Imagine…You’ve prepped for days for an interview with your dream international school, the Skype call has gone well, no technical glitches, you’ve answered their questions exactly as planned, you’re feeling positive and you’re so close to the end. Then the interviewer says “Finally then, do you have any questions for me?”
*GULP* You had been so busy prepping your answers that you had forgotten to prepare questions to ask the school! Of course, you will have hundreds, as that’s what Skype interviews are about; you won’t actually experience the school first-hand until you arrive on day 1, so you need to get a jolly good feel for it by asking important questions at your interview.
Don’t panic though, we have whittled it down to ten key questions to ask your interviewer which we think should get you those vital bits of information in a succinct and diplomatic manner. So ask away, and make an informed decision.
1) What is the average length of time teachers stay at your school?
This is a really important question, as it gives you clues to many different aspects in just one answer. For example how the school treats their staff, how good the staff accommodation is, how liveable the local area is, and how easy the students are to teach. If people are never staying beyond their contract or are even breaking contract, then you need to delve deeper before you make a decision.
2) Are you able to put me in touch with a member of staff who already works at the school?
The most valuable thing you can do to get information about what it’s like to work at the school, is to speak to someone who works at the school. It’s also best if that person has no involvement in recruiting so they have no reason to hide any ugly truths. The Head should be totally open to this and if they aren’t, it’s worth thinking twice about the school.
3) What is are the main reasons that staff leave the school?
Again, a great question as it gives you an idea of what the school offers and what it lacks. For example, if most people leave because there is little progression in the school, you have to consider whether progression is important for you from your next position. If it’s due to pollution or other external factors, that suggests the school is probably meeting the needs of its staff, but you have to consider how those external factors could affect you too.
4) What expectations are there for teacher participation beyond the school day?
Schools are busy places. There will be after school sports, science, and drama clubs, weekend events such as Duke of Edinburgh, carnivals, trips and fundraising activities. It completely depends on the school as to how many extra hours are expected for no additional pay. How would you feel donating Saturday mornings to school? Or conducting boarding duties? Find out!
5) How will I be supported by Senior Leadership staff?
This is key because SLT creates the vision and the strategic direction of the school. This vision then has to be translated and actioned in the classroom and it’s your job to do that, but they need to support you to ensure you are doing it right. Do they conduct learning walks? Do they have an open door policy? Do they know staff by name and are they present in and around the school? These things are important to know before you embark on a journey with that leadership team, because you need to know that your hard work and dedication to that school is going to be noticed and appreciated.
6) What are the main ‘challenges’ that you think I should be aware of about the location of the school or the local area?
If the worst things about the area are the lack of English foods, or that sometimes there’s a rainy season, then you’re laughing! If it’s that women can’t walk around by themselves or that it’s very politically unstable, then you have to think twice about what you might be letting yourself in for. This is a question definitely worth delving into.
7) How will I be supported should any students fail?
As teachers, we will do everything to prevent a student from failing – whether that’s having them back after lessons, calling home over and over, or having them redo exams. This makes sense, to an extent, but support needs to be provided by the school as a whole too. Does the school do this, or is it just something you will be required to undertake as an individual? Find out.
8) What do teachers tend to do after school and at the weekend?
Most teachers that choose to teach internationally, do it because they want to explore the world and experience new cultures. However, some areas of the world can be culturally extinct and may offer very little in the way of fun activities outside of school. Of course, people can still enjoy their time in such a location, but some teachers would get through the entirety of Netflix in their 2 years there and feel unfulfilled. Ask this question and listen carefully to the answer. You might have to read between the lines!
9) What is the housing like that will be provided?
The accommodation in international schools always varies. It could range from nothing at all, to a room in a ‘block’ like halls of residence at uni, to a one bedroom apartment, to a three-bedroom house, or perhaps they fund you to find your own place. Find out. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker but it will give you a good idea of the importance that school places on looking after its staff.
10) What are the Professional Development opportunities at the school?
Finally. Continued Professional Development is a crucial issue for teachers who are new to international education, in particular the young and/or ambitious teacher. Many candidates have the impression that CPD would be limited in international schools, if it exists at all. The reality is that there are abundant opportunities at most schools, if you ask for them. Find out what your prospective school offers, and make sure it is in line with what you plan to achieve from your next position.
We hope this helps! Let us know if you have any questions to add to the list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Now you are fully prepared for your interview, sign up to Teacherhorizons here, and browse our jobs here. Good luck!