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Istek K-12s in Istanbul...
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yaramaz



Joined: 05 Mar 2003
Posts: 2345
Location: Not where I was before

PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2003 8:43 am    Post subject: Istek K-12s in Istanbul... Reply with quote

I'm going for an interview with Istek in a few days and I was wondering if anyone has had any experience with them, good or bad. I'm currently working at another k-12 in Turkey and want to weigh my options before I renew here. I've heard of too many dodgy schools and don't want to walk into a bad situation unwillingly. They seem to have good resources, benifits, etc. Also, can anyone recommend any other good k-12s in Turkey?
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saliero



Joined: 02 Dec 2003
Posts: 6
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 5:11 am    Post subject: ISTEK schools Reply with quote

I have only just joined this forum so this is probably irrelevant to you now, but here goes anyway.

I would be interested in knowing how the interview went.

I worked in an ISTEK school several years ago, and had friends who worked in them for a good many more.

Well, where to start? There were quite a few problems, there were some great bits. The kids tend to be VERY wealthy, and spoiled, but on the whole quite delightful. I liked very many of my students. BUT around Orta 2 & 3 level they were a real handful. No self-discipline, and given an inch, completely out of control (people have mentioned that with respect to other Turkish private schools). There was no direction or leadership evident from the school admin. I am told the Lise kids were dreamboats, I never got to teach them. I have never seen a school completely trashed before, but I witnessed it there - during the last week of term, they ran completely riot. Desks smashed, food and drink spilled all over everything, rampaging in corridors. Cheating was rife - again, a common occurrence I believe.

The controlling organisation itself was in chaos. They got rid of the person with an educational vision who recruited us in my time there, and had a succession of quite strange managers of foreign staff. I hope things have stabilised since the mid-1990s. The Foundation had some good aims, including providing scholarships to poor students who otherwise would not continue their education.

One famous meeting we went to there were several mafia-like 'businessmen' (thugs) in attendance, one of whom displayed his hidden hand gun during the course of the evening!

Accommodation provided was fine - I lived in two of their lodgements, at Kazasker on the Asian side, and Yeni Ulus sitesi on the Bosporus. There was some dodgy stuff going on with phone bills, which were deducted from salary, but that may have been a technology problem.

Some contractural conditions were not met. The promised health insurance never eventuated, and we were forced to consult the school doctor - who was nothing more than a quack. Every time I saw him he wanted to send me for an x-ray! A bout of respiratory illness would elicit the need for a gall bladder x-ray from this idiot. Eventually I just started going to the highly regarded American hospital (I went about twice) and submitting a bill, which they did pay.

We were always frustrated about never knowing when we would be required on duty, when holidays would start, or end, or when exam periods would be, but eventually we came to realise this was a common problem emanating from the Milli Egitim which never did seem able to grasp the concept of a school calendar!

Oh, the orientation period - it started off quite well. They provided us with some basic Turkish instruction (one teacher was EXCELLENT) and cultural lectures. What I don't think they were any good at was coping with the culture-shock/homesickness which typically sets in at about 3 - 4 months after arrival (mid-winter, Christmas, missing family) and some professional support through that would have helped. I think they had the attitude that there was a plentiful supply of teachers and took a relaxed approach to the revolving door. I don't think that was at all beneficial for the kids though. Many, many recruits failed to see out their first year (most just skipped off without giving notice). At that time contracts were generally for 2 years, and the attrition rate extremely high. I notice they are one-year now.

Probably the worst moment was when we were asked to sign a new contract, in Turkish, part way into our contract. No translation was provided. The foreign staff jacked up then, but were threatened with Ankara Rules outlawing collective action. Not a nice time.

