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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Great Link

Great link #1: How to plan for an interview

April 5, 2011


We found this link at transitionsabroad.com from a post by Jarett Emert.  We found it quite informative.  Please take a look at the full article below and let’s us know your opinion on what you think it takes to plan for a successful interview.

International School Jobs: How to Plan a Successful Interview

By Jarett Emert

Besides the romance and simple pleasures of foreign living, overseas teaching is also a helpful addition to a future resume. The network of international schools is well connected, and once a fledgling teacher is hired it is easier to obtain a future position. Upon completing a stay at a foreign school, you may choose to simply remain at your current school or continue teaching at another international school around the world.

Though the recruiting fair is the most effective gateway to a contract, nothing in the world of education can prepare an individual for these conferences. Having to convince an administrator within 15 minutes that you are the best candidate for his school is a rather difficult challenge. Being given fewer than 24 hours to decide where you will spend the next two to three years of your life, especially if it’s an unfamiliar destination, makes the situation even more complex.

Choosing the right interviews at the right times, knowing which schools offer the best packages and best contracts is a tricky business. Knowing which schools are situated in the best locations is also a challenge. Getting hired may mean four days of this process, sometimes with double digit interviews. Administrators always have several candidates in mind at the job fair and need a decision from you before they leave for the next stop. The carnival continues.

Preliminary Research

When first considering an international position it is important to do some preliminary research and self-exploration. Consider the locations, salary, and size of schools. The better prepared you are on entering a conference, the more confidence you will bring to your interviews.

Though recruitment fairs are the most common vehicles for obtaining a position, contacting a school directly is a possibility as well. For a small fee, some web-based services provide a directory and newsletters that advertise openings throughout the world. Still, most administrators seem to prefer the face to face approach; if they are interested in your candidacy, they will most often request that you arrange an interview at the recruitment fair.

The requirements for attending the recruitment fairs are usually a minimum of two years full-time teaching experience, as well as licensure. Sometimes international work experience and private school teaching may be substituted for this. If accepted, the recruitment organization will often forward information and a list of school openings. This is a good time for you to network prior to the conference. Often some positions are filled even before the conference begins.

Your first and most important task is to obtain an interview. Administrators only have a certain amount of interview slots available. Read over the list of positions carefully, see what positions you are qualified for, create a game plan of attack, and follow it to the best of your ability. Making contacts via email before the conference is important. If the administrator is interested in interviewing you, then you don’t have to worry as much about waiting in the long lines. Also, do not waste time trying to obtain a position for which you are unqualified. Some positions require specialized training such as the MYP (Middle Years Program) and IB (International Baccalaureate). This most often is not a negotiable issue and trying for a position for which you are unqualified can be a waste of your valuable time.

Once you have set up your interviews, the next few days are crucial. Be prepared to have 15 minutes to sell yourself. The best advice is to be self-assertive and confident. Administrators interview many people each day. You need to stand out, as you would hope to in any interview.

If the school for which you are interviewing is one of your top choices, leave at least one interview slot open so that you do not show up late to any interview. If a top choice school is interested in you, the interviewer may continue to speak to you after your allotted time slot. You want to leave yourself some room for this. However, if they hold you longer than you can remain, be confident and state that you have another interview. They will understand this and will usually schedule you for a second interview. Remember that the goal of an interview is to return for another.

If you do obtain a position, you are often given no more than 24 hours to make a decision. Most schools offer a 2-year contract. Administrators need to fill these positions efficiently. If you do not accept, they often have another candidate in mind. This can be a stressful time, especially if you have several appealing choices. Do not get overwhelmed, but consider yourself lucky. Spend the next few hours researching the location, asking intelligent questions, and trusting your instincts. Remember that any international teaching experience will be both an adventure and a struggle. There are no easy roads and each experience will be rewarding in its own way.

Recruitment Organizations 

• International School Services (www.iss.edu). 15 Roszel Road, P.O. Box 5910, Princeton, NJ 08543; 609-452-0990, fax 609-452-2690. A private, nonprofit organization serving American international schools overseas. This is a good resource for obtaining a position overseas. The next recruiting conference is being held in June 2005. One must be accepted and have a professional file with ISS to attend a conference. $150 application fee, $150 reactivation fee, no placement fee.

• Search Associates (www.search-associates.com). A good resource for potential teachers, administrators, and interns hoping to work in international schools throughout the world. They also conduct workshops and seminars. One must have been accepted and have a professional file with Search Associates to attend a conference. Fees for registration, good for three years, $50 administrative fee to attend conference, $300 additional upon placement for teachers).

• Council of International Schools (www.cois.org). U.K. Office, 21A Lavant St., Petersfield, Hampshire, GU32 3EL, U.K. Tel. 011-44-0-1730-263131, fax 011-44-0-1730 268913. CIS is a not-for-profit association and a good resource for international education. They also provide teacher and administrative recruitment services. There is no fee charged to candidates, either for registering with CIS or for securing a new appointment through their services.

• The International Educator (www.tieonline.com). TIE—The International Educator. Subscription service with job postings and a resume bank for American and British overseas and international schools. They offer both a newspaper and an interactive web site with job postings. A good resource for networking before a recruitment fair or attempting to bypass it.

• UNI Overseas Placement Service for Educators (www.uni.edu/placement/overseas). Univ. of Northern Iowa Career Center, East Gym #113A, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0390, 319-273-2083, fax 319-273-6998. The UNI Overseas Placement Service for Educators connects international K-12 schools with certified educators year round. Services offered include the UNI Overseas Recruiting Fair, credential and referral services, and related publications. UNI is the original international fair for educators. No placement fees.

JARETT EMERT is a freelance writer, outdoor educator, and currently a teacher of literature at the American School of Milan. He is originally from Vermont. 

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