36. School Counseling in Ethiopia with Daniel Inman

In this episode of the Counselor Chat podcast, I welcome special guest Daniel Inman, an elementary school counselor at the International Community School of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Daniel received his M.Ed. in International School Counseling from Lehigh University in 2021. Daniel shares his diverse background, transitioning from teaching PE in North Carolina to counseling in various countries, including Taiwan, Singapore, Germany, and now Ethiopia. 

The discussion delves into the unique characteristics of the International Community School, emphasizing its rich diversity with students from around the world. Daniel provides insights into his daily routine, offering a glimpse into the challenges and rewards of working in Ethiopia.

Daniel highlights the importance of researching schools and countries when considering international opportunities. He suggests connecting with international educator groups on platforms like Facebook and recommends organizations such as Search Associates and Teacher Horizons for job searches.

The conversation also touches on the International School Counselors Association (ISCA) and its upcoming conference in Athens, Greece, in March. Daniel encourages listeners to explore international opportunities and assures them of his willingness to provide guidance.

Links Daniel Mentioned:



Carol: You're listening to the Counselor Chat Podcast, a show for school counselors looking for easy to implement strategies, how to tips, collaboration, and a little spark of joy. I'm Carol Miller, your host. I'm a full time school counselor and the face behind counseling essentials. I'm all about creating simplified systems, data driven practices, and using creative approaches to age students. If you're looking for a little inspiration to help you make a big impact on student growth and success, you're in the right place, because we're better together. Ready to chat? Let's dive in. Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the Counselor Chat podcast. Thank you for joining me again this week. So glad that you're here, my friends.

Carol: We have a special guest with us today. I would like to introduce everyone to Daniel Inman. And Daniel is currently living in Ethiopia. Yes, you heard me right. He is coming and joining us today all the way from Ethiopia. Daniel is really a native of North Carolina, but currently he is working as an elementary school counselor at the International Community School of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Now, before he was a school counselor, he actually taught PE in North Carolina, and then he received his med in international school counseling from Leheim. Since then, he's worked in the USA, Taiwan, Singapore, Germany, and now Ethiopia. I don't know about you guys, but I can't wait to hear about his experiences and what life is like in Ethiopia and all of this stuff. So before I turn it over to Daniel, though, to introduce himself, I just want to share a little bit. How recently? Well, first of all, I'm really excited about this podcast because recently I attended a training with my district, and it was a dei training, and we were really learning about the power of stories and how sometimes we only know one person's story. Or we only have the story that maybe we've heard because of social media or it's what has been perpetuated, but it might not be really everyone's story or the story that's really true to the life of different people. As an example, I recently was at a conference down south, and while I was there, people were asking me, where are you from? And I kept saying, New York. And when I said New York, everyone's vision of what New York looked like was the Big Apple, the big city, the hustle, the know, the tons of people. And then I'm like, Well, I'm from upstate New York, and where I live, there's more cows than there are people. And that was kind of like a shocker. Like, oh, my gosh, I guess there is more to New York than just the city. So it'll be really interesting, I think, to hear Daniel about your situation and your experiences so that we can really expand our stories about what else is out there. So I'm really excited for this. So, Daniel, thank you so much for joining us. Why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself to everyone a little bit?

Daniel: Hey, everyone. And Carol. Thanks for having me on. My name is Daniel. I'm one of two elementary counselors. We're on a team of six counselors. My school is a very diverse school called the International Community School of Adasababa. The school itself has been around for around 55 years. I think I may be wrong on that, but it's a pretty diverse school with kids from all over the world. I think we have 80 different languages spoken on campus, which is fantastic. My caseload, I'm very lucky in this regard. I work with around 240 students and four grade levels. As Carol said, my background is PE. I did elementary PE in North Carolina, in the Greensboro area for nine years before moving to Taiwan. And I did PE in Taiwan, Singapore and Germany. Germany was kind of a hybrid position. It was primarily physical and health education k to grade ten. But I also helped counseling there. So I had four or five individual students at a time, and it's a few small groups. So a mix of there. My background is really in solution focused just because of the caseloads and all that. I do work with Cognitive Behavior therapy a little bit, which I think Carol really likes. And this year I've been dabbling. And I say Dabbling because I'm still learning in Play and Expressive Arts Therapy just because my caseload changed to where I'm working this year for the first time with three and four year olds. So that's a little bit about me.

