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The International Classroom: Challenges and Strategies

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Introduction: The purpose of this paper is to focus on how to achieve the goal of having an ideal school from the international teachers’ point of view, outlining what is possible for teachers to achieve and what might sound more of an imaginary goal than an applicable one. In like manner, how to achieve Idealism without overloading readily anxious teachers with what could seem appealing but actually exhaustive. The paper initially discusses the aims of education, considering Bottery’s codes of education; do these codes exclusively represent the aims behind education? And to what extent they might be challenging to teachers? And if there are more of those codes.

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Furthermore, is the aim behind education is exclusively the school’s responsibility? Or the society also has its share? Not to mention the great impact of sustaining teachers welfare on education. Comparatively, moving to a brief review on what makes a school international and a look at an ideal international schooling, Since this paper is specifically concerned with the international teachers, it shall discuss some challenges that teachers could be facing in the international schooling systems as well, for instance, notions of recruitment discrimination and challenges of internationalization in Middle Eastern communities. As well as, the dual impact of bureaucracy on both teachers and environment! On a classroom level where most of the learning takes place, the following concepts will be reviewed:

  1. The language barrier between foreign teachers and students, and its influence on their day to day communications.
  2. Involving emotions in education and the reasonable extent to which they can play a positive role in teaching.

Finally, the positive education system and its consequences on the international teacher and some obstacles might face teachers during class time and how to manage them. Aims of education The concept of “idealism” itself is somehow impractical, for many reasons First, the notion of idealism is quite relative; meaning what might be ideal from a certain perspective might not be ideal to another. For instance, regarding ideal educational aims, some societies, they give the priority to cultural transmission, and from an international teacher’s point of view, this could be quite challenging. In Bottery’s “values behind practice”, When considering his first code of education which is the culture transmission, where it mainly focuses on sustaining the society’s values and traditions through the schooling system. This aim could be tempting for a national school in a closed society serving local students, but for an international school, there might be some points of vulnerability.

For instance, Bottery ceased to address the weakness of this model from the international teacher’s perspective; the role here of the teacher as a transmitter of values is quite burdensome for an international teacher; This teacher with a different background is now obliged to carefully study the hosting society’s culture and not just that, but also to sustain it and convey it to the students. It’s undeniable that this specific aim might sound interesting as the teacher is learning about the traditions and heritage of the hosting society but to a certain extent. That would not affect the teacher’s main priority which is: Teaching. Whereas setting out workshops, pieces of training and asking teachers to perform numerous activities relatable to culture may be a source of distraction and a hindrance to the quality of the teacher’s tutoring quality. It would be more sympathetic if the school understood the nature of the international teacher and his mindset, Culture transmission as an aim behind education should not take more attention than it should, especially in an international school. In Furedi’s “WASTED, why education is not educating” He mentions “One of the principal characteristics of education is its lack of interest in an ulterior purpose.”, for an international teacher, this is quite relieving, where a school’s aim behind education should be flexible and not rigidly restricted to a sole purpose.

Also, the continuous pressure from the society on the schools and their high expectations from the schooling systems “attributing culture conservation and transmission to schools” eventually fall on the teachers. However, “Respecting the culture” would be a moderate and a more convenient aim for both parties “school and teacher” within an international school, as it serves a broader spectrum, where the cultures of both the hosting society and the guest teachers are principally respected and studied, while the school here is fostering a place for cultural exchange. As a matter of fact, this could yield a better and more tolerant understanding of different cultures and heritages, and accordingly achieve a salient goal of turning down racism and tribal thinking. Another aim behind education could be inspired by Bottery’s second code, which was the child-centered model, from the title it clearly shows that it is mainly concerned with the child, as much as this code encourages child empowerment and minimizes the aspect of culture transmission, however, it is still expecting quite much from the teacher, aside from his teaching responsibilities, “the teacher is a child-minder, manager and therapist” (Furedi,2009), plus it clearly ignores the teachers needs as well. For instance, (Furedi,2009) opposes what he described as ” the tendency to perceive the teacher as a child professional rather than as an educator. ” Especially for older students, he urges “teachers need to think of themselves as educators first and foremost.” A more cautious approach would balance between child-centred aim for pre-school and early primary school setting and the higher levels. Where teachers are less expected to work on child-centred emphasis since they are working with older age groups. This could be achieved when the school practices more flexibility and customizes its educational aims and expectations from teachers according to which age group they are teaching.

