Every year, in international schools, a certain number of teachers spend several months – usually between August and December, figuring out what to do with their lives. This is because they have signed a one-year contract and must decide whether or not to sign another one.
Recently, I chatted with a non-teacher at a party. He told me he was here, in Vietnam, until 2018. He said this with a real peace, like someone who knows where they are and is fine with that. All too often, international school teachers are caught between two places, or sometimes three… or even four. Home, where they were before, where they are now and where they might be next.
It is very difficult to be content with one’s current situation in these conditions. It is also an exhausting way to live… making the biggest decision you can make – where to live – every year.
I reckon schools should get rid of one year contracts and introduce two or three year contracts as the minimum. This would:
- get rid of the gossip – “is he staying or going?”
- remove some of the uncertainty
- help people feel more settled
- fill schools with people who want to be there, not people who aren’t sure where to go next
- encourage commitment rather than delaying decisions
- encourage people to live in the moment rather than worry about what’s around the corner
Food for thought. I am a perpetual signer of one-year contracts, but I know how debilitating those months of indecision are, how they affect my enjoyment of where I am, how they affect the friendships I have made but am not sure will continue and how they affect my enjoyment of my work.
My little heroes this morning are this kid, and the other guy just behind him.
The basketball court was covered with earthworms this morning. Many of our little city-dwelling students were screaming mindlessly or stamping on them. These kids are scared by nature. Part if it is cultural – many people in this part of the world think the utterly beautiful and harmless Gecko is evil, for example. Part of it is their increasingly sad, air-conditioned, sanitized, concrete, screen-based lives. Show them a bug and they run for their lives… and usually an adult comes with a can of poison to kill it.
But these two Grade 2 students saw me picking up the worms and helped me out. They were a bit squeamish about it at first, but they soon found out nothing was going to happen and promptly returned all the worms to the soil. I made sure I made a big deal of how proud I was of them, but I walked away thinking a number of thoughts:
- We teach kids they must take care of their environment, but do we get them out there properly experiencing it? I have written about this here.
- How can we say we are developing curious students if their reaction to things they don’t know or understand is to scream or kill?
- What do we do about cultural beliefs – particularly damaging ones – that we believe are ridiculous?
- Caring for things – anything really – needs to be modeled. It is clear that this is not happening at home for many of the students in this part of the world – quite the opposite it seems. So, how do we put adult modeling at the forefront of everything we do in schools?
- If a student goes all the way through an international school and still screams at worms but gets into a good university, can we say we’ve “educated” them?