Carol: You have some real littles in your building.

Daniel: Yes, definitely. I love the three year olds. They're fantastic.

Carol: Awesome. So can you tell us what your typical day might look like?

Daniel: What's a typical day in counseling world? I don't even know. Well, that's true. This is my third year at ICS here, so my third year in Ethiopia, it's my third year officially as a counselor. It's changed each year this year, and depending on the day of the week, there may be some check ins early in the morning because we're a responsive classroom school. So doing check ins during morning meeting or right before morning meeting with certain kids in grade four and five, especially because my grade levels this year are grade four, grade five, and then EY three EY Four, as we're following a looping model with the kids. So I'll move up with the EY fours to kindergarten next year. So building those relationships and doing check ins early in the morning and maybe some small group pull outs, depending on timing and part of the day. Again, this all depends on the day of the week. Some days I jump into EY three and I do some SEO lessons. First thing is part of that advisory meeting. My EY. Three class is 19 kids. So working with the teachers and working with them and just it's a lot of read aloud and a lot of Expressive Arts Therapy and getting them to act and do things with puppets and whatnot. The days? I go on the EY Three first thing, about 2 hours later, I'll spend about an hour and a half doing the different groups in EY Four, which I have about 50 kids in my EY Four class. The other days of the week, I may push in and do social emotional lessons. With grade four and five, it looks quite different. We do a mix of Second Step, which is new for us this year, and whatever else we kind of need with the kids. As part of that, I push in and do child safeguarding and protection lessons with all grade levels that I work with, and it's done throughout the school. I don't know if it's a requirement so much as a really strong suggestion from one of our accrediting bodies, which is the Council for International Schools, or CIS. So that's a really important part of what we do. I do do duties, but I currently only have three duties a week. So that's some days, like I'll have car duty one day a week, 730 to 08:00 a.m. I'll just help kids out and say good morning at the main gate of the school. And then two days a week I have lunch duty, so I'm outside at recess. So our kids do 30 minutes of lunch, 30 minutes of recess, or it might be recess, then lunch just depends on the schedule. And I help out with a couple of grade levels, just providing coverage. I really like that time because it gives me a time to chat with kids and teachers sometimes, but gives me a time to interact with them when it's not such an extreme environment sometimes. Like in the classroom?

Carol: No, I get that. When I first started as a counselor, I actually had a lunch duty as well. Not every day, but it was like a couple of days a week. And I just thought it was a neat way to get to know kids.

Daniel: Yeah. If I'm not on duty and I'm not with groups or kids or writing up reports or whatever, I tend to be outside during recess times because I find that it's a really positive time to meet and talk with not only the kids I work with or have worked with in the past, but also just getting to know the other kids in class and seeing them in a different environment now.

Carol: What led you to Ethiopia?

Daniel: Opportunity. And someone I knew worked here at the time, so I was working in Germany, and I knew the position I had in Germany was kind of being cut not because of me, but just because of student numbers and a teacher returning from attorney leave and different things. So I had the opportunity to stay there, but it would have been fully physical and health education, and I wanted to switch over completely to counseling. I had a guy I knew from working in Taiwan that worked at the school here in Ethiopia and I knew they had an opening. So I reached out, got my foot in the door, both through a company called Search Associates, but also through my colleague and interviewed for both a P position that was open at the time and then for a counseling position both in elementary got offered both of them. And given the choice of which one that I want, and I obviously chose counseling. So it was a little bit of searching anywhere in the world. I wasn't looking at Africa in particular, but the opportunity came up and I took it.

Carol: That is pretty cool. So I have to ask because I can imagine why families might be in Germany or some of the other places that you work, but because you're working in an international school, I am guessing that a lot of the families that go there are from other places and maybe are there for a short period of time or something. What is bringing the families to Ethiopia?

