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Blog > Real Lives > Teaching around the world: 6 top tips for International Teachers

Teaching around the world: 6 top tips for International Teachers

Prabha Soundirarajan, a teacher at MAZ International School in Malaysia, shares 6 top tips based on her experiences of teaching a broad range of international students.

Prabha SoundirarajanSo, Prabha, what got you into teaching?
I am from the southern part of India, but I moved to Malaysia due to my husband’s job posting in 1998. I was a Senior Systems Training Officer in a reputed training organisation in India, but after coming to Malaysia, I was a stay at home mom until 2009. When my children’s school offered me a chance to teach, I accepted it without any hesitation. I just wanted to be with my children at the time – but I am still teaching even after my children have graduated from high school. I just love being with the school kids! I learn a lot from them, and it’s very humbling for me. 

Tell us about your current role and school. 
I’m currently working in MAZ International School, an Edexcel based International School in Malaysia, where I have been since 2009. I used to teach Maths for Primary 6 and ICT for all levels. Now I mainly teach ICT for secondary school students, including iGCSE students. I am also head of the ICT department. Our school’s international community is made up of an interesting mix of students from different backgrounds, cultures and countries. 

How would you describe your approach to teaching?
My approach is very simple – I just try to be like a mom to my students. It works very well! The students understand you better and they listen to you. I am firm when I need to be, but I let them know that I am always there for them. 

I look forward to each new working day with lots of enthusiasm. I feel unbelievably grateful and blessed to be a teacher in a wonderful workplace! 

Prabha’s top tips for handling a mix of international students based on her experience
We’ve also included links to posts here on the Community that we think you’ll find useful.

1. Approach your job with passion.

Language and culture are not a barrier. In my opinion, the primary role of teachers is to play the role of second parent to the pupils. 

Build personal relationships with international students and check up on them both inside and outside of the classroom. Remember, these kids are away from home – their comfort zone!

Get ideas for motivating international students 

2. Try to rephrase your questions if you get no response or blank stares.

The students can be given a handout with the questions in advance to familiarise themselves with the teaching material or could be given some time to look up the meaning of words in their electronic or printed dictionary.
Support multilingual students in the classroom

3. Discuss and directly address cultural differences with your international students.

Give them a place to express their views and the freedom to ask questions about the “rules” in your classroom. It may not just be the culture and language shock, but also the academic shock (different teaching and learning methods and the relationships between the teacher and student, pattern of assessment/grading etc.). The effects of this academic shock can last much longer than the effects of culture and language shock. 
Get ideas to help embrace other cultures in your classroom
4. Push your students gently out of their of comfort zones. 

Each child is gifted. Try to nourish their growth as much as possible. 
Find out what you can do to help grow a confident next generation
5. Keep assuring your pupils that grades/awards do not define who they are, let alone their intelligence.

Everyone is smart in different ways, and certificates of recognition do not always prove one’s worth. 
Get tips to help your students deal with exam stress 
6. Be prepared to spend some of your free time on your students.

The bond built over that investment of your time is very strong and it benefits the students a lot. 
In our school, teaching and non-teaching staff, students and parents work together as a family for the students. We use technology and digital devices to help us. Teachers in our school have class groups on Facebook or WhatsApp on which they communicate with the students. We also don’t shy away from answering a phone call from a student asking about their homework after working hours. 
Discover more ways to collaborate with parents 

A big thank you to Prabha Soundirarajan for sharing her international experiences. 

If you’d like to share your own story with the community, get in touch

Read more stories from educators around the world in our Real Lives blog posts.

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