Is Teaching in Norway for Everyone?
January 3, 2019
Norway is often a country that people dream of for a holiday destination, its fjords, mountains and forests are universally admired, rightly so! When visitors do arrive, they generally find exactly what they expected, natural beauty, friendly people and great food. Norway never disappoints visitors, at least not when you come prepared and forewarned about the weather!
Strangely enough, Norway is NOT on a list of must go to places for international school teachers seeking to develop their careers. To be honest, I would never have picked Norway as a place to teach, it never entered my head. I was used to how things worked in Asia, having worked in both Singapore and China. I had worked in the UAE and to be honest, like most, Norway and other Scandinavian countries did not even register as a possible destination.
I had been thinking about trying to land a position in Europe, to gain exposure to new schools, but also because the lifestyle would be so different from what I had been used to in Asia and the Middle East. My idea was to go to Italy or perhaps Switzerland, however, while trolling the internet for open positions, I found a couple of vacancies in Norway. It seemed such an unusual place to work, so I did not hesitate to send in an application. As a teacher with a trailing spouse and two children, often, schools balk at the idea of even considering me. The beauty of Europe is, if you are a solid teacher, you will have as much opportunity as the next person.
After a couple of interviews, I was on my way! I could not believe it! I was given information on how to get my working papers sorted, it was a long, but not difficult process if you already have most of all the required documents. My advice to anyone considering Norway as a place to work, start this process BEFORE applying for jobs. You will need to have your degree qualified by both NOKUT (the people who check that degrees are valid and real) as well as UDIR (the Education Ministry.) This process is free, but lengthy.
I used a website (Finn.No) to help find an apartment and waited for my papers to come through, eventually, starting work on a temporary permit (1 year.) Eventually, of course the agreements from both NOKUT and UDIR were complete and I became a longer term visa holder.
I have been at my school for the past 3 years. I think, for me, this is the most amazing country to teach in, if you can handle the cold and dark in winter of course, and the sun and warmth of summer too! As a family, there is no shortage of amazing experiences to be had here in Oslo: long hikes around a multitude of lakes, forests and rivers, ferries along the Oslo Fjord and of course, winter comes with skiing, skating and other winter activities. Christmas in Norway is delightful. If you are like me, from the Southern Hemisphere, a white Christmas will be a novelty!
My school is a privately owned organisation that is supported by the government. This means we must meet certain Norwegian standards as far as curriculum and number of days taught. I have only positive things to say about my school. However, on a broader scope, international schools in Norway are fast developing. There are 2 English speaking schools in Oslo, plus others in Asker, Trondheim, Bergen, Kongsberg, Tromso, Arendal, Alesund, Stavanger and Moss to name just a few. Choose carefully, remember, Norway is a huge country and the population is not great.
I have found I have had great PD and certainly, within the IB world, there is great connectivity between schools in Norway, ensuring that new ideas flow and are shared. The teaching hours are great and at least at my school, we do not offer out-of-hours programs (this is because there are so many opportunities for children to be involved outside of school) which frees me up to prepare and concentrate on my own programs. Holiday times are magical, the biggest issue is to decide where to go! Prague, Rome, London or stay here in Norway and see this amazing country (don’t forget to get up north to take a look at the Northern Lights.)
If I were to pick a negative to living here, it is quite simply the cost. If you do not have two incomes, it will be very difficult to get by. A single teacher should manage, but a married teacher, with a non working spouse will find it difficult.
Would I come again? Absolutely! Teaching in Norway has been the best decision, as a teacher and as a parent, that I have made. It’s true, I have not saved much, but, the experience, the lifestyle and the work life has been second to none. I think it will be difficult to find anything better than this, anywhere.
This article was submitted by ISC member and guest author, Shane Blackbourn. Shane is a PYP5 teacher at Norlights International School in Oslo, Norway. This is his third year at the school. He is married, with 2 daughters who also attend the school.