Asking the right questions before, during and after your interview

With thousands of international schools around the world with varying styles, quality and employment packages, you want to make the right choice. With only an interview or two (usually on Skype) between you and a 2-year contract, you want to have as big a picture as possible to help you pick the best job for you. Asking the right questions is key. The current market is still abound with teaching jobs, and so if you have a few years under your belt and something to show off on your CV, there will always be another job around the corner and never a need to choose something that isn’t right. A job interview is just as much about you, as a teacher, interviewing the school, as it is about the school interviewing you. So with that in mind, one of our fantastic teachers, Sarah Morris, has compiled a list of must-ask questions to ensure that when you land your next job, your preferences are met and there are no surprises.

 

Important things to do before applying:

  • Google search the school directors.
    Some people are surprisingly well known, good or bad, in the international teaching world. You don’t want to be working with someone who is known for poor management.
  • Consider signing up to the website, International Schools Review, or search up the school on Glassdoor.com.
    Take reviews with a pinch of salt, but avoid applying for schools that are poorly reviewed by a number of other teachers.

 

Questions to ask before interview:

  • Please could you give me an idea of the package you are offering?
    Not a rude question to ping across in an email. With teaching salaries varying from below an average Western European salary to close to six figures, you won’t have any idea if this will be a complete waste of time both for you and the school unless you know the salary. If you have a recruitment agent, then ask them.

 

Questions to ask at the interview:

  • What would you say are the best things about working at the school?
  • What are the goals of the school over the next year?
  • What needs to be improved about the school?
  • How many hours a week will I be teaching?
  • I have a really keen interest in X, what kind of extra-curricular opportunities are there?
  • How much time is spent on staff meetings/Saturdays/boarding duties?
  • What kind of professional development opportunities do you offer to staff? Do you invite trainers from outside the country or offer an allowance for travel? Could you give some examples?
  • Do you have any requirements for lesson plans to be submitted?
    It is not uncommon for a head of department or senior management to ask for weekly lesson plans. If this isn’t your preference, you want to know about it now.
  • Have any teachers left after only a year or less? If so, why?
    Asking ‘how long do most staff stay at the school’ gives the opportunity of the school to mislead you by missing out significant anomalies.
  • I’m used to working in a happy and professional environment. How would you describe the school environment for staff and students?
  • Will I have my own classroom or will I be based in an office and be moving around?
  • Do you provide laptops for staff?
    I’ve never understood why some schools think it is appropriate for teachers to use their own. Imagine turning up to any other job and being asked to produce your own computer to work on.
  • Who exactly will be my line manager?
  • What does your student behaviour policy look like?
  • How would you rate how well-equipped the school is in my department? What is the annual budget for buying equipment for my department?
  • Do you offer multiple exit visas? (If Saudi Arabia or Qatar)

 

Questions to ask after you have an offer but before you have accepted the offer:

  • What will happen when I arrive to the airport and in my first few days?
    It is standard for a member of senior management to greet you at the airport, take you to provided accommodation and invite you for at least one dinner/drinks event in the first few days. The school should help with settling by organising visas, medical insurance, getting a sim card, showing you around town and looking for longer-term accommodation (if applicable). If a school doesn’t do these things, it is not a good sign.
  • Can you send me some pictures of the accommodation that I will be in? Are utilities, internet etc. included? What will be the address? Search your accommodation on Google maps. Check for potential problems like heavy traffic noise or pollution.
  • Can I talk to another member of the teaching staff that I will be working with? This is very important for getting a more realistic feel. Once, I was glad to have been informed by my would-be head of department, that a school was having problems and many staff were leaving. By being realistic, she avoided disappointment for me and for the school.

 

So that’s it. Thanks Sarah! Remember, interviews are a two-way street. Ask the right questions and you’ll find the job that’s right for you and avoid making any wrong decisions. Click here to read Sarah’s other useful blog 3 mistakes to avoid during your job search.

Written by Sarah Morris, who enjoys throwing herself into life in new cultures and has taught in Nicaragua, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Cuba and the Cayman Islands. When she is not searching for new adventures, she is often found rescuing street dogs, and runs www.brainhappy.co.uk - a consultancy and coaching provider aimed at helping workplaces all over the world, including schools, improve staff well-being.

Three mistakes to avoid during your job search!

This week, another of our wonderful teachers has written a blog giving advice about your job search. Sarah Morris recently began a Science teaching role in the Cayman Islands, and alongside teaching she runs Brainhappy – a consultancy and coaching service which aims to improve staff wellbeing all over the world. So her advice is certainly worth taking on board… have a read!

 

I was at an international schools’ job fair in London a few years ago and noticed a disproportionately large queue of people vying for the opportunity to greet the director of a school in Bogotá, Colombia. If you are not familiar with job fair protocol, it is kind of like a summer fair, except it’s usually indoors and conducted on a rainy January day. Schools and teachers fly in from all over the world for a weekend. They set up tables, often with some kind of display or scheduled talk to introduce themselves. You then line up and leave your CV, in the hope that you will later find an invitation for interview placed in your newly set-up pigeon hole. Interviews then take place over the rest of the weekend, sometimes in hotel rooms. It’s a rather odd affair, but can be a highly efficient way for schools to recruit staff and teachers to find jobs.

bogota
1. Putting destination first

There was a palpable air of excitement around the Colombian school’s small table, with people pushing to get to the front. I thought I’d better see what all the fuss was about, and so I signed up for a talk about the school later on that day. I must say that I was put off by the extremely large size of the school, poor student behaviour, relatively low student attainment and extremely long meetings, all mentioned by the director. However, when I talked to one or two of the other candidates over some cake and wine later on, they were mightily excited to have been offered an interview. Why, despite the school sounding no different from the local UK school down the road, were so many people still interested? “It’s Bogotá,” was the reply. Bogotá, having partially shed its reputation for FARC rebels and cocaine, had become the new place to be for the latest set of teachers. China and Dubai were out, it seemed. Bogotá, the rainy capital of South America’s second most populous country was in, and people were willing to trade in their work satisfaction in order to be there.
I was puzzled. Maybe the opportunity to live in your Number One Top Destination would be enough to stave off the blues at work for a while, but surely not for a whole two-year contract. A teacher that is only motivated by the chance to live in their favourite country, surely isn’t doing their employer or themselves any favours.

