How to

International schools are schools throughout the world where students can attend in English or their native language (French, German, Dutch, etc). These schools are created for expat families living away from home. Generally the intended outcome is for the students to obtain an education that is similar to one in their home country and therefore can pursue continued education there, while living away. Most of these schools are recognized by international education organizations, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), or accredited by organizations in the United States, such as the Western Association for Schools and Colleges (WASC).

The families whose children attend these schools tend to be involved in business or a job in that country away from home or are diplomats in that country. There are numerous other reasons families move overseas, such as mission or humanitarian work, to experience a new culture, to be near family, etc.

In order to have schools overseas, there also needs to be teachers. Teachers can get a job in an international school, generally, with a minimum of two years of teaching experience. This guideline is negotiable depending on the school. The best and probably most common way for a teacher to get a job is by signing up with a job placement organization. There are two main organizations used by teachers: Search Associates or International Schools Service (ISS) These companies will help you set up a profile online. The international schools will also do the same and will post positions that are available. You can then search positions that are posted and apply to those positions. I have always worked with Search Associates and found them to be quite good. I was assigned an associate who works for the company and supports me and assists me in finding a job, if possible.

The timeline that international schools are working with tends to be extreme in that recruiting for new teachers starts much earlier in the school year than at home. Current teachers at a school need to give their notice if they are returning the next school year or not by about December. Even before that, schools will encourage teachers to let them know if they will be leaving the school. Therefore, as a teacher that is looking for a position, one needs to be prepared very early in the year. My husband and I made our decision to leave our school in Shanghai about a year in advance. We began preparing to leave in the summer of 2013 even though we wouldn’t be at the new school until August 2014. The preparations involved setting up a profile on Search Associates, getting references, preparing our resumes/CVs and cover letters, and exploring networks throughout the world.

The job fair is next. Job fairs are located in various major cities throughout the world, including Bangkok, London, Boston. The first job of the recruiting year is held in about January and they are held every couple of weeks throughout the world until about April or May and even into the summer. The job fair experience is intense, exciting, and exhausting. There are hundreds of teachers and schools gathering in one location to do the hiring process. Schools are looking for specific positions they need to fill. Teachers are looking for the right location and the right school. The job fair starts with an arena style meet and greet where all the school administrators have set up a table or booth for their school and have posted the positions they need to fill. The teachers then roam around speaking to principals and superintendents of schools hoping for an interview. This is the time where teachers and schools will set up a time for a more formal interview to take place that day or the next. Because the job fair only lasts 3-4 days, everything is done at an increased pace.

The first job fair I attended was in Boston in February 2009. I had previously worked in an international school in Kuwait but I had not been to the job fair. I managed to find that job through friends who were working at the school. I had some information about the fair from colleagues who had been to it. As a female Physical and Health Education teacher, I did have some interest from schools so I had several interviews. My decision came down to a large, well known school in Shanghai and a small school in Zimbabwe. Although I was tempted to go to Africa, I decided on Shanghai because I wanted a large city and a large school where I could meet lots of people and gain more experience.

My second job fair experience was in London in January 2014 with my husband. As I am working on my Masters to transition into a new career, I knew it would be difficult to find something in the new direction I was hoping to take due to my lack of experience. Therefore we would be looking for two PE and Health positions since my husband, Niall, is also in that field. The London fair turned out to be quite competitive and at first we felt quite discouraged because despite our solid previous experience we didn’t have much interest from schools. The issue was partly that we expressed interest in finding two jobs. We decided that we would then need to just look for on job for Niall and I would tag along as his spouse, while continuing to work on my Masters courses. We were able to discuss that with some schools and extensively interviewed with a school in Hong Kong as well as a school in Budapest. In the end, the Hong Kong school decided not to hire us but Niall was offered a position in Budapest. We accepted four interviews later and have been excited about it ever since.

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