An Insider's Story

International School Libraries: An Insider’s Story

July 27, 2017


Let’s daydream for moment, shall we?

A successful international school library is the center of the school, both physically and metaphorically. It is the hub of student learning, active and buzzing with the newest technologies, inquiry-driven investigations, maker space or STEM stations, and thousands of books available on any and all topics that could occur to members of the school community. The Teacher Librarian is an active part of the teaching community, integrating information literacy skills into the curriculum and supporting the teachers and staff in using best practices. He or she is passionate about all things literary and encourages a love of reading in students, matching reluctant readers with the perfect book to awaken their inner bookworm.

libraries

Hey – a girl can dream, can’t she?

Because sometimes the library isn’t at the center of the school, and instead it’s in the basement. (Albeit the basement of an old mansion house.) And sometimes it’s a ‘Learning Commons’ or a “Media Center’ or it’s called-something-else-other-than-a-library. As is the case with most international schools, all international school libraries are not created equal.

I’ve been working as an International School Teacher Librarian for nine years now, and the more colleagues I meet and Facebook groups I join and listservs I read, that idea is drilled home. All libraries are not created equal. Some librarians have multiple assistants, healthy budgets, abundant resources and administrative support. A lot of librarians don’t have any or all of those things. Some libraries are full of amazing resources for their school community, and some are full of dusty old books that are older than I am.

Every library seems to have its issues. Here are a few examples from my own international career:

  • I was offered a job in one library that was hoping I could help it to automate from the old card catalogue to a computer system… in the 21st century!
  • In Barcelona there was one library – and only one librarian – for an entire EC-thru-grade-12 school. (They’ve since hired more people and built a gorgeous new library!)
  • In London there were three libraries and three librarians, but no assistants (which meant it was hard to ever leave the library, and therefore to do much collaboration), small budgets and no windows in my library.
  • In Dar es Salaam I have assistants (which brings along a whole other set of issues), a decent budget, and an elementary counterpart – but it is very difficult to get books into the country through customs and a corrupt governing system.

BUT.

But – each of these libraries has given me opportunities that I didn’t have as a librarian in the USA. I have always had the autonomy and support to make the library a central part of the school and of student learning. I’ve been able to collaborate with amazing teachers, had opportunities to win over reluctant teachers, and been involved with planning exciting interdisciplinary units. The Teacher Librarian role has been a leadership role, seated at the table with other leaders making decisions about what’s best for our students. And I’ve been supported to take leadership roles in the librarian community – to attend great PD, present at international conferences, join professional organizations, and to serve on the ECIS Librarian Special Interest Committee.

When schools in the US are getting rid of librarians, closing libraries, moving away from the written word – these have been blessings that make the rest of the issues worth it.

libraries

If you’re thinking about working in an International School library, do your homework. We are research specialists, after all! Find out about staffing, budgets, PD opportunities, leadership roles, curriculum, attitudes toward the library and the challenges the current librarian faces. You know which of things these are most important to you, what you can handle and what’s a deal breaker. Automating an entire collection was not how I wanted to spend my time as a Teacher Librarian, but perhaps the thought excites you. Find the right fit for what you are looking for in your international experience, where you are in your career, and what fits your strengths.

The International School Community website has great resources to help you do this! See below for specifics on how to use the comment search to find information about libraries.

My last bit of advice – find a network! Librarians are often the lone librarian in a school or part of a small team. It’s important to find the connections and support of other librarians. Because most international schools are in big cities, there are often other international school librarians nearby to connect with. There are also regional associations – your school should be able to point you towards the ones they participate in.

There are always other librarians who have dealt with the same issues, solved the same problems, created the same resources, etc. And I’ve found the librarian community to be great at sharing, commiserating with and supporting one another. Some personal favorites are the Int’l School Library Connection Facebook group and the ECIS iSkoodle listserv. AND – most excitingly – the ECIS Triennial Librarian Conference is in February 2018 in Chennai, India. International school librarians from all over the world will come together to learn from each other, get inspired by each other, and learn how we can continue to be Leaders in our school communities. Please join us!

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 61 comments that have the keyword “library” in them, and 20 comments that had the word “libraries” in them.

