Visiting international schools

Visiting potential partner schools and meeting with Heads face-to-face is a crucial element of how Teacherhorizons operates.

Planning these visits tends to go something along the lines of “…where should we go next? Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Cape Town, Hanoi, Sri Lanka, Madrid, Amsterdam?”

“Which of these would you like to take Alex, Alexis, Eldon?” (Teacherhorizons’ Recruitment Advisers)John Regan

“I think we can cover all of these locations…”

“Now John, where can you go? Iraq, Russia, Azerbaijan perhaps?”

John Regan is a former International School Head and CEO of Teacherhorizons.

Wait a minute, I think to myself – surely these are areas with current political problems? – would it not be dangerous to visit! I suppose I was the natural choice given that my last posting was in Cairo during the Revolution of 2011!

And so it was decided – John can handle it. But, just to even things out, we’ll also task him with visiting schools in Portugal, Germany and Romania!

All of these trips were wonderful – bar none. Let’s look at three of these. I visited Erbil (Iraq) and Baku (Azerbaijan) in December 2013. The Heads were welcoming and I was most impressed by their schools. Erbil was fascinating and there was no hint of tension. The school and the package were excellent, and the teachers’ accommodation most impressive. At the time of writing this, however, the situation in the region is somewhat worrying.

Baku at night

I was pleasantly surprised by Baku. I found a rapidly developing city by the Caspian Sea. In spite of political tensions in the west of the country, Baku was not affected at all. I also visited Moscow in May 2014 amid the political upheaval in Ukraine. For the third time, my children pleaded with me not to go ahead with the visit because of the perceived danger. Yet again, there was no problem. Yet again, I met some great Heads and visited some excellent schools.

What did I learn from these visits?

  • Don’t believe all that you see and read in the media. Yes, it is prudent to be careful, but no more so than in every big city in the world
  • Sometimes the locations you are quick to dismiss can really surprise you. Open your mind up to all kinds of opportunities or risk missing out!
  • Less conventional location choices have equally good schools, with great packages and plenty of scope for professional development
  • These ‘less obviously desirable’ locations can be a great ‘way in’ to an international career and a strategic stepping stone to getting to work in some of the best schools in the world.

The visits to schools in Portugal, Germany and Romania were equally interesting and valuable, but lacking the frisson of excitement and adventure in going to places with a perceived danger.

Having said that, there’s no denying I’ll be first in the queue for any proposed visit to the Cayman Islands!

Want to know more? Read related posts on Azerbaijan and Iraq. For the lowdown on different expat destinations, we love Expat Arrivals.

Written by John Regan, former International School Head and CEO of Teacherhorizons

Teaching in the Seychelles – When a journey leads you by the hand

I’ve always been bad at making decisions. What do I want for tea? What shall we watch at the cinema? Which subjects should I take at college? So when my boyfriend and I were offered a job teaching in the Seychelles I was in a panic. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a complete shock (despite how this sounds we did apply for the posts), I just didn’t expect for it to actually happen.

Jodie Bamforth is a Teach First graduate and English Teacher and SENco at Vijay International School, Praslin.

jodieAt the time, I’d been teaching English for two years with the Teach First scheme at an inner city school in Sheffield. Anyone who knows Teach First knows it really puts you through your paces both emotionally and mentally. There are incredible highs and shattering lows and no-one can really prepare you fully for this. Prior to this I worked abroad in China for a year as part of the British Council’s EAL scheme. So, yes – the decision was hard, but not because of living away or immersing myself in something different.

It was hard because, aside from leaving behind friends and family, I was scared about my career. Somewhere along the production line of school, university, travel, job and promotion, I’d got a bit stuck. Working in Sheffield was tough but after two years I felt settled and happy to stay. I was highly involved with EAL in my school, loved my department and had finally been accepted by the kids. In my NQT year I had been offered a TLR as Leading Practitioner in English and hoped that if I stayed I may be offered further promotions in the near future. Everything was ‘OK’, so the thought of choosing to leave wasn’t easy.

Teaching in the SeychellesIndeed, colleagues at my school told stories of people throwing CVs in the bin if they were from teachers working abroad and said I’d at least make life easier for myself if I had leadership experience before I left. Thus, I felt that ultimately, if I moved school, I would have to start from scratch and I would be dashing my hopes of progression. The idea of teaching somewhere else posed lots of questions and fears:

What about professional development?

What about challenge in a school which wasn’t labelled ‘tough’?

Would we still be involved in exciting new projects and remain current?

My boyfriend and I batted these questions about and more, but finally we made the decision to act against all the advice, dive in at the deep end and take the job. All the while clinging to the idea of being able to spend more quality time together and, admittedly, get better tans!

