Musings from the Middle Kingdom
After a blockbuster four years at The British School New Delhi, it is time to move on to my next adventure.
If you had told me this time last year that I would be leaving TBS, I wouldn't have believed you.
The way the TBS community has embraced me makes me long to continue to stay a part of it, like that distant family member who comes back from time to time. Hopefully to enjoy the journey of growth and improvement TBS is well known for.
I am reminded of the advice of my parents when we used to travel.
"Say thank you and leave things 'ship-shape' and tidy for the future."
This has guided me during the last few months and even though times are turbulent due to the COVID19 situation, the TBS ship is safe and set for the future.
Led by our able captain, Mrs Vanita Uppal and her two first mates, Melisha and Mark, the ship is indeed steady as she goes. Rarely have I seen individuals brave the oceans and stand in harm's way to protect the institution as a whole.
Now I might be biased but visitors who come to the school often comment on how happy the children seem and how everyone they encounter is full of energy and passion. That is indeed the right kind of infectious and a testament to the kind of place TBS is.
Sailing a ship in the right direction requires vision and the support of crew members and a big thank you to the community who have helped us achieve some truly memorable achievements during my time onboard.
The Innovation Lounge was one of our initial successes, a truly world-class place, a place of envy if I might say so, for other schools. But hardware on its own isn't great, you need to have the right software. Backed up by reforms to both Digital Citizenship and the Computing curriculum and providing a pathway for Innovation and STEM, turned a room with cool gear into a thriving hub of creativity and learning. Plans are afoot to provide a similar space for upper school and I can't wait to see the end results.
Global success and thought leadership have gone hand in hand for us. I can't imagine a year when we haven't been recognised for our fantastic work. Now we have historically been modest and it was a pleasure to be part of the journey to showcase our achievements and inspire others. To paraphrase the iconic line from Three Idiots:
Pursue excellence, and success will follow.
And oh my, have we been successful. It doesn't get better than being recognised as the Best British International School in the World or as an Innovative School or a Future Ready School or being recognised for our use of technology for safeguarding and for learning.
Much more importantly though was the success of our younger passengers. From academic success to representing India twice at the F1 in Schools World Finals, Young Founders success, Ideathons, Hackathons, Girls Who Code, Robot Wars, MITx, Harvardx, individual awards, the list goes on. None of this was possible without the tireless work of our Computing, IT, passionate teachers and support teams.
There are often some secret missions that not everyone is aware of but these have a huge impact on the way we work. Thanks to our IT squad we have upgraded our wireless potential and brought in new hardware and software to better integrate technology for learning and these changes have really put us in a league of our own within India.
We have upgraded all of our communications systems as we established a higher level of transparency and closer communication with home. This is an area we continuously strive to improve upon and our fab Communications team will no doubt build upon their successes. Thank you to the team who like the Energiser Bunny, keeps going on and on and on.
There is so much more that I can talk about especially of all the individuals that have truly made an impact on me. The ones who have inspired me to go that extra mile, students and parents included in this. But one does have to save some stories for their memoirs.
Well, I trust that you can see, the cabin is quite tidy, the bunk bed has been made up, we are ‘ship-shape’ but before I depart, it is right and proper to give my thanks to the entire TBS community, and my thanks to you all, are the most sincere.
Farewell, for now, and I leave below a passage that neatly sums up my time at TBS.
Global recognitions, innovative world firsts, unparalleled student achievements and some truly ground-breaking work. My time at TBS feels like a blockbuster movie. Every scene, an event to cherish, and the cast members, superstars. TBS takes your passion and has a way of amplifying it that it becomes addictive. No wonder, you find so many of us, not working but living and breathing the TBS vision. What a ride!
and if you want to stay in touch, Google me, I'm out there. 😉
A video of a talk as part of the #GlobalBrewEDIsolation Online event on Twitter in May 2020.
For those who like to read, transcript below:
Moving school? Do or Don’t!
Ladies and Gents, Welcome. Thank you for joining #GlobalBrewEdIsolation. A big Shout out to Ed and Graham for organising another fantastic live event. My name is Sunny Thakral. I am an International educator, originally from the UK and currently working at The British School, New Delhi, India. If you want to find out more or have questions after this session feel free to connect with me via Twitter or LinkedIn.
The international school sector continues to grow at an astonishing pace and the demand for teachers has grown substantially in this sector. This leads to an annual migration of teachers across countries.
This session is focussed on discussing the impact of COVID19 on international teachers who have resigned or have taken up positions in other countries. The focus of the conversation due to the crisis has been majorly on students and quite rightly so. Even where staff are discussed the focus has been on up-skilling, technology, procedures, general wellbeing but this niche group of educators and their needs have been overlooked. Well no more!
