International School Community Blog

The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #7 – “Benefits, preps, class sizes, and student mix.”

“Nine Lessons Learned” taken from The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs article by Clay Burell’s blog Beyond School.

7. “Benefits, preps, class sizes, and student mix.”

“You don’t offer a flight home after the first year? You don’t cover dependents? 70% of your student population is Korean? You laugh off the notion that four preps is too much for new (or old) teachers?”

If you are thinking of these questions to yourself, the interview you are in just might not be going well for you.  Having to possibly alter your expectations of your next job experience is not fun!  As a good rule of thumb, remember to always to stay true to what you know is the best fit for you and be aware or warning signs and red flags indicating to pass on this international school. Even if it means to pass up that opportunity to live in France or Hong Kong (or wherever you most desire to live).

Student population:

If you know that you prefer to work at an international school that has a very international student population, then accepting a job at an international school that has 70% of the student population being Korean might not be a good fit for you to work at.  But always remember that each international school is different.  They all have their own unique situations and what seems unacceptable to you at your current school might not be so unbearable at your next international school.  You might find that you like just the opposite of what you were originally looking for or hoping to have be different.

Are there certain things (or lack of certain things) really deal breakers?  Would your life be just too dreadful if you now had four duties instead of the two you have now?  I suppose you might be able to easily adapt to having four duties, incorporating a new routine to how you organize your day and when you plan your lessons.  However, if many teachers are staying at school until 18h or later to plan their lessons (possibly because of their large class size, their four duties throughout the week and the after-school activity that they are required to do), then getting the right information about the reality of that school is very important.  Fortunately, it is usually appropriate for you to address these concerns to your interviewer.  Unfortunately, you might not get the ‘full picture’ in their response.  Luckily, there is a website like International School Community now where you can contact people that have worked at (or currently work at) that school to get a second answer to your concerns and questions about the workload for teachers at international schools from all over the world.

Example comment about workload
Flight allowance:
My first international school experience was at a school that didn’t have a flight allowance.  In turn, I didn’t think anything of paying for my own flight home and always found some money to do just that because of my salary and living situation.  Though I had heard about flight allowances existing at other international schools, I didn’t think my lack of a flight allowance wasn’t so bad.  My second international school experience was at a school that had an annual flight allowance.  I thought that was great and a nice change (especially being that it was farther away from my home on record). Unfortunately, it was at a school that was going through some financial problems and getting that flight allowance was definitely a headache.  Sometimes we would would have to wait many months until we got reimbursed for our flights.  My third international school experience is at a school that gives a flight allowance every two years for the first six years that you are working there.  And getting your flight reimbursed is no issue at all; you basically get reimbursed the same day or the next business day.  I wish the flight allowance would be every year, but I am appreciative that I am getting one at least every two years. Remember to ask your interviewer how their international school deals with flight allowances (or why they don’t offer one).  Get the specifics as best you can!  There is a topic in the School Section on every school profile page on International School Community that specifically deals with flight allowances.

Example comments about flight allowance

So many things to think about and so many things to ask about when interviewing to work at an international school.  If you get a job offer, make sure you ask them for a grace period before you have to give them your final decision.  During this grace period, I always do a ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ list for all the schools that I am considering to work at. If a school has many ‘pros’ (good ratio between prep time to teaching periods) and only a few ‘cons’ (no flight allowance), then I just might consider it.  It also might be a good idea to make a list of your non-negotiables on hand as well so that they don’t slip your mind as your brain starts to only think about the high salary that they may be offering you!  When you meet with the school that final time (before signing the contract), hopefully you will have had the chance to do your research on the school and have gotten answers to all your questions and concerns so that you can comfortably and gracefully accept or decline their offer.
There are over 3400 of submitted information and comments about 1000s of international schools around the world on International School Community.  Each international school has its own profile page, and on each school profile page there are four sections: School, Benefits, City and Travel.  Members of are able to read about and submit their own comments and information in those four sections, all in a very easy to read and organized manner.  It is a great way to get a better glimpse into what could be your future life as you venture out into the world to work at your next international school! It is also a great resource at your disposal as you interview with different international schools when job hunting.