We arrived in the Seychelles in August last year and came immediately to Praslin where we now live and work. Praslin is the second largest of the islands and home to the stunning Anse Lazio which usually ranks amongst the top three most beautiful beaches in the world. As well as being home to the infamous co-co de mer nut, which as my best friend was very keen to point out, is illegal to carry two of at any one time.

My first term was a bit of a blur – getting used to new classes, different students and adopting the role of SENco in a school which had never had one before. As well as teaching a year 7 and year 10 class, I took on the teaching of literacy to a high ability mixed year 4/5 group. Working across sections was something I’d never done before and though it pushed me outside of my comfort zone a little, it has been great for my professional development and confidence as a teacher of English. Fear number one abolished.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” (Ernest Hemingway)

Teaching abroad has also meant a different syllabus; iGCSE. As part of the English Literature requirement I studied ‘The Tempest’ with year 10 and was lucky enough to work with some of the students in the second term and direct the secondary performance of the play. It was exhausting and challenging but by far one of the most rewarding things I have done in my teaching career. Subsequently seeing my year 4/5 group whoop with joy when I announced we were going to do a Shakespeare unit was the icing on the cake. Fear number two destroyed.

Teaching in the SeychellesAnd fear number three? This term, two of the students I teach fought off international competition by winning a LendMeYourLiteracy competition entitled ‘Dreams of Hope for the Future’. Being involved with such a wonderful website has opened real doors in our school and boosted the confidence of several of our students.

Despite the sun and sand, living and teaching in the Seychelles is not always easy. Life is sometimes slow and there’s not the access to large supermarkets, cinemas and pubs which we took for granted in the UK. But the pace of life has meant that we’ve started to enjoy things which before we didn’t have time for. I’ve started painting and writing and my boyfriend dives regularly, running a coral restoration project with students at the school. We also socialise differently. BBQ’s, poker nights and late night picnics on deserted beaches have meant that we’ve become really close to the people that live here and definitely far less materialistic.

So what have I learnt?

Some decisions are easy – like whether or not you want ketchup with your fries, the author you want to read or the people you want to be with. And some, like the job you want to do and where you want to live, are monumentally harder. But every so often, a decision comes along and leads you by the hand. You realise it’s nothing to be scared of; that it might be taking you on a different journey to the one you expected – one with less books to mark and, coincidently, a beach at the end of the road – but that you can still achieve those goals you seek.

Because it is the journey, and the people you chose to journey with, that matter in the end.

Sound exciting? Browse our schools in the Seychelles and the rest of Africa. Alternatively, browse our related posts about Africa. Where do you want to go next?

Written by Jodie Bamforth, Teach First graduate and English Teacher and SENco at Vijay International School, Praslin. Follow Jodie on Twitter.

Patience! – Applying for international school jobs

The old adage ‘patience is a virtue’ should have been coined for the process of applying for international school jobs! So many prospective candidates, having completed an individual profile, expect to achieve a position within a very short space of time.

Some even believe that they will be offered a position at the first role that appeals to them! Well, this occasionally happens with a superstar teacher, but for the rest of us mere mortals it’s a far more fraught and time-consuming affair.

john-regan

John Regan is a former International School Head and CEO of Teacherhorizons.

The process begins with the first flush of optimism, when the profile has been completed with its attendant CV and the receipt of confidential references. Now we’re all set to search through the current opportunities on offer in all sorts of schools spanning all four corners of the world. It is an exciting phase – the imagination is running wild at the prospect of being part of a great school, which offers a millionaire’s package in a dream location! This is the domain of the aforementioned superstar teacher. The rest of us need to do a bit of research to see whether our profile matches up with the school’s selection criteria.

Another key consideration is to broaden the location possibilities beyond your favourites. Keep your favourites in there, but try to be more flexible and consider locations that do not spring to mind immediately. There are many hidden gems throughout the world. Securing a job at a good school in a less desirable location can be a great way to get your foot in the door with a top international school. Professional development and so on will be excellent and it will help build your CV as a top class international teacher. After 2-5 years in your school you will then be in a much better position to land a dream job in a dream location. You never know, you may even discover that what you thought of as a less desirable location ends up being your dream destination.

thinking-outside-the-boxThe next phase is researching the opportunities and requires a lot of patience. Trawling through a school’s profile page and website; finding out about the country and the city; considering the cost of living and seeing how the package may work. Discovering what the location offers you and your family’s lifestyle is a time-consuming job, given that you are still working at your present job. Too many teachers do not take the time and care over this research. Some do not even check that the school will accept their passports for visa applications!

