Discussion Topics

Are international schools more likely to hire teaching couples?

February 14, 2021


Most of us have been in the situation while job hunting for a position at an international school when the topic of our relationship status comes up. Of course, it is none of their business and a very strange thing to ask at a job interview. But in the world of international schools, it is quite common to ask this and important information to know from the school’s perspective. 

International schools have this idea that teaching couples are the ideal hiring choice as they try to fill their vacancies. It is like a 2-for-1 deal. It is a dream for an international school to find a teaching couple that consists of two top-notch teachers with lots of experience. The general observation though is that the school often hires one top-notch partner first who is a really good fit for a certain position, and then finds a vacant position for the spouse who might not truly be their first choice for that role. 

Regardless of finding the perfect fit for those positions, teaching couples are supposed to be more stable. They can support each other better when adapting to a new country and culture. No international school likes it when a teacher arrives and within the first few months can’t handle their new situation which leads to their prompt resignation, or even a no-show. If a teacher is already living with someone familiar, this person will automatically have the feeling of home which will lessen the sometimes harsh effects of culture shock making it more manageable for them to settle in. Also, when partners go through some of the negative parts (and positive ones) of culture shock together, these experiences become nice bonding moments. With those shared experiences, teaching couples potentially could indeed be more stable.

Another reason international schools like to hire teaching couples is that it is cheaper when they are handing out the housing allowances. Usually, the housing allowance is a bit more for teaching couples, but it is definitely less than two single teacher housing allowances combined. But if teaching couples want, they can even get a smaller apartment that is cheaper and could save the difference (not available in every school). In turn, teaching couples can often save more money than single teachers. They can even save one partner’s whole salary in some situations in certain countries. If one can keep saving more money, teaching couples may stay longer at that school.

The truth is, though, that not all teaching couples have these same positive experiences and advantages. Moving abroad as a couple can be just as unpredictable as going as a single teacher. Imagine a teaching couple that has moved from a spacious apartment and now has to live together in close quarters. This situation can create not-seen-before tensions. Additionally, maybe you are a new couple and haven’t experienced living together for that long. Add on culture shock and adapting to a new work environment and that can be a recipe for disaster.

If a teaching couple hasn’t worked together in the same school before, then the couple could find it challenging to establish the balance of work and life as their life and community become part of the work. This gets even trickier when maybe their children are being taught at the same school! It could also really get on the teaching couples’ nerves being together all the time, every day. However, odds are that this is not so challenging because many teaching couples don’t really see each other that much especially if the teachers are teaching at different grades or departments.

And there can be also downsides for the international schools themselves when they hire teaching couples. For one, it is often a difficult task to fill two vacant positions using a teaching couple. Then when a teaching couple leaves, it can be quite the challenge to easily find their replacements (like another, similar teaching couple). Many teaching couples are often on the market longer because of this quest to find the perfect match. Of course, both parties can be flexible, but this flexibility can lead to a less than perfect fit. It is recommended for a teaching couple to address these expectations early in their job-seeking process.

If an international school is going through some tough financial times and needs to let some staff go, it can get complicated when they have to sift through the staff while also thinking about whether they are part of a “package” or not.

Certain international schools are now specifically stating that they prefer single teachers to hiring teaching couples. So a single teacher just needs to find the right school for themselves, and also have a bit of luck and good timing on their side. It’s a pity when an international school has interviewed a single teacher and has told them they are a really good fit and then just before handing out their contract, they respond that they have given the position to a teaching couple. This situation has happened so many times to single jobseekers and has created this sense of “I need to be in a teaching couple to get hired at an international school”. However, this idea is simply not the case for all international schools. The reality is that at one school teaching couples are favored and single teachers can actually be more desirable at a different one.

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Highlighted Articles

How to prepare your teaching CV for a job fair

November 18, 2020


An international education job fair is an excellent opportunity to meet and interview with a range of different schools, all in one convenient location. Events like the Explore CRS Shanghai job fair, taking place 8 – 10 January 2021, allow you to explore the career opportunities available to you, as well as build connections with new and interesting schools.

But just as during the normal job application process, it’s your CV that will determine whether a school wants to see you for an interview or take discussions further.

