Searching for an international teaching job

A lot of people have asked about the how of working at an international school. I personally used Search Associates and loved not only Sally Gordon, my associate, but everyone I have ever interacted with from Search Associates. Talk about a first-rate experience. Everyone was incredibly professional, supportive, and well-informed.

In addition to attending the fair in Cambridge where I received my job offers, I also had spent countless hours submitting letters of interest with a resume, reference letters, and any other requested items. Most had to be scanned into a single PDF which challenged my laptop’s abilities.

I kept lists of where I had applied, who had openings, whether I heard back from the school either through a form letter or a personal reply, who requested additional information, Skype interviews, etc. It was an exercise in persistence and patience. It kept me going.

At that same time I was looking for positions in central Ohio that wouldn’t have a long commute so that I would not turn my family’s life into even more chaos. (“Ha”-I’m sure some of you are probably thinking. I know. I’m in Africa. Hard to get much more of a commute from Granville).

The timelines of hiring for international schools and public schools are drastically different. At international schools it is not unusual for heads of school to ask staff to have made their decision about whether they want to stay another year at the school or whether they are going to be moving on looking for something else by the end of November.

Some staff return to school at the beginning of a new school year already knowing that they are going to begin looking for something else. The reasons teachers decide to leave their current school are as vast as the places that they might move onto. Some teachers love to experience new places. Some are tired of the location of their school, or their administrator, or their housing. Some love the process of moving to a new place and experiencing a new culture all over again. Some pick a school based on its curriculum or programming. Some pick a school because of its location and the travel opportunities that it presents. Some are looking for more money, or a bigger school, or a smaller school. Some schools have contracts that allow their teachers to stay no longer than eight years. You name it, it’s a reason for someone.

Hiring for international schools also starts very early compared to public schools. Some new staff members are hired as early as October of the previous year. February was the first big international job fair in the US, but the job fairs had been going on the other side of the world for a couple of months by that time- London, Bangkok, Johannesburg, Dubai, etc. with many positions already filled.

The fair in Cambridge was like nothing I had ever experienced. There were administrators from around 150 schools from around the world and just shy of 500 candidates, also from all over the world, not just the United States. We were housed in one hotel, so you rode the elevators with the recruiters, your ‘competition’, etc. I talked to other candidates and administrators from all over the world. It was actually really enjoyable.

One of the most valuable pieces of advice that Sally and others at Search Associates gave was to try to go into the job fair with an open mind. Don’t go into the event thinking there is one perfect job or one perfect school. Jobs that were posted on the website might have already been filled and there would be new positions that weren’t listed the night before.

Senegal was not on my watch list when I arrived. There was a list of schools attending with their openings that I had printed out and gone through in painstaking detail-looking at the school’s website, job description, etc.

Based on that list, I had made another short list, in order of my priority, of which schools I was going to track down during the interview sign-up sessions. There were two different time slots where candidates approached schools to try to secure an interview. I had a couple of interviews lined up before arriving, as did some other candidates. In those situations, there had already been e-mail correspondence so all I had to do was meet them with my interview/dance card and find a mutually agreeable time for an interview. In other situations, when I went to find the school (they are all lined up alphabetically by country around the perimeter of the room) the list of openings they were looking to fill, indicated the position was already filled.

Once I went through my short list of schools, I made a sweep of the perimeter, looking at each school’s list of positions that they were going to be interviewing for.

Two sessions of dance-card/interview securing and then it was onto the next day where there were interviews all day long, every half hour.

Endurance was the name of the day. In between the interviews, you went back and forth to the candidate waiting room where each of us had a hanging file that the schools used to correspond with us.

Second round interviews began the next day.

In between the interviewing and the file checking, there was nonstop researching of schools on the internet, conferring with family members, and writing of thank you notes-like the old-fashioned kind on real paper. It made for several very long days and nights with little sleep.

I tried to keep detailed notes of each school that I had interviewed with so I didn’t confuse any of the positions in my head. I tried to imprint the names of the people doing the interviewing into my head so when I saw them in the elevator or in the hallways, I could greet them.

The condensed time frame of a job fair is also not similar to the interview process from the states. It doesn’t drag out over weeks. Much of it was completed within the weekend with a little being done over the following week before the next job fair began. Search and CIS both have fairs that back up to each other and then are followed closely by San Francisco. Things are not left up in the air.

According to TIE, the job hunter’s year should begin in September with an updated resume, a basic letter of application and a statement of education philosophy. It is quickly followed in October by sending out applications to posted vacancies. They recommend registering with placement agencies in October, but I recommend you do that in September if possible. Winter recommendations include follow-up letters, researching countries of schools you are interested in. February should be interviews and a job fair. This schedule is accelerated for people already working in international schools, as it is possible to do Skype interviews and not have to attend a job fair if you secure a position prior to the fair. That obviously saves the candidate a great deal of money.

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About bestbookihavenotread

Kristine has been in education since 1993. She taught fourth grade in Ohio from 1993 - 2008. She has been a Curriculum Coordinator for four years. She is relocating to Dakar, Senegal to be the Director of Curriculum for the International School of Dakar in August 2012.
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