ISSE Handbook


International School-to-School Experience (ISSE) was founded in 1971 by Dr. Doris T. Allen, who had started children’s International Summer Villages (CISV) twenty years before. Both programs have the goal of contributing to international understanding and world peace by offering children opportunities to actually meet and make friendships with young people from other nations. In CSIV, delegations of four 11-year-olds from each of 10-12 countries meet at summer camps throughout the world; in ISSE, a team of six to eight 10-12 year-olds from one school visits all the classes of an elementary school in another country. In both programs the visits are for three to four weeks. During its first thirteen years (1972 – 1985), ISSE arranged 95 partnerships involving 73 schools in 15 countries.

The number of partnerships each year has increased. Through these partnerships it is estimated that over 50,000 young school children have personally met and become acquainted with children from other cultures and countries. For them, people in these countries are now real people, friends, distant neighbors; no longer just stereotypes one reads about. After such introductions, people who have had ISSE experiences are likely to grow up thinking about the world much more realistically, with more concern for fairness and peaceful solutions to world problems. We think this is worth working for.

A more detailed explanation of why ISSE was established and how it operates is described in ISSE Guidelines.  The manual you are now reading, Do’s, Don’ts, and Ideas That Really Work in the ISSE Partnerships, is intended to provide advice for schools conducting ISSE Visits, to help them make the experience more effective for more children.

ISSE is a grassroots, cooperative organization. So far, it has managed to gradually grow without salaried administrators. The fees paid by the participating schools, cover the cost of insurance, postage, maintaining a website and, occasionally some travel costs. Although we realize the need to raise funds to help the program expand more quickly to more schools in various parts of the world, we expect to depend primarily on individuals who believe strongly in the program to contribute their time to keep it moving and growing. If you want to work with us, here are some ways to do so: Help find more schools, in any country. This can be done by correspondence and during personal travel, through your own contacts or through schools which you have found out about. You can obtain, from the ISSE Office, a CD to send to those who may be interested, or you can create materials by careful use of a copying machine, or you can ask the ISSE Office to send materials to your prospects. (For promptness, do it yourself!)

Participate in Regional ISSE Conferences. These are held every two years wherever we can arrange them in order to bring together school representatives and others who want to (a) find out about ISSE, (b) share ideas about the functioning of ISSE (c) help ISSE expand. Volunteer to take on some project or responsibility. This will help ISSE function more effectively. The various national Coordinators and the ISSE International Office are anxious to work with you.

School Coordinator

The most important person in a school’s ISSE program is the school’s ISSE coordinator. The Coordinator may be the principal, a teacher, or an interested parent. She/he must keep track of all aspects of the program: getting a partner school through the ISSE International Office, making arrangements with the partner school, selection of children (and the Adult(s)) who will Visit and Host, planning with all faculty and host families, etc… The last page of this manual contains a checklist of the main items which need to be done. It is a good idea to have one or more ISSE Committees working on various aspects of the planning. Teachers, parents, former Adult chaperones, and former student participants might be on the committees.


The first thing a school’s ISSE Coordinator must do is to communicate with the partner school to decide upon visiting dates and the number of Visitors each school wants to invite. (It is assumed each Visiting Team will consist of six to eight children unless otherwise arranged. See 3rd paragraph this section.) After those details have been agreed upon both the Visiting Team and the Host families should be selected. The selection should take place promptly (at least five months prior to the first visit, if possible) to ensure maximum preparation. Correspondence should start as soon as possible between teachers in both schools, between Visiting children and their Host families and between the Visiting Adult and the Host Coordinator.

The procedures used to select Host families, the 10-12 year-old Visitors, and the Accompanying Adult(s) must be considered carefully. The Host children and their families most closely represent the host country to their guests, and the members of the Visiting Team do represent the Visiting country to their hosts. The selection procedures must not only seek out the most suitable children and adult for their key roles, but must attempt to give the entire student body the feeling that those selected truly represent the whole school. So the procedures must be as open and as fair as possible, and calculated to inspire confidence in those selected.

