It’s been almost 10 years since my wife Kyla and I decided to take the leap and embark on an adventure of teaching overseas. At that time in 2008, we had been married for little under a year, owned a home, two cars, a lot of debt, and I had a permanent contract with Edmonton Public Schools and Kyla had just graduated from her B.Ed program at the University of Alberta and had an offer on the table the same district. Life you could say, was going to plan.
But that wasn’t the plan. There are things you say and things you're going to do and Kyla was not going to let teaching overseas be something we always said we would do. So we dove head first into the international job market that May of 2008. Little did we know this was very late for the international teacher job market, so we were left with jobs which had remained unfilled since October. We also had little idea where to look, what questions to ask, what contracts looked like, nor what work conditions were. Our only exposure to the international education lifestyle was from a colleague I met during my student teacher placement who had taught ESL in Asia and referred me to the famous Dave’s ESL Cafe as well as passed along a book, the title of which I cannot recall. Needless to say, we have learned a lot about this “International Teaching” gig since then and have a lot of paying it forward to do.
For some reason around this time of year I get contacted a lot by teachers outside of the “International Education” scene asking what it is all about and how to get started. This is my response not only to those who mail me directly but also for those who are just curious. I’ll do my best in this series of posts to give back what we have received and more in terms of guidance and support.
FAQ #1: Do you teach english overseas?
A: No. There is a major difference between those ESL teachers and International School educators. In a nutshell, international educators teach content, like History, Science, Math, English in private K-12 educational institutions aimed at providing students an International/American/British/etc learning experience, primarily in the language of english. For the most part, to teach in an International School, you need an education degree, certification, and a couple years experience in your home country.
AQ #2: How do I find a job?
A: There are two agencies I would recommend you start with, especially if this is your first time applying, Search Associates or International School Services. We have found jobs with both but have had a better experience with Search Associates. This may have been due to the fact that we started with Search Associates early when we were hoping to move to Asia and attended their annual job fair in Bangkok. What I wouldn’t recommend, is going with neither if you are new to the job market. Both will connect you with available jobs/positions in hundreds of schools around the world, contract information, the ability to apply directly, and a mentor who has experience connecting educators just like you with teaching positions. If you are able to, I would highly recommend going to a job fair. That being said, more and more schools are trying to hire at least half of their positions via Skype before they have to go on the fair circuit.
FAQ#3: When do I start looking?
A: Teaching positions tend to open up between October and December 31st for most international Schools. I would recommend being ready to apply within that time frame. That means having all your traditional applications documents ready as well as a strong web presence. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. In this market, you have to market yourself to gain that edge and share the best of yourself in the most efficient manner possible. International schools process hundreds if not thousands of applications for dozens of positions and having a strong and active website showcasing your practice is often a tipping point in the hiring process, especially for progressive schools.
FAQ#4: How do I know if a school is a “good” school?
A: This is a tough questions. There are a wide range of international school out there servicing a wide range of demographics and it is very subjective as to what qualifies as a good vs bad school. International Schools Review is a resource which receives mixed reviews but one which I have found valuable as a reference amongst many including Google searches, reaching out to my expat network, and the previously mentioned agencies. It is important to understand that ISR is an open review site where anyone can post a review on any school.
I hope this is helpful to those exploring international education for the first time. Blog posts to come in the future will expand upon the experiences we have had and some other things you may want to consider before taking that leap.