothes, or a group of women doing a fan dance. One morning I stopped to watch a man leaping and spinning with a silver sword. The Chinese schools started earlier than we did and I would enjoy watching the whole student body line up in disciplined military rows as the Chinese flag was raised and the national anthem was played. I didn’t enjoy seeing the conditions the migrant workers lived in when I passed the large compounds of blue and white two-storey buildings where they lived, because then I would see garbage, dirty children and stray dogs which I always felt sorry for.

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Soon though I would pulling in to the industrial park where the school is situated, and after passing through the electric gate controlled by the security guard I’d be parking my ebike in the underground garage and charging it up ready for the journey home. Another day at Dulwich College Suzhou had begun.

This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author and International School Community member: Sara Lynn Burrough. Check our her personal blog here.  It is called Travelling Teacher.

So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn six free months of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

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Video Highlight

Video Highlight: Living in Shanghai and its International Schools

February 19, 2012


There are so many international schools in Shanghai.  Which ones are good places for international school teachers to work at?  How does the parent community view the international schools there.

We stumbled upon a great resource at Move One.  Their website has a wealth of information about the ins and outs of moving abroad to a variety of cities around the world.  They have many videos explaining what the international school situation is like in cities like Prague, Kiev, Budapest, etc.

Check out their video about Shanghai’s international schools.

Here is what Moveoneinc.com had to say in general about expats that are moving to China and the current schooling situation:

“In the past few years, a number of local Chinese schools have opened up to expat children and some expats without education allowances are giving it a go. Although these are remarkably cheaper than private schools and give children the opportunity to become immersed in the Chinese language and culture, most expats still opt to send their children to international schools.

China’s larger cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou, offer a diverse range of international schools based on the International Baccalaureate programs, the American curriculum as well as the English National curriculum. These have a very high reputation and offer first-rate facilities, advanced teaching technology and equipment, internationally experienced teachers, low student/teacher ratios, and a wide variety of extracurricular activities.”

Their website has many more videos about life in Shanghai.  The numerous topics covered are: medical clinics, what to do in case of an emergency, housing, kids activities, Chinese language, expat shopping, and more…

Currently on www.internationalschoolcommunity.com we have 18 international school listed in the city of Shanghai. The number of comments and information that have been submitted for each school is listed to the right the link to each school.

British International School Shanghai – Puxi ( 0 Comments)

British International School Shanghai – Pudong ( 0 Comments)

British International School Shanghai – Nanxiang ( 0 Comments)

Concordia International School (Shanghai) ( 15 Comments)

Dulwich College Shanghai ( 7 Comments)

Fudan International School ( 1 Comments)

Livingston American School Shanghai ( 0 Comments)

Shanghai American School – Puxi ( 0 Comments)

Shanghai American School – Pudong ( 0 Comments)

Shanghai Community Int’l School ( 10 Comments)

Singapore International School (Shanghai) ( 5 Comments)

Shanghai United International School ( 0 Comments)

Shanghai Rego International School ( 72 Comments)

Western International School of Shanghai ( 27 Comments)

YK Pao School, Shanghai ( 0 Comments)

Rainbow Bridge International School ( 11 Comments)

Yew Chung International School (Shanghai) ( 0 Comments)

Lycée Français de Shanghai ( 0 Comments)

If you know about what it is like working at one of these international schools in Shanghai, log-on today and submit your own comments and information.  If you submit more than 30 comments and information, then you can get 1 year of premium access to International School Community for free!

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Information for Members

Total comments in all the Travel Information sections: 2137!

August 18, 2019


As all International School Community members know, each of the 2098+ school profile pages on our website has four comments and information sections: School Information, Benefits Information, City Information and Travel Information.  Our members are encouraged to submit comments and information on one or all of these sections if they currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the past.  It is important that we all share what we know so that we can in turn help other new teachers make a more informed decision before they sign any contract! *Additionally, for every 10 comments you submit (which are anonymous by the way), you automatically get one free month of premium membership added on to your account!  The more comments you leave, the more free membership you get!