We will cover the options available and ways forward for those teachers who might have resigned, are looking to resign or are planning to over the next year. It might also be useful to teachers who are thinking of moving into the international sector as it might give you some insights which could be useful in the future.
This might come as a shock to many but most international teachers have to resign before they get their next job.
The way the sector works is that schools expect you to resign 7-9 months ahead of your departure date. What it means is that most of the current batch of teachers who resigned would have done so by October 2019. If you are a local or national teacher then for most a term or three months is the normal period and most will probably have a job secured before they do.
So why do international schools make teachers do that?
It’s because this helps them plan for recruitment of replacements which often has a long lead time.
Schools advertise their vacancies on portals like TESJOBs, Search, ISS Schrole amongst others and teachers then apply for these posts. With visas and other paperwork which can take months, schools need to plan ahead.
So a number of international teachers this year would have resigned way before COVID19 ever appeared on the scene and quite a few would have accepted posts in other countries before the epidemic hit their current one.
Due to the speed of the spread, Countries then went into lockdown. Travel stopped. Embassies shut down along with Government offices and Universities.
Schools went virtual and suddenly what was an exciting time to begin a new journey became a nightmare.
How do we go about getting documents attested and legalised for the visa process?
How do we go about applying for visas?
Often international teachers work in countries other than their own so if travel is restricted, they can’t even return home.
On top of all of this is the ambiguity of the offer from their new school. Contracts might have been signed but will they be honoured.
How would packing work? The logistics of moving house and families is another battle.
What if the new school honours the contract but you can’t travel? What is your immigration status in the country you are in?
Questions about salaries and how they will be paid to the logistics of virtual school to health insurances come to mind. If you have children, what happens to their education.
Some International teachers around the world are busy dealing with all of that and ensuring high quality education for students in their care. Kudos to you all!
Let’s unpack this a bit more and consider some scenarios.
If you are thinking of resigning then best advice don’t!
If you have no choice and that could be due to a number of reasons like contract expiry, school closure, professional issues and what not. Let’s move on to:
What to do if you have resigned and don’t have another job yet?
Talk to your current school and see if you can work out a way of staying. The best option is to see this through in a country that you are familiar with.
What to do if you have talked and they can’t offer you your job back or perhaps you don’t want it back?
In that case, you have no option but to look for a new job. Start with international schools in the country you are currently in. You would be an ideal option, a candidate who is in the country, familiar with it, with reduced admin and reduced financial costs.
If applying within the country you are in is not feasible then you need to look for places where visas etc. and travel might not be too complex. Failing that the world is your oyster. There were 1200 international jobs listed on TES as of this morning so I am sure there will be one for you and believe you me this is a lot for so close to the end of the international school year.
What to do when you secure the job? We will come to that later. Next up.
What do you do if you have resigned and accepted an offer or signed a contract?
This is tricky. There are two schools of thought. One says offers and contracts are not really valid as you are in different countries and operating under different laws. Schools will not think twice of letting you go so you should look out for yourself. The other focuses on ethics and mutual respect. You signed the contract, accepted the offer in good faith and the school is banking on you to teach children. Withdrawing leaves them in the lurch and having to go through the cycle again.
Whichever school of thought you subscribe to depends on your personal moral compass.
If you withdraw from an offer, talk to the new school and outline your concerns first. Give them a chance to respond and process. Most reputable schools will be understanding. Follow the answer to the previous scenario and try to get a job with your current school or in the current country.
If you don’t withdraw, let’s join the group who have accepted the overseas offer in the first scenario.
What to do if you have decided to move overseas?
Start talking to your new school.
Outline the concerns about salary payment, accommodation, visa situation, medical insurance, virtual school, local visa situation, police checks, support they can offer.
If you signed with a reputable school, they will have an action plan and they will be happy to talk to you through it.
You might need to involve agents at some point who can help you with the paperwork once things get better and they will get better. You might want to start planning ahead and take care of all the bits and pieces that you can do now as things might move quickly.
It is not all doom and gloom, as this might be an ideal time for teachers to move as opportunities might arise in top international schools with little to no competition compared to the normal recruitment season. If you take a leap of faith, you might end up in your dream school.
Hopefully this gives you a brief insight into the complexities involved and there might be huge amount more questions that pop into your head as a result.
Where to get help?
Your current school and the new school would be the first places to start. After that forums on International School Review and TESJobs could be useful as long as you stay away from the trolls. Bit of a rabbit hole that one. Better than these are international educators in the countries you are in or travelling to as they can give you realistic advice and a Clearer picture of the ground realities in the country you would like to call your new home.
If you are worried or have questions, feel free to send them my way via Twitter and I will do my best to help find answers.
I am Sunny Thakral. If you are here on the site then you know a bit about me. If not then I am a teacher and these are my musings. Hope you enjoy them.