Daniel: I couldn't tell you exactly all of them, but I think the main areas I know about just from working with the kids is we have a lot of embassy kids from different embassies. The US embassy sends all of their kids to our school and they're a big supporter of the school. But we also have Canadian embassy kids from Japanese embassy, south African embassies and Canada and many different ones. And the short stay is you kids that come in for two years, sometimes three years, and then they're gone because that's the job requirement for their parents. The other thing we of there's a lot of non governmental NGOs that work here, so we get a lot of kids from them. Like the head of Heineken Brewery in East Africa is headquartered here. And his kids well, not now because he moved, but his kids came to our school. We have some nonprofit kids that come to the school for big organizations like the United Nations, the African Union, places like that. We also have kids from workers from Save the Children and other UNICEF and different other organizations. And then we have a contingent of dual citizenship Ethiopian kids. They have Ethiopian passports. And then something else. Something else varies from American to the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and different things, and they come to our school. The time range a kid is at our school. We've had kids here for a year. Normally it's more like two. And then we have some kids that spend their entire school career here from EY five kindergarten all the way to grade twelve.

Carol: What has been the most rewarding part of working internationally?

Daniel: Pretty much, I would say, getting to meet and work with, and when I say work with both kids and staff members, people of way different cultures. My current school here in Ethiopia. Our student body is from, I want to say 55 or 60 countries. Our staff is from around 30 countries from all over the world, which is really cool to see and work with individuals that were, like me, have worked some, like me, have worked public schools in their home countries, and others who have only worked internationally. And it's really interesting to meet and talk and have those conversations with them, but also being able to get outside of the school bubble when you can outside of that work bubble and interact with more of the local culture as much as possible. Ethiopia has been a little bit harder for me for that than like, Germany or Singapore was, but it's still one of the best aspects about working internationally.

Carol: And on the other side of the coin, what are some of the challenges that you encounter working internationally?

Daniel: I mean, obviously, travel time is really hard. I have family that live in rural North Carolina, so getting home to them can be quite expensive and time consuming. Can't exactly drive home for a weekend trip. Like when I worked in North Carolina, for example, to get from where I live in Addis Ababa, to, say, where my parents are in North Carolina, it would involve I live in the city. So it's a 30 minutes drive to the airport, a probably twelve hour flight to Europe, an eight hour flight to the US. Another two hour flight to North Carolina, and then a two to three hour drive. So that's one of the biggest challenges, especially if one is really family oriented. And I do enjoy seeing my friends and family in North Carolina, and that's something that I really only do once a year. Also just moving because I just signed my contract to do a fourth year here in Ethiopia. But sometimes you do two years, you find that school doesn't work for you or that country is not fitting what you want, and then you move on. So the constant moves and having to figure out all the logistics of moves and then relearning, or not relearning, but learning how to get around in that area. So when most people think of Ethiopia, they think of deserts and famine and things like that. I live in a city of almost 4 million people with high rises and skyscrapers. Obviously, there are issues. There's not. Some of the access to things like public transportation doesn't really exist too well here, but they have local apps like Uber that are pretty cheap and then know other avenues as needed, and then just access. Sometimes finding things that you're used to finding. You don't always do that. So you have to make allowances and find the differences, the things you can work with.

Carol: I think that's really cool. I would love to work overseas. I think, though, I'm a little scared. And when I say scared, I just mean of leaving everything that I have and creating a new lifestyle. I think it's pretty awesome if you can do it to do.

Daniel: Yeah. When I had worked in North Carolina, two schools in North Carolina for nine years, and I was looking to do something a little bit different and decided international was the way to go. It was a huge change. The teaching itself and the interactions with kids, not so much. But what the kids are interested in and what their backgrounds are definitely changed and have changed each time I've switched countries. But I think it's been worthwhile because the original plan was do it for two years, see if I liked it, return home if I need to. Obviously, I haven't returned home.

Carol: Are there other countries that you're hoping to visit and live in and work in one day?

Daniel: I'm really open to almost anywhere if certain things that fit my personality and what I want are met or may be met, because you never know until you actually live in a place. But I'd love to go. I think after Africa, unless something opens up in a couple of schools, I'm probably going to go back to Southeast Asia to like, Thailand or maybe Cambodia, because I've been there and traveled there and would enjoy spending more time there.

