30 Good Things to Know about NIS


There are several professional realities involved in working at Nanjing International School, some of which are not commonly found in other schools. We are a three-programme IB school, accredited by CIS and NEASC. NIS offers an exciting professional challenge to teachers, which does not suit all teachers. Please read the points highlighted below very carefully. If any of these realities do not suit you, it is possible that you would not be happy at our school. We are extremely serious about collaboration. We all seem to think we are collaborative, so why not check by asking a colleague that is not a member of your friendship group.

  1. NIS is an inclusive school which means we enroll students across a broad range of learning styles and competencies to enhance the diversity at our school. All teachers need to have buy-in to the challenges of working with students with learning differences. This is exciting and positive to us, if it is daunting to you in a negative sense this is not the school for you.
  2. NIS is attempting to be a Green School and received LEED sliver certification. In a country that is developing with heavy reliance on coal power, this is a challenge. Our students, staff and parents are activists on campus to make us a greener more environmentally aware community.
  3. NIS cannot admit Chinese nationals, although we do have a growing number of ethnically Chinese with overseas passports. We can only admit foreign students. This is not school policy, but a consequence of Chinese law. Because we serve expatriate students only, and expatriate families usually have short-term contracts of between six months and five years, we have a high student turnover – around 25% per year.
  4. NIS was a growing school, however enrollment has flattened out. We welcome about 170 new students throughout each year. This adds to the feeling of constant change caused already by the regular turnover mentioned above.
  5. In 2004 we took a loan and bought a 70,000m2 site. We built a world class multi-million US Dollar facility, which we occupied on August 1st, 2004. We have a beautiful school. In June 2009 we paid off the entire loan for land and buildings ending the first stage of construction. The next phase of a new 3 phase building programme began in May 2009, thanks to two further loans. We have built ‘The Centre’ and the ‘Performing Arts Centre’ which are simply stunning additions with our swimming pools and 558 seat theatre being the centre points. We completed Stage 4 in 2014 with the addition of a second gym along with our ‘Design Centre’, which is quite unique. In 2015 we added a Learning Support service and teaching area and rebuilt our Primary Mandarin area as an old Chinese HuTong. We will open a newly redesigned Reggio inspired Early Learning Centre in August 2019. In October 2018 we became debt free of all bank loans. All in all, very cool!
  6. Most students at NIS do not have English as their home language. This means that you will have, in your classroom, students with limited but developing English at all times. Often, students speak no English whatsoever on entering NIS. It is your professional responsibility to find appropriate ways of enabling such students to access the mainstream curriculum. ELL students have high levels of achievement, both within our ELL programme and in the mainstream curriculum. Enabling them to achieve the best is harder work than teaching in a largely monolingual context. ELL is not just a subject, but an aspect of all our teaching and support network for students. Interestingly our ELL students score above the averages for native speaking US students taking both PSAT and SAT.
  7. Language support teachers are there to help you ask yourself the questions about how you plan and deliver your lessons, that can enable you to reach ELL students more effectively. We hope our Co-teaching model is authentic rather than just meaning there is more than one teacher in the classroom. Many teachers see themselves as collaborative when in fact they are not. Are you? Ask a colleague.
  8. We offer the IB programmes. In teaching the IB programmes teachers must subscribe to and believe in the underpinning principles that drive these programmes, in particular inquiry. NIS commits to providing appropriate training to teachers with the expectation that you implement the philosophy of the IB programmes in all aspects of school life.
  9. NIS believes in collaborative teaching and learning for all. You must work and plan collaboratively with your colleagues in effectively delivering our IB programmes. Teachers must develop and work from MYP, PYP and IB Diploma Scope and Sequence Documents (schemes of work/ planners/ programmes of study), which are collaboratively generated and developed. This can be difficult for teachers who are used only to functioning independently. We use Atlas Rubicon software for our curriculum mapping. Some teachers at other schools have not had great experiences with this interface, we have!
  10. Full participation in ongoing curriculum development, and documenting that curriculum in detail, in addition to teaching, preparing and marking, is a professional expectation. This means there is a certain amount of paperwork, which we expect you to do meticulously, and with the understanding that it is important. We do not do suitcase curriculum.
  11. Pedagogical and administrative professionalism are valued equally highly. Disorganised classrooms and missing deadlines are regarded as unprofessional behaviours. As a community we have to work for and with each other.
  12. Lesson and programme planning are carried out collaboratively. Time is set aside for collaborative planning. Attending these sessions is a professional expectation. In PYP there is usually time during regular school hours, however generally they occur after classes have finished. School finishes at 2.30pm on Tuesdays to allow teachers more collaborative time. Like many schools throughout the world with dedicated hardworking teachers, it never feels like there is enough time.