FOR UNLIMITED FREE MEMBERSHIP, BECOME A MAYOR OF A SCHOOL TODAY!

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So, what are the recent statistics about the Travel Information sections on all the school profile pages?  The current total number of submitted comments in the Travel Information sections is 2137 (out of a total of 32776+ comments); up almost 458 comments since July 2018.

There are 6 subtopics in the Travel Information section on each school profile page.  Check out each one of these subtopics below and find out the total number of comments in that specific subtopic and also an example comment that has been submitted there.

Sample travel airfares from host city airport to destinations nearby. (352 Total Comments)

Example comment: “You can fly mostly anywhere in Europe from Berlin. Unfortunately there has been a new airport in construction for many years now with no real outlook on when it will be complete. You have to connect elsewhere to fly internationally (i.e Copenhagen, Paris, London, Reykjavik etc.)” – Berlin Cosmopolitan School (Berlin, Germany) – 72 Comments

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Describe proximity of major airport hubs to the city center and give sample taxi, train, subway and/or bus fares to get there. (492 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Narita International Airport is the most convenient in terms of distance, parking, and bus connections. It is approximately 45-50 minutes by car on the highway (tolls are about $12 or $13 USD each way), 75 minutes by car by more local roads, and about an hour by bus ($25 USD). Haneda Airport in Tokyo is further away from Tsukuba and more conveniently reached by a combination of the Tsukuba Xpress and Tokyo subways (90 to 120 minutes and $18 to $25 USD, depending on the various options and combinations). There is also the more local Ibaraki Airport (which has free parking) about 45 minutes from town, but flights are very limited and only include a few destinations within Japan (such as Kobe, Fukuoka, Naha and Sapporo) and Shanghai and Seoul (and sometimes Taipei by charter flights) internationally.” – Tsukuba International School (Tsukuba, Japan) – 41 Comments

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Popular travel websites to buy plane tickets or tours that are popular for expats living in the city and/or country. (237 Total Comments)

Example comment: “My Switzerland is a very comprehensive and informative website for locals and expats. which provides a wide breadth of information.
https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-ch/home.html” – Zurich International School (Zurich, Switzerland) – 46 Comments

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Places to travel to outside the city by bus or train. (445 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Expatriate teachers are recommended to not use public transit. The school recommends hiring a school driver to drive us to our desired destination using the car the school provides us. School drivers for a very reasonable rate. If there is a place you want to go, ask the head of security and he will check to ensure it is safe to travel to your desired destination.” – Lahore American School (Lahore, Pakistan) – 116 Comments

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Are there many teachers that travel during the holidays? Where are they going? (284 Total Comments)

Example comment: “It truly depends on the teacher and their own personal situation. Many younger, single teachers will travel during breaks. Usual destinations are somewhere around east our southeast Asia. Teachers who are married with children will stay in Korea many times. During summer break, most teachers will go to their home country.” – Korea Kent Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea) – 22 Comments

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What are the airports like in this city? (arriving, departing, shopping, customs, etc.) (327 Total Comments)

Example comment: “Queues at immigration can be very very very long. (between 15 min and 1.5 hours of waiting) Just make sure you have some battery left on that phone of yours! ;-)” – Dulwich College Beijing (Beijing, China) – 28 Comments

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An Insider's Story

International School Drama/The Arts Teachers: An Insider’s Story

January 24, 2018


In my earlier career in public schools in Alberta, Canada I was a Drama teacher. The arts always seemed to be under threat in the public education system, and in my experience Music, Art and Drama teachers always seemed to be fighting for their survival. We had thriving Drama classes and a popular extra-curricular programme at my school where students in Junior High and Senior High competed in Zone and Provincial Drama Festivals, but when I went to teach in Australia on a year-long exchange they cancelled the Drama programme to save money, and only the Art classes and the Band programme survived the arts cuts that year.