When the society expects from the school to fulfill the aim of “social reconstruction” (Bottery,1990), one must consider how achieving this would impact the international teacher, While other societies in their attempt to pursue ideal schooling systems they give the ultimate priority to social reconstruction where the heavy burden of reforming the entire community falls on the school. The continuous pressure from some societies on schooling systems to recreate and reestablish the community results in creating an immense pressure on the educators, scholars and the curriculum engineers themselves. Bottery agrees that this specific model, is indeed expecting too much from the teacher, and for an international teacher it’s agreeable that it would be even more. Interestingly though, The General Teaching Council for England (GTC) advises teachers to ‘communicate and establish productive working relations with other professionals’. (Furedi,2009) General Teaching Council (GTC) 66,196, Code of Conduct and Practice 196,197 While some might perceive this organization’s Code of Conduct and Practice as a warning to teachers to know their limits and ‘always act within their own competence and responsibilities’. (Furedi, 2009) On the other hand, this could be perceived as a positive attempt to help teachers give their best in the very core of their profession. There is a need for acknowledging that reforming the society isn’t solely the school’s responsibility, as a matter of fact, Society indeed ought to take a reality check and decide what it actually needs from the teaching profession (Fruedi, 2009), And the question here is, what about the school’s expectations from the society? Why is it always the society that is demanding and expecting from schooling systems and accordingly teachers? It’s undeniable that teachers are not having the luxury of receiving the appropriate appreciation they truly deserve; according to TIME magazine, “Teachers make less than their peers in almost any other job (Edwards, 2015) Another report was made by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development “Education at a Glance,” the report mentions that the average government spending on education fell by more than a third worldwide between 2010 and 2012. (OECD,2015) Schools should get a bigger share of the society’s attention and consideration, But to what extent the government should interfere with schools? As a matter of fact, some schools become politicized by the government’s agenda, which clearly disembodies the meaning of internationalism, whereas De-politicization of education and isolating the school from social control is a crucial condition for a school fostering the meanings of internationalism. However, Governments should only step in to ensure the quality of the school’s education, the welfare of teachers and accordingly students, by supplying schools with a decent share of its budget. This would guide to a more objective aim which would be Social Justice, where every party in the society is equally responsible and equally deserving of the society’s wary eye.

IDEAL SCHOOL: “No living system is entirely closed. Globalization brings greater mobility, not only of people but also of all manner of life forms, resulting in a transforming, bio-socially world. Similarly, globalization brings greater communication, interconnectivity and exchange of cultural goods and creative processes” (Hebert et al,2013) Being concerned with international educational environments specifically, assuming that this school is in the Middle East, this would add few more aspects to consider, For instance, the profound influence of culture in the Middle Eastern communities, accordingly this would be an obstacle, also the middle eastern government’s relative lack of flexibility towards what could be called “foreign”, and such matters might play a role in challenging schools to achieve their goals. It is undeniable that internationalism has emerged as a response to global transformations. (Volet, 2008), especially with the huge immigration movements across the globe, the effect of globalization on education has become more and more influential; however, many schools are still failing to understand the real meaning of globalizing education, or what we usually call “to Internationalize!” Usually, an “international school” is restricted to a specific country’s curriculum, “American, British, Australian or Indian, etc. ” But, does this make a school actually international? An Ideal International School would actually have an international curriculum, where a committee of different curriculum designers from different cultural and educational backgrounds set together the school’s syllabus, in a way that suits and benefits the hosting society. This would result in a better outcome and a better understanding of the concept of educational globalization. Similarly, this would lead us to the School’s hiring process and staff selection. An international teacher nowadays struggles to get hired in foreign societies, For instance, it is very common in the Middle East to witness recruitment discrimination, where we see international schools restricting their staff selection only to certain nationalities or ethnicities, while other candidates from “less desirable” countries are rejected regardless of their qualifications or expertise. (Al Subaihi, 2012)

