Relaxed senior leaders, friendly students and new teaching strategies – one teacher’s experience of teaching in Dubai

Daryl Sims spent three years teaching in inner city London before making the leap to teach abroad. He arrived at The English Collage, Dubai, UAE in September and documents his experience to date for us below.

daryl-dune-buggy

1. Why did you choose to teach abroad?

I choose to teach abroad as I wanted to do something a bit different, one may even say “a bit wild”. I hadn’t left Europe before in my life and I felt at the age of 25 it was the right time to broaden my horizons. Teaching in the UK was great and I liked the school I was working at, but I felt if I didn’t do it now, I would become tied into the school and end up with a mortgage.

2. How did you go about finding a job?

I used the TES. It seemed simple to use, I searched to find a job in a country I was interested in. I had done a bit of research online about where I might like to go. I was required to send my CV and the head teacher came to London to interview me in a hotel bar. I did not have to teach, just a long conversation/interview.

3. What have you enjoyed teaching in an international school?

So far it has been a lot of fun, it is very different from what I experienced in London, but from what I hear this greatly differs from school to school and country to country. The students are very relaxed and friendly and this allows the staff and senior leaders to also have a laid back and happy approach to the day. In a UK school, an hour after the final bell the car park is still full, here, the school is a ghost town.

4. What have been the main drawbacks of teaching and living abroad?

Being away from family and friends of course. With regards to teaching I guess I am wary that the ease of teaching here may make it harder to readjust to a faster pace, higher geared and more challenging school if I chose to go back, such as those I had experienced in the UK.

5. In what ways, if any, have you developed as a teacher at your current school?

As behaviour is not an issue and without the stressed senior leader’s eye looking through the window of the classroom, I take a lot more risks in the classroom. So, with things like role play, moving around the school to do lessons elsewhere etc. This allows a lot more innovation into the lesson. I’ve also been able to learn from teachers with very different teaching styles

6. Was it the right decision?  Why?

Yes but this is probably based more on personal reasons than on any professional reasons. So far it has been a lot of fun to live here, I’ve met a lot of good people and have had a couple of enjoyable stress free terms of teaching. I would thoroughly recommend teaching abroad to anyone looking for something different.

Thanks for sharing Daryl! We hope for this to be the first of several similar teacher insights and are looking for anyone else who is keen to share their experiences of teaching internationally just email is at info@teacherhorizons.com.

Written by Daryl Sims

The first 60 seconds of an interview – getting it right!

john-regan-pink-backgroundThe first impressions are most important, as 80% of the final outcome are made (on both sides!) within 5 minutes of the start.  It is taken as read that the interviewer has spent as much time in preparing and research as the interviewee.  Both sides are evaluating whether their preconceptions are valid.  The interviewer is assessing whether the candidate could deliver the goods in the classroom, but also whether he/she would fit in with the school’s mission and if they could fit into what will probably be a totally different from what has been experienced so far. So, preparation is all important.

If the time for the interview is 11.00am, it is obvious that the candidate should report ‘suited and booted’ at the venue at 10.45am at the very latest.  The interview schedule may not necessarily be running to exact timings.  If the preceding interviews are running slightly over the schedule, you are just going to have to grin and bear it, but if a previous candidate has failed to report, the interviewer will welcome the chance to start your interview slightly earlier.  Naturally, if you are not there for an 11.00 o’clock start, there had better be good reason for this and it is always worthwhile ringing up to explain why you have been delayed.

So, you have reached the interview on time; fully prepared; and well-presented.  Even though it is a slightly artificial situation, start as you mean to go on – be your real self and be relaxed!  The interviewer is trying to picture you as a future colleague.  If you try to put on a show for the interview, you may be a great actor and get away with it and be offered the job, but it could be disastrous.  A couple of times this has happened to me and it ended in tears as within the first year I had to dismiss the teacher for not delivering what was promised at the interview.