Here are some comments that shown a positive light on the library and their international schools:

“The library department recently got a lot of money to do some renovations which were done this past summer. It is almost complete and looks very nice.” International School of Tanganyika

“The SIS library supports the school curriculum, promotes the appreciation of literature, and guides all its patrons in information problem-solving with over 28,000 print and electronic resources.” – Surabaya Intercultural School

“The library also is great because we have 25,000 books for such a small sized school, in English and Italian.” – The Bilingual School of Monza

“The library has a new video viewing room that is useful for a small class of IB Film Making, or webinars, or our face to faith programme.” – Sekolah Victory Plus

and here are a few comments that stated their school library was in need of updating or some tender-loving care:

“The school’s library was very small and I was given no materials to use to teach language arts and social studies. Picture books were essential for my young learners and if you can, bring them from the states.” – Antigua International School Guatemala

“There are text books for main subjects but the media library resources are next to nil and specialists have zero to bare basics.” – Jeddah Knowledge International School

“No library for middle of high school!” – Canadian International School (Tokyo)

“There are more computers in the library but some are so old they still run Windows XP!” – EtonHouse International Schools, Wuxi

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Member Spotlights

International School Community Member Spotlight #26: Usha Iyer (An international school educator/director currently working in India)

July 25, 2013


Every 1-2 months International School Community will highlight one of our members in our Member Spotlight feature.  This month we interviewed Usha Iyer:

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 11.05.45 PMTell us about your background.  Where are you from?

I hail from Tamil Nadu (India). I am from Chennai but brought up in Dehradun, Uttranchal. The serene valley and the beauty of the hill culture exist here. It’s a small place but known for its best of the residential and day schools. I studied in a residential school but I was a day scholar. Mine was not an international school but we had a multi cultural environment as other nationality kids did study here. We had Anglo Indian teachers who taught us good discipline and grammar. I did my college also in Dehradun as my mother refused to send me to Delhi (Capital Of India) for my studies as she felt the city life could spoil me.

Teaching happened as it had to happen. I was a self made woman and felt that I should stand on my own legs .My father had instructed my mother to enroll me in the hotel management course in PUSA institute in Delhi .As he was working in Indonesia and communication was not that easy those days , I not doing hotel management and opting for teaching was not known to him. I wanted to earn and I felt I must pay for my post graduation. As I was obstinate in pursuing my goal my mother gave in. My father was very upset as there was no need to work; he felt it that way as he was making good money.

There was no look back after that. I got an opportunity to work in the same day and residential school. I was just 19 years and handling the 5th graders very efficiently. I finished my post graduation and procured the teaching degree while still teaching.

How did you get started in the international teaching community?

I got opportunity to work in a metropolitan city after marriage. It made a big difference in terms of interacting with different people. In fact after a very short span of 4 years of working in the city schools, I left for Saudi Arabia. That was my first opportunity working outside India in the International school of India. I could see a lot of Indian Muslim kids but we did have a lot of Muslim kids from Indonesia and other countries and a lot of kids from Pakistan. It was a wonderful experience as I got to learn Arabic. I lived in an international community where I was interacting with Egyptian, Lebanese and women from Philippines. I did make a few Lebanese friends.

It was a great experience for me as I learnt the prayers from Quran. I coming from a Hindu background I found it a cultural difference as the kids were allowed to do Namaz three times in school hours. There were separate prayer rooms for them to render prayer.

Which international schools have you worked at?  Please share some aspects of the schools that made them unique and fun places in which to work.

1993-1997 – It was a great experience for me at the International Indian School Jeddah at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia  as I learnt the prayers from Quran. I found them very cooperative and we used to have fun days too where in we cooked our nationality food and have a good get together. What I liked about the school is it was very impartial .Although I was not a Muslim but I was chosen to represent Jeddah, Saudi Arabia along with an Indian colleague of mine to attend the two week workshop at Dubai. There were 52 delegates all over from the Gulf who attended the workshop. It was an icing on the cake for me. I got an opportunity to interact with people from Bahrain, Kuwait, U.A.E, Sharjah, Qatar etc. This kind of exposure opened my vistas for me to evolve a better English teacher as we could exchange notes on best practices. I came back to Saudi Arabia and the principal gave me an opportunity to establish the unique English lab which I dreamt of.