So, now that we’ve researched the opportunities that match our profile and fit with the possible locations we’re considering – the nitty-gritty begins. Applications are made and the screening begins. The application is progressed or it isn’t. In the former a recommendation is made to the school and they decide to interview and maybe offer the position. If the application is not progressed any further, then that is the end of this particular stage. Some candidates are surprised when this happens. They do not seem to realise that recruitment is a competition with winners and losers. The winners are fine, but the losers have to put up with the disappointment and must start the process again. This single process may take some time, so again, one’s patience will be tested.

researchThe situation just described may be replicated a number of times before the jackpot is hit. As has been said, very few hit the jackpot at the first try, or even the second or third go. Lots of candidates will pursue several prospects before they achieve a satisfactory conclusion. As time goes on, the shine of that first enthusiasm is lost and sometimes despair can creep in. This is precisely the time that patience is a virtue! Another adage springs to mind – ‘If at first (or maybe seventh or eighth time even) you don’t succeed, try, try again (and again)!

Need more guidance with getting the job? Read our related posts on writing your international school CV and winning at Skype interviews.

Written by John Regan, former International School Head and CEO of Teacherhorizons

Nurturing initiative in your students

I have a confession to make. I was struggling to come up with something for this blog which would be of interest to all you fab teachers out there. I wanted to write about initiative and then I found a story which perfectly highlights this theme.

I recently read a fantastic blog from Alan Newland who is a retired ex-teacher in London. He recounts amusingly a couple of great school trip stories. Here is an excerpt from his blog. Take it away Alan….

One day I lost a child on the London Underground. Beat that.

It was my first term and I wanted to impress my ‘lively’ Year 6 class by doing a topic on dinosaurs. Kids love dinosaurs – Pterodactyl, Diplodocus, T Rex and all that – they’re terrifying and great fun. In London we have the wonderful Natural History Museum with its amazing life-size exhibits. I organised a trip. In those days, getting there from Hackney in East London involved a bus ride to Kings Cross Underground station followed by a tube ride to South Kensington. I don’t know if you have ever been to Kings Cross Underground? It’s undergone a transformation recently. It needed it. 350,000 people pass through that station every single day. It’s an easy place to get lost…

Congestion-on-the-london-underground

 

There I was, six weeks as a teacher. I had 30 kids. I was on my own (except for a mum who worked part-time at the school – known in those days as ‘a Lady Helper’). The kids are excited. It’s a day out. All they care about is comparing their sandwich fillings. We are on the platform and I see the first train coming is not going our way. So I’m trying to make myself heard above the melee of commuters, dancing up and down the platform trying to keep the kids back: “This is not our train everybody! Stand back! Stand back! It’s not our train!” I think I’ve got the situation under control.

I haven’t.

There’s always one isn’t there?

It’s Maxine. She’s a lovely kid but she’s not taking a blind bit of notice of me. The train comes in, the doors open and she jumps on thinking everyone is going to follow her. The kids see her and shout: “Maxine! Get off, it’s not our train!” But it’s too late, before she can, the doors close.

I will never forget her face.

It’s a bit like that painting by Munch – you know the one – it’s called The Scream. Only this time it’s with a black girl wearing horn-rimmed glasses and her face is pressed against the door of the tube train as it passes me.

Now… just pause for a minute and think how the other kids reacted to this?

Maybe with horror? Shock? Panic? Perhaps even a little nervous laughter? Well, if you think laughter, you’re only half right.

It was raucous, uncontrolled hilarity. Those kids were laughing hysterically. “Maxine! You idiot!” they screamed, pointing at her and bouncing down the platform, chasing the train for as long as possible before it disappears into the darkened tunnels of the London Underground.

I am the one in a state of horror, shock and panic – because I don’t even know where the train is going.

These days when you use the London Underground it has announcers, information boards, help points, CCTV, friendly people in blue uniforms everywhere. Then, there was nothing. You would have to go back up to street level to find someone to help.

I set about trying to organise my ‘Lady Helper’ to manage the kids while I set off for some real help. I am running back and forth trying to find where the train has gone and what to do. The kids are still falling about laughing. They think this is great. Even the ‘Lady Helper’ thinks it’s funny.

Within a couple of minutes, someone walks round the corner and I get a real shock.

The head teacher? Wrong.

Maybe Maxine’s mum? Nope.

It was Maxine.

How did that happen? Well, the next stop is Euston Square, only 50 seconds away. She had obviously jumped off the train there, run over the footbridge and there was a train coming back in the opposite direction. I kid you not – she was back with us within three minutes. Ok. Four. Tops. In fact, it was so quick, the kids were still laughing when she walked round the corner.

But boy, was I relieved. Phew!