All in all, if you are familiar with school teaching conditions in Turkey, and prepared to put up with the usual frustrations, it's not a bad place to work.
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yaramaz



Joined: 05 Mar 2003
Posts: 2345
Location: Not where I was before

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Goodness, what a blast from the past... Very Happy I hadn't thought about them in ages. The interview went really well- it was held in the McDonald's in Sultanahmet with Beryl and her husband and daughter... a slightly surreal circumstance but not off putting. Basically, I weighed my options and realised that my position here is much better. The pay is roughly the same in both schools but here I wouldnt have to commute to work (we live on campus) and there are longer holidays and shorter hours. The kids sounded equally crazy, but at least I know my kids... I'm finding my second year to be much easier, esp. now that I've moved to the lise. My prep class is so sweet. I could even stay one more year if all goes well- the cost of living is much lower than Istanbul and the pace of life more relaxed. It's always a joy being on the doorstop of Cappadocia!
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ghost



Joined: 30 Jan 2003
Posts: 1330
Location: Saudi Arabia

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 9:48 am    Post subject: Istek Reply with quote

One other thing. Istek expect their foreign teachers to arrive in Istanbul at the beginning of August for 'orientation' and preparation of the school plans for the year! So if you finish in end of June you would only have around 4 weeks break...not enough to recuperate.

Teaching at Istek would be high stress for most people and the previous poster said it all.

When will these private schools get wise to the fact that they are running unhealthy ships?
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saliero



Joined: 02 Dec 2003
Posts: 6
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 9:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's great.

I forgot to say that one of the main difficulties was that ALL the Australian teachers, and the vast majority of the Canadians, Americans, Irish and British teachers were experienced - VERY experienced teachers in a variety of subject disciplines, English, Science, maths (b/c all are taught in English), and we were used to curriculum development, writing teachign programs, and student-centred learning, not entirely teacher-centred, didactic teaching.

That was a total culture shock, and we were all inept at following a peogram which consisted of dividing the number of teaching weeks into the number of chapters in the text book, and standing and delivering! There was no concept of classroom displays of work, or group projects, or active learning. Any work left in a classroom would be trashed by the next day.

I did attemot with Orta Hazilik to get them to do some group discussions / presentations, but soon abandoned it when I realised the cultural clash - and that noone was used to actually listening to anyone in the class other than a teacher authority figure (which th foreign teachers generally were not considered to be).

One parent explained to me after a few rakis that what they paid their huge fees for was to be able to brag to their friends that their child had a 'native speaker' English teacher and that we weren;t actually expected to DO very much. We only saw each class for about 2-3 lessons a week (probably good - minimum damage effect on the kids!) . We were spread so thin so that every child would see a native speaker during the week otherwise parents would be very aggressive in complaint (it's one of the marketing features of Vakif schools).

I met some fabulous teachers who were hungry for knowledge, and in the end formed the view that instead of importing expensive foreign decorations, they should have been supporting the local teachers in upgrading skills - sending them to the UK or US or Australia for additional professional development - many had English 'fossilised' at the point where they had ended formal study themselves, and felt a bit embarassed about that. In the end, that more than anything is what made me leave - I couldn't justify to myself living like an upper class potentate in the richest area of Istanbul, with money to burn, while my Turkish colleagues were underpaid, overworked and not supported. More than once we took up collections for locals in dire straits.

Guess that isn't too different from many other high fee private schools. Though another friend did move to an Anadolu Lisesi and found it equally as chaotic. People who found their way to Robert College probably had the most professional satisfaction in school teaching.

The British Council was very active in promoting seminars for Turkish English language teachers, and many of the teachers I worked with would have been very keen to have taken part, but they were discouraged by management - I don't think they were very keen on any boat-rocking, even though the schools are "Ozel Deneme Lisesi" (sorry can't to umlauts)- experimental high schools!

We had a 4 day teaching week, and even though marking was a heavy load, we had a ball running round Istanbul.

The next year they scapped the days off and people had a heavier load, or spread across 5 days. I think it went up from 22 to 24 contact hours. The school day was very very long (about 8 to 4.30) and the kids were totally whacked by the end of it. After lunch lessons were often, literally, a riot. They would stockpile chalk and start chucking it around corridors and classrooms, leave food litter all over (they were free to rampage the corridors and classrooms at lunch and breaks, and noone except the yabancis ever seemed to turn up to supervision duty - we gave up in the end!)
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yaramaz



