International School Community

For the Newbies

How Do I Get into International Education #3: Bring It On!

February 16, 2014


“I wondered about the explorers who’d sailed their ships to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.”

Jodi Picoult, Handle With Care

Recruitment season is now in full swing. So it´s time to finally get down to business. But with more than 6500 international schools in the world, where do you start?

DSC_9281To begin, do your research both on the schools, and the country and city where they are located. When considering a location, be open-minded and willing to consider any place. Be prepared to experience (or maybe, in some cases, tolerate might be a better word), the cultural differences and discover the richness of these new cultures. Whether for good or bad, the influence of western culture and commercialization has stretched so far that if you were dropped, blindfolded into a city in almost any place in the world, you might be hard-pressed to figure out what country it was. But peel back that superficial layer of “globalization,” and you will find a place of such rich cultural diversity, that your own life can only be enriched. When looking at schools, look for a school with which you share educational, leadership and lifestyle values. Unless you are going to be in a position to influence it, look for one that has a clear vision for who they are, where they are going, and a well-developed strategic plan to get there. Let´s face it, a teacher teaches. You do what you do regardless of where you are, so that it the easy part.

In a recent non-scientific survey, of educators, teachers were asked, “What questions did you wish you had asked in the interview?” The top six, in no particular order, were:

• What is the average tenure of the international staff? (If the answer is two years, maybe there are issues beneath the surface. If it is ten years, there is a reason people stay.)

• What percentage of the student (and staff) body is international? (This may be completely irrelevant to you, but it gives a picture of the culture of the school.)

• How will the school help me settle in? (If you are left to your own devices, you will almost certainly run into some roadblocks immediately.)

• Tell me about the orientation program (i.e.: housing, benefits, salary) (See above.)

• What are the pros and cons of living in the country, and what are the top challenges in adjusting? (A later article will deal with culture shock, but you WILL experience it.)

• What priority does the school place on work/life balance? (If you are single and a workaholic, there are schools for you. If you´re not, you want to be in a school that recognizes the importance of “downtime.”)

Likewise, administrators were asked, “What do you wish you knew about the interviewee, but might not have asked?”

• How adaptable will this person be in the school and community, cultural values, and with our way of doing things? (A certain kiss of death is to hear, “In my old school, we ….”)

• Will (s)he be an open-minded team player? (If you are not, you and everyone around you will be miserable.)

•  Is (s)he willing to make strengthening the school a priority, or is (s)he a teacher-tourist? (Yes, you definitely want to explore the country—that´s part of the whole experience. Just remember, you are being paid to do a job.)

• What will (s)he contribute to the school community? (It´s not JUST a job. What special interests, skills, hobbies do you bring that will enrich the community?)

• If we invest in him / her, is (s)he in it for the long haul? (If you are going into a job knowing that you are there for “only two years,” how will you find the motivation to really give 100%?)

DSC_9709Be prepared to ask those questions and give the interviewer the answers to the questions (s)he has in mind, and you will be setting yourself up for success. If teaching in international education is, to paraphrase a seasoned international educator, “doing an ordinary job in an extraordinary place,” why do it? First, it is, without a doubt, an adventure. Stepping out into the unknown is exciting and frightening at the same time, but approached with the right mindset, it will be a wonderfully positive experience. Secondly, living in a different country, is quite different from visiting it.  You will be in a unique position to explore the country, meet the people and learn about their culture. Take the time to do so, and make an effort to learn the language. As you do, you will grow as a global citizen. And above all, you will be able to take the best of all cultures, incorporate them into your life, and have a greater understanding of the world around us.

Step out of your comfort zone, into the unknown, and immerse yourself in it. To say that you understand the world as a traveler, is to only scratch the surface. To say that being in a plane is flying, is like saying you´re swimming, while in a boat. Get out of the plane and enjoy the adventure.

Good luck and watch this space for the next article, where we will look at making the move, and the final article in this series will look at how to deal with culture shock.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: John Brown.