Read some more stories from our happy teachers placed in locations all around the world, click here. 

2. Not asking the right questions

But it wasn’t the Bogotá frenzy that was the most memorable event of that job fair, for me. It was an interview with a private international school from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. When it came to my chance to ask questions, I asked them to confirm that the school would provide multiple exit visas so that I would be able to travel out of Saudi Arabia freely during holidays and maybe the odd weekend (in Saudi Arabia, your employer must give you permission to leave the country, through issuance of an exit visa). The reply was that exit visas were offered only once a year as the school didn’t think it was appropriate for staff to leave the country any more frequently. That was my first contact with a school that clearly didn’t value the wellbeing of staff, the benefit to students of well-rounded teachers or simply a person’s right to freedom. I’d love to know if anyone at the job fair took them up on an offer. Only someone not clued up on exit visas, I thought. And what regret that would cause, when the poor candidate arrived to find they would be missing Christmas at home, half term adventures abroad and indeed, any chance of escaping for ten whole months.

Want to join Sarah in the Cayman Islands? Have a look at her school’s profile page here.

cayman3. Being unprepared

Job fairs have the advantage of so many jobs in one place, however, they also have the disadvantage of having so many competing candidates also in the same place. So if you want to bag an interview at the best school, do your preparation in advance. Find out what you can and send a short email to introduce yourself to the school director before the fair, stating that you are looking forward to meeting them. That way, you have demonstrated your enthusiasm and given yourself a slight step ahead of others. Aside from the context of job fairs, make yourself stand out by making a video of yourself, attaching some evidence of outstanding teaching to your application, or adding some ‘reviews’ from students.

Read more advice from our teachers: 10 pieces of advice before making your next move

 

Thanks so much Sarah. Hear more from Sarah next week when we put out her blog on asking the right questions. Want to join Sarah in the Cayman Islands? Well  sign up, and look at our jobs. Or if you have your own advice to give, please email us on editor@teacherhorizons.com . We would love to hear from you!

Written by Sarah Morris, who enjoys throwing herself into life in new cultures and has taught in Nicaragua, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Cuba and the Cayman Islands. When she is not searching for new adventures, she is often found rescuing street dogs, and runs www.brainhappy.co.uk - a consultancy and coaching provider aimed at helping workplaces all over the world, including schools, improve staff well-being.

10 pieces of advice before making your next international move

Can you believe it’s October half term? How has this time come around again so fast? Schools are beginning to advertise their positions for August 2019 already, and for some of you it’s time to start looking out for new opportunities. We are of course here to provide help and advice whilst you seek out your perfect school, but this year we have asked some of our teachers and our senior leaders for their personal tips on job hunting.  First off, we hear from Jane Greenwood, Principal at Jogjakarta Community School, Indonesia who advises on what to do before making your first (or your next) international move.

 

jane1

Moving and working abroad for the first time can seem a daunting challenge and it took me several years to pluck up the courage to do so. After 20 years of teaching in the UK I finally decided to give working abroad a try. “Just for one year” I thought… that was 14 years ago. Five countries later I still have a sense for adventure, challenge and cultural development. Currently I am working in Indonesia; a country made up of 17,000 islands and some of the most active volcanoes in the world. As I near retirement I have heard people say “she should know better” and others who think it is a terrific thing to do.

Today I am in a position where I hire teachers from around the world; some leaving their home country for the first time and others who are seasoned international teachers. What I have discovered is that no matter how experienced people feel they are at living in different countries, research is imperative. Research the school and its student cohort, study the contract and the package, and find out as much as you can about the city and the country in which you will be working. In the past have employed people who were surprised they were taxed on their salary, others who were stunned that they had arrived in a ‘dry’ state and even those who did not know the country was landlocked!

A lack of thorough research can lead to discontentment, loneliness and frustration for some and for others, an extension of their adventure. Although not as common as some people think, teachers do vanish overnight when reality does not meet their expectations. This is one of the worst things a teacher can do. Breaking contract leaves awkward gaps on a Curriculum Vitae and it leaves the school (more importantly the children) without a teacher.

Read another blog where we asked our teachers to give advice to someone thinking of working abroad.

 

So, when making the decision to move from your home country, here are 10 things you need to consider. In no particular order.

 

jane1) Ensure your CV and education statement are up to date and relevant.

Try not to leave gaps and do not make it too long. I have received CVs over 14 pages long – I put the kettle on after 4.

2) Get your references in order

Make sure your referees are happy to still be contacted on your behalf. These should be as recent as you can make them. Many schools will ask for your last employer.

3) Update your photo

Include a current (within 1 year) passport sized photograph and keep it professional – I have received photographs of people sitting on the beach, holding beer bottles and some of the worst selfies you can imagine.

Read our blog on getting your CV and profile photo right.

jane 34) Have a police check handy

Ensure you have an up to date police reference check from the country you are leaving. Also collect letters confirming employment dates that cover up to 5 years. Ensure you have all your certificates. Schools will require these documents to obtain work and residency permits.

5) Consider packages carefully

Weigh up each package. Are you paid in local currency and is it taxable? Do you receive health insurance, housing, free child places, a utilities allowance, start and end of contract flights and/or mid contract flights? Look at the contract length and remember on many contracts you may not receive a salary increase after the first year if you sign up for two. Decide what is important to you and what you are willing to sacrifice against other benefits. Look at the bigger picture – some countries offer lower salaries but the saving potential can still be high in relation to the cost of living.