The advice ‘be relaxed’ is easier said than done, but it is useful to try to do something about controlling your nerves without being too laid back to give the impression of indifference.  The most vivid and amusing experience, I can recall, was when a candidate who could not control his nerves was seated in an office swivel chair.  He continually turned the chair from side to side but then, unfortunately, he leaned back and tipped the chair over.  He went over backwards amid a flurry of arms and legs and as he picked himself and the chair up, he explained that had never happened to him before and he hoped it would not affect his chances of getting the job!  It was the final nail in the coffin that he had climbed into in the first 60 seconds of the interview!!

Written by John Regan, Chief Executive of Teacherhorizons and former International School Head in the UK, Portugal and Egypt.

PS, the same rules apply to our video interviews hosted on your Teacherhorizons profile, see here for advice on producing these.  Number one rule, be yourself!  For further info watch this:

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

A new era for international schools

The changing international school landscape

The changing international school landscape

The international education sector is changing fast. Gone are the days of backward, expat institutions harking back to the ‘good old’ colonial times.

The 21st century has spawned a new breed of international schools – modern, high tech, forward looking institutions providing cutting edge international education. These schools no longer cater solely for expat populations but instead are growing from the needs of local communities who are realising the value of their children being educated in English. In fact, the Chairman of Goldman Sachs commented in 2011 the export of English language services will be one of the UK’s biggest growth areas in the UK over the next decade.

What does this mean for us teachers?

It’s a very exciting time. If you’re a good teacher who enjoys an adventure, there’s never been a better time to explore international teaching opportunities. As hundreds of new schools spring up across Asia and Latin American seeking well qualified English speaking teachers every year, demand for our skills is ever increasing.  With privatisation rife in China, we are witnessing international schools filling the gap where there would otherwise be local private schools. We are also observing a shift in the balance of influence between teachers and international schools. In decades past, schools have been in the driving seat when it’s come to recruitment – able to demand more from teachers for less. It has been in the interests of some less progressive schools to stifle the transparency that has swept across other sectors. Why, for example, has it been so hard to find out a salary before you apply for an international teaching job?

The changes we are witnessing are empowering us all, as teachers, to expect to access more information both from schools and recruiters.

Teacherhorizons – leading the way forward

Teacherhorizons has grown from teachers and international schools recognising a need to the recruitment fairer and stop big companies taking money out of the system.  Our aim is to provide in depth details of schools all over the world so that teachers can make sound decisions about where we choose to teach abroad. Equally, we want to help schools find out more about us to enable them to find the most suitable teachers to recruit. We believe that, as our community of forward looking schools and teachers grows, so we can increase transparency across the sector move toward truly internationalising the teaching profession.

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

More than just a holiday?

How often have you walked into the staffroom on the day back and a colleague who thinks they are rather funny comments that there are only 49 days working days until the next holiday?  Whilst there is much, much more to teaching, I have no doubt that holidays are probably are the biggest perk of the profession.

However, you will have faced two major problems.  Flights are now expensive, especially to get out of the winter gloom and during the school holidays.  Appealing destinations are packed pushing up hotel prices and you will most likely surrounded by the specimens you are trying to avoid: school children!

white-house-near-mountains

Teaching overseas improves your travel opportunities no end for the following reasons:

  • Reduce costs by travelling locally.
  • Longer holidays which often don’t coincide to such a great degree with peak holiday season and prices.
  • A greater disposable income in most international schools.
  • Local knowledge from your colleagues.

Stuck for ideas – the following may give you some ideas:

Late October break: take advantage of the last of the Northern Hemisphere sun with a break in the South of Spain or Portugal.  Stay in a lovely Pousada and sip away at Sangria in the evenings with a few tapas to keep your stomach happy too.

Christmas break: fly to Marrakech for souks, open air markets and riads combined with either a visit to the High Atlas mountains for spectacular trekking and village stays.  An alternative is the fabulous beach town of Essaouira.  Celebrate Christmas with a tagine in the mountains, then head down to the beach for a sun downer!  Alternatively, organise a family holiday in Australia or Cape Town in South Africa – it doesn’t get any better than that!