Joined: 05 Mar 2003
Posts: 2345
Location: Not where I was before

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That was an eerily accurate description of the situation I face here as well... I still find it interesting that the students seem incapable of seeing a yabanci as an authority figure even though we give grades as well. I have some fiece discipline problems in my lise 1 classes, though surprisingly its the super lise kids not the anadolu lise stream kids. They just seem noisily oblivious-- Out of 26 kids, maybe 5 will bother to look at me, open their books, and participate. They will make some effort for the turkish english teacher though... a tiny young woman fresh out of college in her first year of teaching. It's frustrating. I also find their inability to deal with anything other than rote, teacher centered learning so limiting. I've tried pair and group work and it usually ends in a riot. In Canada I did a lot of art and writing projects but can't do that here. No supplies, no interest, no way to safely display the work. Also, it seems almost impossible to start a task one day and carry it over a few days- the students will not bring it, they'll lose it, they'll destroy it... I'm still not sure why this is the way it is. Canadian schools have major discipline problems but I never had mini riots or destruction of work.
However, all is not dire, as my hazirlik class of 10 is great and has been able to do ongoing projects... mainly because I see them 10 times a week and can closely monitor their actions and know them very well. That seems to be key.
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ghost



Joined: 30 Jan 2003
Posts: 1330
Location: Saudi Arabia

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 3:40 pm    Post subject: Hitting your head against the wall Reply with quote

quote:
'Out of 26 kids, maybe 5 will bother to look at me, open their books, and participate. They will make some effort for the turkish english teacher though... a tiny young woman fresh out of college in her first year of teaching. It's frustrating. I also find their inability to deal with anything other than rote, teacher centered learning so limiting. I've tried pair and group work and it usually ends in a riot.' (end of quote)

So how long more will you put up with the nonsense you describe above? All that stress cannot be good for your overall health. You can teach in many places in the world where students appreciate one.

It is astonishing that teachers put up with the above for so long. You have a partner here and that is a form of compensation...but you deserve decent working conditions here, and as foreigners (as you admitted yourself) we will never be appreciated and respected to the same level that the Turkish teachers are - that is painfully obvious.
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yaramaz



Joined: 05 Mar 2003
Posts: 2345
Location: Not where I was before

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, that was my worst class and I see them 2 hours a week. I stay for my preps and for my lisesi 3s, who make up 75% of my classes. Brilliant kids. I get a lot from them. I like them. They like me. We get a lot of work done. I also stay for my adult classes 4 nights a week. They feed my mind. I've become friends with several of them. I dont stay because I think I have no other choice, I stay because I'm actually pretty happy.
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saliero



Joined: 02 Dec 2003
Posts: 6
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Wed Dec 03, 2003 11:34 pm    Post subject: Sorry Reply with quote

Sorry about the terrible typos in my last post. It was late and I neglected to Proof Embarassed

Why does one stay? For a variety of reasons. Professional ethics (that's why I saw the school year out); other satisfactions, eg enjoying a lifestyle, or as Yaramaz says there are other compensations, and nearly everyone who teaches Lise 2/3 finds that it is a good experience, whic is what Yaramaz is saying : there is enough good to outweigh the bad. Has anyone honestly ever worked anywhere where everything is perfect?

The requirement to be there Aug 1 must be new. The people who were recruited the same time as me (we were recruited in Australia) left as a group sometime in mid-August. The Orientation was in no way onerous, in fact it was one of the most enjoyable parts, and helped us settle into a new city as much as anything. It certainly wasn't "work". Generally it only consisted of mornings, then we put things to goos use in the afternoons, learnign about local markets, public transport etc. It was great learning how to make a minibus stop where you wanted and all the aspects of daily life that would have been an enormous task had we also been teaching all day.

My only criticism is that we could have spent some time exploring and discussing pedagogical issues - as I described above, we were totally unprepared for that shock. Our Turkish language teacher was so good she didn't give us a clue because she role-modelled really GOOD practice!

So, to my mind, the Orientation was beneficial, not an interruption to vacation (I had literally left my school in Australia 2-3 days before we arrived in Istanbul; the Aus school year goes Jan-Dec, so we were pretty tired, having had only 2 week vacations in April and July.

