Classroom Inequality

The school year is drawing to an end and it will soon be time for teachers to recharge their batteries. Here at Teacherhorizons we’ve connected with BECA for some insightful stories with flavor of Central America for you to gain ideas and inspiration for your next career moves.

In the following article Nick Derda pauses to think of classroom inequality which many of you who teach anywhere in the world may be able to relate to.

Despite having a day off school, it was still an early Thursday morning when my coworkers and I hopped on a busito, ready for a long day of professional development. We were on our way to San Pedro Sula’s La Escuela Internacional Sampedrana (EIS), host of the annual Teachers Teaching Teachers conference, commonly known as “T3” amongst attendees. As such, I walked in expecting to be woken up by sugary Honduran coffee and conversations about pedagogy – not Dr. Dre. But there I was, at 8:04 AM, watching as the keynote speaker showed N.W.A.’s 1988 music video for “Straight Outta Compton.” Scanning the room, the mix of Honduran and foreign attendees looked confused. Last year’s keynote talked about project-based learning. Why were we watching hip-hop videos instead of talking about positive behavior management?

The speaker was Lizette Arevalo, an educational policy advocate and Ethnic Studies PhD student at the University of California-Riverside. Her talk, an analysis of her own experience in the Los Angeles public school system, borrowed its name from a poem by the late Tupac Shakur: “The Rose that Grew from Concrete.” Ms. Arevalo encouraged us to pay attention to race and ethnicity. Photos of her kindergarten class and a demographic breakdown of Compton’s Board of Education posed concerning questions: why was her kindergarten teacher white while Ms. Arevalo and her classmates were all Latinx? Why was the majority of the Compton’s Board of Education African-American when the majority of students were Latinx? Despite the social progress the educational system had made, it remained an institution that, inadvertently or not, perpetuated inequality.

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Ms. Arevalo’s talk reminded me of an earlier BECA professional development training, where one workshop discussed how schools perpetuate social inequalities based on gender, race, and class. In the session, we examined how popular children’s books taught students unintended lessons about norms, values, and beliefs –a concept in education known as the “hidden curriculum.” Through careful analysis of these texts, participants saw how seemingly innocuous fairy tales taught students unintended lessons on gender roles, sexuality, and standards of beauty.

After the training, I felt energized and eager to tackle the implicit biases in our curriculum and classrooms. Sitting in Ms. Arevalo’s address, however, I realized that I hadn’t thought about those things in a very long time. The day-to-day difficulties of managing a school had taken over. Desegregating gendered recess activities and incorporating books by Afro-Latinx authors had been superseded by curing stomachaches and making sure classrooms were clean. It didn’t seem like there was time to step back and critically think about how we were unintentionally reinforcing inequalities.

 

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Ms. Arevalo ended her talk by returning to Shakur’s poem:

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

Like the rose, Ms. Arevalo concluded that some students survive and thrive regardless of the inherent obstacles posed by the current educational system. Yet such cases are too rare to truly justify a “successful” system, and just because some students can flourish despite the odds does not mean that they should.

T3 had reminded me that we have much work to do to incorporate social justice into our schools. Even though there isn’t time to do this, we must make time. Going to T3, being in a space with other dedicated educators, and hearing Ms. Arevalo’s inspiring address allowed me to think outside my of the daily duties and remember why I came to BECA in the first place: to work towards giving all students the opportunities and equality they deserve.

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Bilingual Education for Central America (BECA) is a small non-profit which partners with Honduran community-run low-cost bilingual schools to provide the English-taught expertise through volunteer teachers, teacher training and curriculum development.  Teachers need to be graduates (of any discipline) and it is a full year commitment.  BECA provides a six week teacher training and cultural orientation prior to the teachers starting their roles as class teachers.  The charity works with three schools, two just outside San Pedro Sula and one in Santa Barbara.  These are voluntary positions, though BECA covers living costs, teacher training and visa costs.  There are stipends available for teachers who choose to stay for a second year to teach with BECA.

Written by Nick Derda, Bilingual Education for Central America (BECA) is a small non-profit which partners with Honduran community-run low-cost bilingual schools to provide the English-taught expertise through volunteer teachers, teacher training and curriculum development. 

Limited Resources Teacher Training

LRTT (Limited Resources Teacher Training) is an organisation that aims to address educational disadvantage worldwide. Right now there are 250 million children unable to read and write, but only 90 million of those children are not in education. The other 160 million are getting up early, travelling the often long, potentially dangerous journey to school, and sitting in classrooms- however different they may look from our own. What happens in those classrooms matters. That’s what LRTT is all about.

Felicity King reflects on her time working with LRTT.

“So teaching can be a difficult job. (Just mind out there, while I put my understatement of the year award down.)

No but really, it can. It’s like any other job- long hours, too many emails, never enough time to finish a cup of tea; only instead of having a team of people working with you, you have a team of people who disagree with everything you say. “Amiira, would you mind closing the door?” “Yes Miss I would. You see, I twisted my ankle at break time and now I can’t walk.” “But Amiira, you walked to my lesson?” “Yeah, but Miss, now I’ve sat down it proper hurts and I think it might break. Do you want me to break my ankle? OHMYGOD Miss wants me to break my ankle.”

Imagine asking a colleague: “Jenny, could you do this in my office?” and getting this response: “Uhhhhh, well I don’t want to. I want to do it here, next to Emma. Why can’t I sit next to Emma? This is like a dictatorship; Miss, you are like a dictator.

Last year, statistics suggested nearly 4 in 10 teachers left the profession after only two years. Elephants are pregnant for longer. (Well, overdue ones…) The question is, how can we de-stress and re-motivate?