Late February break: head to the ski resorts of Vancouver and debate why it tops most tables for offering the best quality of life in the world.  Don’t like the cold – make your colleagues green with envy and head down to Rio for the Carnival.

Easter holiday: time to arrange a visit to South East Asia.  Combine a visit to Thailand’s wonderful beaches with a spot of culture in Angkor Wat (Cambodia) or visit the ruined temples of Bagan in Burma.  It could be a fascinating time to visit!  Alternatively, it is prime time to arrange a 2 week trek with a bit of white water rafting in Nepal.  It’s also festival time in Spain, Seville has amongst the best!

June break: you will probably be saving for the summer break (if you are in the northern hemisphere) so keep it low key.  Offer to run a pre exams revision camp, go on a camping holiday locally or discover a nearby city for the weekend.  Feeling flush?  Mozambique is begging to be discovered, try the Northern coast for a holiday you’ll never forget.

Summer holiday: Where to start?  You’ll probably have two months off.  Time to travel properly!  Explore the gems of the Middle East with bags of culture thrown in – Syria and Jordan are two of our favourites.  China is on the verge of becoming the world’s largest economy and is now much easier to visit.  With much of Asia hit by monsoon, do an overland trip taking in Beijing, Shanghai and Tibet.  Be sure to try Szechuan food for those with a taste for spicy food.  Finally, visit the surrounding jungles, magnificent city of Cartagena in Colombia and you’ll probably never come back.

Inspired?  Please contribute your ideas here!

Did we tell you there are also great professional development opportunities too?

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.

Ten reasons to teach in an international school

There has never been a better time to enter the exciting world of international teaching.  We have put together ten reasons why now is the time to get proactive and make 2012 the year you made it happen!

1. Professional development

It is a common misconception that international schools are places where you get into bad teaching habits. On the contrary, many international schools offer teachers generous training and professional development budgets. Curricula like the International Baccalaureate offer exceptional training courses all over the world offering teachers the chance to train in other international destinations.

2. New international schools

Forget the army or diplomatic service, teaching is by a long way the profession offering the best opportunities to work abroad. These days, most major cities in almost every country have an international school and the number of schools is growing rapidly providing an ever larger variety of schools to choose from.

3. The economic climate

We’re all aware that over the next few years we’re going to feel ‘the pinch’ and have to ‘tighten our belts’. Funding is being cut, wages are being frozen and resources cupboards are looking emptier. So when better to head to distant shores (many of which are less affected by the economic situation) to teach, learn and explore for a couple of years?

4. Technological developments

Living abroad no longer means a life away from friends and loved ones. Technological developments such as Facebook, Skype, video conferencing, and instant messaging means that it’s much easier to stay in touch with friends and family than ever before. And cheaper flights make it easy for them to come and visit your new home!

5. The global perspective

There has recently been a far greater emphasis on teaching young people to be global citizens and many countries are incorporating this ‘global dimension’ as a core part of their curriculum. Experience working abroad with teachers from around the world and teaching a truly international curriculum to pupils from a diverse range of countries is a fantastic way to bring this to life but at abroad and when you return home.

6. Start afresh

Moving abroad can be an extremely liberating experience. Its exciting finding a new house, exploring the local market, making new friends, practising a new language and getting a much deeper insight into a new culture and way of life.

7. Returning home

It used to be that teaching abroad wasn’t taken seriously by some schools back home and viewed as a bit of a ‘gap year’. Fortunately, most Headteachers and Principals are now more forward looking and appreciate the value of teachers who have gained experience abroad. Many schools are introducing curricula such as the International Baccalaureate themselves, making teachers with international experience an ever more sought after resource.

8. Travel

If you’ve lived abroad before, you will appreciate how it offers a far greater insight into a country than a holiday or backpacking can. Living abroad also offers fantastic travel opportunities. Weekends can be spent exploring coastlines or mountain villages whilst long school holidays free you up to get to know an entire new continent!

9. The information age

Until recently, it was difficult to find out everything you wanted to about an international school before taking a job. Today most schools have websites providing some information and we offer much more detail to help you find the right school for you. Best of all, it’s completely FREE for teachers. Click here to view an example of a school profile.