                                                                                 Read more about salaries and benefits

jane 26) Research the school

Before an interview, research the school. Review the website; its governance, school ethos, the academics, the commitment to extracurricular activities. A lot can be gained from what is and what is not contained in a website.

7) Know what you are looking for

Consider what it is you want from moving abroad; to further your career, to find a better work/life balance, to find a retirement country, to have a social life and meet people, or to travel.

8) Research the city and the country thoroughly

This includes looking at the cost and availability of flights, the social scene, ways of travelling to and from school, or where your accommodation is in relation to the school, amenities and the city.

Read our blog on how to make your applications stand out.

jane 49) Have questions ready

Before an interview list all the questions you want to ask about life and work. Many may be answered during interview. Do not be afraid to ask what may seem to be banal questions – as an interviewer I am completely honest and will highlight the positives and make people aware of the potential negatives. If you do not get the opportunity to ask at interview, ask before accepting an offer.

10) Make sure you have money before you move

Furnished accommodation may not mean the same to everyone and having the ability to purchase items to make life more comfortable is important. Also, the first few weeks will see increased socialising as you get to know the place and your colleagues. Remember, it is like any position you would accept in your home country, you will work a month in hand before you receive your first salary payment.

 

To round off, just remember that research, planning and preparation are key components to making a move less stressful. I have once made a move I regretted, but I learnt a lot from that experience and was then far better prepared for my next move. Remember, you are never too old to make the change – I made it at the age of 44. It is a fantastic experience. Try it …. just make sure you are fully prepared.

 

Thanks so much for your input Jane (and for the awesome photos of Indonesia). Who better to give advice on moving schools and countries than someone who has experienced it from all angles! If this has inspired you and you are keen to make the move this year, now is the time to sign up, and look at our jobs. There’s so much out there waiting for you!

 

Written by Jane Greenwood, Principal at Jogjakarta Community School, Java, Indonesia.

Happy Teachers 2018

Our teachers are rounding off their first term at school. Hooray! Before we delve into how their experiences have been, we wanted to first share some of their feedback on the Teacherhorizons process…

 

Gemma WayteGemma was placed in Cambodia.

Selecting schools suitable schools was very easy and the profiles for each school were extremely helpful. TH put me in contact with a recruiter who had experience teaching internationally, so gave great advice. I had a Skype interview with Anisha, so that she could see what schools would be right for me and where I’d like to go. After deciding that I would like to move to Cambodia for the cheap living costs, Anisha sent me a link to a great school in Cambodia straight away. In preparation for the interview she sent some likely interview questions for me to practice. I got the offer email from the school a few days later and couldn’t have been more excited!

We love Cambodia! Read our many many blogs about Cambodia here.

 

AliAli was placed in Vietnam

The TH website was really useful and user friendly. The email updates were always welcomed and of all the recruitment sites I have used this has been the most useful and personal. Laura in particular has been an absolute super star. She has taken the time to get to know my requirements and helped me through the process. Thank you.

Want to join Ali? Have a look at schools in Vietnam.

 

jenniferJennifer was placed in China

I first heard about Teacher Horizons a couple of years ago when I was looking around at my options for the future. Last year I decided to get serious about searching and found that some of the best options showed up on this site. Using TH is so easy and the staff are so helpful. They are also upfront and honest – if you aren’t right for a position they tell you instead of wasting your time. They provide help and guidance every step of the way and are quick to follow up and provide any advice needed. Knowing that a lot of the schools have been checked out adds confidence in the decision on where to go. I’m so happy about my new school and the opportunities to come. I highly recommend using their services!

Check out the schools we work with in China.

 

monicaMonica was placed in Russia

I came across TH while searching for a position and saw a posting that appealed to me. I contacted Laura at TH and she initiated contact with the school. From there, it was a Skype interview and then I was hired! I really liked having TH “vet” me for the school – it’s good to have a recommendation from the recruiter. I felt the service was more personal than with other recruiting agencies.

Read more about our schools in Russia. 

 

If you’re inspired, then why not browse our latest jobs in South AmericaAsia or Europe? Visit more of our happy teachers blogs to read more testimonials and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any queries.

Written by Tiffany Kibblewhite, Teacherhorizons Blog Manager and Recruitment Adviser.

Simon Armstrong shares top 5 tips for traveling with students.

This week we hear from Simon Armstrong, an inspiring teacher and entrepreneur who has set up a service for international school trips, called CAS Trips. He explains where the idea for CAS Trips came from, and with his wealth of knowledge, he gives some great advice on how to enhance your experience of travelling with students.

 

As a former international school teacher, I know exactly what it is like to travel with students. At the tender age of 23, I set sail for my own teacher horizons journey, as I embarked on a teaching career that would take me to international schools in Indonesia, Switzerland, Brazil and Canada before settling in Prague, Czech Republic. During these years, I helped organize and chaperone various school trips – and we all know that job doesn’t come lightly. It is more than just responsibility. You need to find that delicate balance between fun, meaningfulness, budget and safety to ensure that students accomplish learning outcomes whilst enjoying a fantastic travel experience yet following the rules and guidelines set forth.

My own experiences in the classroom and my never-ending passion for travel inspired the concept of CAS Trips, a tour company focusing on educational travel with students aged 12 – 18 years. Through the years I have learned many valuable lessons from both sides of the trip planning fence and I thought I’d share some of my wisdom – both from a teacher and tour operator perspective – to make traveling with students a little easier.

Here are my top 5 tips that will enhance both your and your students’ experiences when travelling abroad:

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 07.57.111. Have fun!

