Going home for Christmas… or not?

To go home for Christmas or not to go home for Christmas? If you’ve been teaching abroad this year, you have inevitably had to make the decision. It might have been an easy decision, or you might have had to literally draw a table of pros and cons.

Since you’ve undoubtedly made the decision already, I’m going to take a light-hearted look at both options and reassure you that whichever option you chose, you’re probably right.

If you’re staying away for Christmas…
Basket Christmas tree at Phnom Penh airport

Basket Christmas tree at Phnom Penh airport

Enjoy the warm weather. Maybe you teach in the tropics but come from a cold northerly country. Indeed, maybe you teach in the tropics because you come from a cold northerly country, and can’t stand the cold weather. Why go back when it’s grey and cold? Make everyone jealous with photos of you drinking cocktails on the beach in a santa hat. Just wait until summer to visit, and then no one will expect presents.

Avoid awkward family moments. If you go home, you’ll be obliged to see your extended family. Maybe you have an embarrassing uncle, unbearable in-laws or obnoxious cousins. You will have to talk to them, and you will have to look like you’re enjoying it. If you just stay abroad, you can spend Christmas with whoever you want. Maybe you have made some new best friends in your host country, and would rather spend it with them.

Experience interesting culture collisions. If you stay away for Christmas, you will also have the chance to experience how it’s done in that country. Maybe you are in a Christian part of the world that pulls out all the stops for Christmas, or maybe you’re in a multicultural city where you’ll see inflatable Santas rub shoulders with Buddha or Ganesh. I always find it curious when tropical countries put up fake snow-scenes with reindeer and snowmen. Or maybe you’re in a part of the world where Christmas is barely acknowledged, and maybe that’s exactly what you want.

Carol singers in Siem Reap

Carol singers in Siem Reap. Image Tyler Barros

If you’re going home for Christmas…
Christmas top milk

Ahh, Christmas top milk.

Take a break from the weather. Maybe, on the other hand, you miss the weather back home. Maybe you’ve had enough of mosquitoes, dust, and not going out at midday. It would be nice, just for a little while, to be able to enjoy cool air, hot baths, misty mornings, and maybe even a little snow.

Home comforts. If you go home for Christmas you’ll be able to stock up on your must-haves that you just can’t find in your host country. For some people it’s Tetley tea, for some it’s Soap and Glory toiletries, for others it’s Vegemite. Plus you might rediscover some cute festive things that you’d forgotten existed, like Christmas top milk.

Long time no see. You’ll get to see your nearest and dearest, and regale everybody with your photos and stories. You’ll catch up with the friends you haven’t seen for too long. And who are you kidding? You love your embarrassing uncle and obnoxious cousins (in small doses, anyway).

Whether you are staying away or going home this Christmas, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas from everyone at Teacherhorizons. Don’t forget you could win two free flights to a destination of your choice when you refer a friend – wouldn’t that make a nice Christmas present?

Written by Sammy Tame, who lives and teaches in Cambodia. Sammy has her own blog.

Introducing the new website and new blog editor

We’re coming up to a new year, and with it there are some exciting changes here at Teacherhorizons. You might have noticed the new-look website, but there’s lots more going on behind the scenes. In this post, I want to introduce myself as the new editor and explain the reasons behind the updated website.

New blog editor SammyFirstly my name is Sammy and I’m the new blog editor, taking over from Nneka. Following two years developing Teacherhorizons’ social media presence and growing its blog from a monthly to weekly digital publication, Nneka has chosen to step down as blog editor to focus on her growing engagement role at vInspired – a digital platform that enables young people to take action on causes they care about.

A bit about myself: I’m from the UK, studied at Manchester University, and qualified to teach EFL in 2013. I held teaching contracts in Cambridge and Austria before moving to Siem Reap, Cambodia, where I currently live and teach English. I am always on the lookout for guest writers for the blog, so if you have an idea for a post just email me at info@teacherhorizons.com.

Next, to sum up the changes to the Teacherhorizons website:

New design! – We’ve streamlined the design of the website to make it more modern, simple, and easy-to-use. It’s easier and quicker than ever before to sign up and view international school jobs. You can sign up and upload your CV in 3 simple steps, and it only takes a minute.

