SPOTLIGHT: Contract Packages

To Sign or Not To Sign?

Simon Battensby/Getty Images

Simon Battensby/Getty Images

The job search is a difficult task. The international job search is a very interesting species of job search as the likelihood of you actually getting to visit the school and the people you are working for and with is highly unlikely.

After the emotionally taxing process of preparing your CV and references, preparing for interviews, and communications via Skype or phone, maybe just MAYBE you receive a contract offer. 


However, you may want to keep in mind the following aspects of your contract, just to ensure that it is the right place for you. Contracts differ in all parts of the world. From my experience, there is quite a contrast between South-East Asian contracts and European contracts. Think about what you might be looking for, or what questions might come up when you read that lovely legal document that you just might get offered! Please remember: if you are UNSURE about what the clause means, DO NOT ASSUME. ASK for clarification! 

  1. Salary
    • How much can you save? (Rather than "how much do you make"?)
      A salary doesn’t exactly say a whole lot about the amount of money that you can save. For example, the cost of living in many countries in Asia is significantly lower than the cost of living elsewhere. You may not get paid very much, but you can sure save a lot of money! 
      On the other hand, the country that you might be considering moving to may have a much higher tax on the gross salary, so your net salary does not end up being quite as high. Cost of living is higher, so you don’t end up saving as much money. That being said, there is usually health care included, and other public services (security, transportation, roads, etc.) that you get to benefit from. 
      Think about what your spending habits are and whether you are comfortable with the cost of living and taxes before you make your move!
    • How much does your salary increase over time (is there a scale?)
      Does your salary increase with experience? With post-graduate education? At what point in time can you maximize your salary? 
    • How are you paid? Currency and bank?
      Are you paid in local currency, in USD, or CDN dollars? Which banks can they deposit into?
      I have a colleague who told me that at her old school (which was also a Canadian school), they had the option of being paid in local currency in their local bank, or have part of their pay be deposited in Canadian dollars in their Canadian bank. I thought that was pretty cool! 
    • Are there savings/retirement plans?
      At my current school, the government has a policy where a certain amount of your monthly salary goes into a savings account. Then, at the end of your contract when you are ready to leave, you get to collect your savings and move on! Sometimes these are included, and sometimes you might have to inquire about what others are doing in order to save money. 
  2. Teaching Load/Additional Expectations
    Sometimes, the contract will state the number of teaching hours that you have in a week, and will mention that you have some "additional responsibilities". It is important to ask what this entails so that you can prepare yourself for what else you are expected to do that does not count as overtime. Often, there is no monetary subsidy for your time and efforts outside of the teaching day, so it is nice to know exactly how much time you’ll be expected to spend at or around the school. You’ve got to remember to keep that reasonable work-life balance!
    • Teaching hours
    • Overtime
    • Extra-Curricular Activities
    • Marketing
  3. Health Care & Dental (for yourself, dependents and spouses)
    Is it covered by the state/country via taxes? Or is there an insurance company that the school goes with? 
  4. Accommodation/Transportation
    Often in Asia, the school will give you an allowance for your housing. Sometimes if you have to live far from school (and it is not safe or is too far to travel on your own), transportation may be provided as well. From my experience, in European countries, you are generally on your own for housing and transportation. However, the public transit and bike lanes are exceptional in a lot of areas! 
  5. Professional Development
    Is this included in your yearly budget? If so, how often? Is it school led, or will you have opportunities to travel outside of the school and possibly to other countries to network with other educators and grow as a teacher? 
  6. Termination Clause/Inability to work
    In exceptional cases, you may need to break your contract. In this case, it is comforting to know that you have an option to leave if it is absolutely necessary. 
  7. Additional Clauses...
    Here are some other aspects you may want to consider... 
    • Sick days/Holidays
    • Relocation
      Will they help you to find accommodation? Fly you to the country? Help pay for your shipping? Subsidize the cost of new furniture/getting settled?
    • Flights home
      Do you get an annual flight home? One at the beginning and at the end of your contract? None at all?
    • Maternity/Parental Leave & Dependent Tuition
      Are you planning on staying overseas for a while? If so, and you have kids on the brain, you may want to consider the options for maternity and parental leave. Some schools have a programme in place for this, while others do not. It’s worth asking! 