Yes, you are working and trying to teach your students about the history of World War II or how the Ottoman Empire came about – but you’re on a school trip to explore beyond the textbook. Have fun, use local tour guides to bring in a new perspective on topics, and don’t forget that your students will absorb the most information when all their senses are fully engaged.

2. Prepare for a new culture

Make sure you research and understand the culture with your students before embarking on your journey abroad. This can be a truly engaging and curriculum-relevant classroom activity. Have previous political regimes left a lasting impact on your destination? What is the historical context of the food you will eat? Are you visiting a country that requires students to cover up more so than they usually do back home? Explore the context of the who’s whats when and whys with your students in advance to educate and prepare them in terms of culture and customs at your destination.

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 08.02.18

3. Accept accountability

This is always a challenge, but as a teacher you need to accept accountability for the entire trip from the moment students leave their homes until they are picked up by their parents again upon return. You’ve organized every part of the trip to run smoothly. Practically speaking, that might always not be the case. Whilst the responsibility lies with you, make sure that your students and their parents are aware that they are also going to be held fully accountable for their individual actions and any mischief when travelling abroad.

4. Ask your students what they want

Do things a little differently from the rest. Ask your students what they want, rather than giving them a fully planned itinerary. There might be specific sites or activities they would like to visit and take part in at your destination. Providing options is also a great way to get your student involved before the trip even starts. Would they prefer exploring a castle or participating in a street art workshop? Students that feel like they are actively involved in the decision-making process will result in a more dynamic group eager to learn and explore.

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 07.59.455. Use a student tour operator

I may be biased here, but using a student tour operator can really enhance your educational trip. Working with a student tour operator secures you the best deals and ensures an expert opinion with lots of experience. Tour guides (like our CAS Trips guides) are trained in specific areas, such as history for example, providing your students with knowledge that might not be found in textbooks. Another very clear benefit of using a student tour operator to plan your trip, is that you can sit back and relax a little while the experts handle all those pesky logistics of travel. We at CAS Trips have even created a 7-step checklist on how to book a student trip.

 

So why did I create CAS Trips?

Well, like many of you, I had been on one too many underwhelming school trips myself – both as a student and as a teacher. From my own travels and extensive knowledge of the International Baccalaureate program, I knew there had to be a better way.

At the IB’s core, CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) is an obligatory extracurricular modular designed to push students out of their comfort zones and bring about character development. In reality though, many schools I worked with struggled to inspire students to make the most of CAS on top of their heavy academic IB timetables.

Then, it hit me. Why not use the power of travel to tackle Global Issues in foreign countries using a framework of Creativity, Activity and Service experiences?

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 07.56.53A frantic brainstorm and several hundred emails later, CAS Trips was born in 2013. Five years later, we at CAS Trips now offer dynamic student travel experiences in 10 different cities, across four continents – with more to come in the future! CAS Trips offers an all-inclusive travel experience for students and teachers, from providing transport, accommodation, food, Service Challenges and on-site tours – we handle it all. Our trips are 100% customizable, creating unique itineraries based on your school curriculum and travel preferences.

This year, we have embarked on the mission of incorporating an average of eight UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) per destination. Students learn about the UN SDGs through frameworks and tools taught by our trained tour guides, before collaborating with charities and NGOs to tackled the goals head on with our innovative and dynamic Service Challenges. Reflection workshops and the Changemakers Challenge – a long-term sustainable project that is organized by the students, aiming to make a positive change in the world – are also vital components in the CAS Trips formula.

Through our experience as teachers, students, tour guides and parents, we hope that we truly understand what it means means to travel with students. If you are interested in learning more about CAS Trips, please do not hesitate to reach out to me here. I look forward to being in touch and helping you redefine educational travel for your school.

 

Thanks Simon! Do get in touch with Simon, and definitely follow CAS Trips on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to discover the exciting things they are getting up to, and get inspired.

 

Written by Simon Armstrong, Simon Armstrong was born in York, UK and grew up in the Northern English Counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire before studying at the University of Liverpool and University of Central Lancashire. Following his graduation, Simon worked as a Sports Journalist at the Press Association but at the age of 23, determined that his future lay in a foreign classroom and succumbed to his desire to teach and travel. Working as an ESL, English Language and Literature teacher and Coordinator, he worked at international schools in Indonesia, Switzerland, Brazil and Canada before settling in Prague, Czech Republic. In the Ancient Czech capital, Simon also discovered tour guiding as a means to satisfy his thirst for history and showmanship on the weekends. This foray into the travel and tourism industry, combined with his extensive knowledge of the International Baccalaureate program led him to establish CAS Trips in 2013. Simon just recently moved to Lisbon, Portugal.

The benefits of professional development in an international setting

Hannah Fernweh posted an inspiring blog for us back in March, where she described her route into international teaching and how it has changed her life. We have kept in touch with Hannah through her first year in China and have shared in her success as she progressed quickly to take on more responsibility in year two. Amazed by the quality and abundance of professional development opportunities available to her, Hannah has now written a new blog about how beneficial PD is as an international educator. We are delighted to share it with you…

 

CPDTo be honest, I never would have thought I’d be the person to write a blog post lauding my access to professional development. Before beginning this adventure into international teaching, professional development was something I had to do to maintain my teaching credentials and was required by my district. Did I want to continue growing as a teacher? Sure, but this mostly happened through informal conversations and observations with colleagues. PDs were some of the least applicable, most torturous experiences of my early teaching career. My, how the tables have turned…

Coming into my second year of teaching in China, I’ve realized there are two main benefits of professional learning that are unique to international education: access to exciting experts and authors who give you actual strategies and ideas to apply in your pedagogy and the time provided by a true work/life balance to focus on personal study and growth.