  13. Full commitment to the school as a community school is expected. This includes reasonable attendance at student and parent events, in addition to directed attendance at certain whole school events. For teachers applying from national systems this is a major change, most teachers love it, some don’t.
  14. We report to parents formally in the following ways: written reports (without comment banks) two or three times each year, three-way conferences once or twice each year, student-led conferences once per year and also an early Parent-led conference so we can listen to parents talking about their children. We no longer send out hard copy reports as we like trees.
  15. We expect you to be computer literate, and preferably Mac literate. If you are not Mac literate, you must be open to learning. You will be given a MacBook and/or an iPad and will be expected by the school leadership, by your colleagues, and by the students, to use it in your teaching practice in the classroom with students. You will be supported in doing this by at least one Mac IT integration coach. You need to be entirely comfortable with students using MacBooks, as the school has a one-to-one MacBook programme for all Grade 5 to Grade 12 students with MacBook carts for every grade level in PYP. We are also using iPad minis in Grades 1-4.
  16. School hours are currently 08.00 to 15.00. Teachers are expected to be in classrooms by 07.45. After school, teachers are expected to attend two scheduled meetings per week, and any other directed meetings. Additionally, a minimum one hour per week contribution to the activities programme after school is expected. Participation in the supervision schedule is compulsory and means work during lunch and break times once per week. This requires acceptance that the burden is shared with colleagues.
  17. We work on an 8-day rotation block schedule. There are five blocks of teaching each day. This means we have an even distribution of subjects and specialist classes throughout the whole year.
  18. NIS has superb resources to support teachers. Centralised resourcing is practised, for the purpose of cost efficiency. This means that resources do not belong to individual teachers. Many resources are stored centrally and are booked out on a needs basis. Similarly, ordering new materials and resources is a collaborative act. Unnecessary purchase duplication is audited out.
  19. The school is a non-profit organisation of parents, governed by the school board, which is mostly elected by parents. The Director is the educational leader for the school, and the Board governs the school. School Fees are our sole source of revenue – we are a completely independent entity, financially speaking. This means that sound financial management is an important management responsibility, and requests for resources or other cash requests can only be met within the context of the agreed budget for the year. NIS is exemplary in this area.
  20. Teachers are responsible for training, directing and evaluating classroom Teaching Assistants (PYP), Learning Assistants (Learning Support) and technicians (MYP/Diploma Science, Design & IT).
  21. Teachers are expected to gain an understanding of all three IB programmes in the school. Teaching your subject, or age group, well is essential but only part of the whole. You must relate what you do to the whole work of the school. We are teachers of students first rather than teachers of a specific age or subject.
  22. Contractual contact time is 75% (30 out of a 40 lessons on a 8-day cycle). This is still more than many schools. This is partly why our salaries can remain so competitive. Please be cognizant of this.
  23. MYP/Diploma teachers may be expected to teach all ages from 11 to 18. This means a lot of preps for a lot of different classes. Please be aware of this. We look at contact time with students rather than the number of different classes. We are however aware of the number of preparations teachers have.
  24. MYP/Diploma teachers and specialist PYP teachers have their own dedicated classrooms.
  25. Teachers are expected to understand that NIS is a developing international school in an economically developing communist country. Processing overseas orders and dealing with bureaucracies can be very slow. We therefore have to be good planners and work with anticipation of what our needs are far in advance. The administration and business office are incredibly efficient, but work to predefined timelines.
  26. NIS is an international school. We do not seek to mimic the system of another country. Some international schools follow an American, Australian or British model. NIS has aspects of these, but seeks to be international in its curriculum, its student body, its broader community, and in its staff. We are international, and we need our staff to fully support that facet of our school. International mindedness is a disposition that is highlighted in our mission. As part of our drive to protect diversity there can never be a majority of one nationality on either the teaching faculty or the school Board.
  27. High standards of personal organisation, personal presentation, and workplace presentation are expected.
  28. Flexibility is highly valued. Respectful attitudes towards colleagues, students and parents are of paramount importance. Respect for colleagues is a central aspect of teacher professionalism. If you have found yourself in conflict with colleagues there are lots of other schools in which to work.
  29. NIS welcomes families with children to join its staff. It is easy to find an ayi to look after young children and babies at home, when both partners work. The school does not offer a creche. Staff children are enrolled in the school as part of your contract. We have no limit on the number of teacher children.
  30. Our school is a developing school. Founded informally as a playgroup by expatriate mothers in 1990, the school grew to 35 students in 1997. Now in 2018/19, we have 675 students from 40 countries. Last year we celebrated ’25 Years – Since 1992’ with a series of wonderful community event. We are an inclusive learning community.


Laurie McLellan (Director)
Updated December 3, 2018


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