1997-2000 – It was another opportunity which God had given me to work in Nigeria. I was very keen in working in an international school but destiny had decided it differently for me. I was walking on the roads of Ikoyi, Nigeria. I just felt like walking with my resume into a Black school, called Kemsons School. The director seemed to be of a pleasant disposition. I told her that I want to head the school. She just looked at me and said yes, go ahead. It was fun setting up the school. I constructed a classroom made of glass instead of the regular walls for the play group kids and the kids loved it.

The best part for which I was applauded was when I conducted the FUNFEST for the school and raised 7 million Nairas The director was very happy with me. The most interesting thing about Nigeria is when I approached companies for sponsorship ,there was such a good response, especially from Lufthansa, the German airlines. They sponsored air ticket to go to London and back. That was the first prize in the raffle ticket .I was instrumental in telling the fun world Nigeria to bring down the toy train to our school.Oh! everyone enjoyed it.

The parents trusted me so much. My director met with an accident and I had to run the school without her. That’s the phase when I took the decision of sending my students to London on an educational trip and a cultural exchange programme. It was a great success. The best part was when we went to get their visas. The U.K embassy refused to give visa to my teacher as her passport had no stamping as it was totally empty as she has not  travelled to any country. It was a herculean task convincing those officers.

Describe your latest cultural encounter (or reverse cultural encounter) in your current placement, one that put a smile on your face.

I was back in India in 2000. After having traveled to Malasia, U.K., Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Nigeria, U.S., France either for professional development courses or to work, it was very difficult to compromise with quality and standards. I was very happy when I got an opportunity to set up an International school from scratch in Bangalore, India. It was named India International school. I became the founder principal of that school. I always wanted to have a student cultural exchange programme and wanted to enroll students from different races and community. I established the school in 2002 but it was achieved in 2009 and we had 1000 children. I travelled to Bangkok for several presentations. We had Thai kids enrolled in our school, followed by Chinese, Children from Hong Kong and Korea. It was very satisfying. What really made me happy was the school was created by me. The infrastructure, curriculum, the cross cultural environment everything was created by me.

What are some important things that you look for when you are searching for a new position at an international school?

I have been so far running school for others. Now, I look at establishing an I.B. school. I have started my preschool in 2012. It has been rated as the best 20 preschools in Bangalore. Slowly it will have its elementary and high school wings and what I intend to do is to give the young children very strong roots and the wings to fly so that they can discover far more new horizons.

In exactly 5 words, how would you describe the international school teaching experience?

Beautiful, soul satisfying, enriching, enlightening and delightful.

Thanks Usha!

If you are a member of International School Community and would like to be our next member spotlight, contact us here.  If we choose to highlight you, you will get a coupon code to receive 6 months free of premium access to our website!

Want to work for an international school in Saudi Arabia like Usha?  Currently, we have 5 international schools listed in Jeddah on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

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Blogs of International Teachers

Blogs of international school teachers: “From USA to KSA” (The Life of an International School Educator in Saudi Arabia)

October 30, 2012


Are you inspired to start up a blog about your adventures living abroad?

Our 25th blog that we would like to highlight is called “From USA to KSA”  Check out the wealth of information in the blog entries of this international school educator who currently works at an international school in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

A few entries that we would like to highlight:

Things You Should Know Before Moving to Saudi Arabia

“Saudi Arabia is both mysterious and unique in many ways. A trip to the kingdom can be both challenging and adventurous at the same time. Getting used to a new culture, language, and country can also be the way to test ones patience. Saudi Arabia is no exception. Below is some useful information for anyone preparing to visit or move here either alone or with family.  The work week, Prayer times, Ramadan, Value of time, women aren’t permitted to drive, etc…”

Every country has its list of “things you should know before moving to that country.”  It is good to get a “head’s up,” so that your culture shock reaction to it when you get there is minimized!

Trip to Taif Mountains!

“After reading about the horror stories of Riyadh zoo we wanted to see how bad was Taif zoo. To our surprise it was no way close to the Riyadh zoo. Things were not how they should have been but the animals had bigger cages. The lion did look malnourished but in much better shape than the one in Riyadh. The lion and the bear also had open areas to walk freely. But along with all the usual we also saw a few animals that really surprised us. Actually, we couldn’t stop laughing! I’ll let y’all decide for yourselves…”

Zoos in other countries are quite the interesting experience. How VERY interesting that the zoo in Riyadh has American pets on offer. Check out the American dog and Ameircan cat exhibit pictures on this blog entry!