The Visiting Team usually consists of six to eight 10-12 year-olds, (an equal number of boys and girls when possible), accompanied by one to two members of the school staff (no involved students’ parents may travel). A small close-knit team is advised because the members are selected in order to perform a service for the Host school. A team of six-eight children seems to work well together in carrying out their varied responsibilities. It is assumed that a Team will consist of 6-8 children unless both schools agree to increase the number. Some schools want to send a larger team to allow for more child and family involvement, and large schools may feel comfortable absorbing more than eight visitors. The Visiting school may request that it be allowed to send more than eight Visitors, but the Host school is the one which decides how many children it wants or is able to receive. The members of a large team are likely to feel less individual responsibility and are likely to socialize more with each other than with Host children. Having more than eight Visitors can put a heavier burden on Hosts: (a) Eight is probably the largest number of Visitors which can be absorbed into two average classrooms. More than that creates an abnormal classroom situation for the class and teacher. (B) Only two family cars would be needed for shopping or sightseeing. (C) A supper party is easier to arrange and more manageable for a small group. No matter how desirable it is to provide a travel/educational experience for a larger group, the criterion in ISSE partnerships must be, “What will work best for the Host school?”.

 Ten-twelve year-olds should be selected as Visitors because they tend to adapt well and are considerably more independent and mature than younger students. (Nine-year-olds or younger are not acceptable). There is a tendency in some countries to want to select older children as Visitors because they may feel that their children are less sophisticated and more protected than those in the other culture. However, ISSE is established as a program in which ten-twelve year-olds are to play lead roles and the Host schools have reported that this age range of visitors, from every country, have been “just right”.

 All eligible students and their parents should be made aware of the ISSE program by sending ISSE information to them or presenting it at an open meeting. Depending on how your school funds the program, the children will be eligible (1) if their parents agree to pay partial or all the transportation cost, or (2) if the school/community is paying the travel expense.

Various ways in which children might be selected: Some schools select Visitors by observing them in fourth grade and finally make the selection when the children are fifth graders. Class trips, parties and classrooms are situations in which teachers can observe attitudes and behavior of the children who have applied to be selected. The teachers will approve a “pool” of the most qualified children and after the principal talks with the parents to see if they can pay travel costs, the final selection is made. Perhaps alternates will be chosen in case a child selected has to withdraw for any reason. Another approach is to allow application by all interested children, regardless of their parents ability to pay travel costs. The application form might consist of three parts: one part filled out by the child, another part by the parents, and a third part completed by teachers. The last part would be completed after the application is returned to the home room teacher and would allow the teacher to express a candid, objective opinion of the applicant (who does not see the application again). The ISSE Committee then invites those applicants whose applications sound most promising, and their parents, to come for interviews. Final selection of Visitors and alternates would then be made from those interviewed.

The ideal ISSE ambassadors are eager, positive children who are adaptable, polite, respectful, and well-rounded. Top students can be good delegates, but high grades alone do not make a good delegate. An all-round, friendly and flexible child with a pleasant personality is an asset to any team of young ambassadors. Don’t overlook the “at first appearance” quiet child; he or she might have a depth or sensitivity lacking in a more conventional extrovert. Children selected should be eager to be involved in ISSE, for the right reasons. Selecting children who have never visited (or at least not spent much time in) the partner school’s country is important and to be borne in mind.

 The individual(s) selected as the Adult should be aware of the role he/she has to play and be prepared to be not only a chaperone for the Team but a useful person at the Host school-an effective teacher-ambassador. The Adult must be able to handle all situations: homesickness, thoughtless behavior, lost luggage, teaching enjoyable and interesting things to host-school classes, etc… Some schools do not pay for the Adult’s teacher substitute or his/her salary while visiting the partner school. It is important to have these matters clearly in mind when selecting the Adult.

The Adult(s) can be chosen by committee, or by the principal. All teachers of young children should be eligible. In a large school situation it is important to have applicants fill in application forms so that members of the ISSE Committee will have all pertinent facts about each applicant’s background. Enthusiasm about ISSE and knowledge of the Host school’s basic language are both important. Love of children and a desire to teach and know persons in other countries also help make a good Adult chaperone. If a teacher is not available for the Adult position, other school personnel (substitutes, librarians, or qualified school personnel who know the children and the school routines) should be considered. The Adult(s) should be able to: instruct classes; teach songs, dance, and games in Host school classrooms; relate the group’s experiences to the home school and community upon return, etc…

Orientation for Delegates and Families

After the Host families and Visiting children and Adult(s) have been selected, a basic orientation meeting should be held for these children, their parents, and the most involved adults. The key message to each; the ISSE program is organized as part of the school curriculum, for the benefit of the entire student body in both partner schools, so each Visitor and Host has the responsibility to help make the partnership as meaningful as possible. The Visitors’ goal is to have friendly relationships with as many as possible of the children in the partner school. The challenge to the Hosts is to make the “home life” of their guests as warm and supportive as they can so that their guests can be able to do their ambassadorial job as easily and happily as possible. Of course, both Visitors and Hosts will have wonderful experiences as they perform their ISSE duties; these are enviable rewards for doing an important job!  And, it must be pointed out, because human nature is not always what we hope it will be, that “important job” may not always be easy.