10. No regrets

Research indicates that over half of all teachers in the UK have at some point ‘considered’ teaching abroad at some point but the majority never get round to it. It’s easy for years to start to pass by, situations to change and roots to deepen. If you’re seriously considering teaching abroad, we strongly encourage you to be proactive in your search, to complete your profile in detail and make 2012 a year you’ll never forget!

Click here to sign up to Teacherhorizons (it takes just 60 seconds but may change your life!)

What do I look for when I am hiring a teacher?

The answer to this question isn’t rocket science!  I have been a Head in both the UK and in the international schools sector, and have been recruiting staff for over thirty years.  When you make an international school job application, the recruiter will have the following questions in mind:

1 How does the candidate’s experience (in particular the most recent experience in their present position) match with the job for which they are applying?

What I always look at in a CV is the previous experience education background and what they are like as a person. This helps me assess whether a candidate will be up to the job, committed and conscientious. It is also important that they fit within the ethos of the school as relationships with colleagues are often more important when living abroad.

2 What are the candidate’s achievements in their career thus far?

It is essential that you can demonstrate that that you have the required experience.  I read their CV or profile page to assess their previous achievements, roles, type of school and how long they worked in each school.

3 What is the pattern of the candidate’s career thus far?

It’s great if a candidate has had a wide range of both person and professional experience. If they have worked in another sector, or range of types of schools I see that as a positive so long as they are trained and have necessary experience for the role. Management experience is equally attractive.

4 How does the candidate’s philosophy match with the school’s mission and modus operandi?

International school job applicationI always read personal statements carefully as they help me get a real sense of a teacher and how they would fit in. Everyone’s ideas and educational philosophies are different and I believe it’s important to have a wide range of ideas and beliefs in a school so long as they don’t contradict our school’s mission statement and way of operating. I always recommend teachers read our mission and sometimes ask them about it in interview.

5 How do the candidate’s personal qualities, interests and achievements suit the style of the school?

I love teachers who are passionate about something – be it travel, football, chess or making movies so I always read the ‘personal interests’ part of a CV or profile page. I am not a micro-manager so I look for self-motivated teachers who will take on projects of their own whether it be setting up a photography club or taking a group of pupils on a trip to Uganda. For these reasons I believe personal interests are equally important to professional qualifications.

6 How does the candidate ‘connect’ with the recruiter?

There’s the old saying that Heads hire teachers like themselves. Although this is often true, I have always strived to avoid this. Key to a successful staff team is a having a wide range of personalities as this ensures our pupils benefit from a range of teaching methods and styles.

  • 1-3 can initially be assessed from a thorough examination of the CV or profile
  • 4 can be assessed from the candidate’s personal statement and letter of application
  • 1-4 can be consolidated at interview
  • 5, 6 can be assessed at interview
  • 1-6 can be informed by the candidate’s references

It is important when preparing the application that a candidate takes this sequence on board.  When I receive a number of applications for a number of posts, the CV or profile is the first document to be examined.  If the CV or profile is of interest, the personal statement will be assessed.  Then, referees will be sought and a short-list will be made of candidates who will be called for interview.

So if you can imagine the process from the side of the recruiter, this is ideal.  The Head or Principal may receive over 50 applications for one job, and sometimes this figure is in the hundreds. Your CV has to be concise and to the point, concentrating on how items 1-3 are covered. Content, order and presentation are all very important. The CV has to be no more than 2 sides of A4. Providing additional information (such as the documents and video on your Teacherhorizons profile) will serve to help your application.

The personal statement/letter of application must be equally concise, no more than 1.5 sides.  It must address item 4 and must not be a regurgitation of information in the CV or profile. It must not be an essay. It must not try to cover every detail and explanation of your views.

Remember, the interview will cover the detail.

A crucial addition to this list when it comes to applying for an international school, a recruiter will assess:

How suited you will be to living and working in an environment, which may well be different from your experience to date? This will be covered at interview, but you must prepare for this from the moment an application is considered.