When first filling in my profile on Teacherhorizons, I, somewhat naively, rated the ability to save and housing provided as “essential” and ranked professional development support as “not important.” Coming from teaching in a low-income, public school, I was feeling burnt out with regard to constantly trying to improve myself while barely staying ahead of my students’ crises. The idea of an international school sending me to professional development opportunities wasn’t in my frame of reference. All of my previous experience at PD sessions was me, sitting in a room with other exhausted teachers while an “expert,” who hadn’t been in a classroom for 20 years, told us how important data                                                                                          was.

Read Hannah’s blog ‘Life Hack – International Teaching’ here.

Hannah teachingSkip to my current profile on Teacherhorizons, where I list professional development support as “essential.” This shift in perspective was like a light switch. Last year and this year, I have participated in five professional learning opportunities with at least three more scheduled for this year. I have also had the time and drive to take a deep dive into pedagogical texts and subsequent online conversations through social media with the very authors I’m reading from. International teaching, particularly in locations where the packages need to include PD support to facilitate recruitment (Asia and the Middle East), emphasizes PD much more than my original experiences. We talk about the latest trends, the research behind them, and how it actually fits into our different school models. Techniques, strategies, and structures that I thought I knew I now have a deeper understanding of because I’ve had the chance to discuss, observe, and practice them through the conferences and session I’ve attended. Through these interactions, I also find out about the latest teacher texts that people are excited about, I use my department budget to purchase them, and then interact with other teachers and the authors themselves in person and through Twitter and Facebook to dissect them. Because this self-driven learning is part of the culture of international education, it is valued and I can spend my time wisely instead of countless hours of my own time on district and governmental mandates and unpacking curricula that didn’t apply to my students.

Read more about CPD in our blog on ‘How to get IB experience’

baby

 

Let’s cut down to brass tax, though. Not only is there more money for your school to spend on you to grow as an educator, you’re also surrounded by others striving the same way you are. Instead of everyone in crisis mode trying to stay afloat, grading papers and checking their email while the presenter drones on, I’m surrounded by colleagues from all over the world who are just as excited about lifelong learning as I am. Almost everyone I meet is filled with their own varied ideas and strategies that they’re actually excited to share. In fact, this is one of the most delightful secrets to rediscover participating in PD in an international setting: the world is very small. The longer I’m on this adventure, the more I run into someone who knows the same passionate educator I had met at a previous conference. Professional learning is full of the abundant connections we all have with one another around the world and the amazing knowledge, ideas, and opportunities we share as a global educational community.

 

Are you truly inspired by this blog? We certainly are! It is amazing to hear that best practise is being shared internationally, and that there are so many opportunities out there to develop as an international educator. Be sure to get in touch with your professional development co-ordinator at your own school, to ask what is available to you. I think you will be surprised!

Written by Hannah Fernweh, an international educator who values humor, curiosity, cheese, and new cultures. She currently resides in Shenzhen, China as a PYP Literacy Coordinator with her husband and is fulfilling her New Year's resolution of eating her weight in dumplings.

Typhoon Mangkhut and Hurricane Florence: How can we help?

We have all read reports of devastatingly heavy rain and winds in North and South Carolina from Hurricane Florence, and seen photos of the horrific damage to China, the Philippines, Guam, and the Marshall Islands by Typhoon Mangkhut. Are you wondering what you can do to help? We were!

MangkhutFlorence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A massive 550 miles wide, Typhoon Mangkhut is the strongest storm the world has seen this year and it has killed 74 people; a number which is still rising on a daily basis. More than four million people were in the path of the storm and over 130,000 people are now sheltering in evacuation centres. In the USA, around 10,000 residents in North Carolina are in shelters and first responders have reported having evacuated 2,200 people. We have many schools in these affected areas and our hearts go out to them as they get through this difficult time. We are keen to help.

So we have been doing our research, and have discovered some amazing non-profit organisations that have been helping with the recovery of anywhere affected by the recent storms. Teacherhorizons has donated to Save The Children, as it’s a charity that is close to our hearts (see below). But so that you can choose one yourself, we have compiled a list of other charities below, with a little information about each organisation and how you can donate.

 

 

red crossThe Red Cross

This amazing organisation provides everything that an area needs after a disaster. It opens shelters to make sure people have a safe place to stay, a hot meal and access to other support from trained volunteers. They hand out emergency supply comfort kits which contain basic personal supplies needed in the aftermath of a disaster, such as a toothbrush, deodorant and shampoo. Other emergency supplies could include tarps, rakes, shovels, and trash bags to help people clean up their homes and return to normalcy. Red Cross health and mental health volunteers will travel to disaster sites to help people cope. Health workers can provide first aid treatment for injuries, monitor the well-being of people staying in Red Cross shelters, and replace prescription medications or eyeglasses. Other workers specialize in providing emotional support and helping people to cope after a disaster

Read further by clicking heredonate here and volunteer here.

 

PRCThe Philippine Red Cross

This team sent a “humanitarian caravan” of rescue and relief vehicles in anticipation of the storm. The caravan included a water tanker, 10-wheeler trucks, generators, a mobile kitchen, a Humvee with a rescue boat and a water treatment unit. They bring hope to the provinces affected by Typhoon Mangzhut. Not only this but The Philippine Red Cross National Blood Services is one of the major suppliers of blood in the country. The PRC is tasked to provide safe and quality blood through its active role in advocacy, education and promotion of voluntary blood donation, donor recruitment, retention and care, blood collection, testing, processing and blood issuance through its network of 82 blood service facilities nationwide.

Read further by clicking heredonate here and volunteer here.

 

AHaHAll Hands and Hearts

All Hands and Hearts are a ‘Smart Response’ charity, who efficiently and effectively addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. By listening to local people, and deploying their unique model of engaging volunteers to enable direct impact, they rebuild safe, resilient schools, homes and other community infrastructure. This volunteer team is currently on the ground in North Carolina. They will be meeting with the Mayor of New Bern, North Carolina tomorrow at her request for help to set up a Volunteer Reception Center to coordinate spontaneous and unaffiliated volunteers. Assessment, chainsaw, debris removal, and mold sanitation teams are also on standby.

