Perhaps you find yourself in a teaching position that you have held for many years. You take comfort in the routine of it, you know exactly how each day is going to unfold, but still… Or, perhaps Covid has forced you to your own kitchen table. You find yourself “teaching”, through no fault of your own, an ever less enthusiastic group of two dimensional beings, and you catch yourself thinking, “there has got to be another way!” Whatever the reason, rather than rearranging the flatware, it may be time to flip the whole table and try teaching in a foreign land.
How exactly does one secure a teaching position in a different country?
Disclaimer: I certainly don’t know everything. I’m merely passing on my own experience. I would invite those with different experiences to comment on this post and add their insights. (I’m in the middle of a hunt right now, and am not opposed to learning a thing or two!) Also, be forewarned that Covid has changed the game, at least temporarily. Not only have things moved almost exclusively to a virtual universe, but the economic uncertainty out there right now has forced schools to be very careful about their hiring practices. Even so, let’s jump in, shall we?
Step 1: Are you qualified?
Let’s start by making the distinction that this mission of this post is to help those interested in regular education positions as opposed to those looking to teach English. Why the distinction? Because many reputable “regular” schools will require that a prospective teacher have at least two years experience in the classroom before they will even consider a candidate’s application. Many schools that teach English don’t. In fact, teaching English is one way many inexperienced folks find themselves positions abroad.
To give you an idea of what a typical school might be looking for here is an excerpt from a job posting of a reputable school in China:
Step 2: How to search.
As the number of international schools out there continues to grow, and there are way more than you probably think there are, you are going to need a way to winnow your choices down. According to Relocate Global,
“There are 9,605 English-medium international schools worldwide, and the numbers are expected to grow at a strong rate over the next ten years.
According to the 2018 Global Report on the International Schools Market from ISC Research, the numbers have increased by 6.3 per cent over the past year, with a compound annual growth rate of nearly six per cent over the last five years.”
It is possible to select an area of the world you want to go, find a school in that area, and apply online directly. I’m sure there are people with drool worthy applications that this works for, but for the rest of us non “superheroes” there are services that can assist with the process in a mighty way.
Entry Level Services
The most basic, and least expensive of these services serve as “marketplaces” where job openings from many schools are compiled in a single location. TIE (The International Educator) is a great example of one such service. At $39 a year it is hard to beat in price. In addition to job listings, subscribers also get access to some basic information about each position, including some basic benefits information and job description details. For another $29 a year you can get notifications sent directly to your inbox. Here is a look at a sample page to give you an idea of the information you can glean from their site:
Another great resource is the Global Recruitment Collaborative. Like TIE, GRC is a marketplace for schools. However, it is also a marketplace for teachers, and is completely free. As their website states, “The Global Recruitment Collaborative (GRC) emerged from a very simple premise – Create a database of high caliber educators, field tested at some of the best international schools in the world, with a passion for learning in an international context.”i
Another marketplace site similar to TIE, that I have actually tried, is Teacher Horizons. This is a newer company, so I’m less familiar with it. This is another free site, so you can’t be disappointed when you get what you pay for. It is founded by teachers who state, “Teacher Horizons is free for teachers and we are committed to keeping it free. We strongly believe that talented teachers should not have to pay to find good international teaching jobs or go to expensive teacher recruitment fairs.”
Here’s a sample image I took of the filter page. If you were looking for an art position you would see something like this:
As you can see there are 92 jobs all around the world that match this description. Clicking on any of the “opportunities” gives you access to a limited amount of information about each school, but does provide you with links to their websites so that you can do more digging.
More Extensive Services
Another great resource is the Global Recruitment Collaborative. Like TIE, GRC is a marketplace for schools. However, it is also a marketplace for teachers, and is completely free. As their website states, “The Global Recruitment Collaborative (GRC) emerged from a very simple premise – Create a database of high caliber educators, field tested at some of the best international schools in the world, with a passion for learning in an international context.”
What separates GRC from sites like TIE is that at the same time that it is “pushing schools” out to you, it is “pushing you” out to schools. In other words, you have to upload information personal to you, like your resume, your teaching experience, and your references. The idea is that schools interested in you will have the freedom to contact you whenever they feel like it. However, that’s not all GRC offers. In a typical year, they sponsor a face to face recruitment fairs, typically in Dubai. This year, due to covid, they sponsored virtual fairs. Recruitment fairs are a staple in the international teaching community. They are basically a giant cattle call where schools and teachers get together and try to match teacher skills with school needs. They are stressful, expensive, and exciting. If you can get hired without needing to attend a recruitment fair, in my opinion, do it!
What I like most about GRC is their simple website. Every morning I pour a nice steaming cup of coffee, nestle up next to the computer and check GRC first to see what’s new in the world of job openings.
You can see in the shot above, taken without any of the filters applied, that it is rather slow at this time. In fact, today is January 24th, and there are no positions listed for today(it is Sunday though!) What I like about the site is that the newest positions are always listed first, most of the schools on the list have pretty good reputations, and I can filter quickly and easily. I highly recommend using GRC even if you don’t intend to sign up for the fairs.