Join free in 3 simple steps

New “endorsed teacher” feature! – Simply submit your CV and it will be reviewed by our team of experts. Endorsed teachers get individual support from a personal advisor and advice over Skype.

More schools in more countries! – We now have links with over 100 schools in 20 countries. This year we have visited schools in Korea, Brunei and Indonesia. In 2015 we plan to visit schools across Europe, Africa and Asia. We aim to personally visit as many of our partner schools as possible, so we can give you the benefit of our hands-on experience.

More specialised advisers worldwide! – We are doubling our team of advisers so we can help you more. All our advisers are subject specialists and are based in locations across the globe, so you can be sure your adviser is qualified to give you the advice you need for the job you want.

More positive impact! – We passionately believe that all children deserve a great education, regardless of their circumstances or country. So we dedicate 10% of all our profits to education charities in developing countries. We share updates via this blog and our Facebook page.

More sharing! – We are a small team of teachers who are passionate about making recruitment more honest and transparent. Without huge corporate marketing budgets, we rely on good old-fashioned word of mouth to spread the word. Refer a friend today, and you will both have the chance to win a FREE flight to anywhere in the world. Not bad for a minute’s form-filling!

That’s all from me for now. If you have any questions or need any help finding your way around the new site, feel free to leave a comment below!

Written by Sammy Tame, who lives and teaches in Cambodia. Sammy has her own blog.

How to write a great international school CV

Writing an excellent international school CV is a crucial part of the application process. If your CV isn’t up to scratch, you risk not being invited to any interviews.

With many domestic schools moving towards online applications we’re encountering many experienced teachers with extremely out of date CVs or no CV at all.

Alexis ToyeIn this blog post, Alexis Toye, Co-Founder of Teacherhorizons, shares some essential hints and tips to help breathe new life into your CV and get you noticed by international schools.

Download a copy of our CV template and start working on your CV now!

At Teacherhorizons, our team review thousands of CVs each every year and have over 50 years combined recruitment experience. Given that CVs still form the core of an international school job application process, we thought these tips would help you get to that next critical stage – the interview!

If you’ve made it to the interview stage read our hints and tips on how to nail your Skype interview.

We’d estimate that at least half of the CVs Teacherhorizons receive actually harm a teacher’s chances of achieving an interview (but teachers are unaware of this). Given the time constraints teachers have, this is completely understandable. Follow our tips to enhance your international school CV and propel yourself to the top of the shortlist.

Make sure you…

  • Keep it short. Less is more. We’d advise no more than 2 sides for a teacher and 3 sides for a senior leader.
  • State the facts. It’s always tempting to exaggerate, but keep to the facts and promote your achievements. Don’t state you’re a wonderful teacher, team player or outstanding administrator. Let the evidence, achievements, and references in your CV demonstrate how wonderful you are!
International school CV tips
  • Start with your experience, with the most recent at the top. International schools aren’t particularly interested in what job you did when you were 16! Put the most important / recent jobs at the top.
  • Include your personal and school based extra-curricular activities. Given you’ll be moving home as well as jobs, Heads will want to know a bit about you to give them an idea as to whether you’ll fit in and have interesting activities to offer at school. Extra-curricular activities are one of the joys of teaching in the international sector.
  • Publish your CV as a PDF document. There are so many different versions of Word out there, which can really mess up your CV’s formatting. Make sure you save it as a PDF; that way it will look the same on any computer even if they don’t have Word! Learn how to save documents as PDFs.
  • Include a professional yet friendly photo. We’d recommend adding a small professional (eg shirt, jacket and tie for men) yet friendly photo to the top right of your CV. Definitely worth smiling, so not a passport photo! Take a look at our team page for examples of friendly yet professional photos.
  • Triple-check your spelling and grammar. Get someone to proofread it for you. It is very hard to spot your own mistakes. Or, download Grammarly onto Google Chrome and have it instantly check for grammatical, spelling, and punctuation mistakes for you.
  • Personalize your CV. Whilst it’s important not to go over the top, a link to a teaching video demo or photos of the way your classroom looks can really make you stand out. Don’t go too over the top with ‘funky’ designs or fonts…
  • Make full use of your Teacherhorizons profile. Schools use Teacherhorizons as our profiles give them access to all the documents they need. Make sure your confidential references are from senior supervisors (Deputy Head and above) and request them to professional email addresses rather than a Gmail or Yahoo address, for example.