The recruitment consultants at Explore CRS sift through hundreds of CVs a year, in search of talented candidates to introduce to schools. They know exactly what information school hiring managers are looking for and what candidates can do to prepare their CVs ahead of an international education job fair. Here are their top tips:

Make an impression, fast

Recruiters and hiring managers are busy and spend as little as 3 to 5 seconds reading a CV. You, therefore, need to ensure that the layout of your CV is clear and that your employment story is coherently presented. Someone scanning the information needs to be able to quickly understand what you offer as a potential new employee.

Lay your CV out in clear sections: personal information, education, teaching experience, referees and other interests. Organise your work experience chronologically, starting with the most recent at the top. Don’t forget to include employment dates (month and year) and locations, as well as when and where you graduated from college or university.

Don’t go overboard

We appreciate that it’s hard to condense a long and varied teaching career down into a few paragraphs. It’s important, however, that you don’t include too much information in your CV. Try to keep it to a maximum of 3 to 4 pages. You need to present only the absolute highlights of your career and experience. Remember that adding more information also acts to dilute what is there, so keeping it brief will only strengthen your CV.

Emphasise your curricula experience

Many of the schools that Explore CRS work with are interested in teachers with specific curricula experience so be sure to emphasise all the curricula and national education systems you’re familiar with.

Although first preference will often be given to candidates whose experience matches a school’s criteria, many hiring managers do appreciate the similarities between curricula so it’s always helpful if you can clearly state those you’ve been involved with.

Explain the gaps

If there are gaps in your employment history, you should ensure you explain what you were doing during these times. There are a number of legitimate reasons for taking career breaks and very often these periods are spent doing things that actually enhance your CV. However, unexplained gaps in employment history can sometimes ring alarm bells amongst recruiters and hiring managers, so it helps enormously if you clarify why you took time out.

Write out your acronyms

In the international education sector, there are so many different institutions and academic bodies that it’s important to write out the name in full first and then use the acronym after. This is especially important if it’s not a well-known or globally used acronym. You need to ensure recruiting schools are able to understand your CV and quickly assess who you’ve worked for previously!

Include relevant professional development

Obviously, it’s great for recruiters and hiring managers to see that you’re dedicated to your ongoing professional development. They don’t, however, need to read every single PD workshop you’ve ever attended so make sure only to list the most relevant and recent you’ve taken part in.

Don’t forget, however, to include the most impressive examples of professional development, such as qualifications gained or participation in professional organisations, mentoring or research.

Spellcheck!

It’s amazing how many CVs come through to the Explore CRS consultants with grammatical or spelling mistakes. These errors completely undermine your attempts to come across as professional and diligent. Make sure you check your CV through at least twice and if you’re still unsure whether it’s error-free, have someone else check it too.

Use your CV at the event

Many job fairs (including those offered by Explore CRS) will include pre-scheduled interviews, so you will need to ensure your CV is ready to give to your consultant before you attend the event.

When the time comes for the event, it’s a good idea to print out 10 to 15 copies of your CV in colour and on high-quality paper to hand out to schools in person. You never know what face-to-face connections you’ll make, and a CV is an important tool in attracting the interest of a potential new employer.

One last useful tip for ensuring hiring managers remember you on the day is to include a professional headshot with your CV. While this is in no way mandatory, it’s a great way to make a lasting impression with school staff who will potentially meet hundreds of other candidates on the same day.

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This article was submitted to us by Explore CRS.

As well as helping applicants find teaching opportunities throughout the year, the Explore CRS team is also hosting a job fair in Shanghai, China, on 8 – 10 January 2021.

Attendees will have the opportunity to interview and network with a variety of international and bilingual schools, based both in China and beyond. After last year’s fair, over two-thirds of attending candidates were offered positions. An added benefit of attending the fair is the opportunity to take part in professional development workshops, after which all attendees can receive certification.

Learn more about the fair and sign up to attend via the Explore CRS website.

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An Insider's Story

International School Design Teachers: An Insider’s Story

February 22, 2020


How it all started…

I was in middle school in the 1980s.  At this time ‘shop’ or ‘industrial arts’ was still being taught with wood, bandsaws, glue and sandpaper.  During my high school years things began to change in the ‘vocational’ teaching world. Computers were growing in popularity and had become more affordable.  I distinctly remember sitting in front of the green tinted screens typing in measurements and coordinates to create 2 dimensional drawings on an early version of AutoCAD.   Wow! How far we have come in 30 years! In high school I did the minimum to get by. I didn’t push or challenge myself very much. It just wasn’t that interesting to me. The only exception to this rule was during my “Tech Ed” classes.  My teacher, Coach Vander Velde, challenged me to inquire and question traditional ways of thinking.  