Carol: Are there certain countries, like, for people that are interested in doing this, are there certain countries that are easier to find jobs in than others, or it is what it is?

Daniel: It's hard to say because it really depends on background. Some countries are very particular with your degree, like Singapore, you have to have a degree in what you're working in, and you have to have so many years experience. And so some countries have that rule, and then other countries are pretty open. It also depends. Like, China is a super big country. I haven't worked there, but based on conversations, it really depends on where in China you go and how hard it is to get in. So it really varies, and it's all over the map. And then pay resembles the same thing, it's all over the map. So you have to really take into account what you think you can afford and based on the contracts, and just add a little bit more detail to the contracts. This really depends on where you're at in the world. Europe doesn't give as many benefits, especially Western Europe, as, say, Africa or but so I have a base contract of X amount of dollars per year, and I get paid in USD because the local currency here, the Ethiopian burr, is not globally traded. So luckily we get paid in USD into my US account, which is really good. Most countries pay you on their currency and then you have to figure out how you get it back to your bank. Most countries, it's pretty easy, and there's apps, too, that help out. But in addition to the base pay, I get housing provided I get annual flights to and from my home of record in North Carolina. I get a moving allowance at the beginning of my contract, and then when I leave, I'll have a similar allowance to help me leave, along with a few other perks. Like, I have medical insurance. That's global. It's actually of the schools I've worked at around the world. It's the best insurance I've had. And I'm trying to think of some other things yet, some other little things that we get here in country, which is really nice. So each school, each country, the benefits are going to be different, but it's worth looking into. The base pay in some countries may not seem like a lot, but then if you get housing and flights, that adds to it.

Carol: Yeah, I can imagine that it would, because in the US. Housing can be like your biggest expense.

Daniel: Yeah, if I chose, I'm in a school provided apartment, so I didn't get to choose the apartment or anything like that. But it's a pretty spacious two bedroom, two bathroom. I think it's the biggest apartment I've ever had, but the school provides it. But if I wanted to go out into Ethiopia or into Addison, find my own house, I could, and they would give me a stipend for that. And I think the stipend is around 1900 US. A month, because apartments in our neighborhood of Addis are not cheap.

Carol: Now, what advice would you have for someone who's looking to go and work internationally?

Daniel: I would hit so many facets to that question, really think about what you want and make sure that that area can provide at least most of that or that school. International schools, there's a variety of different curriculums that they have. The countries can be quite different. Even same school or different schools in the same country can be quite different. And also, if you can reach out to anyone there's, different organizations is the wrong one. Different groups on Facebook, kind of like the school Counselor Exchange, there's international educator groups that are really you can ask about schools, and there's usually someone that knows something about the school or the town or the area. So it's really key to or not key. But I think I found it really nice talking to someone in my first school in Taiwan who had worked in Taiwan and who had lived in the area that I was moving to. So that was really key. And then just making sure you have plans back home on how you're going to do things, such as how often you're going to fly home, what are you going to do with money. Retirement. You need to think about retirement. Health care. A lot of places you'll have health care in that country, but you may not have it when you go home in the US. Because of our lovely system in the US. So dealing with things like that, so just reaching out there are organizations that can help place you. I can name there's Searchassociates.com that I use. It's on the expensive side, but they have a wriggly robust database of schools and what those positions like the basic money and things like that. They're really good for initial things. I don't know if I'll use them again just because I have the experience now. There's Teacher Horizons, which is a teacher created website that supports people. There's the Global Recruitment collaborative GRC that does things. There's the Thai Insider magazine. They also do some job openings, but they have a lot of information. I'm trying to think of what Thai stands for. I want to say Together in education, but I mean, we're wrong, but those are just some things to look at. So basically research.

Carol: Okay, that sounds great. Do you think that you might be able to send me a couple of those links maybe either to the Facebook groups or to some of these organizations so that I could drop them in our show notes so that people are really interested?

Daniel: Yeah, I can easily do that. Not a problem.

Carol: Oh, that would be perfect. So, my friends, we will get those links for you. And I'll have those in the show notes so that if you are interested in pursuing this yourselves, that you have a starting point. So I think that is can you're.