There are lots of ways. We could do yoga, or in my case, sit on a mat and watch wide eyed and with increasing alarm as the people around me do things with their body I am reasonably sure aren’t possible. We could do exercise, because after 11 hours of chasing Jason around the second floor asking him to change his school shoes, we’re all up for the cross trainer. We could breathe deeply, count the leaves on the trees, and try and find a deeper meaning to our lives. I tried that once and a pigeon landed on my head. Or we could do more teaching. We could spend our summer in a developing country working for LRTT.

LRTT sends teachers to countries such as India, Guyana and Uganda to share good practice and help develop ideas on how to teach in limited resource settings. Last summer I travelled to Tanzania and took part in the program myself.

I will be honest. Some parts of it are stressful. Packing, for example. It is simply not possible to fit 28 packs of baby wipes into a suitcase and it is, of course, wholly necessary to bring a pack for each day. Planes: as far as I’m concerned hanging out in the sky eating stroganoff is just not normal for human beings. Long haul flights to far off countries (though totally worth it) have to be spent furiously colouring in my Mindfulness colouring book.

However, once you arrive you’ll lose your over-priced Mindfulness colouring book and you won’t even care. You will instantly start to relax because you will meet teachers with fewer resources, bigger classes, and lions nearby, who are less stressed than you.

Most teachers in Tanzania do not have mindfulness colouring books. They don’t travel to far off countries to work for charity organisations in order to de-stress. They just live. They eat and they talk and they laugh and they walk and they make things and they smile and you say “wow- 80 kids in one class that must be difficult,” and they shrug and say “sometimes” and then they grin and ask you again and again, “what more can we do? What else could I do to be a better teacher?” And you blush, because you haven’t asked that question yourself in years.

And so I am reminded of my class of 24. And my projector, which is meant to make learning easier but really just allows me to accidentally project the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ trailer to my entire class. I think of the ongoing printing saga that is my life. Like a modern version of The Odyssey. Except there are no epic journeys or six-headed monsters; just me, getting annoyed at the printer because it ran out of toner, or decided to have a career change half way through Tuesday and not actually print for the rest of the afternoon.

I am reminded of all these things as I sit in the back of a small, dark, dusty classroom, where the teacher has to write every single thing on the chalk board because there aren’t any text books. And I hear myself telling one of my teachers “I love how you did this” and realise something. That if this man in front of me can be an outstanding teacher, which he absolutely can be, there is no reason I can’t. And if this man in front of me isn’t stressed about the task, why on earth am I?

What happened in Tanzania (which FYI would make an excellent reality TV show) showed me that teaching isn’t about projectors or text books. These schools depend on the very foundations of teaching. They need teachers who can ask the right questions, give the right examples, read a class’s reaction with a look, and check understanding in a moment, because they can’t rely on a PowerPoint to paint over the cracks, or an Excel spreadsheet to tell them who is progressing. That is why it is so good for teachers like us.

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So it’s up to you how you spend your August. You can spend it dodging pigeons in Hyde Park, or you can go somewhere different, and realise something obvious: that teaching is one of the hardest and one of the best jobs in the world. But that the Felicity versus printer saga doesn’t need to end like a Greek tragedy; I don’t have to marry my Mother or accidentally cause a Trojan war. It can end with the protagonist, pausing as she flees, stressed and terrified, from the dragon of data and printers and marking, and realising everything’s okay. That the dragon is actually a greenfly. That none of it actually matters. That if she looked behind the dragon for once, she might notice the child.”

The team at Teacherhorizons will happily help you discuss your options teaching abroad. Contact our helpful team of experts to talk over your options and the destinations most suited to your skills, qualifications and personality.

Written by Felicity King, an English teacher in central London, who went to Tanzania with LRTT in the summer of 2015, and is heading to Rwanda with them in summer 2016.

Your first time teaching abroad

Are you tempted by teaching abroad? Should you stay or should you go? This may be exactly the question you are asking yourself right now as you are entering the world of teaching or even if you are a seasoned professional. We’ve connected with Mikey who is based in exotic Cambodia to find out about his experiences first time teaching abroad.

“I finished my degree at a beautiful campus university in London before completing my NQT year in the South West of the City. It had long been a dream to travel but saving in the capital is almost impossible, even on a decent teacher salary. So, the next logical step was to leave the UK and move to South East Asia, because that’s totally normal! I was lucky enough to know a friend who had just secured a job in Siem Reap through Teacherhorizons and, following an email, a Skype chat and roughly four days later, me and my partner where planning and packing ready to move.

Now, I’ve moved around a lot and lived all over England and the Midlands so I was pretty excited to take on a new challenge. However, my partner, who is considerably closer to her family than I am with mine, was a little more anxious. Together, and with the support of her family, we put any worries or concerns we had on the back burner and waited for the time to come. In fact, our biggest concern really came about when making sure we had all of our jabs and injections up to date and ensuring we could manage a previous existing medical condition. Turns out, everything’s been fine although I have been relieved on a couple of occasions to say that I’ve had my tetanus and rabies jabs!

So, really all that was left was to pack the bags, which actually meant throwing away or selling two thirds of our property and making list, after list, after list (not my idea!). Realistically though, short of the essentials (clothes, medication, first aid kits, etc.) there wouldn’t be anything I would have liked to pack that I didn’t. Maybe the greedy part of me would have stuffed in some treats from home but other than that, everything else is readily available.

There are many, many differences to living at home and living abroad of which I can only be specific about my one experience. But when it comes to work, do I miss having 30 children? Do I miss the threat of Ofsted? Do I miss taking books home at the weekend and passing up on a social life? No! Do I miss seasons? Wrapping up in front of a fire? A 25°C summer? Walking into a supermarket? Oh yes! But that’s it; the creature comforts and a cold Christmas! I certainly don’t miss the social expectations, the being in a rush, the deadlines or the lack of life. And, from a teaching perspective, I feel like I’ve flourished. Now, I have time to spend actually with children, building up their confidence and levels. I have time for personal and professional development and trust me, a school without a Local Authority to answer to are much more welcoming to new ideas. There’s time to try new approaches and actually look, in some detail at what worked, what didn’t and what to do next. For now, I can actually be a reflective practitioner…even from a hammock.”