(John has held both administrative and teaching positions for over 20  years, with the last five being in international education. He is a well respected presenter at regional, national and international education and technology conferences as well as a consultant, who has helped set standards in teacher training and assessment, use of technology in the classroom, curriculum development and effective management practices. A graduate of Tarleton State University in Texas, USA, with graduate studies at North Texas State University and Texas Wesleyan School of Law, he is currently teaching IB Psychology and Spanish at an international school in Portugal. His current projects include development of an online tutoring system for Spanish, consulting on development of a National Language Policy for the United States, and research into the effects of early language learning on brain development. You can contact John at jbb0906@gmail.com.)

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For the Newbies

How Do I Get into International Education #2: How Do I Find That Coveted Position? (Part 2 of 2)

October 20, 2013


(This article is a continuation of Part 1)

If the meat market or job fair theme is not for you, another option is to work directly with an independent recruiter. In light of the changing attitudes toward job fairs and tight budgets, many educators are now turning to recruiters. They provide many of the same benefits as the major recruiting organizations, but offer more individual attention. As with the organizations mentioned above, some charge educators a fee, others are funded by the schools. A unique advantage to using a recruiter is that they have more intimate contact with schools and are focused on helping both. The screening process is bilateral. They work with schools to screen candidates for best fit and also screen schools in an attempt to provide a match for candidates that will be mutually beneficial. One of those agencies is Carney Sandoe www.carneysandoe.com. Although they advertise schools around the world, they seem to have more placements in the United States. One recruiter that is relatively new and growing stronger every day is Teacher Horizons www.teacherhorizons.com. A recent check of their listings revealed a number of postings throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Snake oil—diamond—or diamond in the rough?

http://www.icmstudy.com/icm/images/course_imgs/info.jpg

To quote a phrase made famous by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Доверяй, но проверяй (doveryai, no proveryai) for those non-Russian speakers among us, “Trust but verify.” As you begin to sift through the offers rolling in, it is important to do your research. Before interviewing with a school, and certainly before accepting a position, it is in everyone´s best interest to do your research. You want to get an objective picture of the school, administration, potential colleagues, students and families, not to mention the country and city, it´s politics, and possibly, if this is a priority for you, even what brands of deodorant are available. The rub in all of this is the term objective. Bear in mind that everyone has an agenda. Unfortunately, there is a lot of, at a minimum hyperbole and at worst, fiction out there. As long as you approach your research with that in mind, you will be usually be able to find the facts among all of the roses—or thorns.

The first place to look in your search is a school´s website. It will give you a good picture of what´s going on and their priorities. It also can give you a look between the lines. If for example the information is up-to-date and relevant, someone at the school has made it a priority to present a current picture of the school. If it´s not, it could be that it is no longer relevant, that they are not proud of what is going on, or simply that everyone is too busy to take care of it. Look closely at the vision, mission and values of the school. Do they represent your vision, mission and values in education? Are they practical and relevant? Do they look like they lead to an actionable plan, or do they look like cookie-cutter, feel-good idealisms that do not really say anything? Look at the goals and the strategic plan. Are they achievable by mere mortals? Are they missing? If there is no strategic plan, could it be that the ship is rudderless?

Another option are the myriad of school review sites. Among the most common, is International Schools Review www.internationalschoolsreview.com. A weakness to this site is that you do not have to be a member to post a review [on International School Community you need to be a member to leave comments]. There truly are facts to be found here, but only with a microscope. First, to read the reviews, you must be a member. The fee is reasonable but might be the best investment. This anonymity for posting, opens the door to the hyperbole and fiction referred to above. The thing to keep in mind as you read these reviews is that if it seems very rosy, it was most likely written by someone with a vested or financial interest, i.e.: a founder, board member or administrator. If on the other hand, it seems like hell on earth, it was most likely written someone who left the school under less than friendly terms. You have to read between the lines to find the kernels of truth, but hopefully you will also be able to identify some rational and objective reviews.

Other places to look are the International Baccalaureate (IBO) site, www.ibo.org, or discussion forums found on such sites as Linked In www.linkedin.com, or Internations www.internations.org. Ultimately, it is incumbent on you to do the research to be sure that you make informed decisions that are right for you.

Talk to me!

Burnout stress - woman sleeping on computerSo you have your papers in order, you have jumped through all of the hoops. You know about the schools and countries you are considering and you heard that they have a position. The next step is to sign the contract, right? Well, not so fast. You still have to convince them that you are the perfect person for the job.