Does anyone else have anything to share about their country’s tendencies? Middle East? South America? Africa? Feel free to comment below if so! 

- Sticky Note

Home Away From Home

Before I attended Queen's University for my Bachelor of Education, I spent a couple of summers working at Disney World in Florida. It was such an incredible job and I am thankful for the time I spent working there. Disney is somewhere I think of as a second home. My favourite family vacations took place at Disney and it offered a completely unique job experience. Living in Taiwan means experiencing occasional moments of homesickness. One of the best ways to cast those feelings aside is planning a trip to Disney. I was able to visit Hong Kong Disneyland this month with my roommate. We had a fantastic time exploring the beautiful park--and, for a couple of days, it felt like I was home again. 


Spring in Frankfurt

For the last several months it's been grey and raining almost daily without exception. Finally we have some sunshine, even with some wet weather and partially grey skies, Frankfurt in the spring with the baby animals and blossoms is simply delightful! 


Ostpark, Frankfurt 

Ostpark, Frankfurt 

Hearty, Healthy Hacks for the Hardworking Teacher

As a teacher, often bringing work home is just part of the package. For a new teacher is is DEFINITELY part of the package. For many new teachers, struggling to stay afloat is an expected part of the first few years, and this often comes with take-out dinners of fast food, and in even more desperate times toast a la jam. Eating well helps to keep us functioning at our best and is essential to maintaining our sanity and overall well-being. Though cooking nightly seems like a daunting task I've come up with a list of hacks and healthy recipes to help you jump on the cooking train.

Hunger Hacks for the Hardworking Teacher:

Meal Plan: by getting organized on the weekend you can get yourself committed to cooking. You also can save time by doing one big grocery shop a week, rather than quick trips to the store (that usually lead to me accidentally buying chocolate...). I grocery shop on Saturday afternoons, and find I buy less things on each trip, and have way more fresh produce in the fridge. I'm also less likely to buy things that stay in my cupboards for months. 

Cook with/for Friends: I've recently started up a weekly cycle with two other teachers that live in my building. We each cook once a week for group (making sure to adhere to each other's dietary restrictions. It's AMAZING. I make a big meal once a week (cooking for 3 isn't much more time consuming than cooking for one), and get two more meals as part of the deal. That means I only have one more school night to fend for myself!

Prep Ahead of time: This is especially relevant for school snacks. I'm not a morning person, so the likelihood that I'll chop myself some carrots in the am is slim to nil. I find it helpful to chop up a bunch of veggies on the weekend, or even go so far as to portion some dip so that I can just grab and go in the morning.

Have Leftovers On Purpose: If you cook more intentionally, you can throw stuff in a container and have a healthy lunch for the next day. It's also an option to freeze casseroles, soups and chilli's so that after a crazy busy day you have the option of just defrosting a pre-cooked meal from the freezer. 

Recipes to get you started:

Cashew Chutney Roast Chicken

Ingredients: (Amount vary on how many you're cooking for!)
- Chicken (breasts or thighs)
- 1 Jar of Chutney (mango's a good option)
- 1 Peppers
- Mushrooms
- Onion
- Bean Sprouts
- Rice
- Handful of Chopped Cashews
- Cumin
- Chilli Powder

1) Pre-Heat the oven to 350C
2) Chop peppers, mushrooms and onion and toss with a Tbsp olive oil and a tsp of cumin and a dash of chilli powder (exclude this if you don't like spicy!)
3) Place thawed chicken into one side of a casserole dish, and pour the veggies on the other side
4) Spread a thick layer of chutney over the chicken.
5) Bake at 350C for about an hour, make rice while this happens.
6) To serve, top a scoop of rice with some bean sprouts, veggies and chicken. Top with chopped cashews, and voila. 

