Thursday 10 December 2020

Teach in an international school: Should I stay or should I go?

Is now really the time to think of going overseas or should you stay put?

The current restrictions on movement and the risk to our health mean that applying for an international job needs very careful consideration. Even so, the challenges due to the Covid-19 virus are an extreme version of the ones we have all faced when first exploring the idea of teaching away from home.

Whatever the temporary circumstances, there are vital steps we need to take before even filling in the template cv on any recruitment site.

Know where you’re going

@EarthPix could be a great way to spark your imagination. Once you have fallen in love with the photo there will be some serious research to do before you start looking at schools. Africa looks so beautiful, so much nature to explore. Great, so now find out how many different countries there are in Africa, check the distances to those countries from your home, the languages spoken and the long and recent social history of the area that is starting to catch your attention. Once you have clicked off Instagram you could make regular hits on the World News sections of your regular news medium: if you do not regularly follow world news then now will be a good time to start.

Know what you’re doing

Planning for teaching internationally needs to include the three stages of before you go, while you are there and when you leave. 

The excitement of applying for jobs needs to be underpinned by a long- haul mental set, making sure that proof of your qualifications is readily available, that senior colleagues at your current and previous school are willing and available to respond to requests for references, recent evidence that your health is in good shape and that you have the time and resources to apply for visas. 

While you are there planning includes living arrangements: does the school provide single or shared accommodation? Are you comfortable sharing if so required?  Is the school close to the city centre or on an out of town campus? If you are planning to use your new base as a springboard for regional travel, research visa arrangements in the neighbouring countries in good time and make sure that your health insurance, if provided by your new employer, will cover recreational travel. 

Think ahead to the next but one stage in your career: international teaching tends to have a high turnover. If you hope to return to your home school or district, find out the attitudes to returning applicants and be clear what kind of professional development you need follow in order to be an attractive candidate on your return.

Know who you are

What kind of teaching and learning environment suits you? Here are examples of two real life international school settings you could experience. 

Classes of 15 students from nearly 100 countries wearing their own choice clothes in an open plan room with break out rooms, every student with iPad or laptop and phones available if needed, working in a pupil centred, flexible curriculum promoting collaborative learning with continual assessment shared via an online platform with students and parents in real time. 

On the other hand, groups of 30 students dressed in strict uniform in a face-front desk arrangement where IT equipment was available by arrangement only and phones were prohibited in the building, teacher centred teaching in a restricted curriculum with largely individual study with frequent tests, summative exams and end of term reporting communicated to parents. 

When you read this you will feel more attracted to one or other of these models and you need to be clear about which kind of school you will be comfortable in. If your preference is for one kind of school and you hope to accept a job in another kind of school expecting to change it to suit you, it is unlikely to be a positive experience. 

Be aware that your lifestyle choices will be welcome in some countries and schools and will be rejected in others. 

If you are committed to a religion you will want to check the arrangements for participating in activities both with fellow internationals and with local citizens. 

If you were an adult in time to hear Should I stay or should I go? when it was new in 1982, the number of potential destinations will be limited, but not zero, so don’t give up. 

To stay or to go is a massive question and it will be helpful to find the support of consultants at one of the numerous recruitment organisations: some are free and others charge a fee. Their advice will undoubtedly play a part in helping you to make your next moves in this life changing adventure. 

I play music by Adele, Elton John, Robbie Williams and many more at my regular Piano & Cocktails and Piano Brunch sessions at the Urso Hotel & Spa, Madrid @hotelurso 

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