Update your profile page here or learn how to add the details of your references and complete your profile so that you can start the search for your dream job!

Below are some common mistakes to avoid that we see time and time again:

Make sure you do NOT…

  • Start with a long personal International school CV tipsstatement. 3-4 sentences stating what you are looking for is fine, but don’t blow your trumpet about what you’ll offer the school here. Most schools skip this bit.
  • Go over the top with colour and formatting. Some CVs look stunning but are very difficult to read. Excessive colour or design can result in critical information getting lost or schools losing interest in finding it.

Once your CV is looking great, upload it to your Teacherhorizons profile and ask your adviser for feedback. If it doesn’t upload, you may need to compress it.

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.

Global Entrepreneurship Week – 150 countries. 25000 events. One week. Go!

Did you know that today is the first day of Global Entrepreneurship Week? – the world’s largest campaign to promote entrepreneurship!

Over the next week, millions of people in 150 countries will participate in bootcamps, pitch competitions, networking events, policy roundtables, mentoring sessions and more to share inspiration and support, and to discover opportunities for growth and new connections.

Support for entrepreneurship has never been more important than it is now, and reinforcing entrepreneurial education in schools and vocational education institutions is on the rise worldwide to help instill that entrepreneurial ‘seed’ early on. The African Leadership Academy (ALA), which develops and connects Africa’s young leaders from over 35 countries across the continent, is a great example.

Global Entrepreneurship Week

Andrew Devenport, CEO of global network Youth Business International and core Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) partner, is a firm believer in the strength of global connectivity – of what people can learn, and ultimately achieve, when they connect with people from different countries. As part of 2014’s GEW, a group of students in Hull will connect to like-minded people in South Africa, via a Google Hangout, and Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus will talk to students at the London School of Economics about his unique perspective on entrepreneurship.

A major student-facing event, Social Storm, involving leading universities from across the world will bring together a dynamic mix of designers, coders and business minded individuals to positively impact the world. Over 100 students will be participating across 10 international universities, working together during an intense brainstorming session to tackle a global issue and whip up a solution!

Your students may not be considering entrepreneurship as a career path just yet, but there are elements key to entrepreneurship – creative thinking, leadership, teamwork and problem solving – that you could focus your activity towards this week. Why not follow GEW Global (@unleashingideas) for some inspiration? With 150 countries, 25000 events, and 6 million people participating there’s bound to be something happening where you are this week.

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.

Embracing teaching in Egypt

To be honest, my first impression when I saw the salary scale at Cairo English School was disappointment.

In hindsight, that was silly. I had not taken into account the benefit of not paying any tax or national insurance, or the fact that many things in Egypt are so cheap! Here are a few reasons to love teaching in Egypt.

Low cost of living

The rental on our centrally located two-bedroom flat in Al Rehab (with large balcony) is the same as what the accommodation allowance for just one of us will be from August. So we are able to save a lot, even before the healthy pay rise we both get next August. Having so much of the salary paid in sterling is ideal. The transport to and from school is efficient and great socially.

Great quality of life

There is a very good quality of life. You are trusted to teach well without submitting full formal lesson plans (we follow centralised planning for Numeracy and Literacy), meaning we find our weekends are almost always 100% free of school work. Very different from the grind of paperwork in the UK, driven by fear of Ofsted!

Teaching in Egypt - Cairo at night

There is a great sense of teamwork and friendship among the teachers, with newcomers made very welcome. The welcome programme in August was well thought out. Last weekend we took the (free) school bus to Heliopolis after work then a metro (8 pence) to a Chamber Orchestra Concert in the Small Hall at the very swish Cairo Opera House (under £1), our meal costing about £6 each. This weekend we may have a beer (£1 for a large Heineken can, delivered to your door – imagine that!).