Halloumi Southwest Salad*

- Black beans (1 can)
- Canned corn (1 can)
- Lettuce/mixed greens
- 1 onion
- 1 pepper (your choice of colour)
- Spices (1 tbsp Cumin, 1 tsp Chilli Powder)
- Mayo
- Garlic
- BBQ sauce
- Olive oil

1) In a pan cook onions and peppers with a bit of oil until soft. 
2) Add black beans, corn and spices and let sit on low heat. 
3) Pan fry Halloumi until golden brown
4) Serve bean mixture on a bed of lettuce. 
5) Top with secret sauce and fried Halloumi (I also throw on a dollop of salsa to make it even more beautiful)

Secret Sauce is...
- Mayonnaise
- Garlic
- Barbecue sauce
- Olive oil
- Dangerously delicious....

The Modified Warr Salad*

- Red pepper
- Red onion
- Tomato
- Mushrooms
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Goat's cheese or feta
- Lettuce/Mixed greens

1) In a pan sauté pepper, onion, tomato and mushrooms until soft. 
2) Turn to low heat and add balsamic vinegar (it'll burn easily so try not to leave it on the heat, just stir it through and you're good!). 
3) Serve over a bed of lettuce, top with cheese (and perhaps a dash of basil if you want to feel fancy)

*Add an additional protein if you want to jazz things up! Chicken, fish, prawns...anything your heart desires!

Smart Board

Teacher Treasures

A few weeks before I left for Dubai, I was put in touch with other young teachers who had already been teaching there a few years. When I asked them if there was anything not obvious I should pack, one of them mentioned I might want to take a trip to the dollar store to pick up some supplies. At the time I wasn’t sure what she meant and figured I could just find whatever I would need in Dubai, even if I did end up spending a little more than I would at home.

When the school year began I discovered the joy of Pinterest and found a lot of brilliant ideas and activities. Most of them required inexpensive dollar-store materials, but unfortunately the dollar store happens to be pretty much the ONLY store in Canada that doesn’t also exist in Dubai.

When I went home for March break, I stopped by all of the dollar-stores within a 10 km radius of my house and stocked up. Here are some of my favourite finds, specifically selected so they won’t result in overweight luggage fees (international teaching problems...).

1. Pencil erasers

I’ve had had this problem since the beginning of the year where no matter how many erasers I put on each group’s table, there is always at least one student wandering around the classroom looking for an eraser. Now each of them have their own “pet eraser” and no excuse not to stay on- task!

2. Magnetic Pencil Holder

The days of searching for whiteboard markers are over.

3. Placemats

We recently did a unit about environment-friendly practices and I really wanted to make recycled paper with my class. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything with holes small enough to filter out the water but next year I’ll be using these. They can also be used in math centres to keep manipulatives from slipping off the table and to remind students to stay within their own workspace.

4. Baby hangers

These can be used with clothespins and small whiteboards to play hangman during language rotations. I’m sure I’ll also make use of these during my Healthy Living unit at the beginning of next year.

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5. Small Magnets

These fingerprint-size magnets will come in handy during whole-class math demonstrations and are a great way to make lessons more inclusive and interactive. During the introductory part of my lessons, I like to have students come up and draw pictures to accompany math problems. When I use markers, I’m reluctant to call on students who have very fine poor motor skills or are perfectionists and take a very long time to draw. These are great because students can come up and move them around to show their work.

6. Magnifying Glasses

Kids love these! I’ll be placing a few near science centres and interactive displays.

7. Plastic Shot Glasses

They can be stickered and stacked for phonics activities or used for groupings in math using beads, beans or other small manipulatives.

8. Magnetic Clips

Before beginning a new task, I like to give students samples of great work, okay work and not-so- good work. These are perfect to model and clearly display expectations. At first I was reluctant to show samples but I’ve found my class responds really well to them and often walk up to the board to self-monitor their work during lessons.

9. Condiment Cups

I like to put dice in these because I’ve noticed younger students tend to be very theatrical when they throw them. This way, they can just shake the cup and read the dice and I won’t have 10 kids crawling under tables to pick them up.