After graduation, I pursued a B.F.A. degree in TV and Radio Production.  After college I was hired to work at a local TV studio. I started working the ‘graveyard’ shift which involved taping satellite feeds, organizing broadcast files and so on.  I was making a bit more than the minimum wage. I asked myself, “Did I really go to college to just make a bit more than minimum wage?” An opportunity presented itself to me in the form of a Masters degree in Technological Studies.  This degree gave me the skills I needed to teach ‘vocational’ classes in middle and high school. I completed my student teaching and started a job in an urban high school near Atlanta, Georgia.  

I enjoyed teaching during my first year of teaching, but one afternoon, during my drive home, I heard an advertisement on the public radio station for teaching English in China.  Being that this was over 20 years ago, China was in the process of opening up to the rest of the world. I contacted the company and the following August I was headed to China for the first of many times since!  I taught at a university in Beijing for one year. That year I traveled all over China and caught the ‘travel bug’. After a two year stint back in the USA, I returned to China where I eventually landed in an international school and was introduced to the International Baccalaureate curriculum.  I taught ESL and ‘MYP Technology’. I realized then that teaching IB was a natural complement to the ‘inquiry-based’ teaching approach of vocational education.  

I have taught in several IB schools since then.  In all of these schools I have been involved in ‘Design’ teaching and planning.  One thing that I have noticed about young people is that whether I am teaching woodworking or 3D printing, students love to be hands-on!  Additionally, careers have changed so much over the past 20 years that teaching student ‘technology-related’ content is outdated. As teachers we all need to be teaching inquiry-based critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  The subject of “Design” is the perfect crossroads for all of these things to be taught, practiced and mastered. In the school where I currently work, the students are able to experience robotics, podcasting, filmmaking, 3D printing, digital photography, graphics design, digital illustration, architectural design, fashion design, laser cutting/engraving, website design, coding and programming, drone operation, electronic music production and so on!  All of this is within the Design curriculum.  

One of our soundproof recording booths
Drone photo of the campus
Inside the school TV studio
The laser cutter
TV studio control room
One of the many sewing machines
A couple of the 3D printers
Midi keyboard for making original music
One of our small tool benches

An average day…

On any given day I will teach between 20-50 students depending on the schedule.  Students will be in various stages of development working towards a completed design project.  All of our projects start with an investigation or inquiry into some sort of issue, situation or problem.  This should include an account of some sort of interaction with the client or target audience for the project.  The students will continue to follow the Design Cycle and provide evidence of their work throughout. Most of my day involves checking on equipment, supplies, and so on.  I have informal conversations with the other members of the department to see if everyone has the materials and access to the spaces that they need. Currently, the members of the Design department are content experts in programming, podcasting, filmmaking, photography, materials processing, Computer Aided Design (CAD), and textiles, just to name a few.  

How to get involved…

If a teacher has some experience with similar disciplines and wants to get involved in an international school teaching ‘Design’, then I would highly suggest doing it!  Make a list of your priorities, regions you would like to live and work in, salary range, among other things. It is ok to target schools that you are interested in as Design teachers are often difficult to find.  Whether the school uses IB, AP, Cambridge, or something else, there is always a ‘design’ equivalent course that can be taught!

Giving back to the professional community… 

Since 2008, I have been part of the IB Educator Network or IBEN.  This means that I have conducted school visits, served as a consultant to candidate schools, lead subject-specific workshops, and other various IB related events.  This involvement outside of school has been a key part in my professional development. I have met hundreds of like-minded educators that I am in regular contact with and we share best practices/project ideas with each other.  This keeps my own teaching exciting and relevant to my students.  


Jason Reagin is currently the IB Career-related Programme Coordinator and Department Chair of Design & Visual Arts at Chadwick International School in Incheon, South Korea.  He taught in the US, Bermuda and China prior to coming to South Korea. Jason’s passions include being a live-long learner, coffee drinker and a cinephile. He has experience in curriculum leadership and development in several different school ecosystems.  Connect with him on Twitter @diskon4no

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Teachers on the Move

Teachers on the Move – Virtual Interviews

February 26, 2019


In an ever increasing virtual world you are nearly as likely to be hired after an interview on Skype, Facetime, What’s app or other virtual platform.  Even if you attend a fair, there can often be a follow up interview with a member of the team on the ground at the school. Leadership positions in particular, the first and second rounds of recruitment are often done virtually, then finalists are flown in to view the school and be grilled in person. Additionally several recruiters are now running virtual fairs, hopefully this will be posted in time for the ISS/Schrole March Fair for which you can register here.