At this first meeting there are various basic things to be done: (1) Each Visitor’s parents should be given ISSE forms #3, 4, 9, and 11-13 (see Forms page), and requested to fill them out and return them by a given date. (2) The Adult(s) should arrange to meet with each of the Visiting Team separately to fill out form #6, and a teacher or parent should do the same with the Host children. (3) Each family should receive an address list of all Visitors and Hosts, with parents’ names and phone numbers. Also on this list will be the address and phone number of the Adult(s) and the Coordinator, or the partner school, the Visiting and Hosting dates, etc… The importance of this meeting is to acquaint the delegates and their parents with the Adult(s) and the Coordinator, perhaps have pictures taken, and talk about ISSE and the program.

Further orientation meetings will be held separately for the Hosts and the Visitors. The Hosts need to learn what they can about their prospective guests, about the customs of their country, how to make them feel comfortable. The Visitors will have a great deal of planning, learning and practicing to do.

The Visiting Team will meet with the Adult(s), who set up the meeting schedule to plan assembly programs (a very important part of a Visit), decide whether or not to have any sort of a uniform for special occasions, discuss what gifts to take to the partner school and to their Host families, etc… Hosting children and their families will meet to plan the airport welcome, make “Welcome!” signs to post at school, decide on group outings and trips for the Visitors coming from the partner school. Hosts must also discuss the challenges of thoughtful and sensitive hosting, how to make their guests feel comfortable. It should be mentioned at this time that perhaps the guest and the Host family may not be a good match, no matter how hard both may try. In that case, the Visiting Adult and the Host Coordinator may decide that it would be wise to place the Visitor with another Host family. If this happens it would be wrong to assign “blame”; instead it should be pointed out that the interpersonal chemistry wasn’t working out and in order to give the Visitor the best chance to be happy and do a good job, a change of Host family is the right thing to do. If this is discussed before the Visiting Team arrives, then, if a move seems called for, it won’t be too uncomfortable a matter for the Host family involved.

The Host Coordinator, working with the teachers and the Host parents, should draw up a schedule showing when the Visiting team will visit each classroom, when the assemblies will be, when group trips will take place, and when there will be group get-togethers in out-of-school time (evenings, afternoons, week-ends). All of this should be shared and reviewed with the Visiting Adult prior to the Visiting Team’s arrival, to see if any changes need to be made. It is important not to schedule too much, so that the Host families will be able to have time for family-only experiences for their young guests: meeting relatives, joining neighborhood activities, perhaps attending a wedding, etc.

Communication/ Visit Preparation

Communication between partner schools is imperative and should be started as soon as possible (usually 2-3 months prior to travel). Don’t hesitate to make meetings at which the adult and the Visiting Team prepare for their trip to be scheduled by the Adult(s) in consultation with parents. These meetings are important and perfect attendance by all must be stressed. At these meetings the Team

The most important program the Team must plan is for one or more assemblies at the Host school. This event should be enjoyable, informative and simple. It should not be overloaded with facts which can be better learned by the Host school children in class study. Length should be no longer than 20-30 minutes, with lots of action. Singing, games, stories, slides, skits, dance make for a nice mixture. Keep it simple, but practice so it runs smoothly. (If you plan to use a projector, computer, sound system, etc., do not assume that the Host school has this equipment available. It might not, so you must check ahead of time.)

The Adult(s) should carry all forms, passports and visas, tickets, baggage checks, etc., during travel. It is recommended that monies should also be kept by the adult(s). The families of all Team members should contribute equally to an emergency fund which will be carried by the Adult. If not used, the money is returned to the families upon return home.

The amount of spending money taken by the children will be decided upon by the school. ISSE suggests no more than $200 (US) per child. Host parents (and their children) have frequently been shocked at the amount of money their guest has to spend. This gives a very wrong impression of the country he/she represents. The Adult should be responsible for holding “shopping money” and should dispense it only as needed. Discourage parents and friends from giving “extra” money at the airport.