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We’ll be happy to help you make your next career move to an exciting new destination. Contact our friendly team of advisers who will be able to make the perfect match between your teaching skills and suitable international schools.

Written by Michael James, a recently qualified primary school teacher, who’s left the UK to travel, live and work in South East Asia. Mikey has a specialism in Science Education and has secured his first leadership position as Science Coordinator for the 2016/2017 academic year.

International Baccalaureate

Making the most of the International Baccalaureate at international schools

Why did you go into teaching? Was it to help students pass exams? I doubt it. Unfortunately, standardised testing and increasing pressure on teachers, students and school has led to teachers becoming overly focussed on exam results, therefore developing short term strategies to boost exam results. Two of the joys of teaching at international schools are the prospect of taking a new curriculum and having the freedom to teach the way you want to teach, developing the student in a much more holistic way.

More and more schools are turning towards the International Baccalaureate (IB) and with good reason too. This post will argue that adopting the IB learner profile in your own teaching, your students learning and in your life is one of the best ways to get the most out of the experience, taking your students beyond just academic success. Isn’t that what we went into teaching to do?!

IB learner profile

The IB learner profile was developed to be a very core part in the way that IB schools operate. Unfortunately, some teachers moving from domestic teaching can be tempted to adopt the same approach to the IB and it can work in achieving positive exam results. However, those who try and adjust their teaching and approach to learning will see both them as teachers and their students flourish. Here are some ideas as to how you could implement it in your classroom or school:

  • Put a large poster of the IB learner profile in your classroom. 
  • Have students stick it in their exercise book inset as a reminder
  • Dedicate a month to each strand, maybe even using groups and having them rotate.
  • Develop your own teaching and perhaps even life around the strands.
  • Encourage your tutor/year group to evaluate themselves across the learner profile strands.  Encourage them to focus on an area for improvement and then keep an electronic diary as to what they did related to that.

The following list may give you some ideas to get started with applying the IB learner profile.  The IB learner profile aims to develop students (and teachers!) who are:

Inquirers

  • Have students to produce a presentation on a topic drawn out of a hat in your tutor group time.
  • Ask students to teach part of a lesson and present a lesson on a topic that hasn’t been covered yet – they could do it in groups.
  • Develop a student’s interest in global news, outside of what is happening on their Facebook wall.

Knowledgeable

  • Integrate Theory of Knowledge (TOK) into your lessons.  It is so tempting to cast it aside but teachers who do embrace it will see students reap the rewards.
  • Carry out initiatives to encourage reading.
  • Learn about the local culture and history.  Make sure you integrate local issues within your teaching – don’t just stick to case studies from your home country.

Thinkers

  • Encourage students to ask the Why?  Question.  Teachers won’t always be able to answer it but either them or the student themselves can then go and find out.
  • Build in subjects like Philosophy, Law, Theology and Psychology into your teaching: these are subjects that are not typically taught as stand alone subjects but will help develop deep thinkers.
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Communicators

  • Have students give a one minute sales pitch.
  • Encourage students to participate in IMUN (Model United Nations) conferences
  • Integrate debates within your lessons
  • Have students carry out a social media marketing campaign for a school event. 
  • Try speaking to local staff only in their language for a week.  Set a good example for your foreign students by making an effort to learn the local language yourself.

Principled

  • Have students come up with a set of class rules and have them involved in implementing them.
  • Encourage students to get their hands dirty on a local level by helping out at old people’s homes, homeless shelters, with recent migrants, environmental projects, etc.
  • Give job titles out to students with scenarios where they’d need to think about their own personal gains versus those of the wider community.
  • Have students evaluate their own carbon footprint, put it in perspective if everyone were to live like that and help them identify ways they can reduce their impact.
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Open-minded

  • Assign roles to students to discuss in the classroom where perspectives of the same issue may vary and will affect their local community.
  • Ask students to take the Myers Briggs test, share the results with the class, explain how it affects and explains our differences in behaviour at times.
  • Bring in different newspapers each morning – have students compare how different media sources have different perspectives.

Caring

  • Encourage your school to have vertical tutor groups where the older students act as the role models for younger ones.
  • Have older students run tutoring sessions for younger students.
  • Have students run a project together: a charity fundraising and support initiative for example.
THE SIMPSONS, Ned Flanders, 1989-present. TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

Risk-takers

  • Encourage students to try a new writing style or approach solutions to problems in a different way to usual
  • Have students attempt things they’d never think they’d be capable of doing: a 1 minute stand up comedy routine, carry out a major challenge such as a 30 km hike / half marathon
  • Try experimenting with a new teaching strategy for a module: adopt a flipped classroom, take your students outside of the classroom to explore real life applications for example.
  • Make the most of your weekends – try something new!

Balanced

  • Have students assess how much time they spend on their mobile phones.  Have a no mobile phones week and ask them to document what they’ve done during that time and reflect upon it.
  • Set students challenges for the weekend, have them right a bucket list of the things they’d like do within the next two years.
  • Get fully involved in your school’s IB Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) programs.  Being involved in extra-curricular activities is one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching at international schools.

Reflective

  • Ask students to take Gallup’s strength finder test to assess their strengths and weaknesses.   Set them targets to work on specific to their weaknesses and provide
  • Carry out a daily self-evaluation of your own teaching.
  • Carry out a 360 appraisal system within your department
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If your school don’t offer the IB programs there is nothing to stop you using some of these ideas – they’ll be welcomed by your students and school leaders!  The ideas above are just a starting point to get your creativity juices flowing.  It may appear overwhelming but try a couple of them and persevere with them.  Some will fail but some will enhance both yours and your students enjoyment of their education.  Worst case scenario: you’ve ticked the box of being a risk-taker!