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Teaching in Queensland, Australia for a year was an eye-opener as far as the arts went. Programmes seemed to be very well supported with excellent facilities and had far more to offer students such as many workshops in specialities like mime, street theatre and dance for example than the much more basic curriculums I was used to in Canada. The arts curriculums seemed to be very extensive and arts taken for granted as a part of an Australian school. After a huge well supported musical “Annie Get Your Gun” I returned to my school in Canada where we had no theatre and I taught Drama in a regular classroom, pushing aside the desks as needed.

I had to return to Canada and teach as an English teacher even though I wanted to teach Drama. For many students in my experience, the arts are vital to balance out academics and sports. All students need an opportunity to excel and be successful in something, and for many that is not their regular exam classes or a sports team. So the art teacher and I collaborated and kept the school productions going, a total of 25 Junior and Senior High shows over the years where students could act, sing and dance or work backstage, or designing the set. Students loved the opportunity to be creative, and often it was the behaviourally challenged students or those who didn’t quite ‘fit in’ in other classes that loved Drama the most. We continued to participate in the Zone Festivals winning many times, and what a treat it was to be in a real theatre! The highlight was going to the Provincial Drama Festival and winning Best Ensemble and raft of other awards for our huge production of “The Canterbury Tales.’

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Before I left Canada I was chosen for a Commonwealth Teacher Exchange to the United Kingdom. I went to teach in beautiful Norwich, Norfolk and became familiar with the British National Curriculum at KS3 and KS4 in particular. In England I was exposed to the rigour of a Drama programme shaped around students completing exams for their GCSE’s. I liked in particular how Drama, Music and Art were all exam subjects with strict, demanding curriculums and the disciplines were treated the same as academic subjects. In Alberta, Canada the arts are not exam subjects and the curriculum is very much left up to the teacher. I left England after our huge whole-school production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” with much to think about.

The thinking led me to the Search Associates Recruiting Fair in London, England and a decision to work in International Schools. I accepted an offer to teach GCSE Drama and IBDP Theatre at one of the top British Curriculum schools in China. The school was expanding from the Junior School to a brand-new Senior School. Before I became a teacher I had done a degree in Technical Theatre and so I had a lot of input into the building of the brand new Black Box classroom I would be working in and the incredible state-of the-art Theatre. What a treat it was to work in such amazing facilities with such keen students and such small classes after public education! I was familiar with the GCSE Drama curriculum and put students through both the EdExcel and the Cambridge exam board. My top tip for teachers wanting to work in British curriculum schools is don’t apply unless you already know the British National Curriculum, and the requirements of at least one GCSE exam board. It’s a very steep (I would say almost impossible) learning curve if you don’t already come in with that knowledge. It was no problem that I had no IBDP Theatre experience. The school had an unlimited budget and was quick to send me for training for my Category 1 IBDP Theatre course and countless other IBDP workshops. It’s easy to do well and get good results working in this kind of environment. Don’t kid yourself though-the results and marks really matter to the students, the parents and the school and if you don’t deliver you’ll be out. My love of Theatre and the performing arts in particular was well supported here with productions of “Aladdin,” “Macbeth,” “Blood Brothers,” “Cinderella” and “Marriage Proposal” amongst many other class and exam productions.

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In my current school in Singapore I’m in a different role. I am Head of Arts for the Secondary school. I supervise the Music, Visual Arts, Drama and Theatre programmes. I have six teachers working in the Arts Department. We are an IB World School and run PYP, MYP and IBDP curriculum. It’s important as HOD Arts to make sure we offer a balanced programme, no one art discipline can take precedence over another. Our students in Years 7, 8 and 9 all take all three arts classes. In Years 10 and 11 they choose one of the Arts disciplines to specialize in for two years and complete their exam ePortfolio of four assignments in Year 11. At the school we also offer IBDP Visual Arts and Theatre for two years. I teach some Drama classes and Theatre, but I am also given a lot of HOD time to manage staff, take care of the budget, ensure curriculum is being taught well, arrange standardisation and moderation of marks and a myriad of other responsibilities. I have my IBDP Cat 2 now and am an Examiner for the IBDP Theatre curriculum.