Read further by clicking here, donate here and volunteer here.

 

STCSave the Children

This is our chosen charity, and we have donated some of our profits to Save The Children this week. The STC expert teams are already on the ground, assessing the impact on children and their families to provide the support needed to help them piece their lives back together. They are distributing emergency supplies, including blankets; jerry cans; tarpaulin and rope to keep families who have lost their homes safe. They are also providing families with clean water and essential hygiene items to help prevent the spread of deadly diseases. Finally, they are setting up temporary learning centres and donating books, pencils and other learning equipment so that children’s education isn’t interrupted.

Read further by clicking heredonate here and volunteer here.

 

careCARE

CARE is a Non Government Orgnisation founded in 1945 and fighting global poverty. They have been helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. They place a special focus on women and children who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. Last year, CARE worked in 94 countries to reach 80 million people, including more than 11 million through emergency response and humanitarian aid. To support those affected by the typhoon they are working with local partners, Cagayan Valley Disaster Response Center & Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services, to manage relief and recovery efforts.

Read further by clicking heredonate here and volunteer here.

 

Here are the schools we have in The Philippines who could be badly affected by the typhoon. Your support for these charities will not only enable those affected to keep warm, dry, safe and hydrated but will also enable a better response to the urgent needs of children and adults when disasters strike in future.

If you have been affected by the storms, get in touch to let us know how you are coping, and if we can help. Email info@teacherhorizons.com or your Recruitment Adviser.

Written by Tiffany Kibblewhite, Teacherhorizons Blog Manager and Recruitment Adviser.

Teaching in Shandong, China

Irose Hansen is an Early Years teacher who started at Yew Wah International Education Kindergarten of Rizhao this time last year. She tells us now about what her life has been like since she took on this new role, setting up the Early Childhood Education section in the school. Read on to find out about the different aspects of working and teaching in Shandong province, China.

 

ClassroomWhere are you teaching and what’s your school like?

I am teaching in an international school in Rizhao, a small city in Shandong province in China. The school is small and is the only International school in the area. Rizhao is a developing city and is fast growing. I chose China/ Asia as my next teaching adventure, and am so happy I did!

How did you get your job? What was the process like?

I placed my teaching file on Teacherhorizons.com and was immediately supported by Maggie. She gave me so much help during my search…Thank you Maggie!

What is the city like? Is there an active expat scene? What do you do in your free time?

The city considerably small, clean and still developing. It is one of the less polluted cities in China. In terms of the expat scene, there is a Facebook page for expat in Rizhao, but I mostly hang out with my Chinese friends and family, and of course teachers from the school.

Read all about how Teacherhorizons works. Schools can even search for you now (find out more about our explorer service).

Rizhao
 Which tourist sites or must-visit places are nearby?

There are so many! My main must-see place in Rizhao is the beach area, as it is gorgeous. Some parts of the beach are well known for weddings! If you go out of Rizhao by bus or train, there is even more on offer too.

What is the climate like? Is there any extreme weather? If so, how do you deal with it?

China has 4 seasons, where summer is very hot compared to back home (Scotland). Winter is freezing, colder than Scotland! In winter the area gets more polluted as all flats and houses turn their central heating on.

What’s the cost of living like? Are you able to save money?

The cost of living is quite affordable for me compared to where I came from before this (Shanghai). I work at an English school and because of this, I am able to save some money. If I worked at a local school I would not!

 

chow mein
What is the food like? Is international food available? Have you tried any unusual local dishes?

The Chinese food is wonderful of course. In this particular part of China seafood is very common to find, given the seaside is nearby. However there are international cuisines from Japan, Thailand and Korea. There are also the big chains like Pizza Hut, Starbucks etc.

How is the culture different from your home culture? Have you experienced any culture shock?

There is a BIG TIME difference Scotland VS China! Chinese people are very warm and very friendly, but the downside about it is as a foreigner is that they will stare at you from top to toe :). Luckily for me they think I am one of them, since I am Asian. The problem is though that they start to speak in Chinese and I have o idea what they are saying! I love it here but I do miss the fresh air in Scotland and the quietness. Here there are constant celebrations, so there’s not much peace and quiet!

Have a read of our Happy Teacher Archives, for more happy teachers in China and other locations.

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 17.03.51
What’s the best thing about living and teaching in your chosen city?

The best thing is that it’s small and my school is the only school in the area. Because the school didn’t open an ECE last year, I was able to open one. We started with 6 children and we are now growing to become the department with the highest number of students in the school!

Are there any drawbacks? What kind of person would not be suited to this location?

For my school in particular, a teacher with older / middle school children won’t be suitable as the school only caters up to primary year 6.

What advice would you give to someone coming to work in your location?

Learn Chinese!! It would be really helpful if I had actually known a bit of Chinese before I decided to come to China. However, the school staff are very helpful and there is a translation app which makes life much easier. :)

Want to join Irose in China?  To find out about this school and others, sign up here and have a look at our schools in China.

Written by Irose Hansen, a brave Early Years teacher who has taken on an exciting role in China.

The story of Teacherhorizons: An interview with John Regan

As the summer holidays draw to a close and a new school year approaches, for many of you it’s the end of one chapter and the start of a next. The same goes for John Regan, one of the founding members of Teacherhorizons, who is hanging up his hat (almost) and settling into retirement. So before we say a proper farewell to John, we wanted to share his story. I had the absolute pleasure of conducting a Skype interview with John to discover the highs and lows of his Teacherhorizons experience from start to finish. John admitted it was perhaps the most challenging interview he has ever faced!