Talk to Teacherhorizons about your placement in an exciting location where you can use your skills to your full potential.

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.

Teaching in China

Teacherhorizons place number of teachers each month literally all over the world. This week we have connected with dynamic and fun loving Julia Clegg and asked her all sorts of questions about teaching in China.

Julia and students

 

1. Where are you teaching and what’s your school like? What made you choose that location/school?

I’m teaching English Language & Literature and IGCSE English as a Second Language in Qingdao. The school is a small but growing school: part of a foundation which has several international schools in China and even one in the US! I really wanted to live and work in China as a cultural experience. I chose the seaside town of Qingdao because I thought it would be a more family friendly experience than the big cities.

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

The process of getting the job was pretty straightforward. I was guided by Alex; because he knew my employment history (Teacher Horizons referred me for my previous job in Indonesia), my strengths and the type of position I wanted, he was able to recommend me to the school for the position. He was spot on – it does suit me!

 

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

The city is small by Chinese standards but large in comparison to British cities with over eight million inhabitants. Fortunately, we live outside the city and very near the school. There is not a large expat scene but the school organizes quite a few events and teachers arrange their own get-togethers.

4. Which tourist sites or must-visit places are nearby?

Qingdao is a tourist town for the Chinese so there are lots of things to do in the summer. The beaches, of course, can be lovely albeit a little crowded. Qingdao is famous for sailing and nearby LaoShan is great for hiking. It was a German settlement once upon a time so the city’s architecture is interesting and of course the Germans introduced the idea of beer to the people of Shandong. Tsingdao beer is brewed here and there’s an annual beer festival.
Shanghai and Beijing are easily accessible by fast train or plane from Qingdao and are must-sees whilst in China. We are going to Xian to see the famous terracotta army during our next holidays.

Julia Clegg qingdao bay

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

The climate is hot in summer and cold in winter. I like the hot weather and am happy to chill out by the bay. Winter is a little more challenging. Fortunately, the apartment is always snug and warm; the heating is controlled by the council. We go somewhere hot for the Christmas holidays. However, if you like skiing there is a small resort a couple of hours away. Although the winter is much colder than the UK, strangely it is more manageable because it’s not wet. We wrap up warm but leave the umbrella at home!

Julia Clegg Huangdao

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

Most of the food is traditional Chinese, but some international food is available. There are the usual McDonalds and Starbucks but also a few independents. There are many British foods I can’t buy in the shops here like jelly, gravy granules and custard powder but I can get them online! Cereals are very expensive so breakfasts are a little different now. Of course, the local Tsingdao beer is available anywhere and everywhere!

Julia Clegg tea tasting in China

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

The culture in very different in China but that’s what makes it interesting! School holidays are at different time than the UK and most other international schools which makes term times very long or very short – this takes some getting used to. There is no queuing here so getting on a bus is always a challenge. The language is incredibly difficult to learn – even for people like me who speak more than one language – so communicating with the locals is not easy.

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

Qingdao is relatively inexpensive when compared to cities like Shanghai and Beijing so it’s possible to save quite a bit. Public transport is very cheap so we don’t have the expense of running a car.

9. What’s the best thing about living and teaching in your chosen city? What have been your highlights so far?

Qingdao is great for young families as there are plenty of outdoor activities in this seaside town – biking, hiking and barbecues on the beach are the highlights so far. As far as teaching is concerned, the students are great. They are generally keen to learn and not as reserved as I thought they were going to be – if fact they’re pretty lively!

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

The most difficult things about living in China – not just Qingdao – are media isolation and air pollution. Internet connections are unreliable and many sites are inaccessible even with a VPN. This means there can be problems keeping in touch with the outside world. However, within China ‘Wechat’ is brilliant! It’s not a good place if you’re addicted to surfing the world-wide-web or suffer from allergies!

11. What advice would you give to someone who was thinking of coming to live and work in your current location?

Get a VPN before coming to China, learn some basic Chinese and bring an open mind.

To find out what location would suit you and your family best for your next teaching stint abroad, contact the friendly team at Teacherhorizons and discuss your options with them. It could be you yachting and hiking in your dream destination soon!

Written by Julia Clegg, Julia, a proud northerner, tries to spread the words and works of Morrissey and Danny Boyle throughout South East Asia. Her latest success, in the spirit of international cultural exchange, is the introduction of the meat and potato pie to students of Qingdao, China.

Teacher Recruitment Fairs – Pros and Cons

This year, more teachers found international positions online than through the more traditional recruitment fairs which have dominated in the past. In this article Camilla Cook, an experienced international teacher, assesses the pros and cons of ‘fairs’ and asks whether recruitment fairs are still worth attending in this ‘online era’.

So, the question you may ask yourself is: “Should I attend international teacher recruitment fairs?”

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Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have been an international teacher for almost a decade now and have taught in South America and Europe and will be making the move to Asia this August. I have attended recruitment fairs in the past, but this time, following a friend’s recommendation, I decided to try the ‘online approach’.

It ended up being faster, easier and significantly cheaper, but there are clearly advantages and disadvantages of each approach and I thought it would be useful to share my experiences with likeminded teachers.

Job fairs have long been touted by some recruiters to be the best way of securing an international teaching role, but how do teachers feel about them? As the number of English-medium International Schools increases globally and more jobs become available, is it time for us to question this method of recruitment, or are they to be championed as the best way to find the perfect role in a complicated market?

There is little doubt that meeting face to face for a proper interview is the most effective way to make informed decisions, both as recruiters and candidates. However, in our industry, geographical constraints make this ideal situation very hard to achieve. So large-scale recruitment fairs have come to serve as the watering holes at which people gather to meet each other. Are these watering holes the best way to ensure that teachers end up where they most want to teach?

Many schools in one place
Since many international schools still attend fairs, they offer an unparalleled opportunity for us to engage with a number of different organisations in one day. Schools put on presentations for teachers that can be illuminating and useful as a guide in the decision-making process.