So off we went to the Natural History Museum. We ate our sandwiches, we saw the T Rex, we got a tour, we drew pictures, and we learned a lot. When I got the kids back to school I asked them to write all about dinosaurs…and what do you think they wrote about…? Yeah… you’ve guessed it.

But I’ll tell you this… and this may surprise you… even shock you. It didn’t even occur to me to report that incident to the head teacher. I’ve often wondered why. But I think over the years I’ve concluded that, in a funny sort of way, nothing really happened.

Yes, I know I lost a child on the London Underground… (did you have to remind me?) but… if you know what I mean… there was no real incident to report. Maxine wasn’t hurt, she wasn’t even upset. Maybe she was a little embarrassed because the other kids were laughing at her, but other than that there was no crisis, not even an issue. I didn’t even think of mentioning it to Maxine’s mum.

Fast-forward 20 years.

I am now the head teacher of a primary school in Hackney and my Year 6 teacher wants to take her 24 kids to the Natural History Museum because she’s doing a topic on… yep… good old dinosaurs!

How many adults do you think she has going on the trip this time? Four? Five? Six? Actually it’s seven. This includes two parents who won’t agree to let their children go on the trip unless they are in attendance too.

The teacher, a great girl who has bags of energy and ideas, has already spent her weekend doing a reconnaissance visit. She’s done a risk assessment, insurance forms, permission slips and planned the educational outcomes brilliantly. Off they go to the Natural History Museum with 24 kids and six other adults. It’s still a bus down to Kings Cross and the tube round to South Kensington. They get to the platform of Kings Cross Underground… guess what happens?

No… it’s not the teacher who gets on the wrong train this time.

No… Maxine has not grown up to be the Station Manager of Kings Cross.

Believe it or not, exactly the same thing happens. Only this time, it’s not one girl, it’s four!

The train pulls in and the teacher is calling out: “It’s not our train everybody! Stand back! Stand back!” But in spite of the fact that there’s a group of girls with an adult stood right next to them, they are so excited they are not listening to anyone. As the train doors open, they jump on. Everyone is shouting for them to get off. But before they do, in the melee of the crowded train, the doors close… and the train moves off…

What’s the reaction of the other kids this time?

Laughter?

Wrong. (But you probably knew that already.)

Shock. Panic. Screaming. Crying. This time it’s all of those and more – not just from the four on the train, but the other 20 still left on the platform, plus some of the adults too.

And the four girls on the train didn’t do what Maxine did and jump off at the next stop. No, they were so freaked out by this they stayed on the train… to the end of the line. It was the Metropolitan Line. It finishes in Amersham in Buckinghamshire.

Back at school I get a phone call from the station manager there saying to me “I’ve got four of your girls here… what do you want me to do with them?” So I send a teacher out in a taxi to bring them back. There was no harm done. But the next day I get those 24 kids together and I ask them: “How many of you have been on the London Underground before?” Out of 24 Hackney born and bred kids, only eight had ever previously been on the tube.

Within hours of the class getting back, I had over twenty parents outside my office demanding to know why this, that and the other had not been done, why hadn’t we organised a coach, why hadn’t we “protected their children from the hazards of London transport?”

Thanks Alan – who now runs the social media network newteacherstalk.

 

hand-84613_1280This story exasperates me. Kurt Hahn would be turning in his grave. Maxine is my heroine – no fuss, no drama – just used initiative and solved any problems there may have been. I feel for the young teacher who tried to educate and excite her class with a fun day out and I hope it hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm to run future trips.

I feel for the students too who don’t have or aren’t empowered with the initiative or confidence to adapt to situations which are thrown at them. Partly – largely perhaps – it’s down to societal changes I suppose – nine/ten year old girls taking the tube/bus/train to school on their own are pretty rare now in whichever part of the world for fear of worst case scenarios and initiative is not always promoted within the framework of our lives.

International Schools and the IB are leading the way in developing this quality and long may that continue!

 

Another confession to finish with – I feel very lucky to work in my industry. The school travel business is full of passionate, genuine and honest folk who are focused on creating opportunities and experiences for young people.

We need to continue to focus on making teachers’ jobs easier to ensure that none are put off arranging trips for their students due to societal fear or pressure.

Written by Tim Douglas, Head of Group Travel for GVI, which promotes overseas volunteering and travel.

A time of uncertainty – Thailand’s coup

It’s nearly two years since we moved to Bangkok. I don’t think we would have made the move if the events of the last week or so had happened in the run up to us leaving London.

julia-knight-williamsJulia Knight-Williams is a Curriculum, Planning and Pastoral Delivery KS Coordinator at a Preparatory School in Thailand.