Some relatives warned us it is ‘too dangerous’ in Egypt. Not true! We’ve found expats are very popular with Egyptians. In fact, we are often surprised by random acts of kindness and helpfulness.

Market in Cairo
School support network

The school is very supportive. The liaison officer, Erini, is amazing! She sorted out a few things with the bank and stepped in to ensure that we got excellent service from the landlord’s agent. It’s clear that CES carries a lot of commercial influence. On another occasion the school was amazingly helpful to a friend with a health issue who needed an operation, using their influence to get him attention from the leading surgeon in this field in Cairo.

Parent power

As with anything, we’ve also met a few challenges while teaching in Egypt. For example, ‘parent power’ carries a huge amount of weight here, as in much of the Middle East. The children can be too chatty in class if you let them, but overall there has been little unpleasantness in the classroom.

The atmosphere is such that you are able to speak openly and candidly about your concerns (for example in team meetings) without fear of repercussions. There are three new Primary teachers in our year, and the year group leader works incredibly hard to support and encourage us all.

Interested? We regularly have vacancies in Egypt. For more information on visas, cost of living and expat life in Egypt and beyond, head over to Expat Arrivals.

Written by Anon, the writer of this post has chosen to remain anonymous.

Teaching in Baku – the City of Flames

Baku with its tree lined streets and café culture has been likened to Paris. On summer evenings the squares are thronged with people enjoying the cooler air, sitting by fountains, sipping drinks or just strolling.

Mosques and minarets dot the landscape and the call to prayer sounds above the traffic roar.

Elaine Crawford spent much of her career working overseas, first in the Middle East and then for many years teaching in Hong Kong. Despite retiring a few years ago, the chance to work at the International School of Zanzibar was too good to miss and after a spell of supply teaching in the UK, Elaine was delighted with the idea of teaching in Baku. This will be Elaine’s first real winter for 20 years and that is as exciting as teaching here again!

Baku is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea. It is called the ‘City of Flames’ and petrol-dollars have funded much development. The lovely Park Bulvar – a wide, shady boulevard park with formal gardens along the edge of the Caspian Sea is a good place to relax. By way of contrast, architecturally pleasing high-rise buildings are springing up throughout the whole city area. The most spectacular towers being the Flame Towers which are built in the shape of flames and ‘burn’ at night when the lights go on. Baku literally glows with light every night.

Baku at night

The school is in a brand new building and is called Baku Talents Education Complex. It has a new Management Team and a truly international staff. It was still being completed when we moved in, which meant we were very much part of the process. Our first week involved shifting resources of every kind whilst the builders completed their work around us. Thankfully, the builders have since gone but the camaraderie has remained and the atmosphere is friendly and supportive.

Baku at sunset

The children are mostly local but we have a small percentage of non Azeri speaking students and a large percentage of children who are multilingual in the ‘local’ languages such as Russian, Turkish and Azeri. Each international teacher in the primary section has an Azeri co-teacher who is fluent in English. We work together in the classroom sharing the teaching. When it comes to communicating with parents, the co-teachers are invaluable as many parents are not confident English speakers.

Classes are small, the maximum being 20 – taught in small classrooms making it near impossible to ever exceed that number. The building has all the specialist rooms you could want, a massive swimming pool, and another smaller one in the kindergarten area. It is a school in progress where all of the routines, systems and standards are being developed as we go. It is interesting, exciting, challenging and hard work, and I thoroughly enjoy living in the city and working at the school.

Has Baku piqued your interest? We regularly have international school vacancies in Azerbaijan. Browse our schools in Azerbaijan, or sign up or sign in to search for worldwide international teaching vacancies.

Elaine kindly agreed to answer a few questions about teaching in Baku – you can read the interview here.

Written by Elaine Crawford, who has spent much of her career working overseas, first in the Middle East and then for many years teaching in Hong Kong. She has also taught in Tanzania and, most recently, Azerbaijan.

Come to Iraq, you know you want to!