Network with other teachers
Teachers have the chance to mingle with many of their peers. This means that fairs are a networking opportunity like no other. They provide teachers with the chance to mix with colleagues from all over the world in a neutral space and hear about one another’s experiences.

Get it over and done with!
The other real positive is that, providing you are successful, you can get the recruitment process done in one fell swoop, rather than having it extended over many weeks. This makes it a neat solution, and one that hopefully means that you can win some time back for doing the work you really care about in school.

However, there are a number of counter arguments to attending recruitment fairs.

Is still worth it?
Firstly, attending a recruitment fair can add up to an extremely costly experience. The bills for fights, hotel and food are footed by the visiting teacher and can cost thousands of dollars, with no guarantee of success. There is also the need to take time out from school, leaving your classes to be covered by someone else. If many teachers from the same school take time out to attend a fair, this could potentially have a very real impact on students’ learning that week.

Get in early
As the new schools open annually across the world, demand for teachers increases year on year. Clever schools don’t wait for the fairs to recruit their new teachers. They advertise online as soon as they know what positions are available, and often will have filled the slots by the time the fairs come around. They are, after all, looking to fill positions with the best teachers possible – they owe that to their students. This means positions initially advertised at fairs are often already filled by the time teachers arrive making the experience increasingly frustrating and pointless. They earlier you can connect with a school, the greater your chances of finding the right job.

Enough stress!
Fairs can also be a very stressful process for teachers. Although you will be aware of which jobs are available and can tailor your interview preparation accordingly, the position you wanted might be filled. You may feel pressurised into taking a job on the spot, and one that you are not sure you want. In the worst instance, you could walk away without any offers at all.

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Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So are these fairs a necessary challenge for teachers? Something to be accepted as a quirk of the international recruitment scene? My experience taught me that it certainly is possible to avoid them altogether and rely on the quickening speeds of the internet to carry you through the tricky process of recruitment.

Both have their advantages and I won’t rule out attending fairs in the future. But I will try online routes early to find out first.

Virtually all schools are now using their own online application forms for the first stage of the process so that makes things easy. There are also more platforms like Teacherhorizons designed for teachers to explore jobs. When it comes to the interview, online services such as Skype have opened up the possibility for effective real-time conversations between recruiters and candidates. They also provide more flexibility since there need be fewer time constraints. When being recruited for my most recent role, I spoke to the Head teacher and Head of Secondary via Skype a total of four times on different occasions. This extended interaction gave them the chance to evaluate my suitability for the role collaboratively, over time, and from different perspectives, something that couldn’t be done in the heat of a job fair.

And might it be possible to do more with virtual fairs? Mass Skype meet-ups could allow schools and teachers the opportunity to focus on recruitment all at once and on a level playing field.

It seems to me that with a little creative thinking there may be scope for recruiters to make the process more consistent and fair, and for teachers to take back some control over the paths that our lives take. After all, the students are the most important stakeholders in our sector, and it’s only right that they have the best (and happiest!) teachers in their classrooms.

Camilla Cook is an English teacher from the UK. She has taught in London, El Salvador and secured her latest position at the Prem school in Chiang Mai in Thailand through Teacherhorizons.

Written by Camilla Cook, a British teacher who has taught in London and El Salvador. She will be moving to Chiang Mai to become Head of English at PREM in August this year.

Living and working abroad – Part II

As promised, here are two more daily accounts of our consultants’ work adventures – this time all the way from Somerset, UK and Cairo, Egypt! Talk about the varied life our consultants lead! Contact Teacherhorizons and discuss your options of teaching in a new exciting destination. But first, grab yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee and find out what Catherine and Maggie are up to when it comes to living and working abroad.

Meet Catherine

“On a clear day I can see across to the Nile river and the deserts beyond. The pyramids of Giza and Saqqara are often visible as well! Sunset views from my office are the best.​​”

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1/ Where are you based and how do you start your day?

I am based in Cairo, Egypt.
Every morning starts with coaxing my 6 month old puppy out the door. Ideally, this is followed up by slowly sipping a cup of tea on my balcony as I scan through e-mails. The reality is though that it’s more often a cup of tea on the go as I sprint to get ready and out the door!

2/ How many teachers on average do you Skype (or communicate with) per week?

As a part-time recruitment adviser, this varies hugely depending on the time of year. On average though I Skype 3-5 candidates a week and communicate with 40+ per week!

3/ What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

The most enjoyable part of my job is chatting with people from all over the world. I love finding out about the places they’ve lived and the engaging lessons they share with their students.

4/ What are the challenges of your job?

Time zones are always a challenge. But the bigger challenge for me is that teachers in my subject areas all have such niche skill sets and the right job always comes up at the wrong time!

5/ What’s the team like and how do you cooperate?

The TH team is so welcoming and it’s fantastic to have colleagues spread across the four-corners. We’re always bouncing e-mails back and forth to each other. And the monthly Skype meetings are a fun combination of endless jokes and getting through the agenda. Even though I’ve never met them in person, I know that we’re all of the same mindset!

6/ How often do you get to visit schools and do you get to travel?

Travel – always! I’m still teaching part-time as well and my school visits are related to that side of my life.

7/ Describe the view from your office

On a clear day or a smoggy one?
On a smoggy day I see the satellite dishes crowding the roof tops around me. But on a clear day? Wow! I can see clear across to the Nile river and the deserts beyond. The pyramids of Giza and Saqqara are often visible as well! Sunset views from my office are the best.

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8/ Why would you recommend your area to international teachers?

Cairo is a great city to be based in, particularly for teachers who are new to the international teaching scene. There are so many other international schools that it’s really easy to integrate yourself with a new group of friends. Egypt is a good balance of having the bizarre ‘quirks’ of life abroad, while still having easy access to the comforts of home (cheese!). Of course, it’s also a great part of the world to be based in if you’re interested in ancient history. Not only are the sites here incredible, but it’s just a short flight over to Lebanon, Jordan, Israel or Turkey!

