The International Teaching Adventure: What is it all about?
I have not actually ever heard a definitive explanation of what an international school is, but I will give it a try. Of course, as soon I wrote that, I realized I had never googled it. So I did. Wikipedia says: “An international school is a school that promotes international education, in an international environment, either by adopting a curriculum such as that of the International Baccalaureate, or by following a national curriculum different from that of the school’s country of residence. These schools cater mainly to students who are not nationals of the host country, such as the children of the staff of international businesses, international organizations, foreign embassies, missions, or missionary programs. Many local students attend these schools to learn the language of the international school and to obtain qualifications for employment or higher education in a foreign country.” In my experience, I think this is a really good definition, so I will let Wikipedia to the work on that one.
A bit more explanation can be included here. There can be international schools of different nationalities. There are American, Canadian, British, French, and German international schools. I have worked at three different American International schools. I believe they are American because they could have American curriculum or they are associated with the American embassy in that country. They are also International because they have students of many ethnicities and nationalities and they will subscribe to International associations (such as the IB).
International schools need international teachers. Often the requirements for teaching in an international school include an undergraduate degree from an accredited (Western) university, a teaching certification in your home country, and usually a minimum of two years of teaching experience. It is getting more and more common for international educators to have Masters or Graduate degrees. Having international teaching experience can also be quite valuable for schools as they know that you can handle life away from home!
International teachers from from all places. American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, British, South African, Greek, Belgian, Hungarian, Chinese, Kuwaiti, and Egyptian are a few of the nationalities of teachers and colleagues with whom I have worked.
How to get a job as an International Teacher
Job Placement Organizations: The best way to get a job as an international educator, I believe, is by registering with a job placement organization. There are two main organizations: Search Associates and International Schools Services. Schools also register with these organizations. Once you register, then you can access a database of schools looking for teachers. Both of these organizations also run job fairs starting in January of each year.
Timeline: The process of the job search in international schools is expedited from what one might be used to in national schools. If you are a teacher in an international school, you will usually have to let your administration know by December if you will be returning the following year. The initial contract you are usually given is two years. After that, you will usually be offered yearly contracts. Sometimes schools will offer incentives for signing on for more than one year at a time. Once you have told your school you are not re-signing and will be leaving the school, they must then find another teacher. They will go to the database on Search or ISS and search for teachers. They will also attend the job fairs and interview teachers face to face.
Job Fairs: The job fairs take place in the same cities each year: Bangkok, London, and Boston are the big ones in January and February. The teachers and schools will all be at the job fair. The administrators will search out teachers for the positions they are needing to fill and ask for interviews. The teachers will search out the schools that are offering positions they can fill. Usually the job fair will last for 3-4 days and it is an intense, high stress event that includes searching, interviewing, and deciding on a job and country and your life for at least the next 2 years. Once teachers have interviewed with a few schools (hopefully), they may receive an offer for a job (or two or three). They then will usually have about 24 hours to let the school know if they will accept the offer.
Specialty Teachers: Teachers who have specialty subjects or skills are often more sought out than the general teacher. A specialty subject is something like high level math and science because there are few teachers who can do this and they are highly sought after since this is an area that many students and schools emphasize. Teaching couples are also appealing for schools as they are often “cheaper” than single teachers or teachers with children.
Contracts: The contract with a school will often include the following: teaching salary, housing or housing allowance, one dependent per teacher to go to the school with free tuition (usually international teaching families are made of two parents and two children), medical insurance, among other things. As international educators, we are well cared for in many schools in the world. Some countries are more financially beneficial because they are cheaper to live. In some, less desirable countries the salary schools offer is higher because they need to be more “attractive” to teachers.