Check out Alexis’ article for more advice on writing your international school CV.
For researching locations, we love Expat Arrivals. Do your homework before you apply, to make sure you’re going to a place that’s suited to you.

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

Internationalising the teaching profession

The aim of Teacherhorizons is to make it much easier for teachers to explore ALL teaching opportunities and schools all over the world, be it in a glamorous International School in mountainous Switzerland or a charity run school for street children in Mumbai, India.

We want truly ‘internationalise’ teaching by helping teachers to be much more internationally mobile. Why shouldn’t a brilliant physicist from Estonia be able to teach physics in France or a talented Brazilian gymnast teach PE in Hong Kong? A true globalisation of teaching would undoubtedly benefit teachers and students everywhere.

Teachers should be able to access free detailed information about schools to help us make the right decisions and be an asset to the schools we move to work in. Unfortunately, the lack of transparency and vagueness surrounding the term ‘international school’ has meant that some teachers have made some poor judgements and ended up in some pretty ropey institutions. This only serves to give the entire international sector a bad name when really FAR more teachers should be benefitting from the experience of teaching abroad.

As teachers ourselves, we’ve had a fantastic time teaching in Portugal, Japan, Egypt and Nepal and want to help more teachers to benefit from the experience. Professionally it’s fantastic working with teachers and students of different nationalities, learning new techniques, teaching an international curriculum like the IB and getting some exceptional professional development opportunities.

But equally exciting is having change of scene – getting to know a new country, making new friends, discovering new lifestyles, cultures, languages, cuisines… Weekends spent discovering new local markets, beaches or nearby villages whilst you can explore a new continent on your doorstep over the holidays. This personal experience is equally as important as the professional development – something we believe will make you a more inspiring (and fresh!) teacher when you return to your homeland (or move on somewhere else).

But, until now, it’s been hard to find out details about schools which is pretty absurd when we are hoping to embrace a new life as well as a new job.  Surely we have a right to know key things like salaries, benefits, training budgets, pension schemes (to name just a few) before we fly across the world to start a new life.

This is why we created Teacherhorizons and why we believe that (with your help!) we can inspire teachers around the world to join our international community and together, in time, we can truly internationalise the teaching profession.

All the fun of the fair?

Recruitment Fairs have long been a way of finding a job in an international school. Clearly, it’s not practical to visit every school spread across the globe on the chance of an appointment, so the fairs held in main centres like London and Beijing offer a short-cut.  But like many short-cuts, they offer a bumpy ride and a good chance of getting lost or ending up where you didn’t really want to go. My experience of a Recruitment Fair in London was literally a long shot. I fancied a position in South America, and I was working in Mozambique at the time, but I was told the London fair was worth trying.

So, having paid my own fare from Mozambique, I checked in at the soulless three-star hotel where the fair was held – and found 500 teachers milling around nervously, all like me on a mission to get their ideal job. With a minimum of knowledge about potential schools, I hit the hallway. We had just two hours to grab as many interviews as we could. Go, go, go…

I ended up with 6 interviews, only three of which sounded seriously promising.  The next day I found my way to a tiny room – which turned out not only to be the interview room but also the principal’s own bedroom – a bizarre setting for the first one-to-one with your prospective head. The allocated half-hour was too short: neither party really had time to get enough information.

Some of the schools insisted on a second round of interviews the following day.  Was an International School in Baranquilla really the place I wanted to not only commit to a two year, contract but also live in?

By day four, I had cabin fever and felt I was going crazy.  The job fair did yield two jobs offers but the experience had put me off.  I had another offer (in London bizarrely) and took it.  Everybody at the Fair wanted an instant response, so I felt I had to decide there and then.  I had already spent over £1000, going away empty-handed seemed wrong.  Speaking to other teachers at the fair, many felt a similar way.

There had to be another way.