9/ How do you spend your time after work?

Wandering the streets with my puppy. Cooking and savouring every tasty morsel. Taking photos of my quirky neighbourhood. Working on my master’s degree. Fantasizing about the next adventure.

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10/ How do you celebrate when a perfect match between teacher and school is made?

I jump up and down, a lot, there’s usually also screaming and high-fives involved. :-)

Meet Maggie

“We all have quite different personalities, but we gel very well as a team.”

1/ Where are you based and how do you start your day?

I am based in North Somerset in a sleepy little village quite close to Cheddar. I start my day by attaching myself to a vat of coffee and putting on some very loud 90’s rave music to recover from the school run and focus myself on the day ahead!

2/ How many teachers on average do you Skype (or communicate with) per week?

It varies depending on the time of year as certain times of year are busier than others. I would say that I speak to between 35 – 40 people during a busy times and 10 – 15 during quieter times.

3/ What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

Listening to the different life journeys that people have been on and the reasons why they have chosen to work on the international school circuit. Also, of course – matching the perfect candidate to their dream job! I find the team meetings enjoyable because even though having so many people on a Skype call at the same time can be challenging (and hilarious!), it’s great to be able to touch base with everyone.

4/ What are the challenges of your job?

It is hard when schools take their time to make decisions about teachers. It’s great to be able to keep people in the loop about how their application is progressing and it’s frustrating when this is not possible.

5/ What’s the team like and how do you cooperate?

We all have quite different personalities, but we gel very well as a team. I believe that the common thread is a somewhat quirky sense of humour and an adventurous spirit. The fact that we gel is all the more surprising because many of us are scattered around the globe.

6/ How often do you get to visit schools and do you get to travel?

There are great opportunities to travel in my imagination because I speak to teachers and schools from all over the world on a daily basis.  I am a little less free to travel because of my daughter, but looking forward to a tour of our schools in China and Hong Kong later in the year. It was amazing to see all the team members in real life in Cambodia last year.

7/ Describe the view from your office

Sadly not as glamorous and exciting as some of my team members – just a narrow village street with rows of cottages. There is a disused water pump opposite the house which I am sure has some historical meaning!

8/ How do you spend your time after work?

I detach myself from the vat of coffee and switch the 90’s rave music on to prepare myself for the reverse school run and homework phobia which usually sets in at about 5pm.

9/ How do you celebrate when a perfect match between teacher and school is made?

A big whoop whoop and shout out/dance round my office followed by a virtual gong connected to the gong in the office in Cambodia!

The world is full of opportunities. So, where in the world will YOU teach? 

 

Written by Anna Bella Betts, Teacherhorizons blog manager by night and photographer by day.

Living and working abroad – Part I

Living and working abroad as a teacher is one thing. But what are those, who help you find your dream job, up to in their daily routine?

Here at Teacherhorizons we thought you might like to meet some of our consultants and see what their lives are like on daily basis when it comes to their profession. The beauty of their job is that they are based in different locations around the globe hence their days will vary from one to another and it may even inspire you to select a new exciting destination for your next teaching post! Connect with our friendly consultants to learn more.

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The Teacherhorizons team

Meet Steven:

“We are not a traditional, boring recruitment company that relies on outdated information on the internet to make recommendations – we are out there struggling through Southeast Asian traffic on a Monday morning on our way to a school to meet the Headteacher!”

1/ Where are you based and how do you start your day?

I am usually based in either Thailand or Cambodia but currently I am in the USA for the summer. Wherever I am, my day starts with checking emails, making a cup of tea and then getting ready for my interviews with teachers. This means reviewing CVs, checking references, a heck of a lot of calendar management (in literally 8 different time zones) and checking in with schools to make sure their vacancies are up to date. In Asia I get up a lot earlier, as do most of the locals – the day begins when the sun rises! If I’m lucky I might be able to hit the gym, but if not, biking into the office is fine with me!

2/ How many teachers on average do you Skype (or communicate with) per week?

This depends on the week, but it can be anything up to 40 teachers per week when schools are actively looking for great teachers for their vacancies. Usually it’s a little less, which gives my voice a break, but as a company we are growing steadily month-on-month so the average volume of teachers we interview is rising!

3/ What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

I think it’s the feeling of finding a teacher a job in a place they have been dreaming of teaching in. I love talking to enthusiastic, motivated teachers over Skype and getting a real insight into what they are looking for in their next teaching position. I can then use all the tools at my disposal to turn those insights into interviews! There is sometimes a bit of a delay because schools are often very busy with recruitment, but when I get an email from a teacher saying they have accepted a position at the very school they told me they were interested in when I interviewed them, it really makes my day!

4/ What are the challenges of your job?

Schools are very different in terms of what their teacher requirements are which can make it tricky trying to give “general” advice to teachers. Although often teachers are very flexible and don’t mind where they are placed, we like to ask teachers to do thorough research on areas where they would like to teach, so that we can then give them better advice. We work with our teachers to find them jobs where they will be happy, not just jobs where the salary and package look good. This can be time consuming, but it is an important step in the recruitment process. Another challenge is that we have so many teachers in our database that at times, we have hundreds of emails coming in about particular positions which can make it challenging to give every applicant timely feedback – however this is something that we prioritize, and being a busy recruitment company is definitely a good challenge to have!

5/ What’s the team like and how do you cooperate?

The Teacherhorizons team is great, full of very different personalities and skill-sets. As you can imagine with a busy tech company, emails are flying around nearly constantly at Teacherhorizons, at all times of the day and night since we have people in so many timezones! It’s not unusual for us to be working out a teacher placement at 2am my time, which might be 2pm the next day in one of my colleague’s time zones. This sounds tough at first but once you get used to it, it’s great, and offers the team the kind of flexibility that many organizations dream of! With smartphones we are never very far away from our email, and we also use G-chat, Skype and Whatsapp to collaborate in different ways. We get the whole team together regularly over Skype which is important when you have people dispersed around the globe – video calling makes it feel like we are sitting in the same office during the call, even if some of us are in darkness and some in daylight!

