Discussion Topics

Discussion topic: Is your destiny in the international school community?

December 14, 2011

Are you thinking about starting in the international school community?  Do you know what you are really getting yourself into?  It is hard to know if you don’t have friends already in the International School Community.

We would like to highlight a blog entry from the T Tech Tips’ blog. This international school educator provides some great insight to the real lives of international school teachers and the decisions that we are faced with as we move around the world from school to school.

“It’s that time of year again in the international education world of contracts, decisions, and thinking about your future. Kim Cofino has a great post about finding the right fit…the right school. Whether you are an international educator or not it’s worth a read.  International Teachers are different…we’re weird….we don’t like stability, we like change and challenge. We like travel, culture and to be honest I think we all like just being different. If you’ve met an international educator you’ll know what I’m talking about. Countries, airports, and airlines are just common conversation.

But that’s us…..we live on year by year contracts, don’t try to make us sign a multi-year deal….cause that’s a deal breaker in itself (part of the reason we left Shanghai). We’re renegades, we’re individuals, and nobody is going to tell us where we’re going to live or that we can’t leave….cause we will just to prove you wrong. Yeah….International Educators are different. We expect open bars at conferences. We expect conferences to be in amazing locations. Borneo, Bangkok, Greece, Shanghai, Singapore, Egypt, Nice, etc. Yeah…..international conferences are rough.”

It is true that we (international school educators) are strange.  Most people’s families don’t lead lives like us.  My relatives all either live in the same city as each other or the city next to that city.  He is right in saying that we are living a wonderful live when the expectation is that we are sent to conferences in international locations around the world; that does not happen to teachers teaching in the public school system in the United States.  There was just a PYP conference in Malta and an ECIS conference in Lisbon this past October.  Many teachers from my school were attendees!

“And then there is the friendships you create. Deep meaningful friendships with people who become your family. My best friends little brother, who I’ve known since he was in 6th grade graduated from University as an elementary teacher and decided to try out the international teaching thing. His first posting has been Kuwait where he’s in his second year, meaning that he’s now having to decide whether to stay another year or decide if it’s time to move on. He wrote a blog post, a couple lately actually, talking about his decision and how attached one becomes to friends, a country and these amazing kids we have the honor of teaching. Some very reflective blog posts from a young teacher trying to figure out life, education, and the meaning of it all.”

It is tough to leave friends and your host country of 2-3 years. It is important to note forget the students that you will miss.  Not necessarily the individual students, but the general demeanor of the kids at the school.  One school I have been at had really “active” kids, another school had kids with less “personality.”  International school teachers must keep that in mind as they are thinking about moving on because you can’t just find the same kinds of student just anywhere.

“As I’ve done more consulting and conferences in the past two years people ask me quite often, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

It’s a questions I honestly can’t answer because I don’t know where I see myself in 1 year. But here’s what I do know.

So this year when it came to deciding to sign contracts at ISB for another year we sat down with the administration to see if I could have my cake and eat it too. Could I work in a school with students and continue to consult and present? Three years ago we reached an agreement that allowed me to take days without pay up to 20% to do consulting. Which brought me to ISB in the first place. With a new contract season upon us it was time to see if we could come to an agreement again….and I’m happy to say we did.

Next year I’ll be on a 90% contract at ISB as the High School Technology & Learning Coordinator. So I’ve given up 10% of my contract to focus on following my recent passion of consulting and presenting.”

What a great opportunity to take your career to the next level!  I guess there is much flexibility in our jobs working at international schools.  For die-hard members of our international school community, it truly is hard to decide where you will be in five years.  Most of us plan year to year, maybe 2 years in advance.  Some international schools allow a year to year contract, others make you sign a two-year contract.  Either way, each year international educators always have a mini-plan in the back of their mind about where they would like to go next.  It is what excites us; the endless possibilities of where you can live and work.