I have been watching the news about the coup from different angles, reading Twitter feeds and the various takes on the reasons behind it. I make no claim to understand the policies or politics which led to the army coup but what I do wonder is the effect it will have on the reputation of Thailand as a hub for SE Asia. Some have said it will have little effect, tourism will pick up and Thailand will go back to its rightful claim as the destination of choice for holiday makers. Except it isn’t just the tourism industry that will be damaged.

Family concerns

The military are on the television, they are set out before the public in their regalia, more reminiscent of a North Korean regime than a democratised middle income country. My mum called me, alarmed to check that my small family are ok. And I could understand why she was fearful. I tuned into the BBC news via Expat TV and watched the coverage (the local cable channels cut off BBC and CNN).

The images of empty Bangkok streets, armoured vehicles and personnel on the roads was frightening. I tried to explain that my village was as sleepy and as safe as ever and that my biggest worry was how to water the garden with a fractured foot. She told me not to make light of the situation and to think seriously about coming home.

thailand-coup

Reuters / Athit Perawongmetha

Twitter provided rumours about the suspension of internet and a crack down on social media. It reminded me of the 2011 riots in London, it stirred up paranoia and stoked the fires of fear. But I am a little more aged toward Twitter and when pictures from the 2010 protests surfaced I knew to research rather than retweet.

Media attention

Sky news, the BBC, ABC Australia and NHK World from Japan all took slightly different takes on the view, with the BBC being far more dramatic than the others. I watched a measured response from the Ambassador, Mark Kent which contrasted with the advice being given by the US consulate. For tourists and holiday makers, the decision to come or not to come must be terribly confusing. Japanese news network, NHK World centred on the economic impact of the coup and how businesses such as Toyota and Honda would respond especially as they were still feeling the effects of the flooding.

thailand-anti-coup-protestors

AFP

UK teachers who are considering resigning have got until 31st May to hand their notice in and for some, the May half term deadline has already passed. Insurance companies won’t pay out for travel or medical expenses during a coup. So what do you do if you are about to relocate to Thailand for a teaching job?

Second thoughts

We probably wouldn’t have come. We would have thought twice before we got on the plane to the unknown especially with an 18 month old baby in tow. Even though I know the pictures being broadcast are highly dramatised, I don’t think I would have taken that risk because there is an underlying uneasiness of ‘what if?’. This is the ripple effect of the coup and those ripples are evermore increasing as Thailand has more to lose now than ever before.

So it won’t just be tourism that is affected by the Thai Coup, it will be schools, businesses and the world’s confidence. Thailand receives a significant amount of aid from the IMF and other global contributors; they will not accept the excuse that ‘this is Thailand’ for much longer. Thailand needs to realise that with every political protest and civilian unrest, it allows its neighbours to take the lead in economic matters which will greatly impact on its future.

This blog post was first published on ajarn on 27th May.

Read Julia’s other posts about living and working in Thailand.

Written by Julia Knight-Williams, a Curriculum, Planning and Pastoral Delivery KS Coordinator at a Preparatory School in Thailand. Follow Julia on twitter.

International Children’s Day

Every year, 1st June marks International Children’s Day – a universal festival for children and a day for reflection on the rights and welfare of children around the world.

This day was first proclaimed by the World Conference for the Well-being of Children in 1925.

International Children’s Day celebrations around the globe can range from Victorian-themed entertainment days for the whole family in the UK to China’s annual galas bringing together hundreds of young children to sing and dance.

beijing-girls
I recently discovered that in Dubai students from a selection of international schools hold spectacular artistic folklore performances each year to celebrate the occasion.

children-around-globeYonca Tokbaş, a Turkish expat living and teaching in Dubai for 14 years, has made it her mission to organise such celebrations engaging many international schools and performance groups of different countries in Dubai over the past five years – reaching an audience of nearly 4,000 including more than 800 children. Below, she explains why International Children’s Day is so important:

“Seeing the diversity of nationalities watching the celebrations, I strongly believe that children are both a cultural envoy and a representative of friendship, understanding and the ambassadors of peace that the world needs more than ever nowadays.”

For international teachers in particular, International Children’s Day offers a unique opportunity not only to celebrate the cultural diversity of the various nationalities of their pupils, but also to promote an understanding of the the universal rights of the child.

Below is a round up of five key themes / resources you can explore with your class all year round:

Citizenship

www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/main/resource.php?k3

Children’s Rights

www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/Unit-7-Children-and-39-s-rights-What-are-our-rights-6073577/

Human rights

www.amnesty.org.uk/resources/teaching-pack-everyone-everywhere-human-rights-secondary-school

Friendship

www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/Friendship-PSHE-Year-7-induction-6011423/

Peace

www.peaceoneday.org/

Written by Nneka Chukwurah, former Teacherhorizons blog editor. Now she works at vInspired - a digital platform that enables young people to take action on causes they care about.

