Teaching Overseas - are you the Right Person for the Job?

By: Kelly Blackwell

It might be tempting to skip over this article, sure you are indeed the right person for the job, however, there is key information included in this article which will help determine your employability, your motivation for beginning this quest and your preferences for what kind of position you'd like.

Single or married with dependents?
Teaching couples are the most sought after commodity in international schools because they are the most cost efficient to hire. They are hired together and require only one living allowance.

Singles would come next, and are especially attractive if they are willing to share housing. Also, some schools will only hire single people. Towards the beginning of the new academic year, when schools are becoming desperate to fill their remaining vacancies, single teachers become even more attractive because they are usually very mobile, in that they have no dependents to make arrangements for.

Couples with children would head up the bottom of the list. One or two children are not an unattractive prospect for most schools, but you might find that you will not get extra benefits for having more than two children. Some people I have worked with that have three children have reported that they have had to pay tuition fees for their third child.

Teaching couples
Teaching couples and teachers with dependent spouses and/ or children should apply early on in the process when there is more flexibility. If you are intending to find positions as a teaching couple, you are not likely to be very successful to attend job fairs towards the end of the season.

It is often the case that one member of a teaching couple will find the perfect job, whilst the other member may have to make do with an acceptable or part time post.

Single teachers
Single teachers are able to find positions through to the beginning of the new academic year because they can fill school's unfilled or unexpected vacancies easily.

Age (at both ends of the scale)
Age might be an issue in some countries because of visa requirements, but usually more mature people are attractive to international schools because they are believed to be stable.

On the other hand, many schools operate a salary scale that makes less experienced (which frequently means younger) teacher financially attractive to schools.

If you are used to being on the top of the pay scale, you might want to ask if the salary step you start on is capped. I have heard that some schools require all new teachers to the school to start on the same salary step, regardless of years of experience.

Qualifications and experience
Some sources of information on teaching in international schools state that you have to have a degree in education, a licence to teach and two years experience. This is not true at all. You will need some kind of qualification OR experience, but there are opportunities for almost everyone.

If you don't have two years experience, then you will need to pay close attention to the sections on finding a job through job advertisements. You will probably not be invited to attend a job fair, as two years experience is one of their selection criteria for candidates. This doesn't mean you are an unattractive candidate for schools, just that you aren't necessarily going to get a job through a job fair.

If you have a Bachelors' degree and a TEFL qualification you will be able to teach in an ESL position in most schools. The nature of your Bachelors' degree is usually inconsequential; many countries expect this basic level of education to qualify for a working visa. My first teaching job was in a private language school in Taiwan when the only qualifications I had were a Bachelors' degree in business and a TEFL certificate that the ink was still wet on.

If you have no teaching qualification at all, and no experience in teaching children, you will need to look at the section titled 'What employment opportunities are there for my non-teaching partner?', look into getting a TEFL certificate or one of the many non-government organisations that sponsor or offer internships in teaching in different countries.

If you do not qualify for your dream job now, do not give up in defeat. There are many opportunities to increase your qualifications both by going back to university full- or part-time, or distance learning online. Use this book to help you discover what qualifications you need to get your dream job, and go get them.

Your situation does not need to stay stagnant, there are always options to try. If you absolutely must get overseas now, then you should seriously consider TEFL as you can get a qualification to teach TEFL in 2-4 weeks full time study. Again, with TEFL qualifications there are distance and part-time options available.

Easy-going, flexible and adaptable people
Recruiters are looking for people who will cope well with the move, living in a new culture and fit in seamlessly to existing staffing situations.

Here are a few personal qualities that recruiters are looking for in candidates:

* Good sense of humour
* Easy-going
* Flexible
* Adaptable
* A good team player
* Positive outlook
* Can do anything attitude
* An optimist

Recruiters are only going to employ people who they judge to be able to thrive in challenging environments and in the midst of culture shock. It's fine to suffer from culture shock, but you must be able to function in your job whilst going through the shock of moving countries.

There is a reason that recruiters are looking for these qualities in applicants. They are needed! It's tough enough learning your way around a new city in your own home country, now imagine going through that learning process in a different country where you don't speak the language and can't read any of the signs.

If this sounds awful to you, rather than an exciting opportunity, then you probably aren't the right person for a position at an international school. There are lots of opportunities for you to work in a country more in line with what you're used to. I started out moving from the NZ education system to living in the UK and working in the UK education system. Check out the resources and links I've put on my website about finding a position in NZ or Australia.

Teaching in NZ and Australia

This is a better option to maybe work your way up to working in a really foreign environment. Don't try and be what you aren't when applying for positions with international schools.

Your children's education
If you have children you will need to consider how they will adapt to the new situation.

If they are going into Year 11 (Grade 10), it is not advisable for them to enter either the IB MYP or the IGCSE system because both of these programs finish a program at the end of this year. The IGCSE exam is the culmination of two years work, and the IB MYP will only offer certificates to students who have completed two years in the program and studied all 8 subject areas.

Students are able to sit IGCSE exams without being in school for the full two years, but they will need to complete extra study in order to make up for missing the first year of the course.

Students who do not complete two years in the MYP program will receive a Record of Achievement for their final year.

For your older children, the last two years of high school in a British curriculum school or an IB Diploma school also comprise of a two year course. You will need to investigate the possibilities for your particular circumstances once you have identified schools you would like to apply for. Remember that you can ask questions as a prospective parent before you even apply for a position.

Understanding your goals
It is important to understand what you are trying to achieve by making this change in your life. This will help you to focus your job search on securing the position that will enable you to meet your goals.

Consider whether
* you are looking for new challenges personally or professionally
* you are looking to make financial gains or take a pay cut in order to give something of yourself to developing communities
* you want to develop new relationships
* you are looking to fund your move to another country in order to adopt a child
* you want to fund personal or professional research
* you are curious as to what it would be like to live and work overseas

All of these goals are perfectly valid and you probably consider that more than one of them applies to you. Or your goals may not be on this list. Whatever your goals, you must be aware of them and keep them in the back of your mind throughout the process that follows.

You might have more self development goals in mind, and working in an international school is a fantastic boost to your self esteem. I know I am an attractive employment prospect, simply because of the many experiences I have had and my proven adaptability.

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