 Passports and Visas should be applied for as early as possible. The Adult should check into the proper procedure and inform parents. Each family should consult with their physician about shots which might be needed in the country to be visited. The Adult should double-check with the health department. Some countries require notarized letters from BOTH PARENTS giving permission for their child to travel with the Adult. This permission might be added to the ISSE form “Accompanying Adult As Legal Agent” which the Adult should have available at all times. Your travel agent should be able to advise you on this.

Because water and certain foods in another country sometimes cause stomach problems for visitors, the Adult should have medicine available in case of stomach flu. However, this problem will not occur if Visitors will eat the food which the Host family provides at home, and eat carefully when away from home.

Travel arrangements for the delegation are sometimes set up by the school; sometimes it is up to the Adult(s) to make the arrangements. Be sure to confirm specific dates with the partner school before scheduling the flight times. All delegates should take a change of clothing in their flight bags in case of emergency (if luggage goes to Mexico while you go to Argentina!). Flight bags might be donated to ISSE groups if a travel agent is aware of the group’s purpose. Before leaving for the trip, some Adult delegates get better acquainted with their young team members by spending a weekend together, camping, sightseeing, swimming, whatever appeals to the whole group. This helps the whole team get to know each other, adult(s) and children. The adult(s) set the mood and the relationship, both at home and during the Visit. Be positive, be flexible, be yourself… Don’t expect any particular lifestyle but be willing and prepared to adapt to whatever you may find.

Some Adults are responsible for taking photos and presenting a program about the ISSE visit upon returning home. Perhaps the ISSE Committee should buy this film, pay for developing, and retain a CD for permanent record. The Adult(s) and the children should all keep journals during their Visit; the information therein will be very helpful when they are planning their reports and programs on their return. These can best be done while the Host child does homework, but if regular homework is not given in the foreign country, time should be set aside for this worthwhile activity.

Upon arrival at the partner school, the Adult should phone or send an email to report the delegation’s safe arrival. Never assume that a letter or telegram you may have sent has actually arrived. After a reasonable time, if no answer is received, telephone to confirm your plans. Always use airmail postage.

Answer letters promptly and keep copies of all correspondence for further reference. If one person does all of the official corresponding it will make for a more concise and organized relationship with the partner school, with less chance of a misunderstanding.

The Application, Acceptance, Summary, Release from Liability forms, the School Participation Fee and (U.S. schools only) the Registration fees should be sent to the ISSE-International Office promptly, before the first Visit takes place. The Post-Visit Reports should be sent to the Office within two weeks after the Hosting, and after the Visiting. In each country which has a national ISSE coordinator, each school should send to that coordinator a copy of all basic correspondence relating to its partnership plans.

As soon as Selection is complete, send Background Data Forms (with photographs and with introductory letter from each Host and Visitor) to the partner school. Continue as complete communication as possible with partner school: travel dates, numbers of Visitors expected, ideas for joint projects during Visits, equipment needs for assembly program, etc… Follow up with at least one phone call before each Visit takes place to be sure there are no misunderstandings. If communication seems very difficult, check with International Office or your National Coordinator for assistance.

It is strongly recommended that no phone calls be made by Visiting children or their parents while the children are away from home. Such calls tend to create homesickness and can become habit-forming. This includes Facebook, Skyping, and any direct contact.  Another reason all cell phones, iPads, etc. are to be collected upon arrival in host country.  Host families should never have to pay for long-distance calls made by their guests.  E-mail is an acceptable alternative.

When making plane reservations, wait until definite confirmation has been received from the Host school as to suitable dates for the Visit. 

 The Adult Delegate

After being selected, the Adult(s) chosen to lead the Visiting Team should meet with past Adults and ISSE Committee members. A full explanation of duties and responsibilities should be given. Also, the adult should study carefully ISSE Guidelines and this manual, Do’s and Don’ts.

It is important that the adult(s) establish from the beginning that he/she is the leader of the delegation and gain the respect and confidence of the children and their parents. The Adult(s) will need to brief the Team’s parents about: luggage, clothing, travel plans, passports and visas, health forms, etc…

lt is adequate if you have set up a calling/email list so that all parents are notified. This list should be made by the Adult(s) because he/she will mention informative news that a child might forget to mention. Also, the Adult(s) should write at least one e-mail during the Visit to each delegate’s family or school. One week before returning home, the Adult(s) should confirm the return flight tickets.