My first two international positions I took over the phone, indeed one, standing in a very wet and windy Edinburgh phone box outside the school I was working in.  But these days, with the proliferation of hand held devices, you can be literally anywhere when you are asked to interview. I had a Skype interview for my position in the Sudan while volunteering in rural Uganda, a series of interviews for KL which ran over three countries I was travelling through, and more recently Skyped with several schools from a beach hut in Thailand!  

I have been very surprised recently, when working with some of my coachees, of how unaware they are about how they are presenting themselves when interviewing virtually. So I decided to write a post with some tips and considerations for a virtual interview.

With these tips you should be able to conquer the world of virtual interviewing and achieve the international teaching position of your dreams.

Firstly, make sure you have the correct time, have someone double check the time differences with you.  Also ensure that you have added the contacts well in advance and checked them with a quick message.

Secondly, choose your location. You need to ensure:

  • A clean, non-distracting background behind you
  • Good lighting but not lights that gleam on the screen, blinding your interviewer
  • Your devices is physically secure
  • No residual environmental sound or other passing distractions

A headset with inbuilt microphone can be a great and cheap investment, avoiding you having to lean into the computer, and also cutting out any environmental sound.

Next, organise your resources. Do you have everything you might need during the interview?

  • A note pad
  • The questions you want to ask
  • Any information you have from the school, job description, contractual terms and so forth
  • A glass of water (talking can be thirsty work)

One of the benefits of a Skype interview is that you can be well prepared and have resources at your finger tips, it is quite ok to look down occasionally when thinking.

Finally, consider your personal presentation. You need to ensure that:

  • You look neat and tidy (women with long hair should clip it back so that it doesn’t fall forward, your eyes need to be clearly seen)
  • You are comfortable and relaxed (you really do not need a jacket and tie unless for a very formal institution)
  • Your face and shoulders are visible but not more.  Women in particular should be careful about where the screen edge falls.

It seriously does not hurt to practice, fire up your camera and see how you look and sound prior to any virtual interview.

At least 15 minutes before starting, check

  • You have the right time
  • Your device is well charged or attached to mains power
  • Your internet is steady and you have enough data
  • Your sound input and output settings are correct

I always do a Skype test call before any Skyping session.

General interview tips will be covered in another post, but these four are very virtual interview specific.

  1. You may face a panel, it is fine to write down the persons name and position, or even to ask them to reiterate it when they ask you a specific question. Once I faced a panel of 9 people. It was extremely confusing. I asked afterwards to be connected with the Head of Primary, because I wasn’t clear who she was!
  2. You may have difficulties with connection. Always, always state when you are having difficulties, and be proactive in suggesting to retry, put the camera off or to move to a different platform. It demonstrates that you are calm and able to adjust to situations
  3. Speak clearly and confidently, enunciating each word, without overemphasising.
  4. When you move, be sure to move in a controlled and relaxed way

(avoid sudden jerky movements and over expressive gestures).

As ever though, be yourself, and don’t try to sell yourself into a position that you don’t really want. Best of luck with your virtual recruitment!

Kirsten Durward is the PYP Coordinator at KIS International School in Bangkok.  With leadership experience in 5 schools, she has been interviewing candidates and coaching teachers through the application process for many years.  She enjoys supporting educators to make successful transitions in a myriad of ways. You can find her on Linkedin or through the facebook group ‘Teachers on the Move’. Kirsten’s coaching practice supports educational projects in Uganda, a country she holds dear to her heart.

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Teachers on the Move

Teachers on the Move – Writing Applications

January 25, 2019


There are no guarantees in this world, you could be the best teacher, highly qualified and experienced, write an amazing application, and still not achieve an interview.  Here is the deal – there is no simple answer to the question: ‘What do recruiters want to see on your resume?’ But there are some simple truths.