Andrea’s Holiday Experiences Around the World!

“I have lived in several countries (Spain, the US of course,Taiwan, Kazakhstan and now Saudi Arabia) but never for more than one year. The first holiday that I ever “missed” was the 4th of July. In Kazakhstan I celebrated this patriotic holiday at the American Embassy. It felt so American with green grass and hamburgers fresh from the grill. It was oddly entertaining and enjoyable. Yet, I knew the whole time that we were not in America, so it felt kind of strange celebrating our independance-in another country…”

It is important to have an open mind to participating in the celebrations and holidays in the host country, but it is also important to remember and celebrate the ones from your home country too. Celebrating your own holidays abroad can potentially bring new meaning and even more fun memories to you.

If you are also interested in starting your career in the international school community, feel free to check out the 1300+ international schools that are listed on International School Community here. Also, don’t forget to check out our latest submitted comments and information about these schools.  We have over 6000+ submitted comments and information as of this blog entry!

Want to work for  an international school in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia like this blogger?  Currently, we have 20 international schools listed in the Qatar on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:

Jeddah Knowledge International School (26 Comments)
American International School Riyadh (11 Comments)
King Faisal School (Riyadh) (8 Comments)
Rowad Alkhaleej International School (Dammam) (8 Comments)
Al-Oruba International Schools (8 Comments)
International Programs School (Al Khobar) (13 Comments)
International Schools Group (14 Comments)
Dhahran Ahliyya Schools (23 Comments)

If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.

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Salaries at Int’l Schools

Comments and information about salaries on ISCommunity #3: Morrison Christian Academy, Jeddah Knowledge Int’l School & Colegio Granadino Manizales

March 14, 2012


Comments and information about salaries at international schools on International School Community

Every week members are leaving information and comments on the salaries that teachers are making at international schools around the world.  Which ones pay more?  Which ones do you have to pay very high taxes?  Which ones offer tax-free salaries?  All important questions to think about when job searching, but where to find the answers to those questions?

Why do some international schools keep their specific salary information so secret?  Even at international school job fairs, you don’t really get to see the exact amount of your yearly and monthly salary until you see the contract paperwork.  Even then sometimes you don’t know what will be your exact take-home pay each month.  At International School Community, we want to make the search for salaries easier for international school teachers. In the benefits section of the school profile page, there is a section specifically for salaries.  The topic is: “Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year?

Here are 3 out of the many comments and information related to salaries that have been posted on our website:


Morrison Christian Academy (3 campuses)
“Staff receive salaries from July to June. New staff’s July payroll will be paid in NT$ cash and can be picked up from the campus cashier when they arrive in Taiwan after July 20. In light of summer travel, May and June payrolls are both paid in May. Normally, the salary is deposited into a NT$ Post Office (which functions somewhat like a bank) account, unless staff specify otherwise. Staff can choose to have all or portion of the salary paid in form of a US$ check or direct deposit into a US checking account.”


Jeddah Knowledge International School
“Teachers can expect to get around 3600 USD a month, net, because there are 0 taxes on their salaries. It is important to know that salaries are paid in Saudi Riyal.”


Colegio Granadino Manizales

“Deductions on your salary is social security which is 8% of your pesos salary (50% of your salary is paid in local peseo, the other 50% is paid in USD.). Manizales has a low monthly cost of living. Staff members typically live on their pesos monthly salary and save their US payment.”

Check out the other comments and information about these schools on our website: www.internationalschoolcommunity.com

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Highlighted Year for Int’l Schools

International schools that were founded in 1996 (China, South Korea, Moldova, etc.)

July 4, 2011


Random year for international schools around the world: 1996

Utilizing the database of the 827 international schools currently listed on International School Community, we found 24 schools that were founded in 1996 (excepts about their founding are taken from the schools’ websites):

Shanghai Community Int’l School (Shanghai, China)

Shanghai Singapore International (Shanghai, China)

Suzhou Singapore International School (Suzhou, China)

“The SSIS was established in 1996 to provide quality international education to children of expatriate families in Shanghai. Currently, there are 2 campuses in Shanghai, MinHang Campus and XuHui Campus.”