Agreeably, a school fostering international concepts would hire candidates from all over the world, their hiring criteria would be their qualifications, regardless of their sex, age, religion, colour, or ethnic background. (Salama, 2005) Additionally, within the school itself, challenges facing teachers won’t cease to exist, starting with the bureaucratic dominance in some schools, teachers are constantly required to fill in forms, analyze data, do lots of paper work, monitoring students’ performances individually and establish customized teaching plans and methods according to every student’s capability and interests, not to mention the plentiful mandatory activities and workshops. (McCartney, 2011) where one cannot deny that these notions are important, but they might be overwhelming to teachers, : it produces institutional cynicism, and in some cases fraud. How many times we witness teachers forging their students’ exam results just to meet the “target”. Schools must ditch the “target based education”, this concept is largely vacuous and devoid of actual quality. Instead, schools can accommodate such huge time and efforts wasted on vacuous activities in a good quality staff development, its agreeable that the future of schools is strongly related to the quality of teacher training, schools should invest in preparing teachers for their far-reaching role, an Ideal International school, however, would carefully choose the coaches from different backgrounds and make sure the training programs are having an international atmosphere where different minds, different views are sharing thoughts and experiences.

Moreover, the forgotten environmental aspect as well! Schools consume massive amounts of papers on daily basis. (TheWorldCounts,2014), (Martin, 2011) One of the aims of an Ideal School, would be concerned about the environmental crisis and implementing this in their curriculum, climate change is indeed real!, it would be pointless if a school aims for promoting students’ awareness about the current global issues while ignoring such a critical one, Fortunately though, many schools now are embracing a very promising approach, which is the green schooling. Such approach mainly encourages minimizing the paper consumption to the least, and replacing it with digital tools, which saves lots of time and effort for teachers and also plants the meanings of “going green” in the students’ minds, not to mention, yielding a better impact on the environment.

IDEAL CLASSROOM: It’s agreeable that learning does not exclusively take place inside the classroom, almost every environment where the child interacts, acts directly or indirectly in reforming knowledge and experience in this child’s brain (Pollard, 2013), moving to the classroom as the classic known space for learning the teacher Role of emotions in teaching ” discuss” “Good teachers are not just well-oiled machines. They are emotional, passionate beings who connect with their students and fill their work and their classes with pleasure, creativity, challenges and joy.” (Hargreaves 1998: 835) For a deeper understanding of teachers, It is important to affiliate empathy with teaching performance, Teachers’ roles are not exclusive to responsibilities and duties, they should also contain positive affections, passion and empathy, that’s what recognize teaching as more of a humanitarian job than other office based jobs that doesn’t require much of humane aspect. Obstacles for foreign teachers ” discuss ” One of the goals behind internationalization of education is to prepare scholars to socially and professionally perform in a global and cross cultural ambience, considering the needs of foreign partners and clienteles. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to accommodate those dimensions inside the classroom;

however, there might be some factors that would play a very crucial role in achieving the teacher’s goal, For instance, the language barrier; within the school and the classroom there are teachers and students from different parts of the world, and accordingly: having different accents, different views and perceptions, also teachers and students might be taking longer times to express their opinions, feeling and thoughts. This will result in forming some barriers that would hinder the teacher-student communication and also the student-student communication not to a serious extent that would handicap a productive interaction, but it might slow down the processing of information. Another aspect is the emotional-cultural association, as some might perceive the socio-emotional connectedness between the students with substantial backgrounds as an obstacle that “Socio-emotional connectedness is one of the inhibiting factors towards mixing across cultures. Which clearly defeat the main aim of internationalization” (Volet,1999) Studies showed that students who come from a substantial cultural backgrounds work together more effectively than students who come from different cultural backgrounds, as they reject the group work, and perform less positively (Volet & Ang, 1998) Under those previous circumstances, the international teacher must show a flexible and open mindset to embrace the different backgrounds and norms that the students are having, the school here can help the teacher by setting appropriate and effective trainings or orientations, but the rest would be the teacher’s challenge,

Also by engaging students in numerous group challenges and activities, children are naturally competitive, especially in groups, team work creates valuable bonding between participants, it also adds joy and triggers creativity! This is a very important tool that would aid the teacher inside the classroom. By the time, this shall break some barriers between students from diverse backgrounds; language barriers and socio-emotional connectivity are indeed matters of time that shall gradually fade by the time if the teacher worked well on them. Teachers role inside classroom ” discuss” Inside the classroom, the teacher is in charge, he is the leader and supervisor. This requires a steady, firm and confident character, however, that doesn’t mean not being warm or having sense of humor with the students, a balance between those two poles would result in a professional and effective character inside the classroom! Additionally, teachers must practice patience and provide emotional and academic support to students, embrace those with low attaining or low self-confidence.

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