How did you first get involved in TH?
Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 16.48.23

It all began during my time at Oporto British School (OBS). I appointed two Teach First teachers, Alex and Alexis, and they were brilliant. Just before I left the school in 2008 they came to run an idea by me. They were thinking of setting up an international community with a recruitment element attached to it. They gave me their initial thoughts and during the next couple of years they intermittently met with me and asked for my impressions about the directions they were taking. The crux came in late August 2010 when they asked me to have a final meeting, as they were just about to launch the project. This was fortunate timing for me because I was about to embark on my final year as headmaster at Cairo English School by then and was at a bit of a crossroads. The three options:

  1. Extend my headship at CES
  2. Go for one last headship elsewhere (I was aged 63 so on the borderline for that option)
  3. Retire from headship and take on a new challenge


WP_20150110_033During the meeting I explained to them:  “You have one element missing before you launch. You are both excellent international teachers so you know what they want and how to deal with them, but what you need is a former headteacher to look at the other side of it.” They agreed with this very much, so the next thing I did was threw it out there – “Why not me?” They immediately agreed, and looking back, I have a sneaking suspicion that they had been angling for that all along… Either way it turned out to be a fantastic option for all of us: That month I had a small stroke whilst I was on a 10km run. I felt peculiar during the run, and when I finished I found couldn’t say a single word! I spent a week recovering in ICU and wouldn’t have been there to begin a new year at school anyway. It became clear then, that I had made the right choice at those crossroads.

 

TH1What were your initial thoughts about TH? 

Very positive! I was excited by the project. It was September/October 2010 and we launched a year later. I spent a bit of time thinking, contributing and networking with my SLT colleagues at Oporto and the other schools in Portugal, CES and the other schools in Egypt, and many old friends in the sector. Through this I had begun to build a reasonable network for us, and it had been useful to chat to them and get their initial thoughts. A lot of our early placements were as a result of my friends and acquaintances in the international community. It was actually terrifying for me, because in 2011 when we launched, we had lots of schools on board but we actually had zero teachers to offer!

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 16.51.16What was it like in the early days?

It was miles different than today. Our priority was to get as many teachers as possible to join our community, so initially we were not concentrating on the quality of teachers. This meant that when we put forward some of the best candidates we had, they still weren’t as high quality as the amazing teachers we have today. But we needed placements desperately. We had one or two disasters in those early days because of this – and because we weren’t choosy with some of the schools we took on board too. It was a real learning curve for us.

The early days were really tough, and we worked unbelievably hard. I didn’t go back to the UK immediately, but lived in Spain for the first year and Alexis came out to live with me! Alex would come out from time to time too. We were working 9am-9pm 7 days a week and we had no income whatsoever. We started in September 2011 and didn’t make our first placement until January 2012!

In our first year we made very few placements and the small income that came from them was split three ways. No matter who made the placements we split this equally back then, and this was a great idea because it made for amazing teamwork with no competition. We were all in the same boat.

Here is a great example of our dire straits in the early days: Our first AGM was in Oporto. Alex and Alexis were already there, and I had to travel up from the Algarve in Spain. With money being so tight I had to do this as cheaply as possible, so it was a bit of a trek… I got a local bus into the town near me, then the ferry across the river to Portugal, then a local bus to Faro, a train to Porto and then the Metro to the centre of Porto. The whole journey took about 14 hours… all to save those pennies! That was the spirit of the setup, and I think it gave us our sense of spirit and enthusiasm. It was good fun.

 

aa28fe9a-0bac-4828-b7a3-1393bfdd5d93What have you enjoyed most (in general) about working with/for TH?

Leading on from the last question, the team and the spirit is what has been most important for me. Seeing the business grow from those early days and become what it is today, has been a pleasure and I am glad to have been a part of it.

Give a top moment from your TH time?

Simple!! Getting our first placement. It was some time coming for sure! We were in London at the time having coffee with another former colleague of mine from Cairo (who later became Chief Education Officer of Yew Chung/Yew Wah). Alexis got a call from Lisbon to say they had hired our candidate – Alexis ran into the cafe shouting that we had made our first placement….People thought we were mad!

What has been the biggest challenge? 

The first two years collectively, as mentioned before. But also a personal challenge for me has been to fit in with the company’s set procedures as we developed them, rather than doing it my own way. This is necessary of course as a growing business, to set parameters, procedures, conduct appraisals etc, but I found it much easier when there were just the three of us and we did our own thing.   

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 16.54.37Is there anything you would change if you started the whole thing again? 

We all benefit from hindsight don’t we! We made a few schoolboy errors in the first few years, but those errors are what allowed us to develop into the amazing team we are today. We have learned by experience which is arguably the best way. Perhaps I would have put forward some better candidates in the first few years if we had them, but we didn’t! We did the best we could.

What skills have you learned from your experience with TH?

The most significant skill has been my IT skills! For me, the recruitment part of the job has always been easy, but getting to grips with the website, data handling, Skype and all of the systems we use has been a real challenge for me. My experience with TH has changed my working habits in many ways which I think is a positive thing.

 

9e55a1d9-7283-470e-8208-10d98726318aWhen did you know TH would be successful? 

Straight away. I knew from the initial comments from my fellow headteachers. I knew that if we could build on the contacts and the initial candidates we had, success would ensue. I had no doubt we would be successful. In the first two years we exceeded our targets, so we were a success right from the start. We had to hire new people after two years as we grew so fast.

There were times where our placements plateaued (eg. in 2014/15) and this concerned me a tiny bit. A typical business model increases rapidly and then plateaus, and the danger is if you don’t find ways to increase again bur rather stay at that plateau, you are likely to crash. That was the one wobble I had, but we quickly turned it around. Our solution was to put more money into IT development, and we hired some new Recruitment Adviser too, who really drove the business forward.

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 16.55.34What do you think the future is for TH?