Before blasting out 200 CV´s with a form cover letter, do your homework. Although at job fairs, it may seem that international schools are isolated entities in “competition” with each other, the reality is that it is a small group. The directors of these schools know each other, and whether they are best friends or passing acquaintances, they talk and compare notes. You want them to see that you have carefully considered your skills and their needs and that you truly believe that you are a solid fit. Remember that there are a set number of hours in a day and just as you have limited time to get things done, so do directors and recruiters. Do not waste your time or theirs by sending a letter of interest to a school that is not a clear fit for your skill set.  Likewise, if you do not know enough about a school to write an individually crafted cover letter, why should they be bothered to find out about you? That being said, everyone has a dream location in mind, but if you allow yourself the opportunity, you will discover that some places you never dreamed of living, can provide a rich, colorful and amazing experience. Having grown up in a time (in the U.S.) when most people imagined Africa to be nothing but desert, bugs and snakes, and New York City to be nothing but crime, it is easy to understand how we let our preconceived ideas limit our opportunities and potential. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to ignore those preconceptions and be open to consider any country. Wherever you go, I can assure you that you will find warm, open, friendly and dedicated colleagues and citizens.

The first step in landing a contract for a job that will be rewarding for you and beneficial to your employer, is to know yourself and be honest with yourself and on your CV. There has been a great deal of news lately about how common it is to lie on a CV. There are two perspectives from which to view this. “One is that everybody is doing it, so if I don´t, I can´t compete.” If that is your perspective, ask Lance Armstrong how that worked out for him. Further, exaggerating your CV might land you a job, but if you are not truly qualified for that job, it will inevitably end badly. On the other hand, as an educator, we are role models and just as we would cringe at giving a student a grade for something he did not do, what would it say about the character of an educator who got a job fraudulently. Be honest—completely. It will not open every door, but it will open the right one.

A career change brings with it a lot of excitement, frustration, exhaustion and in some cases, panic. International education is not for everyone but if I still have your attention at this point, you are on the path to an amazing life, with all its joys, heartache, highs and lows.

In the next article, we will talk more about the interview, what to look for, what to expect and what questions to ask.

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 4.34.33 PMThis article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: John Brown.

(John has held both administrative and teaching positions for over 20  years, with the last five being in international education. He is a well respected presenter at regional, national and international education and technology conferences as well as a consultant, who has helped set standards in teacher training and assessment, use of technology in the classroom, curriculum development and effective management practices. A graduate of Tarleton State University in Texas, USA, with graduate studies at North Texas State University and Texas Wesleyan School of Law, he is currently teaching IB Psychology and Spanish at an international school in Portugal. His current projects include development of an online tutoring system for Spanish, consulting on development of a National Language Policy for the United States, and research into the effects of early language learning on brain development. You can contact John at jbb0906@gmail.com.)

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For the Newbies

How Do I Get into International Education #2: How Do I Find That Coveted Position? (Part 1 of 2)

September 20, 2013


Teachers Wanted

“Be All That You Can Be Doing All You Can Do”

Live in exotic places, Experience all the world has to offer….

U.S. Military 1980-2001

Sounds great, huh? Actually, this is excerpted from the marketing campaign of the U.S. Military, but there are some really good comparisons to be drawn.

Ok, so you have read and analyzed the first article and you have decided that in fact, you have what it takes and that a career in international education is for you. Congratulations! It is, without a doubt, everything that you imagine, and more. No doubt, it will be different than anything you have experienced before. This article will focus on the nuts and bolts of how to make those first contacts, get your name out there and get the interviews. It will give you some specific details on where to look, what to look at and for, and how to evaluate what you see. There has been no effort to include all possible resources, but it should give you a strong start and those leads will open other leads.

I´ve got my papers!

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 9.55.30 AMYour first step, as with any career move, is to gather the necessary documents. At this point, it is worth mentioning, that when you land that job and move thousands of kilometers from your home country, if you need another document or another copy of a document, it is likely to be a monumental process that might involve an expensive trip back home, so to avoid that, if it is possible, get two or maybe three copies of all of your documents. The documents that you will most certainly need include an up-to-date CV or resume. Official copies of your birth certificate, teaching certification(s) / license(s), university diploma(s) and transcripts. Criminal background checks are also a requirement. Depending on your country of origin, this may include not only federal, but state, province or regional reports. The background checks are typically easy and inexpensive to obtain in your home country. Another important thing to note is that once you enter your international career, be sure that if you are planning to leave a country, you also get a background check from that country as well. Although you are likely to need official copies of all of your documents to present on arrival, you should have electronic copies as well, because most of the services mentioned below and many schools, will want electronic copies before considering you for a position. Many countries also require a medical report. This is unique to each country, so once you are offered a contract, your school will give you the specifics of those requirements. If you plan to drive in that country, you may need an international driver´s license and / or a copy of your complete driving record.