Luanda International school (Angola, Luanda)

Busan Foreign School (Busan, South Korea)

“Busan Foreign School opened its doors to the Busan community and its surrounding areas in October of 1996. With only two students originally, it has since expanded to encompass nursery to twelfth grade, currently educating over 220 students from 25 different nations. In addition to the increase in enrollment, the curriculum has developed into a highly rigorous American standards-based program that offers students a wide variety of courses and activities.”

Tall Oaks International School (Accra, Ghana)

“The nursery was established in August 1996, to provide a safe, healthy and happy learning environment for children aged between 12 months and 5 years.”

Lekki British International School Lagos (Lagos, Nigeria)

“Welcome Lekki British School is the original British School in Nigeria. We opened our doors in 2000 to students and parents who are looking for a truly British School experience.”

Ocean of Light International School (Nukuʻalofa, Tonga)

“In 1996 as a response to a need from the community and as a social and economic development project, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Tonga established the school and registered it as a non-profit institution offering an international standard of education to the population of Tonga. Licensed by the Ministry of Education the school is now a well-known institution in Tonga.  The school opened its doors on March 3rd, 1996 with nine students, one teacher and one assistant teacher, covering classes one, two and three. By the end of the year the roll increased to 20. The following year approval was granted by the Ministry of Education to add classes 4, 5, and 6. More teachers were hired and the roll increased to 56.  By then the Board realized the difficulties of enrolling children to class one from the grass root level with no English background.”

American Academy for Girls Kuwait City (Salwa, Kuwait)

“The Al Jeel Al Jadeed Educational Institute opened The American Academy for Girls (AAG) in September 1996 to only 79 students from kindergarten through to grade five. Today, AAG has approximately 860 students from pre-kindergarten through to grade twelve.”

Qatar Academy (Doha, Qatar)

Jeddah Knowledge International School (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

Horsholm International School (Horsholm, Denmark)

The International School of Azerbaijan (Baku, Azerbaijan)

“Since its foundation in 1996 TISA has served both the expatriate community and those in the local community who are seeking an international education.”

Qsi International School of Chisinau (Chisinau, Moldova)

“QSI International School of Chisinau, a non-profit institution that opened in September 1996, offers high quality education in the English language for pre-school (beginning at age three years), elementary students (through the age of 13 years), and an expanding secondary program (currently to age 15).  The primary purpose of the school is to meet the needs of the children of foreign expatriates living in Chisinau who require this type of education with a view to continuing their education in their home countries with a minimum of adjustment problems.”

The International School of Bucharest (Bucharest, Romania)

ISB was founded in 1996 in a rented building with a total of just 17 pupils to meet the needs of the English-speaking community. Within a couple of years the school had grown in both size and scope. In order to serve an increasingly mobile international community, the curriculum gradually took into consideration the practices and requirements of a number of different systems.”

Pechersk School International (Kiev, Ukraine)

Canadian International School Bangalore (Bangalore, India)

Hanoi International School (Hanoi, Vietnam)

“In 1996 a joint venture company was launched following an agreement between the Centre for Education Technology (CET) and International School Development Inc. (ISD). The joint venture ship was on the basis of 30% interest to CET, which is the Vietnam side, and 70% interest to ISD, the US side.  The company then opened Hanoi International School in late 1996 using premises leased from the school next to today’s HIS. The student roll at the end of the first year was 54 from Pre-School to  Grade 11. Within that first cohort of students, 15 nationalities were represented. On the teaching side there were 13 teaching staff, including the Principal, and 16 Vietnamese support staff.”

Sekolah Ciputra (Surabaya, Indonesia)

“Much has been achieved since Yayasan Ciputra Pendidikan founded the school in 1996. Today Sekolah Ciputra is an international school and one of the most highly regarded IB World Schools in Indonesia. We believe that our International IB students are truly global citizens.”

International School of Skopje (Skopje, Macedonia)

St. Andrews I.S Green Valley (Pattaya, Thailand)

Arqam Academy – Doha (Doha, Qatar)

Dasman Model School (Kuwait City, Kuwait)

British International School (BIS) Phuket (Phuket, Thailand)

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