Daniel: Also more than welcome to always message me. And I may not know the answer, but I can point you in a direction.

Carol: That's awesome. So we'll include your contact information in the show notes as well. Daniel, is there anything else that you want to share about your experiences or while we have you?

Daniel: I will. Big. The big thing is really look, if you're looking to go international, really look at the school. Like, I'm super lucky that I'm at a school of about 1000 students and there are six counselors. Two in elementary, two in middle, two in high school. But I also have one friend that works at a school in the Middle East. She works with K. Twelve caseload of like 900 kids by herself. So it's really be aware of what you're willing to do. I don't think we have the issues that I read about sometimes in the US. Or I don't at least I don't have to worry about 504 or writing all of these plans. I co help with what we call ILPs, individual learning plans, but I don't write them I'm not responsible for then, you know, there's a there's so at my school, but I'm super lucky in that regard.

Carol: That sounds great. And what can you share about just what has it been like living in Ethiopia?

Daniel: It's definitely been different. It's a little bit rougher around the edges than where I've lived before. I've lived in well developed nations. Taiwan, Singapore and Germany. And the US are all pretty well developed. Ethiopia is not. It's getting there slowly. The Internet can come and go. We have power outages a fair amount. The power outages are usually really quick, but my apartment building has an apartment size generator outside if it stays off too long. So dealing with things like yeah, but being able to explore because Addis is like any major city really, you've ever been to or that I've ever been to. But getting outside of Addis, I've been able to travel to seven or eight spots outside of Addis by either driving or flying and seeing the countryside, interacting with more locals. And I am coming at it as a foreign know, also a white male. So it's not the same experience as a local, but it's definitely different. And looking at it and diving in as much as I can is something that I really enjoy doing. And there's a town, if you ever get the chance and you're into architectural or historical structures or anything like that, there's a town in northern Ethiopia called Lalibella, which is fantastic. They have these 13 rock hewns so carved out of the mountainside, churches that are still active and you get to go up and see them. And if you time it right, you get involved in a service and all that and it's awesome. So that's one of the reasons I do what I do.

Carol: I guess if you have the travel bug, this is a great way to really not only get to experience what it might be like to live somewhere else, but also to have these experiences, to be able to travel and see and experience have those experiences. Well, Daniel, this has been fantastic. I am just loving this. And I know that we always have so many counselors that are thinking about where else can I find a job or what else can I do or how do I get my foot in the door? So I think this has been really insightful. So I want to thank you for your time and for joining us.

Daniel: Just to add one thing to if you're someone that enjoys going to conferences, we have an organization called the International School Counselors Association, or Iska. We partner with Asca in the US. But we do a yearly conference around the world and it's really great. It's one of the best conferences I've ever been to, PE r counseling and it's been really good. But our conference this coming year is in March in Athens, Greece. If anyone is interested and has the time and money.

Carol: Yeah, I will say that I actually thought about applying to present there because it was in Athens, Greece, and I've always wanted to go to Athens and then I was just like, I don't know, because it's in March. I felt a little guilty about taking off more days to go out of my building to maybe present at a conference. So I did not. But one day I really hope to do that and experience that.

Daniel: It's a really awesome organization.

Carol: So I get their emails, I'm on their email list, and I have used some of the resources that they have sent and I think they do great work. So for people that are listening, I'll put the link to Iska in the Show Notes as well. Daniel, is there anything else that you'd like to share or tell us about?

Daniel: Yeah, nothing off the top of my head, but thank you for the opportunity to talk with you.

Carol: Yes, thank you so much for joining. I really, really appreciate this. And for our counselors that are listening, thank you again for joining us this week. And until next time, have a great week.

Carol: Thanks for listening to today's episode of Counselor Chat. All of the links I talked about can be found in the Show Notes and@counselingsentials.org Podcasts. Be sure to hit, follow or subscribe on your favorite podcast player. And if you would be so kind to leave a review, I'd really appreciate it.

Carol: Want to connect?

Carol: Send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram at counseling essentials. Until next time, can't wait till we chat. Bye for now.