Regarding authenticity of documents, different countries have different rules regarding how long they consider a document valid, for example, even if your birth certificate says it is valid for one year, some countries may only accept it for six months. The same is true for background checks, driver records, etc., so keep that in mind as you prepare for the transition. Regarding authenticity, most countries accept as proof of authenticity, an Apostille. The process varies depending on your home country. For example, in the U.S., the process is to have your document(s) notarized, then take them to the Secretary of State for your state, who will then Apostille the document. In essence, this means that the notary has certified the document as an official copy, and the Apostille is proof that the notary has the legal authority to do so. If you are in a country that is not a signatory to the Apostille agreement, typically, the procedure is to obtain the official document and any documentation that may be available from the issuing agency, and take those things to the embassy or consulate, in your home country, of the country you will be moving to. They will then be able to authenticate the documents. Assuring that you verify the procedure and what your new country will accept, will save you many headaches and potentially significant expense. One additional set of documents that is beneficial is letters of reference and / or evaluation reports from previous employers; or if you are just graduating, letters of recommendation from your professors will suffice.

“Show me the money jobs!” (Jerry McGuire 1996)

Once you have your documents together, the next step is to find out where the jobs are. There are hundreds of businesses who offer their services to help you find a job. Your process begins by finding a reputable service that meets your needs and produces results. Depending on whether you hold a TEFL certificate or a government issued teaching certificate, which typically requires a minimum of a bachelor´s degree, extensive teaching practice and exams, you will find different services to fit those needs.

educ29-rdv-tmagArticleTwo of the simplest and least expensive option for becoming aware of the openings by subscribing to mailing lists, electronic publications, such as: TES Connect www.tes.co.uk, TIC Recruitment www.ticrecruitment.com. Although this is a very easy and inexpensive option, it is extremely popular. An international school director recently reported to me that for one teaching position, he received more than 3600 applications. Word-of-mouth is another great way to network and identify openings, but they don´t always produce results. The challenge here is to be in the right place at the right time.

Most international schools are members of organizations that provide recruiting services and / or school accreditation. These organizations screen and process applications and provide a forum to connect teachers wanting jobs with schools needing teachers. The most common agencies are: The Council of International Schools www.cois.org, International School Services, www.iss.edu and Search Associates www.searchassociates.com. COIS does not charge teachers a fee to place their CV or to attend their recruitment fairs. ISS and Search Associates both charge an annual membership fee. An advantage of these services is that they will work with you to create an online profile and verify your records. Your profile is searchable by their member schools. Schools know that teachers using these services have already been pre-screened. Additionally, they host recruitment fairs in various locations around the world. You can select the conference(s) you wish to attend and it will give you an opportunity to talk with many schools under one roof. A disadvantage is that interviewers generally interview a large number of applicants every day, and if you do not really stand out, it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Opinions vary among teachers ranging from a great opportunity to a meat market. They are; however, obviously successful, so it is an option to consider.

A bit of insider information here is that just as you are competing for those “prize” locations and schools, the schools are competing for the top candidates. That means that in practice, if a school identifies candidates they are really interested in, they are asking them to meet “before the conference starts.” In essence, what that means is that the conference starts a day early for many.

Stay tuned next month for part two of this article!

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 4.34.33 PMThis article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: John Brown
(John has held both administrative and teaching positions for over 20  years, with the last five being in international education. He is a well respected presenter at regional, national and international education and technology conferences as well as a consultant, who has helped set standards in teacher training and assessment, use of technology in the classroom, curriculum development and effective management practices. A graduate of Tarleton State University in Texas, USA, with graduate studies at North Texas State University and Texas Wesleyan School of Law, he is currently teaching IB Psychology and Spanish at an international school in Portugal. His current projects include development of an online tutoring system for Spanish, consulting on development of a National Language Policy for the United States, and research into the effects of early language learning on brain development. You can contact John at jbb0906@gmail.com.)