High End Services
There are two services that(that I know of) are considered to be the top of the line. I am familiar with one, and have many friends that have used the other. Again, there may be others, but I will only speak to what I know. These are expensive, but in my opinion, using one of these services is almost necessary-International School Services (ISS) and Search Associates.
I’ll start with Search because I know the least about it. Here is a blurb from their site to give you an idea of how different their approach is:
“We ensure that we can provide personal attention to our candidates by assigning each candidate to a specific Associate, based on their geographical location or on the job fair they wish to attend. This system allows candidates to have access to their own Associate, and their team, who will personally assist them throughout the entire job search process.”
Search has a hefty $225.00 fee for teaching candidates, but this is good for three years(or until you get a job) and there is no fee involved in registering for your first job fair. You are also assigned an “associate” to help guide you through the process. The big draw of Search, and of ISS for that matter, is that by registering through them, you are seen, in a way, as “vetted” by prospective schools. The idea is that once your personal information is uploaded and checked out, schools have been saved the hassle of having to do it themselves.
Like Search, ISS also carries a cost, albeit a lower $75.00. Also like Search, ISS represents a very large group of schools. Some schools choose to make use of both services, so don’t worry too much about limiting your options by selecting one over the other(If there is going to be pushback to this post, it will come here. Some people swear by one service over the other). Also like Search, candidates upload their personal information and are “vetted” before they are “released” to search for jobs.
ISS has made the leap to the Ifair almost seamlessly, as they had practice with these before Covid hit. The downside of all virtual fairs is that as hard as they try, in my experience they don’t/can’t replace a real face to face recruitment fair. I had an administrator friend tell me that he absolutely cannot hire someone he has not met in person. This was before Covid, so that may have changed.
You can see here that they represent a pretty hefty number of both job openings and candidates.
If you take away nothing else from this post, understand this, there are a lot of risks involved in teaching abroad. Anything you can do to diminish the risks is something you are doing to increase the odds that you have a successful adventure. Here’s a story to illustrate my point.
A friend of mine, along with his wife, accepted in a country he had never been to in Africa. They felt it was time to try teaching abroad as their two daughters had reached middle school age. After flying to Europe from the states, and then on to the capital of their host country, they then hopped a bush plane and eventually arrived at the airfield near the school they were to teach at. The pilot unloaded all of their stuff, restarted the plane, and left. There was absolutely no one there. There also wasn’t a terminal or a phone. They dragged their luggage to the shade of a tree and sat down. After a few hours a gentleman on a bike rode by and began to wave frantically. It turns out the school had the wrong date for their arrival and all worked out fine, but what if it hadn’t? Can you imagine?
Look, there are unsafe countries, schools with poor management, schools that are in it for profit only, and a myriad of other possible problems. Going through a reputable agency like Search or ISS is a great way to increase the odds of your success.
Finally, there are a couple of more sites that I find extremely useful for knowing what it is like to work at a school because they are written by teachers who have actually worked there. Think of them as ways to vet the schools. However, a word of warning, all entries must be taken with a grain of salt as angry teachers are the ones that seem most anxious to write. Teachers who have had wonderful experiences are often quiet. ISR offers reviews of schools and administrators from around the world. It is only a few dollars to join, and is updated often. There are also discussion boards that center around just about any topic a person might have. If a school has a bad review or two I’m likely to overlook them, however, if nobody ever gave it a good review my antennae go up.
The last site I would recommend is sort of a combo platter. International School Community offers both reviews of schools, and even has a section where teachers can post positions they know are open at their schools. It is much different than ISR in that the information provided is much more objective, but useful just the same. Again, this is teacher provided information, so some schools listings are more complete than others. Even so, here are some of the hyperlinks to useful information a prospective teacher might be interested in seeing.
There are even more pertaining to the country and city the schools in which the schools are located.
Step 3 Talk To People
The bottom line is that leaving all you know to move to a place you have never been is a huge decision. Arming yourself with the best information you can get online is still a poor replacement for having some serious discussion with someone who is currently working at the school you are interested in, or at least someone who has worked there recently. At our first job fair we met a teacher at one of the schools we were interested in interviewing for. She was actually at the job fair to find a job at a new school, but for personal reasons. We learned more from her than from any book, website, or interview.
Finding a job in another country can seem overwhelming. However, with the right sources for information you can make an informed decision. First, know what you are qualified to teach. Second, use multiple online resources to know all you can not only about your prospective school, but about the country in which it is located. Finally, talk to other people-people who know the school. Asking a prospective administrator for the email address of a teacher from the school is not a ridiculous thing to do. As most schools will expect you to sign a two year contract it’s best to know going in that you can honor that!
Magazine, Relocate. “Numbers of International Schools Continue to Rise: Festival of Global People: Relocate Magazine.” Festival of Global People | Relocate Magazine, http://www.relocatemagazine.com/articles/education-numbers-of-international-schools-continue-to-rise-curphey-0519.
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