We run Arts Nights for the performing arts in each semester, as well as a school Talent Show. The Visual Arts puts up displays of art at these times as well as participating in the huge IN Exhibition of Visual Art from fifteen International Schools in Singapore as well as the IBDP Visual Arts Exhibition in the Spring. We run extensive co-curricular and extra-curricular activities for the students in the arts like bands, singing groups, drumming lessons and arts workshops. We are an International School Theatre Association School and run a lot of workshops through them e.g bringing the theatre company ‘Frantic Assembly’ in from the UK or Marco Luly- a Commedia dell’ Arte expert in from Italy. We run two Musicals a year, the Secondary Musical for Years 9-13 and the Primary/Middle School Musical for Years 3-8. The last four years we have done “Urbs, Urbis,” “Arlecchino and the City of Love,” “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, “ “A Christmas Carol” and currently with a team of ten teachers and over 75 students “Cinderella, Rockerfella.” All of our shows are performed in professional theatre facilities we rent in Singapore. All of this is such a pleasant change from fighting for the arts survival in a Canadian public school, and having to fight for every cent we wanted to spend. I wish I had gone to work in International Schools much earlier in my career, but better late than never!

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This article was submitted to us by International School Community member, Sara Lynn Burrough. Sara Lynn Burrough has worked as a Drama/Theatre teacher for the past 38 years in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, China and Singapore. She has a BEd, an MEd, was a professional stage manager at the Banff Centre for the Arts and studied Technical Theatre at McGill University in Montreal. In Canada as a teacher she worked for many years for Northern Gateway Schools in Alberta, and during that time was selected for two teacher exchange programmes. Her first exchange to Australia was with Alberta Education and the Queensland Department of Education where she taught at Costessey High School, in Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast. Her second exchange was with the prestigious ‘League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers’ (LECT) where she was one of two Canadian teachers selected to go to the United Kingdom for the millennial year to the United Kingdom. The Queen Mother was the patron of LECT and as she was celebrating her 100th birthday that year Sara Lynn was privileged to attend the celebrations in London as an invitee. In 2013 Sara Lynn decided to teach in International Schools and attended the Search Associates recruiting fair in London, England. From there she went to Dulwich College in Suzhou, China to teach GCSE Drama and IBDP Theatre in the Senior School. After China Sara Lynn went to Singapore for almost five years as Head of Arts (Music, Visual Arts, Drama) at Chatsworth International School where she taught MYP Drama and IBDP Theatre.

Using our unique Comment Search feature on our website (premium membership access needed), we found 96 comments that have the keyword “Drama” in them, and 14 comments that had the word “The Arts” in them.

Here are some comments that shown a positive light on Learning Support programs at international schools:

“The school just celebrated its 50th anniversary and there are many banners around the school. The school in involved with the SITS programme which is a quality drama and arts programme for kids.” – Oslo International School (17 Total Comments)

“Stoke City FC just started this school year and there are several other “big” initiatives as well, mostly in music and drama departments.” – Western International School of Shanghai (312 Total Comments)

“It is limited. In primary there is futsal, while secondary usually has volleyball and basketball. Baseball is popular but it is not offered in any organised way. The school usually participates at the MUN conference in Kobe in February each year. Drama and arts offerings have increased in recent years.” – Hiroshima International School (64 Total Comments)

“The school offers no sports programs, and occasionally offers a drama Club to students, depending on teacher interest.” – Alexandria International Academy (78 Total Comments)

“Piloting the iPad initiative this year and also looking to expand the arts program with the addition of the multi-purpose hall that houses a mini-theater.” – Universal American School in Dubai (57 Total Comments)

“There are opportunities in the arts (dance, voice, musical instrumental, drama), a good number of sports offerings (climbing, competitive sports, etc.). Lots!” – American School of Dubai (98 Total Comments)

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