The Adult(s) should constantly bear in mind the basic ISSE purpose of the Visit: to spend time with the children in each Host school classroom, and to have as much friendly, direct contact as possible between the Visitors and the Host children in that class. This means careful planning, deciding on songs, dances, games, skits, etc., and then learning them. Pantomime skits are an excellent idea, particularly as a way to get beyond language barriers. Some Visiting Teams, before they leave home, go to each grade in their own school to discuss the trip and to ask what “project” the children in that class would like the Visitors to do for them while at the partner school. They also ask what songs, games, etc., the children like best, so they can teach them to the same-age class in the partner school. Upon returning home, they report back to each class about its particular project, and what the class was like. For example, a first grade might want to know what pets and other animals are common in the other country, and a fourth grade might give pen pal letters to be distributed to children their age.

The Adult(s) has an unique opportunity to learn and share ideas with teachers at the partner school, and then with fellow teachers at the home school. It is worthwhile keeping a journal and being ready for these opportunities.



Responsibilities of Host Child and Family

As Dr. Doris Allen, ISSE founder, has said, “The whole purpose of ISSE is to help children make friendships with children of other countries.” Host children and their families should follow an ISSE basic recommendation: Don’t plan too much, be flexible, and enjoy your visitors!  After the joint meeting with the Visiting Team has taken place, a Host Family orientation meeting should be held for all members of Host families, including brothers, sisters and relatives who live with them. The Child Data forms can be distributed so they can be filled out and, with a family-description welcome letter for their guests, sent to the guests assigned to each family. The Child Data forms for each Visitor will have come from the partner school, and the Host School will do the matching of Hosts and Visitors. Responsibilities of the Host families should be outlined at this meeting and reviewed at a later meeting, at which time final plans will be confirmed.

A discussion should be held at this first meeting concerning sensitivity on the part of the hosts toward their guest. It may be difficult at first for the visitor to become accustomed to the host’s food, meal-times and habits. Patience is very important for the Host family. Stress having the host child stay with his/her guest even when the host may prefer to do something alone with school friends. As soon as Host families know their Visitor’s name and address (email), they should help start a family-to-family correspondence. The sooner the better!

 Visiting students and their Adult(s) will be provided with an ISSE host family, a home, and meals for the approximately 4 weeks of the Visit. They should be made to feel that they are members of the family from the beginning of the correspondence. A host family should never assume that the Visiting delegates will speak the host’s language. Most delegations do speak English but to what extent cannot be known ahead of time. Be prepared to use sign language, smiles and friendly gestures. Try to learn what you can about your visitor’s country history and his language. Even a few words in their own language will surprise and delight them.

 Sleeping arrangements may be handled differently by each family. Some host delegates share bedrooms with their guest, others offer the visitor a choice of a private room or of sharing with the host child. Most schools request that the host families allow their guest a choice when it comes to family chores. Most children enjoy helping but they should not be expected to “work” for room and board.

Host families should try to lead as normal life as possible. Constant entertaining is not expected. Visitors seem to enjoy normal, everyday family activities rather than frequent shopping, sightseeing, etc… Hosts should find out if the guests have special interests and accommodate them if possible, but this does not mean a special activity every day.

If the Visiting child is homesick, it’s important to emphasize fun and attention; possibly have the host child help prepare his favorite food or have friends over for a game or records. Contact the Visiting Adult if the homesickness continues. Normally the first week will pass quickly and the homesickness with it. Discourage phone calls to the child’s family; probably they will only prolong the problem.

Hosts are encouraged to prepare their regular meals and not try to cook special items for their visitor. Most children adapt to the change in food quickly and if problems do arise, the Adult may be able to suggest alternative foods. If you are hosting a vegetarian, simple salads, vegetable casseroles, even pizza seem to be successful fare and fit in with any meal.

Most schools inform Host families that no long distances calls should be made from their homes by the Visiting children. In case of an emergency, consult with the Visiting Adult and ask her/him to decide if the situation warrants a call home. In most cases, an e-mail is an excellent alternative.

Attending church is an individual family matter. Host families who attend church regularly will wish to take their guest, and probably this will work out satisfactorily. If a child wishes to stay at home, possibly one parent could remain with him/her and they could do something together. On the other hand, if a host family does not attend church, or if their visitor is of another faith and wishes to attend a church of that faith, the host should try to make any necessary arrangements to make the child feel comfortable.