Again…I am very optimistic of TH continuing to be successful. As long as we never get complacent. If we plateau again, we must think of ways to counteract that. From the conversations I have had with Alex and the team, and through our continual appraisal of ourselves as a business, I don’t see that as problem.

As we grow and require more new people, we have to be very careful about appointing the right people, training them well, and sticking to our principles. We need to maintain the same values as the small business we started out as. That is important.

 

 

9ce8ef4e-1fce-4668-85ae-0146e5016318If you could give our Teachers/Headteachers one piece of worldly advice, what would it be?

The one thing I have found in international teaching is that people tend to move around a lot. I would say to teachers that they must stick with a school for at least two years, and ideally three years. For headteachers it should be at least three years, ideally five. A lot of international teachers move around too much, and this impairs their CV, I believe. So my main piece of advice is to stick around.

What’s next for you?  

The plan is to live where we are now, just outside Sevenoaks, as 2 of my children live nearby with our four grandchildren. It’s not quite a full time job – but with school pick ups whilst they are all at work in London, it is almost! Now I don’t spend days doing Teacherhorizons, perhaps I can spend some time with Tineke, my wife! We might start playing golf together again, visiting nice places, and other enjoyable things during the days. Oh, and I want to write my memoirs… but whether I will get around to it or not is another question.

Any final words?

I have so much trust that TH will continue on with its development. I want to say all the best to the fantastic team we have made. They are very strong, and I have no doubt they will continue to produce. Thanks so much to all of you.

 

Thanks so much John! Without your dedication and support from the start, Teacherhorizons would never have become the organisation that it is today. This journey has been everything we suspected when we started – exciting, challenging, rewarding, fun, exhausting but absolutely worthwhile! You have provided us with all the foundations and building blocks to take Teacherhorizons confidently into an exciting new era of growth and for that we are extremely grateful!

We wish you great happiness and fond memories in your retirement and look forward to keeping in touch.

Huge thanks,

Alex and the Teacherhorizons team.

Written by Tiffany Kibblewhite, Teacherhorizons Blog Manager and Recruitment Adviser.

A teacher’s life in Bucharest

Maxine Huijuan is a Mandarin teacher who started at British School of Bucharest this time last year. As a language and culture teacher, she has always been fascinated by the differences between cultures and intrigued by the different systems via which people live. Exploring the diversity of the world was a big reason for her move to international teaching, and she tells us now about what her life has been like since she took that step. Read on to find out about the different aspects of working and teaching in Bucharest, Romania. 

BSBWhere are you teaching and what’s your school like?

I’m teaching in Bucharest, Romania in a British International school. The school runs a UK educational system, has a good reputation and is approved by Teacherhorizons.

How did you get your job? What was the process like?

The interview process went very well. I had a Skype call with one of the specialists from Teacherhorizons first, and then I was recommended to my current school by her. Not long after this I had a Skype interview with the Head of Secondary and the Head of Faculty. After that I got the offer. Simple!

What is the city like? Is there an active expat scene? What do you do in your free time?

The city is middle sized eastern European city. It has quite a few parks and lots of city facilities as you need it. There are no specific places that expats go but there is an expat organization that organizes weekly social events for expats. I have made some friends through that and I do sport with them, short trips within the country with them and I also like to explore the city on my own.

 Read all about how Teacherhorizons works. Schools can even search for you now (find out more about our explorer service).

btr

 

Which tourist sites or must-visit places are nearby?

If you visit, you need to go to the old town area in the city center. There are lots of bars and restaurants there and if you like an active clubbing atmosphere you will like it. There are also a few other cities nearby that you can get to via trainand should be visited, such as Brasov and Sinaia.

What is the climate like? Is there any extreme weather? If so, how do you deal with it?

The temperature difference is quite big here. In winter it snows a lot but with a good heating system, it’s ok. In summer it gets hot and dry but morning and evenings are quite bearable. Extreme weather involves some heavy storms in winter but the country is very prepared for it. I live close to school so I have no difficulty getting into work despite the weather.

What’s the cost of living like? Are you able to save money?

The cost of living is quite affordable for me compared to where I came from (Shanghai). I work at an English school so I am able to save some money.

 

 

bbq
What is the food like? Is international food available? Have you tried any unusual local dishes?

The local food is a bit meaty for me as I am from Asia. And the local flavor is quite mild for me. But I don’t mind as there are many restaurants that offer international food. Good Japanese and Thai restaurants, and I managed to find a really good Chinese one too. I haven’t tried any unusual dishes in Romania, given that Chinese cuisine uses very diverse ingredients.

How is the culture different from your home culture? Have you experienced any culture shock?

The Romanian culture is quite different from the Chinese, but because I speak English and have worked for many years with Westerners, the culture shock is not that big.

 

Have a read of our Happy Teacher Archives, for more happy teachers in Romania and other locations.
IMG_20180402_110804What’s the best thing about living and teaching in your chosen city?

You get everything you need from a city and if you want to be closer to nature, you could take a train and do a day trip in the mountains around the city. People are friendly and it is very safe. I personally like the Therme here. It’s a wellness and relaxtion centre with a pool and lots of other facilities. It’s very relaxing, and affordable.

Are there any drawbacks? What kind of person would not be suited to this location?

I don’t find too many drawbacks here. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to communicate with taxi drivers. But with Uber and taxi Apps it’s not a problem. I can’t think of anyone who would not like this place. The best advantage of it is that it’s very affordable and close to Middle East and other European parts, so if you like to travel around you will like it.

What advice would you give to someone coming to work in your location?

Pack your luggage and I’ll meet you at the Therme! Ha-ha. :)

Want to join Maxine in Bucharest?  To find out about this school and others, sign up here and have a look at our schools in Romania.

Written by Maxine Huijuan, a Chinese teacher who loves to travel and experience different cultures, and is passionate to share her culture with other parts of the world. Maxine enjoys jogging, movies and searching for the best cappuccino in town.