Some of the continuing teachers were more frustrated because they were required to interrupt their vacations to come back and give make-up tests. Even then, however, they were able to resume vacation again and most took another short trip within Turkey. At the end of the school year my sister came to visit and we were in the Aegean and Cappadoccia by mid-June, so we certainly had plenty of vacation time. At Christmas we had been to Uludag, and at Seker Bayram to Greece - can't complain about the vacation time and opportunities!
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ghost



Joined: 30 Jan 2003
Posts: 1330
Location: Saudi Arabia

PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2003 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply to Saliero Reply with quote

Ok - the vacations are decent - but one still has to spend at least 8 months of the year in the company of the savage brats (at least a large percentage of your students).

Is it really worth prostituting yourself for a pay cheque and essentially teaching very little?

At one Koleji on the south coast this poster went through a whole training period with the purpose of training the students to read 'mini English story books' - this was for grades 4 and 5's. This was a total waste of time because first of all the books were way above the level of reading capacities of the students and secondly the vast majority of Turks have an allergy to reading anyway (beyond trash newspapers).

The yearly plans included covering these mini novels but teaching these in class was a waste of time because the students hated reading and listening to the accompanying tapes - not that they were able to listen anyway thanks to the terrible cacophony present in those yabanci classes.

Language schools have lower pay, unsocial hours, and less vacation time, but at least in general you are teaching individuals (mostly adults) who have signed up for the course of their own volition.

One can guess that in no other country does one encounter such abominable student behaviour as in Turkey in the Private schools.

Previous poster mentioned the super high attrition rate ('revolving door') at Istek. That information alone gives one an idea of the conditions and ambiance there.
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dmb



Joined: 12 Feb 2003
Posts: 8397

PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2003 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone who enters the classroom with the opinion that their students are "savage brats" is probably in the wrong profession. Ghost- change career/hobby/way of finding a life or whatever other excuse you give yourself for being in your current predicament.
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daveryan



Joined: 20 Aug 2003
Posts: 40

PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2003 8:03 pm    Post subject: Re: Reply to Santa Claus Reply with quote

[quote="ghost"]Ok - the vacations are decent - but one still has to spend at least 8 months of the year in the company of the savage brats (at least a large percentage of your students).

Perhaps the difficulties that you experienced stem from the fact that those children that you purported to teach recognised your obvious dislike for them......and seemingly from your other posts-for their parents as well. Although I have no experience of working with Turkish children, those that I have met in many years of travel in Turkey seem no different from chidren all over the world. No doubt they can be a pain but that is what being a kid is all about. I find it difficult not to imagine you as a particularly obnoxious brat as a child, but even in your case would imagine that someone, somewhere must have loved and cared for you.

Having worked in inner city Manchester for a number of years, albeit not as a teacher, it strikes me that you wouldn't last thirty seconds with a really difficult group of children; although it might entertain me to watch as they nail you to the white-board. Oh and by the way before you respond with your usual high-handed nonsense, think on this. Why is it that you are the only poster who continually fails to say anything good about these kids? Others seem able to recognise both the positives and negatives of teaching Turkish children while you insist on seeing and portraying only the bad.

If in the meantime you feel that you must respond to the challenge the previous paragraph presents, please let me know as soon as possible so I can send a few hammers and six-inchers up to Moss Side.

Dave Laughing
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saliero



Joined: 02 Dec 2003
Posts: 6
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Thu Dec 04, 2003 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

NO! Not at least a large percentage at all! Actually, a minority caused difficulty in my experience. Many were quite aghast at some of the antics of the few. But those few can make life very difficult without good school policies and backup support.

Actually, I have been reading other threads on this forum, and realised that 'ghost' supports the concept of teachers having proper teacher training, ie B Ed (or I presume post-grad quals in education like we have in Australia), but ironically, it was these teachers who probably fared least well. From my observation, the few teachers who had TEFL-only quals, including the RSA Diploma, were most able to cope with the fairly rigid stand-alone lesson regime. My husband, who is a trained, and working ESL teacher at home (ie educationally qualified) did an RSA certificate course AFTER we left Turkey, and it suddenly twigged what he was meant to be doing!

This could all perhaps have been obviated by a more proactive approach to discipline problems by school management. To put it bluntly, they were hopeless. I suspect they were afraid of the 'parent power' behind the high fees. In fact, the parent president of the parent asociation was at the school on an almost daily basis, eating lunch in the cafeteria, providing reports to management on the teachers, and roaming the corridors. I have since head that the subsequent Principal ran an extremely tight ship and a lot of misbehaviour was cracked down on.