In this day and age, administrators are busy people, school life is demanding on a day to day basis, then there are development plans and wait – recruitment??  The popular schools receive thousands of on spec applications, all year round. Some schools use HR to filter them, others use agents, often even a combination of factors. So, for example, I know for a fact that I didn’t make a short list because I didn’t have a particular qualification, even though I can do that job better than most people with the qualification.  Why? Because a locally employed HR person had a checklist. I would never have been hired by a particular school in Turkey if I hadn’t met the recruiter in person. I had the wrong qualification for Turkey specifically, but they made it work, because they met me and believed in me. So applications can only do so much. I will write another post on networking soon.

Here’s another truth (sadly) – Nationality counts, as does first language.  This is not always up to the school, it is often an immigration restriction by the country and these change all the time, so do your homework, don’t waste their time applying where they can’t hire you anyway.  This also applies to age, many countries do not allow teachers to work over 60. Don’t blame the schools, there is nothing they can do about it.

Third truth: when wading through a pile of applications at the end of a very full day, administrators are hoping for simplicity, clarity, and personality.  That’s where you can gain an edge. I have read thousands of applications, honestly most of them are awful. It is sad to report, based on my coaching experience, that often the best people are presenting themselves badly while others are just really good at presentation.  If you do nothing else; find a friend who gets lots of interviews and compare your paperwork. But the following advice applies across the board:

Avoid repetition – recruiters don’t want to read the same information in your cv, your letter and your philosophy statement.

Resume/CV length Some people say one page, I say that’s really difficult unless you are 25, so two pages are fine, but not more, and no cheating with extending footers and margins, we can tell!

Keep cv statements short and focussed – my pet hate is seeing long straggly sentences in the Experience section. Bullet points people, bullet points!  Not ‘have been instrumental in developing IEP for students’, rather ‘developed IEPs’. Besides anything else. this shows you can synthesise and also have some consideration for a tired administrator!  

Do include Extracurriculars – there are many schools looking for a volleyball coach or a drama enthusiast to help organise shows. It also shows that you’re looking to contribute beyond the classroom.  

Do include recent professional development – we like to know you are a life-long learner and your PD also indicates your professional interest.  But nobody cares about that workshop you took in 2007. Recent!

Letter length – one page, ONE!

Letter content – depends – if the school has asked for a philosophy statement then you don’t need to include your educational beliefs in your letter, if you are applying via a site where you have a detailed profile, you don’t need to include too many background details.  Use common sense.

Always mention where you saw the job. I don’t advocate for on-spec applications, unless you know someone at the school or have met an administrator.

Always mention what interests you about the school, be specific!  Always mention how you can meet the job specification. If you can’t, please don’t apply.

Always synchronise any description of your pedagogy, beliefs, experience with something you know about the school, use their key words. This shows that you have done your research and thought about how you would support the forward movement of the school.

Share a personal passion, the best schools are seeking passionate educators!  Reflect on what you have learned on your journey, or if you are just starting out, what you are hoping for or looking forward to.  The best schools hire teachers who understand the learning journey. More than that, they love people who are real.

Finally,  write a well constructed letter.  If I read another letter where all the sentences start with I or my, I am going to have a blue fit!  I would not accept this from a Grade 4 student and a decent administrator will throw such a letter in the bin,  Sentence diversity shows that you can support language development which, believe me, is highly sought after. So unless you are one of the 103 highly sought after Physics teachers in the world, learn to write a decent letter, or have someone help you. I’ve turned around more applications than I can count with that simple strategy.

One of my coachees told me recently ‘this is hard work’. Yes it is, and it is good that it is, it is a test of your capacity and commitment. Our job is not an easy one, heads want to know that you can measure up to their requirements.  Remember, the best schools are looking for the best people, it is competitive out there, you need to show your best side. But remember you can do all this and there are a myriad reasons why you aren’t selected, team balance, school diversity, someone who is a known quantity. If you want assurance, marry a Physics teacher. Otherwise breathe. Go back, read carefully, edit profusely, and all the best luck with your search. There are more schools than educators, keep calm and positive. Be yourself and you’ll find a match.

Kirsten Durward is the PYP Coordinator at KIS International School in Bangkok.  With leadership experience in 5 schools, she has been reading applications and coaching teachers for many years.  She enjoys supporting educators to make successful transitions in a myriad of ways. You can find her on Linkedin or through the facebook group ‘Teachers on the Move’.

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