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For the Newbies

How Do I Get into International Education #1: “Is it for me?”

August 8, 2013


imagesIn the news recently, you may have seen the advertisement for a company looking for four couples to make a one-way trip to Mars. There were over 10,000 people who applied. It´s not clear what their motivations were, but perhaps some of those adventurous genes can be found in international teachers. You can rest comfortably, though, in the assurance that an international teaching assignment is not, necessarily, a one-way trip. Whether you are a new or veteran teacher or administrator, the exciting world of international education is both challenging and rewarding. This article is the first in a series that will help you decide if it is for you and how to prepare for success in the endeavor.

The first thing considerations are: Do I have what it takes, and what are my motivations? Part of our psychological makeup as creatures of habit, mean that change is very difficult. Don´t believe me? When was the last time you changed your hairstyle or wardrobe?  On the other hand, change, can bring invigoration and excitement which leads to greater motivation and focus. So let´s look at some of the characteristics of a successful international educator. Stamina is vital. Think of your first year of teaching. International education is definitely not a “kick back and relax at the beach,” kind of job. In short, cannot be viewed as “just a job.” It is an adventure requires a energy and and a state of mind that thrives on seeing the opportunities in the daily challenges. Our Mars-bound friends will no doubt discover that in their three year training and conditioning program, their success is as dependent on this mindset as is that of an international educator. Creativity and a proactive approach will let you get ahead of the next curve ball thrown your way.

DSC_3137Another characteristic of success is flexibility—not the yoga kind, although many find that helps too. As creatures of habit, change is difficult for everyone. As an international educator, you may find that you are on the receiving end, instead of the giving end of  “we’ve always done it that way.” You will almost certainly be asked to step out of your comfort zone, whether it is in the classroom, or with foods and customs. In preparation for the Mars trip, these lucky souls will be learning everything from gardening to medicine. It is unlikely that you will need those skills, but a broad tool chest of skills and interests will definitely make life more interesting and effective. Bear in mind that every educator and every school have different perspectives on how to do things, and no one has a monopoly on “the best.” No one enters or should enter international education on a crusade to change the world. As shocking as it may be, our way — or my way — or your way, is not always the best. A successful international educator will be open to alternative ideas. Ultimately, that is what makes us all better at what we do. Above all, flexibility and curiosity which will be discussed further in an article on dealing with culture shock, will provide a much richer experience.

Effective and happy international educators also possess stick-to-itiveness—that perseverance that allows one to shake off the frustrations and challenges and keep an eye on the goal. Jumping into international education successfully, is not something done on a whim. Rather, it is for the long haul. Challenges are everywhere, from home country to the farthest reaches of society. Those challenges are amplified by a multitude of other issues, which will be addressed in later articles, but the bottom line is that even when things seem overwhelming, a successful international educator will grab hold and keep pushing ahead. So, whether your motivation for entering international education is a career move, an adventure or a chance to discover the world, you are there to teach children. But just as importantly, if you are open to it, you will learn much more than you teach.

The life of an international educator is a wonderful one, full of adventure and boredom, excitement and frustration, challenge and reward. But without a doubt, it is a remarkable opportunity that will provide an amazing insight into the world in which we live. A friend of mine, and long time international educator, said it best, we “do an ordinary job in extraordinary places.” Life is not about the destinations, it´s about the journey.

In the next article, we will look at the nuts and bolts of getting started—specific steps to prepare you for opening the doors.

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 4.34.33 PMThis article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: John Brown.
(John has held both administrative and teaching positions for over 20  years, with the last five being in international education. He is a well respected presenter at regional, national and international education and technology conferences as well as a consultant, who has helped set standards in teacher training and assessment, use of technology in the classroom, curriculum development and effective management practices. A graduate of Tarleton State University in Texas, USA, with graduate studies at North Texas State University and Texas Wesleyan School of Law, he is currently teaching IB Psychology and Spanish at an international school in Portugal. His current projects include development of an online tutoring system for Spanish, consulting on development of a National Language Policy for the United States, and research into the effects of early language learning on brain development. You can contact John at jbb0906@gmail.com.)

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