Savage Beasts? Emphatically NO! What an outrageous slur. I found the vast majority of my students to be absolutely gorgeous - generous to a fault, kind, concerned about life in Turkey and beyond, and it was when relating to them outside the classroom context that they blossomed most.

Also, the classrooms were constructed of concrete, with polished concrete floors, and those moveable wooden desks, and the chairs, would scrape and create an awful din; they classrooms are small, so there are 30 or so kids jammed close together. All in all the classroom aesthetics and acoustics are antithetical to a positive educational environment. But you can't expect miracles either in a country playing educational catch-up.

I agree about those vile expirgated versions of English 'classics' that had to be read. I also abhored the 'extract' style text books the Lise kids use. I say that coming from an Australian background where we don't use 'textbooks' in that manner; my American colleagues felt much more comfortable with them. But there are so many GOOD novels suitable for all levels of student - at their interest level - that some good expertise could help sort that out. (In fact, I was recruited partially to do that as I also have a post-grad qual in school librarianship/young adult literature, but that was another 'experimental' area it was a bit too risky to explore - the fear of the Milli Egitim and parents. It would have required very careful planning and very incremental change, which short-termism doesn't allow for).

I'm not sure about this allergy to reading. I had some of my own books there and a number of higher level students (Orta 3), who loved reading borrowed them. Having time to read for pleasure is a privilege of the middle and upper class who have more leisure time, and amongst Istanbullus I saw it growing.
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yaramaz



Joined: 05 Mar 2003
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2003 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kindly do not refer to Turkish children as savages, ghost, my dear man. They can be a handful, indeed, but they can be managed for the most part. There are usually a few in a class who display classic yaramaz tendancies (can you say ADD/ADHD?) and a few others who follow their lead. This creates a mood that can be difficult to break... like berhavioral dominoes...

I really like my kids this year, for the most part...
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ghost



Joined: 30 Jan 2003
Posts: 1330
Location: Saudi Arabia

PostPosted: Sat Dec 06, 2003 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply Reply with quote

Quote: ' Oh and by the way before you respond with your usual high-handed nonsense, think on this. Why is it that you are the only poster who continually fails to say anything good about these kids? Others seem able to recognise both the positives and negatives of teaching Turkish children while you insist on seeing and portraying only the bad.' (end quote)

Looks like that old bottle of listerine has been gathering dust on the shelf mate...

Wrong again...it is recognized that some of the students are good and willing learners with pleasant dispositions, but in the particular Koleji where this poster was unjustly dismissed the bad students unfortunately dominated the classroom behavior (or lack of good behaviour). Just as Yaramz pointed out...in her classes (and this is her second year) only 5 out of about 30 students pay attention and give the teacher the respect she/he deserves.

That is the kind of figure that most of us have to put up with...and when we interview with the Koleji the neophyte teachers coming from overseas are never given a clear picture of what will occur once the contracts are signed and they start teaching. The management do not alert the teachers to the potential problems that in most cases will follow, because they want to sign up the yabanci teachers so that they can continue charging stupid fees to the gullible Turkish parents...also willing participants in the nonsense.

Why on earth do you think many of the students in these private schools also go to Dershane (tutors) on Saturdays and Sundays? Because they are catching up all those lessons that were lost in the private schools they attend...especially with regard to English lessons.

Any teacher who has been unjustly and arbitrarily dismissed from a position through a lack of management control from above is right to feel outrage against a system which continues to allow madness to be the rule in many of the private schools in this country.

Why should we support these kind of systems? Unless we start voting with our feet and boycotting these positions, the managment will continue to turn a blind eye to all the nonsense that goes on in the private schools.

Like one of the previous posters said ..the private schools would do better in investing their money in training local Turkish teachers to teach English properly, since it is obvious that we as foreigners will rarely be treated seriously in the classroom.

But then again some of the foreign teachers here are just happy enough to tolerate the madness for a pay cheque and other benefits. These people have high stress tolerance. Others do not.
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