Probably not the first country that springs to mind when you decide to leave the safety and comfort of home for an adventure! At the time I joined Teacherhorizons the news was awash with footage of Iraq under attack as the ISIS fighters moved from city to city.

Erbil, the city I now call home, was being surrounded and it looked like it was going to be the next victory for the fighters, just as I was preparing to move to start teaching in Iraq.

My plans were halted after the teaching staff were told to stay put and not to travel to Kurdistan, as it was unsafe. This left me feeling really frustrated as my preparation was complete and I felt ready to fly out regardless of what was going on. A few more emails between the principal and I were sent back and forth until finally the day arrived – bag packed, goodbyes all said, tickets in hand – here I come Iraq!


So I arrived in the baking sun, 46 degrees, no wind, lots of dust. “What have I done?” I asked myself. Was this a mistake? Well I can happily say the heat has dropped to a reasonable level now, my apartment is air conditioned, there’s still dust everywhere but not even a super Dyson could shift that!

IraqI had a few days to acclimatise as school was opening late due to the terror threats. The principal showed me around parts of the city, which is very modern in places. There are lots of shopping centres or malls as they are called here, which offer pretty much the same products as back home including Cadbury’s chocolate – that was a nice discovery! Obviously, as it’s a predominantly Muslim country certain products are not available such as pork or alcohol. There is a Christian community, however, which has bars and off-licences so all is not lost.

The children come from a variety of backgrounds and speak several languages including Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic and English. The language barrier can be an issue at times as my pupils are young but you can always find common ground wherever you are – for example, all of my pupils know twinkle twinkle little star! The parents clearly value their children’s education and are very involved with the school.

To summarise, I am happy here in Iraq, the salary is far better than at home, and I get to see a diversity of cultures and teach alongside staff from every corner of the planet.

Come to Iraq, you know you want to!

Think Iraq might be right for you? Learn more by reading Chris’s interview about teaching in Iraq. Browse our schools in Iraq or join free to search for vacancies.

Written by Chris Jamison, who had always wanted to work as a Primary School teacher, and completed his training in 2001 followed by a PGCE at Canterbury Christchurch University the following year. Chris loves to watch and play football, enjoys reading Irvine Welch books and living in countries with a dangerous side.

Join the Education Countdown Campaign to get every child in school by 2015

In 2000, world leaders made a promise that every child worldwide would be in school and learning by end 2015. But with 466 days left before the deadline, 58 million children are still out of school.

The Education Countdown campaign, officially launched last month and led by A World at School co-founded by Sarah Brown, is targeting key barriers to universal education by bringing together top campaigners, youth, business, faith and political leaders.

In the last few years, international aid to support basic education has declined rapidly – by more than 10% between 2010 and 2012 – and many countries affected have not scaled up domestic financing fast enough to address the gap. This combined with a myriad of sociopolitical factors risks putting the right to education firmly beyond reach for the almost 60 million children still out of school.

Education countdown campaign

That’s why A World at School’s #EducationCountdown campaign is focusing on five key barriers that keep children excluded from school:

  • providing education to war-torn areas
  • protecting girls from child marriage
  • ensuring children are at school and not at work
  • ending discrimination against girls
  • ensuring enough teachers are trained
Campaigning for the future

Alongside the campaigners, teachers and businesses comitted to tackling these barriers, hundreds of A World at School Global Youth Ambassadors in more than 85 countries have been empowered to demand the right to education for all children.

Inspire your class to support the campaign for universal education with this handy Youth Advocacy Toolkit packed full of ideas and inspiring stories.

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.

Boost your experience and supplement your salary – 5 tips for summer school teaching

Financially, I just couldn’t get through another year without a salary during the summer so, after toying with the idea for a few years, I decided to do a placement at a summer school.

I was fortunate to have lovely students and like-minded teaching colleagues – essential to making teaching at a summer school a rewarding and stimulating experience.

Annie SurdiI must admit though that I found my first experience of summer school teaching intense and exhausting at times! But having successfully completed the 6-week course, here are some top tips I would like to share to help others get the most out of their summer placement:

1. Compare summer schools to find one that suits your strengths and interests. I’m not big on conducting sporting activities, so I opted for a summer school with a strong focus on classroom teaching.