What do international schools look for in a teacher?

Carlsberg beer runs eye-catching TV ads showing superhuman versions of ordinary things. What if Carlsberg made a Superteacher?

A perfect body in skin-tight lycra, bright red T for Teacher in front, turning out heroically brilliant kids with just a swirl of a cape? Maybe not.

Teaching is arguably the hardest career to perfect, partly because it requires such a wide skill set. To be a truly superb teacher, you surely need to be a completely well-rounded person, not just a star at climbing skyscrapers.

alexisIn this blog post Alexis Toye, Co-Founder of Teacherhorizons, takes a look at what might make the perfect teacher. Not a science by any means, but Teacherhorizons’ experience of recruiting a large number of teachers for international schools entails judging the calibre of an applicant on an hourly basis. I hope this gives you an insight into what we are looking for when we assess teachers, and what the best international schools demand.

What personal qualities does a teacher need?

When working in the assessment team at TeachFirst, the British government’s highly successful graduate recruitment programme, we used to assess teachers based on 8 competencies, and I was always a big fan of this system.

The 8 competencies were: HRE (Humility, Respect and Empathy), Planning & organising, Resilience, Problem solving, Interaction (with peers, students and parents), Self evaluation, Knowledge and Leadership. I’d like to add two more highly personal qualities: adaptability and an international mind-set. As the world becomes smaller and more multi-cultural, being able to relate and respect different cultures is increasingly important.

Ideally, a teacher would have all of these 10 competencies in equal measure. I don’t believe that any one is more important than another. And none of them are just natural-born traits. You can work at them and improve on every one of these competencies.

Which qualifications does a teacher need?

I have always felt that a teacher should always have been educated to at least one level higher than the students in the subject they are teaching. Whilst it is possible to learn the content prior to the lesson and deliver a decent result, that teacher will never be able to answer all those “why” questions that students love to ask, which make for an interesting and memorable experience. There are only so many times you can get away with telling them to go ‘Google’ it.

Whilst our Superteacher would ideally be both an expert in their field and be passionate about it, it is the latter that makes the real difference. So, our Superteacher loves their subject (s) and is deeply passionate about sharing them. Would our Superteacher have a university degree in education? Given that we have discussed the importance of being well rounded, I would argue no. I think it would be better to do a degree in the subject you love (ideally with a secondary subject for breadth!) and then do a Masters in Education at a later date, having gained some experience. Our superteacher would also, ideally, have a teaching qualification from a country that is at the forefront of education.

How can a teacher develop professionally?

When concocting the perfect teacher in the test tube, I’d add a big dose of continual learning. One of my criticisms of teacher training in the UK is that whilst the initial training teachers undergo is excellent, continuous training is much more limited. When we compare British teachers CVs to American or Australian CVs there’s a very clear gap in the number of courses, conferences and professional development opportunities UK teachers have undertaken compared to their overseas counterparts. Australia appears to be investing heavily in their teachers’ professional development throughout their career. You are never too busy to stop learning!

Whilst courses are useful, the biggest professional development comes from observing other teachers. Our Superteacher regularly takes time out to watch and listen to others teaching, across a variety of different subjects and age ranges, using it to reflect on their own methods and improve.

Our Superteacher has a career coach and this is something I wish more teachers had. Planning a fulfilling and stimulating career is so important and too many teachers just find themselves in positions where they are not well suited. Our Superteacher has spent between 3-5 years in each school learning from the strengths and weaknesses of each, and actively implements skills they have picked up along the way.

best-teacher-award
What previous experience should a teacher have?

Having experience of teaching across different curricula adds huge value. Teachers who have experience of teaching a national curriculum plus the International Baccalaureate (IB) rate highly in terms of what we look for in a CV. Teaching international curricula such as the IB adds huge value to a teacher’s international mindedness. Choosing the right schools to work for enhances the value of that experience even more. Our Superteacher carries out tonnes of research into a school and position before accepting to ensure that is a match for them, both in terms of next steps but also whether the school’s values match their own.

Does our Superteacher need to have risen into the ranks of senior leadership? No – our Superteacher has chosen the career path that ensures their skill set and interests contributes the greatest benefit for their students. We’ve met many truly inspiring teachers who have made the decision to not move into leadership positions because their true enjoyment (and skill) lies in teaching, interacting with students as much as possible.

What should a teacher do outside the classroom?