10. Sticky Tag Notes

My students know these as “finger space stickies” because I give them out during writing lessons to remind students to use spaces between their words. I also use them for their intended purpose; I almost used a full pack before Three-Way Conferences to mark teacher and student-selected pieces of work to share with parents.

11. Stress Balls

One for you, and a few for students who can’t sit still or keep their hands to themselves at the carpet.

12. Manipulatives

Because math is more fun with diamonds and squishy snakes.

13. Stickers

Letter stickers, foam stickers, themed stickers... never underestimate the power of a sticker.


March Break in Mexico

These three photos represent many things. All three were taken on the last amazing vacation I took. This much needed march break brought with it some incredible experiences. I went to so many beautiful, new places and I did so many new things. I saw humpback whales, swam with sea lions, rode a quad through the desert and along the beach, released baby sea turtles, and swam in the open water with whale sharks!

This photo is a screenshot taken from the two minute video I captured as I swam alongside one of the most impressive creatures I will probably ever know. 

This photo is a screenshot taken from the two minute video I captured as I swam alongside one of the most impressive creatures I will probably ever know. 

The turtle featured here was the one I cheered on as it made it's way to the waves crashing on the shore. 

The turtle featured here was the one I cheered on as it made it's way to the waves crashing on the shore. 

The sea lions you see are some of the more lazy ones who hadn't yet got into the water to join us. 

The sea lions you see are some of the more lazy ones who hadn't yet got into the water to join us. 

This vacation reminded me of how amazing traveling is and I am still so happy I chose to teach and live abroad in Mexico. 

Thumb Tack

7 things I’ve learned in 7 months abroad

  1. Celebrate all accomplishments:  Whether it be engaging all of your students through a fantastic lesson or receiving positive feedback from senior leadership, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on what you do well, not just what went wrong. Some days, your accomplishments will be getting out of bed and making it to work on time. There is nothing wrong with that. 
  2. Self-care is key: I am a better person and much better teacher when I get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat foods that don’t come out of a package. We all have days where doing all of those things isn’t an option, but making a conscious effort to act in ways which help us be the best version of ourselves will make life much easier. 
  3. Perfect your poker face: Teaching internationally will expose to many different cultures. You will see and experience things you wouldn’t at home. In class, during parent meetings, in the workplace; sometimes it’s best not to give an immediate reaction. Keeping your cool and thinking things over will never turn into a regret. 
  4. Age really is just a number: I’ve met many people since I moved to Dubai. Some of my closest friends are my mother’s age. I’ve also met individuals my mother’s age who act like they’re in high school (and not in a good way). Make sure you surround yourself with people who are positive, loyal and admirable. 
  5. Brush things off: In a perfect world, everyone would be well-intentioned, inclusive and kind. We don’t live in a perfect world. Minimize contact with negative people and move on with your day. This is something I’ve been preaching to close friends for years but it wasn’t until I moved away that I started following my own advice.  
  6. Wine is your friend: Buy a few bottles every time you pass by duty-free. You will thank yourself when you’ve had a rough day and the voices of 25 small children are still ringing in your ears at 4 pm. 
  7. Keep a record: My last weekend in Canada, my friends gave me a notebook as a parting gift. I filled it up with notes and memories whenever I got the chance during my first few months in Dubai. I love being able to look back and see how I have evolved, personally and professionally, since moving away.


Cooking At Home

Malaysia’s food is sinfully good - tastes great, is super inexpensive, but absolutely full of palm oil, sodium, and sugar. Although it is more expensive to go to wet markets and grocery stores and make my own food, my body feels TONS better when I do so. As such, since moving overseas to Malaysia, I’ve been loving being the kitchen more and more!

Here are some Chive Dumplings that I've been making from a cookbook that my sister got me for Christmas called “Near and Far”, by Heidi Swanson. This is a recipe that has left my colleagues oogling over what I have in my tupperware at school! 

-Sticky Note