Host families should be encouraged to keep journals during the visit, and should remind their visitor to do the same, especially when their own child does homework.

Giving Host children ISSE badges to wear while the Visiting Team is at the school will allow other school children to know who the ISSE hosts are and will create an awareness of the Visit for everyone in school. Most Visitors will bring money with them for shopping. The Adult(s) is usually in charge of this money and will dispense it as needed. The host family should guide their guest in gift purchases but not unduly influence him or her to buy items that the host considers appropriate. Everyone must work together! Realize that not all Host children and their Visitors will become fast friends. A host should be gracious and accommodating and try to make the visitor feel welcome and appreciated. Flexibility is very important!  Host delegates should be reminded that they are representing their country while they host and should put their best foot forward.

Prior to the arrival, Host parents will meet to discuss various joint get-togethers for the Visitors. The Adult(s) should be scheduled to visit the home of each Team member for a meal. Sometimes the entire Visiting delegation is invited to these functions, sometimes only the Adult(s). Often a first-day party is held after the Visitors arrive. This could be an informal get-together at a host’s home, with all families included. Several group functions are usually planned: picnics, potluck suppers, tours, visits to community meetings, etc… This gives each Visitor a chance to see fellow delegates on weekends and after school, and introduces the Visitors to the host’s friends, culture and lifestyle.

Host families should be instructed that the Visiting children should never be left unchaperoned. An adult should be present at all times, in case of an emergency. Some schools request that Host parents not take children out of a one-two hour driving range unless the entire team or delegation is involved. In case of an emergency, the Adult chaperone(s) would then be on hand to supervise. Visiting children are responsible for any and all medical expenses they may incur while away from home. All parents of Visitors should be reminded of this and should provide the Adult(s) with adequate emergency funds to pay for expenses due to accidents or illness. Host parents should feel no pressure to pay for medical expenses of their visitor. (There was more here, but it was cut off for some reason.)

Use of Visitors by Host School

The purpose of the ISSE program is to arrange for each classroom of a school to be visited by the ambassadors from the partner school (See section V). Thus the Host Coordinator and the Visiting Adult must work closely together to be sure the Visiting Team is used in a constructive manner. It is important that the school schedule and the host teachers are as flexible as possible during this visiting time. The Visitors have come as a curricular resource and should not be regular participants in classroom work except as permitted by their schedule of Visitors’ activities. The job they have come to do must have first priority.

School schedules for the Visitors should balance “play” and “work” so there are varied opportunities for the Visitors to develop close relationships. Host teachers and the Visiting Adult should reach a joint agreement on goals. Many schools schedule the Visitors in class with their hosts for the first few days, though if the language barrier is too great and the Visitors do not understand the academic work, other plans must be made. In any case, after the Visitors begin to feel at home in the school, they should be involved with as many individuals and classes as possible.

Schools usually hold welcome and farewell assemblies to officially open and close the ISSE participation. Both schools should take part in these celebrations. The first day of school the Visiting children will be anxious to meet alone and compare notes with each other. Host children should expect this and not feel left out and upset. Some schools present small gifts to the Visiting team on their first day. In a U.S. school, for instance, these might be T-shirts and gym bags, which can be put to use immediately. Such gestures help break the ice and will be treasured souvenirs later on.

To involve all students at the Host school as well as their teachers, different classes might plan special ISSE projects each week. An ISSE bulletin board might be sponsored by several groups. Some Host students could help the Visitors introduce their language to the entire school over the public address system (if there is one), or in person in various classes each morning. All classes should meet and talk with the Visitors during the Visit. Games, songs, and skits can be used, and Visitors will try to adjust their individual class presentations to the different grade and interest levels. Some schools devote afternoons to visits to the younger grades, giving the morning hours to the upper grades.      

 The Coordinator should meet weekly with Host parents to evaluate the master schedule and see how things are going.  School meals for the Visitors are usually paid for by the school.  However, some schools arrange for the Host parents and children to cover this expense. This must be made clear when the program is undertaken.

