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The Wonderful World of International School Hiring Fairs: Lesson #7 (Part 2) – “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.” (Part 2)

“When it came down to thinking I’d be choosing between two very attractive schools, I told one of them how I hoped that saying ‘no’ this time, if the decision went that way, wouldn’t close the door to a ‘yes’ next time in years to come. The gentlemanly answer of the man I said this to was so winsome, I don’t know what to say, other than that it made me want to work in this man’s school even more. The answer was no less impressive for its simplicity, which was, simply, ‘Your saying no to us will offend us no more than we’d want to offend you if we said no to you. It’s the nature of the beast, and we understand that, so no doors will close at all.’”

It is all about luck and timing.

When luck and timing are both in alignment, then the offers start coming in for you.  However, those offers are still ones that you need to sit back and closely look at before saying ‘yes’ to an administrator at an international school recruitment fair.  The immediate and complete understanding is difficult with regards to these important considerations: benefits, prep times, class sizes, and the student mix.  You might not entirely understand the ramifications of these factors until you actually get there.  This dilemma is one that makes going to these recruitment fairs a bit stressful at times.

There are too many to list really. Just to name a few: housing and housing allowance, average monthly salary after taxes, flight allowance, moving allowance, settling-in allowance, free local language classes, gratuities and bonuses, transportation, saving potential, etc.  If you ask any international school teacher, the one that they list as the most important will most likely always be different.  They all are important to an international school teacher working in a foreign country.  Which benefits though are you willing to be flexible on, that is the question.  You need to know that ahead of time if you plan on making your decision to sign a contract within 24 hours of receiving an offer.

Prep time
It is hard to know what that would be like at an international school that you haven’t worked at yet.  It would be great to be able to contact a teacher that either works there now or has worked there in the past (you can easily do just that on International School Community) to know exactly what the prep times are and whether they are enough or not enough.  Surely having sufficient prep time is important.  Make sure to ask about it and make sure that the school gives you an honest response.  I know one friend that works at an international school where there is very limited prep time which results in this person having to work a total of 70 hours a week!

Class sizes
Having 20 students on your own isn’t that bad.  Having 20 students in your class with a full time teaching assistant is even better.  Having 14 students or less in your class might be too small actually.  However, having 30+ students in your class on your own or even with a teaching assistant might prove to be a deal breaker when it comes to working at international schools.  I actually haven’t known this to be the case in the international schools I know about, but it probably does exist in some schools.  Make sure to get a clear idea about class sizes during your interview, and how they may or may not change in the near future for many international schools are either expanding or losing students these days; most schools seems to be in flux all the time.

Student mix
It is important for some international school teachers, for some it is not so important.  Is an international school really an international school when over 80% of the student population is from the host country?  The answer to that question might be found here.  Either way, it is up to your preference.  Working with a student population as diverse as Vienna International School (12 Comments submitted on this school on our website) that has a student population that represents over 100 different nationalities could be very rewarding and inspiring in which to work.  Working at Ibn Khuldoon National School (12 comments submitted on this school on our website) which has a student population of mostly local host country students might also be very rewarding and inspiring to work at.  Each school can have its own pros and cons about their student populations.  Sometimes it depends on the ethos of the school; how the students think and behave and interact with the teachers, the other students, their parents, and the community.

Potentially burning bridges and closing doors
If all these benefits and other factors don’t seem to match up for you at this point in your international school career, then the answer you will most likely give to the international school administrator is ‘no.’  The reason that it should be ‘no’ is because all indicators then are pointing to an international school that is not the best fit for you at this time in your life.  Hopefully, like Burell explains, this ‘no’ answer won’t be burning any bridges for a potential good/better fit in the future.  I would imagine that most international schools would respond in the same way as the one he interviewed with at the recruitment fair.  For it is true to say that international schools are looking for candidates that are the best fit for them and ‘their situation’ too.

There are over 4200 submitted information and comments about over 1175 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 internationalschoolcommunity.com 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.