2. Seek out reviews or feedback from past teaching staff where possible. The setting, from the location through to how the school was organised was not exactly what I had anticipated, although I eventually got my bearings.

3. Be clear about the school’s expectations of staff, and who you can go to for support. My 6-week contract consisted of double teaching, which I coordinated with another teacher.

Summer school students

4. Plan in adequate preparation time, and ask for support if your workload gets too heavy. During my placement the school introduced some evening activities to give teachers the chance to mingle with fellow students. A nice initiative in theory, but in reality the time spent doing these activities ended up cutting into my lesson preparation and free-time!

5. Adopt an open, communicative approach with your students and fellow staff. Remember, the concept of a summer school is to create a fun and pleasant environment for both students and teachers – the above is key to this!

Written by Annie Surdi, an international teacher who has lived and worked in Honduras, Australia, and Italy.

Who are you? – Identity and my experience in Tanzania

If I asked you to use one word, how would you define yourself to others? Are you a Canadian, an American, a Maritimer or a Californian?

Perhaps you’re of First Nations heritage and you recognise your tribe as being the group that you most associate with your identity. Maybe your first response would be Catholic, Muslim or Rastafarian. Or maybe your response would be brother, wife or husband of…

This article is taken from a collection of weekly stories that I posted to friends, family, and those who became interested through word of mouth about my year in Tanzania (2008) as a volunteer teacher in a Maasai village.

Shannon Howlett in TanzaniaI know that the answer to this question depends on the context that we are in. If I’m in Canada and asked that question I might say that I’m a Maritimer. When abroad, I’m proudly Canadian. If you’re a mother, perhaps you tend to select that identity above all others, regardless of where you find yourself geographically. Here in Tanzania, one of the first questions asked by my new African friends is “Are you married?” or “Do you have children?” – as it is motherhood and marriage that most define your role in society. They have difficulty accepting when I answer “bado” (not yet) in Swahili, as traveling the world and volunteering are not high on their priority list!

I am finding that my perceptions of people from other cultures have changed drastically…in a good way. I have always been fascinated by the differences that separated me from people of distant lands, but I have now become much more conscious and appreciative of the threads that weave us together. The women passing me on the street covered head to toe in traditional burkas, the amputee begging on the side of the road, the Maasai women with shaved heads, elaborate dresses and their babies strapped to their backs don’t feel nearly as different from me as they once did.

Maasai women in Tanzania

I have friends from all over the world here and yet as we sit together sharing stories and experiences it’s easy to forget that we represent so many different nations. Other than a few slight differences in accent, our stories are similar. I believe that the eloquent words of Michelle Obama put it best when she described the achievements of Oprah Winfrey:

“There is more that unites us than divides us – that our shared experiences in work, life and love, in family and community, in our hopes and dreams know no barriers; that regardless of race, gender or socio-economic status or hometown, we are our brothers’ keepers, our sisters’ keepers.”

Now more than ever, I see myself as a citizen of this amazing planet and seem to have abandoned my preoccupations with identity.

Time continues to be my enemy at the moment as I wrestle to hang on to my time here. I am in my last month as a resident of Maasailand… as a teacher at Ilkurot Primary. That nasty lump reappears in my throat even as I write these words. I know now that my work here is not yet over and that my life now will involve some delicate balance between Canada and East Africa.

Global citizenI have decided to combine forces with my dear friend Lisa to form a Non-Governmental Agency (NGO). We share a passion for education; improving the system here, educating those who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, building bridges of sharing between Tanzania and the communities that we have called home. During the planning stages of a long term project such as this, it’s essential to focus on what it is that you hope to achieve.

One can easily become overwhelmed by trying to help everyone in need here. Our goal, and the intention of any good grassroots NGO, is to start small – do a few things really well instead of doing many things poorly. It will be a lot of work but when the work is driven by passion, it becomes less and less like work and more and more your reason to get up in the morning. I embrace the new challenge with open arms!

Written by Shannon Howlett, French teacher and DP coordinator at the International School of Moshi in Arusha, Tanzania.