Arrange for the Visiting delegation to give their main assembly program as early as possible in the visit. This will allow other children to know who the Visitors are and create more warmth for and interest in the ISSE program. The Host Coordinator and the Adult(s) from the Visiting school should consider almost daily how effective the classroom visits have been, and how to make them more effective during the coming days. The Adult(s) will often be with the Visiting children and at times may teach certain classes on his/her own. Also, the Adult(s) should have time to talk informally with teachers, visit other schools, meet with community groups, etc.  Plan to take Visitors to visit one or two other elementary schools in your community. It is interesting for them to see what other schools in your country are like, and it is an excellent way for other schools to get a taste of the ISSE experience. The visit might include three parts: being shown around the school by a few older students, attending an interesting class where there can be interaction with local children, and a short assembly program put on by the Visitors. The whole visit need last no longer than a couple hours. It can be fun for both the Visiting team and the other school, and perhaps the other school will become interested in joining the ISSE program so it can have its own partner school.  

It would be useful if the Hosting school can provide a room to be used by the Visitors from the partner school to display pictures, maps, and other items they have brought with them. Perhaps this room is the place for the Host school classes to come, on a schedule, one, two, or more times for joint sessions with the Visitors. At the very least, the Host school should provide a small area for the Visitors to plan, leave notebooks or lunches, or for the teacher to hold individual or small group conferences. Because of their irregular schedule, there may well be times when the Visitors are bored or tired. Suggest that they work on their journals or allow them to go to the library.  Simple relaxation and letter writing need some time. Local sightseeing, with or without Host children, could be arranged for such times, perhaps escorted by a school parent or community friend.

After the Visit is over, it can be very useful to get Host families to write some sort of evaluation of the program. These can be given to the ISSE Coordinator and considered by the ISSE Committee.

Visiting Team Responsibilities

Members of the Visiting Team should understand that their selection as ISSE representatives holds great responsibility. Good behavior is expected at school as well as in their Host home. It might be useful to consider this behavior in class discussion before leaving home. Visitors should not be shy about showing their appreciation to their Host families. They should be able to make their own bed, wash out clothing if necessary, and help around the host’s home. Adaptability, humility and willingness to participate are very important.


The Adult(s) and the Visiting child’s parents should stress the importance of the child’s positive attitude while visiting. The impression a Visiting Team makes on the children in the Host school will last a lifetime. There should be discussion with Visitors before they leave home about: (1) not using cell phones, iPads, and any other personal technology items during the visit; the purpose of being a visitor is to interact and learn about your host and his/her culture; (2) how to deal with cliques, petty jealousy, and misunderstandings between different cultures; (3) the importance of discipline on buses and in the classroom; (4) the possibility of homesickness and how to deal with it; (5) how much thoughtfulness and “extra good” manners can contribute to good feelings on everybody’s part.  The Visiting Adult(s) and/or Hosting Adult(s) should collect all personal technology items upon arrival in hosts’ country and plan to return them when ready for departure back to home country.


The weekly meetings, for several months before departure, are very important for both Adult(s) and Visiting children. The children learn how to participate cohesively as a group. Parents become involved and get to know the chaperoning Adult(s).

Some delegations have school uniforms which they wear as their travel uniform with an ISSE badge. Other delegations have an ISSE blazer or vest which they wear while traveling (and sometimes during programs), or have no uniform at all. The decision concerning whether or not to have a uniform is left to the discretion of each school. ISSE badges or patches are useful in that they allow others to know who the delegates are and also help spread interest in ISSE.

When planning the assembly and classroom presentations that will be given at the Host school, it is wise to keep the format simple, fun and interesting (usually 30 minutes or less). Try to anticipate what will be enjoyable. The Visiting Team should be enthusiastic about the program and should show this in their behavior. Practice programs can be given for parents and in the Visitor’s home school.

Most schools present their Host school a gift during the program. Books, maps, flags are among the items usually given. Some schools send gifts from various classes: letters, pictures, student stories about themselves, reports about their community or country. Scrapbooks are interesting projects to prepare, also small collections of coins and stamps.

Visiting children must be prepared to accept their celebrity status at the Host school comfortably. Upon return home, this status will change and the child must return to the regular routine of schooling. The Adult(s) can help this transition move smoothly.

Parents might be advised to send a letter to their child ten days to two weeks before the Team leaves so that upon arrival a letter will be waiting. Notes such as this are reassuring and allow the child to have word from home right at the beginning of the new experience. An e-mail is a good alternative.

It is a tremendous boost to ISSE if Visitors will take pen-pal letters from classes in their own school. While at the partner school they should encourage students there to write replies which they can bring back home with them.