It is important to note that our Superteacher doesn’t teach from 8 until 4 and then go home. Of course, they do all their marking and planning to the highest and most time-effective standard but they also get actively involved in extra-curricular activities, not only with their students but in their own world too. Our Superteacher can regularly be seen supporting their students at basketball matches, attending a student debate or leading weekend camping expeditions.

Staying physically and mentally active is important in any profession and our Superteacher loves to take up new pursuits, going outside of their comfort zone from time to time. Finally, our Superteacher also knows how to relax, taking proper holidays (one of the joys of the teaching profession!) and time out at weekends.

Concluding thoughts

Does the above description sound like you? I thought so! The perfect teacher is a well-rounded individual who is passionate about working with children, is able to reflect on their practice continuously, and works hard to improve on areas they find challenging.

You can take off the cape now, thank you.

For more advice on job hunting, see our related posts on how to write your international school CV, and how to win at Skype interviews.

 

Written by Alexis Toye, Director of Operation and Finance at Teacherhorizons. Former IB school teacher and IB Coordinator at Oporto British School and Westminster Academy.

A home from home in Istanbul at The Koç School

Istanbul is a vibrant city that spans two continents, and yet has its own identity with a unique mix of both European and Middle eastern cultures.

michael-oosterhout

Michael Oosterhout is a Maths teacher living in Istanbul, Turkey. After having taught in Botswana, Lesotho and China, Turkey is the next stage of his desire to meet and learn from different cultures.

On the outskirts of this immense city lies the Koç school, one of the country’s most prestigious schools and a school that can afford to select the best students from around the country. This is where my wife Karin and I are working.

A warm welcome

As soon as we arrived at the school, we felt at home! The very professional support staff that helped us through the initial paperwork also gave us a good impression of what to expect at the school, including a 3D view of our house, so when we got there we already knew it! And the first week an extensive programme was organised to help us with settling in at school and in Istanbul.

bridge-bosphorus
Getting around

There were a few things to get used to, though. Most importantly is that the school lies on a very isolated campus. And it is difficult to get off campus if you don’t have a car (like most of the expat staff). Public transport and taxis are available, but it takes a lot of time or money to get you into the centre of town. Therefore, during weekdays after school and at weekends, the school organises free bus services that take you to a shopping mall or to some popular centres of Istanbul, giving you many opportunities to explore the city.

Social life

It also means that the social life of most of the expat teachers centres around the school campus. Therefore, many activities are being organised by the school or the staff themselves. The school has quite a few facilities such as a gym, swimming pool, sports grounds, and its own music band!

A quick look at the map also shows that the school is very near an airport. Yes, planes fly over pretty low but fortunately this is not constant, and you soon get used to it.

All in all, the school have made a tremendous effort to make us feel at home and to make life as an expat teacher as comfortable as possible.

If all that sounds like your cup of tea, sign up to browse our schools and vacancies in Turkey. To get the lowdown on the cost of living, visa requirements and other essential information, see Expat Arrivals.

Written by Michael Oosterhout, a maths teacher living in Istanbul, Turkey.

Ten top tips to teaching abroad! (part 2)

Competition for teaching roles at the popular international schools is tough. But it’s still possible – the key is your approach!

Last week, Alex shared the first five of his ten top tips for getting your dream job. Read on to discover the next five…

alex-reynolds
Alex Reynolds is Co-Founder of Teacherhorizons and has taught and led education projects in the UK, Portugal, Nepal, Canada, Uganda and the United States.

6. To marry or not to marry?!

Teaching couples can sometimes struggle to be recruited – it’s tricky to find schools that have the right pair of vacancies at the same time. Even if they have the vacancies, you both need to be the best candidates – tough when there are hundreds of applicants per position. On the plus side, many schools value teaching couples as they tend to stay longer. To increase your chances, be as flexible as possible. One strategy is for one person to accept a position and then their partner to apply for one later when the right position arises. It’s worth discussing this at interview from the outset. Alternatively, look for big cities such as Shanghai where there are lots of international schools, as there’s a greater likelihood of vacancies for your partner at other schools.

marriage

7. Fix up, look sharp, get serious

First impressions really do matter whether it’s the photo you choose for your profile or your first email to a school or your Teacherhorizons Adviser. Make sure you write in proper English and your CV is neatly laid out. If you have a Skype interview, look smart, test the video quality, set up good front lighting and a plain background. Don’t leave your pants drying on a washing line behind you.