6/ How often do you get to visit schools and do you get to travel?

I visit schools every month or so, usually when I am in Southeast Asia as this is where the majority of my schools are based. Being able to travel is a part of the job that I really value and I am excited to visit more schools in more countries later this year, in order to increase the amount of jobs we have available for our teachers! We believe that visiting schools is crucial – how can a recruiter realistically give great advice about a school or area if they or one of their colleagues hasn’t been there? I love it when I have a teacher interested in one of my schools because I can tell them not just about the school, but about really in-depth information, on the area, the teachers at the school already, what the kids are like, what kind of accommodation they will have and so on. In the past I’ve even been able to tell a teacher how good the cafeteria food is at one of my schools in Bangkok – obviously not a deal breaker, but I think it’s this kind of personal touch that makes teachers value the Teacherhorizons approach. We are not a traditional, boring recruitment company that relies on outdated information on the internet to make recommendations – we are out there struggling through Southeast Asian traffic on a Monday morning on our way to a school to meet the Headteacher!

7/ Describe the view from your office

My view often involves palm trees and blue skies although right now I am in the USA for the summer, looking out over non-tropical trees and an interstate highway! Luckily the sky is still blue where I am!

8/ Why would you recommend your area to international teachers?

Southeast Asia is a fascinating place. The people, the climate, the food, the many languages and cultures condensed in such a small area… it’s no wonder people fall in love with Asia when they go to visit! For teachers, it’s a great place to save some money since the cost of living is low while school packages are often very attractive. You’re never far from a beach and a hammock in Southeast Asia, and who doesn’t love the idea of beginning the school year in 30 degree sunshine just as it’s starting to get cold back home!?

9/ How do you spend your time after work?

I rock climb, longboard, go camping, take road trips and travel as much as possible! Given that I live in a tropical climate for most of the year, when I’m not in the office I am usually outside doing something active! If you are a good planner, you can fly throughout Southeast Asia very inexpensively. Sometimes I will look at my calendar and realise I have a flight booked for that weekend, for example to go celebrate Thai new year in Bangkok! This is something that all teachers teaching in Asia will identify with – your weekends away become pretty exciting when you can get to a tropical beach for less than the price of a pizza back home!

10/ How do you celebrate when a perfect match between teacher and school is made?

This all depends on the time of year! Currently we are in the very busy period of the year, so there is honestly not a lot of time to be patting ourselves on the back! My calendar is full of Skype interviews with teachers, or visits to schools, so I am often right back into the thick of it, perhaps after getting myself a celebratory coconut from one of the street vendors outside! We make sure that we follow-up with teachers and schools to ensure that everything goes smoothly after the perfect match moment – even when all contracts have been signed we make sure that we are available to help teachers with any questions they might have.

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Stunning sunsets of the Gulf of Thailand – Kep, Cambodia

Meet Anisha

“It’s always lovely to help a teacher to gain their first opportunity into international teaching.”

​1/ Where are you based and how do you start your day?

I live and work in Siem Reap, Cambodia – about 15 minutes from the UNESCO heritage monument Angkor Wat and other magnificent temples scattered across the area. Even though I’m in Cambodia, my day usually starts in a very British way – with a cup of Yorkshire tea and a flick through my emails and calendar.

2/ How many teachers on average do you Skype (or communicate with) per week?

This can vary according to the time of year. Some weeks over 20 teachers but others only a couple!

3/ What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

I enjoy speaking to teachers and hearing about their experiences in various locations around the world. It’s always lovely to help a teacher to gain their first opportunity into international teaching.

4/ What are the challenges of your job?

Working across time zones can, on occasion be a challenge so this requires a bit of flexibility.​

5/ What’s the team like and how do you cooperate?

​Everyone in our team is great! We’re a fun, lively bunch who get along well – there is always a lot of humour in email exchanges and in the Siem Reap office.​

6/ How often do you get to visit schools and do you get to travel?

​We all try to visit a bunch of schools in one location each year. If we happen to be travelling (as most of us usually are) we try to squeeze in a school visit in the location we are visiting. We’re able to work remotely so our team travel quite a bit.

7/ Describe the view from your office

​Our office overlooks the Siem Reap river and there’s always something going on – from ​trucks full of fresh coconuts driving by, to women on bicycles selling lotus pod fruits, to families sitting along the river having picnics. Our working space also shares the area with a an art gallery so we always have plenty of inspirational creativity around us and it’s great to be invited to opening parties and gatherings.

8/ Why would you recommend your area to international teachers?

​Siem Reap has the feel of a small town so it’s easy to get to know people and pace of life is a bit slower. However, there are tonnes of restaurants, bars, and activities to experience – you can never get bored!​ Pretty much all international cuisines are represented here and the cost of eating out is relatively inexpensive. Siem Reap is also very well connected with other destinations in Asia and you can easily hop on a plane and visit neighbouring countries for very reasonable airfares – think weekends in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or even Japan and Hong Kong – many destinations are mere couple of hours away.

9/ How do you spend your time after work?

​Usually eating (!) and hanging out with friends.​ Socialising in Siem Reap is partly fun and partly networking and very much a way of life here. Sometimes you just need that perfect cup of coffee or cold drink and air-con!

10/ How do you celebrate when a perfect match between teacher and school is made?

We have gong in the office that we hit when a perfect match is made – this is usually accompanied with clapping, cheering and a celebratory round of coconuts to drink! There’s no better reward for your work than making the perfect placement.

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Angkor Wat post sunrise

Keep your eyes on this spot – next week we’ll have two more daily accounts for you from another part of the world to keep you inspired.