The Visitors should also work with the Adult(s) to email (plan a blog) back to their home school with photos and updates about what they’re doing in the country while they’re visiting.  That way when the delegation returns, their home school will already have some knowledge of what the delegation was doing.  It is also important for the visitors to share their experience and pictures on the ISSE website by posting their own stories, etc.

When Host students are busy with homework, the Visiting children should write in their journal, or learn more about the country they are visiting. A good social studies book about the country which might seem boring at home can be most interesting when read in that country!  The Visiting children should not be expected to complete regular classroom work while abroad.

A Visiting Team should try give an assembly report to their own school after their return, and a report to the various classes whom they represented abroad. Their program can include games, songs and dances learned, also photos showing the partner school, classrooms, Host homes, etc. learned. This homecoming assembly can be very useful if done well.

Public Relations

Press reports and radio and TV coverage are important means of letting people in the community know about the ISSE program. Using local daily/weekly news sources rather than regional or state coverage may be more beneficial to the school and ISSE as a whole.  Some schools put newspaper clippings, snapshots and memorabilia from each partnership into scrapbooks which can be available for others to look through and thus share one aspect of “international school-to-school experience”.  Since the purpose of ISSE is to help people all over the world, while they are still children, to become aware of and to better understand their peers in other countries, it is important that more and more schools, in one’s own and in other countries, hear about and join the ISSE network. One of the best and easiest ways for participating schools to help spread word about the ISSE program is through magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV.  The media should be contacted before and after your team of ambassadors visits your partner school, and while the partner school’s Visiting Team is at your school.  If ISSE is well presented in media reports, parents and other schools will become interested in having a part in the international experiences.


Important word of caution: In talking with the media representatives, emphasize that the purpose of ISSE is to provide international contacts and experiences for all the children in your school. Otherwise reporters and photographers are likely to devote their attention primarily to the few children who are selected to be Hosts and Visitors. This misplaced emphasis can cause people in your school, as well as the community, to assume that the ISSE program is organized for the primary benefit of only a few, and therefore they may well hesitate to support it. For instance, be sure to have a photograph taken of the Visiting Team in classrooms with younger children, and of their assembly program for the entire school. A photo showing only the Visitors and their Hosts is “a natural”, but it gives a misleading impression

Follow Up

Evaluations of each ISSE partnership are valuable to an ISSE school and to the ISSE program as a whole.  Questionnaires can be given to home-room teachers in each class, to members of the parent body (whose children may or may not have brought home reports of the children from the partner school), to the Visitors and Hosts and to their parents, to any local group to which the Visitors may have presented their program, etc… The broader the group polled, the more useful. These feedbacks help us realize how the program is working, what we are doing effectively and what improvements are needed.

Many schools compile an ongoing list of all children and families actively involved in ISSE. These people may not be active in ISSE on a continuing basis, but they can give advice and support in various ways. Some schools have annual social reunions (in the U.S., perhaps a pot-luck supper) to hear reports on the current partnership and its visits. This is an excellent time to renew ISSE friendships and continue the life-line of ISSE.


The funding of ISSE programs should be, ideally, included in each school’s budget because it should be part of the curriculum of the entire school. That day will come. Meanwhile the money for airfare, ISSE fees and other costs comes from various sources. Depending on the situation in the particular school, we find various alternatives:

Enough funds are raised in the community to pay all costs, so that any child ages 10-12 can apply to be a Visitor, regardless of parental ability to pay. Some fund-raising methods have been: selling candy, flowers or food; having a bike or spell-a-thon; yard or porch sales; selling old newspapers for recycling; a skating party; a raffle, etc..

The school provides some money in some situations. The parents of Visitors pay the remainder of their child’s fare plus a share of the cost for the Adult.

The School selects Visitors only from families which can pay the full share of transportation costs, or can be supported by the available scholarship fund. Most schools pay: (a) the ISSE School Participation Fee that is currently $150 (b) the substitute teacher’s pay and (c) the regular pay of the teacher serving as an Adult delegate. Money is often hard to get for these purposes, therefore schools need to work out alternative methods of covering expenses, until the day comes when they will be covered by the school budget, under “Curriculum”.

ISSE Guidelines and Forms

There’s a separate ISSE booklet available to ISSE coordinators upon request. Master copies of all “Required ISSE Forms” can be found on the Forms Page, available to ISSE participating schools.