Recruitment fairs – the cost to both parties

Teacher cost School cost (based on recruiting a single teacher)
Fair registration = approx. £120

Return flights (from Mozambique) =  approx. £500

Accommodation = 4 x £80 per night = £320

Food and drinks = 4 x £40 per day = £160

School registration = approx. £1200

Fair registration = approx. £300

Return flights = approx. £500 x 2 = £1000

Accommodation = 4 x £80 x 2 = £640

Food and drinks = 4 x £40 x 2 = £320

Placement fee = approx. £1000

Total cost = £1100 (approx. $1700) Total cost = £4460 (approx. $7000)

If you have an experience of the fairs, what did you think?  What do you think are the best alternatives?

We’ll share what we think they are in next week’s blog post.

Welcome to Teacherhorizons blog

Welcome to our new Teacherhorizons blog.

The purpose of our blog is to reach out to international teachers and teachers who want to teach abroad with:

  • The latest news and opinions about international schools and international education from experienced teachers and heads of schools.
  • Information about our new product releases, giving you an ability to comment on them and improve them further!
  • Insights into the day of an international school (from Brazil to Japan) and their teachers.
  • Tips and suggestions on how to get that great new job or even make your existing job more interesting.

Teacherhorizons truly aims to internationalise the teaching profession – to see how we aim to do it, you may be interested in watching the 3 minute video below:

Should you wish to write and publish a guest blog post, please do contact us.

My perspective on teaching abroad in New Zealand

As soon as I entered the teaching profession I wanted to live and teach abroad. English is my only language and I liked the idea of speaking to the locals so I concentrated on Down Under.  Australia seemed too obvious for a sports fan like me and New Zealand seemed a bit more of an unknown quantity, a bit more exciting; so I set my heart on teaching there.

I checked out a couple of websites and looked into what needed to be done. 10 months before take-off I started the administrative part of the process.  Certified copies of degree and teaching certificates and transcripts were sent to Wellington for verification. I was under 30 so I got a working holiday visa which I reasoned could be upgraded to a work visa/permit when employed. Lastly a letter from the police was obtained to prove a clean record. I was ready to go – hang on a minute what about a job?

new-zealand-football

Taking a job without having seen the school didn’t sit well with me, given the lack of information available, so on arrival in New Zealand I made the mistake of signing up to an education agency. They set up an interview for a job I had seen advertised online – this jeopardised my chance of getting this job as the principle was unwilling to pay the extortionate fee the agency charged. However, he relented and I was employed – the school year started at the end of January and I had 6 weeks of summer to acclimatise to my new surroundings.

The New Zealand curriculum, whilst different to the UK one was straight forward enough to adapt to – Maths is an international subject after all!  The work was often as challenging as it is at home – lessons to plan, disruptive students to deal with, fights to break up and reports to write.  However it all seemed a lot more enjoyable in a school that was surrounded by green fields and, in winter, snow-capped mountains.

The biggest adjustment for me teaching abroad was getting used to the work/life balance. In New Zealand, it’s definitely more weighted towards the life side of things! I was amazed at the friendly gestures of my new colleagues – ‘I have a spare car, do you want it?’. I threw myself into the many extra-curricular activities on offer to the students. Sleeping in bivouacs in the bush, sea fishing, dragon boating, tramping, white water rafting, sports tournaments – there seemed to be a residential trip to help out with every term. There was also a cultural education for me every week;  Friday in the staffroom before school we learnt about the Maori culture. It was another element to living and teaching abroad which I embraced.   I not only taught but learnt a lot too.

maori-culture

New Zealand is a long way away. So I needed some friends outside of work. This is easily done if you’re a bloke and like sport; I joined a local football and cricket team. In fact I was bragging to my friends in the UK about how good life was that a year later 2 other Maths teachers had joined me in Wellington (they applied to 2 different schools when they arrived in the country).  One is still there the other is going back next year, it speaks volumes for teaching abroad and life in New Zealand!

In the holidays I explored the country. Three years flew by and I loved every minute of it. If you are going to teach abroad I can highly recommend my second home.

Written by Adam Simson, IB Maths teacher and all-round sporting legend at Westminster Academy