Where in the world will YOU teach?

 

Written by Anna Bella Betts, Teacherhorizons blog manager by night and photographer by day.

Teacher – Parent Communication Tips

We’ve connected with Zoe Anderson at Study Select to get her views and tips on teacher – parent communication from the teachers’ perspective.

If you’re a teacher, you love your students. You might not always like them, but you honestly care about the kids who come into your classroom every day. Those students look up to you and are learning more from you than math, grammar, and history. The student-teacher relationship has its ups and downs, but it is definitely one of the biggest rewards in a teaching career.

There’s another relationship that plays a major role in a teacher’s career—the parent-teacher relationship. But while you see your students almost every day throughout the school year, you might only know their parents through a handful of interactions, so you need to make the most of them. Here are a few tips to help keep those lines of communication open.

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1. Set the tone of your relationship right from the start
Whether it’s a parent-teacher conference, an open house, or a quick meeting as a parent picks up their child after school, first impressions count. Set the tone for a strong, communicative relationship early by being friendly and approachable whenever you meet a parent for the first time.

2. Establish each parent’s preferred method of communication
Some people like e-mails, while others might prefer a phone call. If you reach out to parents in the method that they prefer, they’ll appreciate your consideration and respond more quickly, more often, and more thoughtfully. Many people prefer texting to calling today, so you might find connecting with parents quicker and easier than you imagine.

3. Be consistent in tone and frequency of your communications
Maybe you send home a monthly newsletter, write a personal note every semester, or schedule office hours every other Friday. However you choose to stay in touch with your students’ families, make sure you’re consistent. Parents appreciate knowing the best way to reach out to you, and they also enjoy the updates you send home with their children.

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4. Have a classroom newsletter
Sure, it might seem outdated, but one-page newsletters are a great way to both solidify your lesson plans for the upcoming month and let parents know what their children will be focusing on. It can definitely be discouraging when you spend a hours putting together the newsletter and hear nothing back from parents, but you should know that most of the time you’d find that same newsletter on the family refrigerator. It will also give you something to look back on next year and help you remember which lessons and activities were hits, and which were misses.

5. Be honest about a student’s strengths and weaknesses
Parents love to talk about their kids. They believe in their children and are completely invested in helping their kids grow and learn. They know that their view of their child is biased, and they respect your opinion. They want to know what their child’s strength are, and where their child might need a little extra help. By giving a parent an honest viewpoint of their child’s strengths and weaknesses, you’re showing you care, that you’re also invested, and that you’re a team when it comes to that child’s education. Because you spend so much time with children, your opinion will likely be held in higher regard and be much appreciated.

6. Utilize technology
Setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account for your classroom is a quick and easy way to share classroom news. Just make sure that parents are okay with their child’s picture being shared on social media before posting anything. You can also tap into Pinterest to share ideas for classroom activities and allow parents to pin their own suggestions as well. This creates a more interactive communication and lets you share tips and ideas for continuing the learning at home.

Contact us to find out about the perfect job opportunity abroad for you. Our team of skilled recruiters will be able to guide you through the simple process.

Written by Zoe Anderson, Zoe Anderson is an employee at StudySelect. She’s keen on learning about new eLearning trends and is also interested in project management trends.

How to find the perfect property abroad

If you’re planning to move abroad, whether for a new job offer or a better lifestyle, there are important factors to take into consideration before you buy a property. Parting with your hard-earned cash shouldn’t be an impulsive decision that you could possibly end up regretting down the line. Instead, by following the four tips below, you can make a solid investment that will not only benefit you in the future, but save you money and make you happy.

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Don’t Rush

When looking at properties in your new country of residence, it’s important to not let the excitement you feel take over rational thought. You want to avoid buying the first property you view in order to compare it to others that you are interested in. Start by looking in different areas you like, view different sized properties, as well as ones that are in different prices ranges. An easy way to view a variety of properties with ease, is to view properties from a range of different agents. By doing this you will get a broad idea of the market and see the property in person – which is vital because what you see on the internet might be too good to be true.

Choose your Location 

Depending on your needs or where you are drawn to, it’s important to take factors such as how close it is to public transport, for example, into consideration when starting your search. If you have a family, you might consider an area outside of the hustle and bustle of town, and opt for a quieter neighbourhood with good schools. If you’re a single professional, you might want to consider staying in town, as it could be closer to your place of work. For couples, you could choose either option depending on your taste, what activities you are interested in, and your lifestyle preferences.

List your Must-Have Features 

Must-have features, or amenities, refer to what’s important for your day-to-day life, including being close to a hospital, shops or schools. As well as not-so-vital amenities, such as a swimming pool, a third room that can be turned into a home office, a built in BBQ area because you love to entertain, or being close enough to places that allow you to indulge in your hobbies. Taking all of these points into consideration will ensure that you choose the right property that includes all of the amenities you want and need, helping you to settle in your new home that much faster.

Know the Legal Stuff 

The legal details always take the joy out of everything, including house hunting. But, in order to keep yourself and your money safe, it’s important to know the legal facts around buying property in the country of your choice. Before you go ahead and make a purchase, appoint an independent lawyer and do not spare costs. An independent lawyer will help you navigate tax duties, local taxes, solicitor fees, mortgages, and more, ensuring every step of the buying process is done correctly. Other things to consider include having your contract document translated into English so you can understand it thoroughly yourself and doing research into whether or not you need a work visa or residency permits.

Investing in property anywhere in the world, is a huge decision that should not be taken lightly. Purchasing the property of your choice should involve a process in which you make 100% sure you are happy with everything about the property in order to avoid regret later on. The above four tips aim to help you start and complete your own property buying process successfully. Find out more about acquiring the property of your dreams in Dubai here.

Written by Ibtisaam Ganief, Ibtisaam Ganief is a helpful expat that has some experience teaching in the UAE, currently helping others relocate and settle in Dubai Properties.