8. The EQ test

Principals are busy and have thousands of things to do every day. If they’re not busy, you probably don’t want to work at their school. Whilst you are important, you may move down their priority list if something urgent comes up (which very often does…). So think again before writing them off because they can’t find your Skype address even when you’ve sent it three times! Positivity and enthusiasm will get you a long way.

emotional-intelligence

9. Your rep in the global village

Even though it spans the world, the international school community is a small one and you will come across people over and over again (whether you like it or not!). This can be a fantastic way of networking and building relationships but can be tricky too. Remember that your reputation precedes you so don’t burn bridges by being indecisive or breaking contracts. Be good to your future self!

10. Be brave!

The idea of moving overseas is both exciting and daunting. It’s not easy to say goodbye to friends, family and a life you are familiar with and head off into the unknown. Teaching abroad is an amazing experience you will remember for the rest of your life. You will learn a huge amount both professionally and personally. But it’s also important to realise there will be all kinds of challenges – these are all part of the journey! In my experience, it’s the teachers that are ready for these and thoroughly embrace them who get the most out of international teaching, and have the most enriching experience.

be-brave

Written by Alex Reynolds, founding partner and Director of Communications at Teacherhorizons.

Ten top tips to teaching abroad!

Are you looking for a school with an excellent reputation, in a sunny country where you can make life-long friendships?

Would you like to work under an experienced, supportive, senior management team who believe in investing in their staff?

And a decent package would be preferable – enough to enjoy a good quality of life and save a fair bit?

If this sounds appealing, you’re not alone! Many teachers are looking for the same things and competition at the popular schools is tough. But it’s still possible – the key is your approach!

alex-reynolds

Alex Reynolds is Co-Founder of Teacherhorizons and has taught and led education projects in the UK, Portugal, Nepal, Canada, Uganda and the United States.

Since I set up Teacherhorizons I have spoken to hundreds of teachers from all over the world. For many it’s the first time they’ve looked into teaching overseas and they know little about the realities of the sector. I often get emails saying something like this:

“I’m only interested in schools in the south of Spain near the sea with a salary over 47,000 Euros and the housing needs to have a garden so I can bring my 3 dogs over… oh, and the school must pay for my dogs’ visas.”

Often, questions are recurring and I regularly repeat certain advice. So I thought it might be helpful to share the ten pieces of advice I share most frequently (in no particular order).

In this post, I’ll be sharing the first five of my ten top tips for getting your dream job…

1. Stay ahead of the game

Many good schools (particularly in Asia) start recruiting in October for the following September. If you’re serious, make sure your CV, profile and references are up-to-date and proof read by then. Speak to your Recruitment Adviser, discuss your options and have a list of questions ready.

2. Navigate your route to your dream job

plan-plan-planInternational schools are competitive so regardless of how good a teacher you are, it’s unlikely you’ll walk straight into your dream job on your first move overseas. You need to be strategic. A good approach is to ask yourself where you want to be in five years. Then you need to plan your steps to get there, making some sacrifices (money, location, school type) along the way. It’s a series of stepping stones, each position adding personal value, building your skills and experience and taking you a step closer to your goal.

3. Integrity – it’s a two-way thing

One of our core values at Teacherhorizons is transparency. We believe that teachers (and schools) make better decisions when both parties are well informed. Too many bad decisions have been made by ill informed teachers dealing with dodgy agencies and this can ruin lives! We expect our candidates to behave in the same way. If you have reservations about a job, tell your Adviser or share it with the Principal during your Skype interview. Yes, in some cases, it might mean you don’t get the job but far better than being sent home a month into your contract!

4. The ‘Golden IB ticket’ to wherever

Many international schools are looking for teachers with IB experience – which can be tricky for teachers to get. For many it’s a Catch 22 situation – you need IB experience to get the job but you need the job to get IB experience! There are a number of ways to overcome this obstacle:

  • apply for IB jobs at schools in less desirable locations (or offering lower salaries) to get the initial experience
  • be very flexible – accept a ‘last-minute’ or ‘cover’ position at an IB school and then blow their socks off with your awesomeness until they beg you to stay on
  • DIY – do everything you can to learn about the IB – read all about it, speak to teachers, take an online course, volunteer to teach IB at a local IB school. 
The above will all help you get that crucial advantage over other candidates and will open all kinds of doors for you in the future.
travel-the-world-go-somewhere

5. Get out there, be everywhere

To maximise your chances of finding and securing the right job, you should search widely and maximise your reach. Read blogs, follow social media pages, check jobs boards, get email updates, try recruitment fairs (although these can be costly) and speak to friends and colleagues who’ve been through it themselves. Different approaches work for different people and whilst I’m 100% sure Teacherhorizons is the best way, others may prefer a more ‘old school’ 20th century approach.

Read on for part 2 of my top ten tips.

Written by Alex Reynolds, founding partner and Director of Communications at Teacherhorizons.