Revisiting old posts: So you want to teach internationally?

POSTED ORIGINALLY IN JANUARY 2019

I get lots of DMs asking me about teaching internationally. Some people simply want to know how I went about getting my job whilst others want help deciding whether teaching internationally is for them. Some just need someone to tell them to go for it.

I first taught internationally 10 years ago. I had been working in an inadequate to good school for six years. I had started at the school when I was an NQT and the school was completely inadequate in the most violent of ways. A new head teacher came in and the school began to turn itself around. I introduced GCSE media and led on that before becoming a shared head of department with responsibility for KS3. I had grown within those six years and developed a wide range of skills. I also knew that the results that summer were going to be good – sometimes you just have this feeling and felt that the time was right.

My ex was studying Italian for his degree and as part of his degree had to spend a year in Italy. We went to Bologna together which was my first taste of Italy. For those who haven’t been, Italy is just such a beautiful country. The sun shines, the cappuccinos are good and the food, well, it is to die for. Coupled with the really relaxed approach to life, I just simply fell in love.

We broke up but I took a trip to Verona. In a shop, I spoke with a lady who, it turned out, was working at the International school. It was the first time I had ever heard of an international school. Once I got back to the hotel, I googled international teaching and a whole new world opened up before me.  I looked up the international school in Verona. I also found the international school in Padua and, on a trip out to Padua, I located the school and I remember standing outside it and telling myself I was going to work there.

And work there I did. For two years. It was a brilliant experience. I taught grades 6-12, learnt a lot about grammar teaching and was first introduced to the IB. I also wrote and produced two school musicals, which to this day are some of the best memories I have.

After two years, I returned home. I was turning 30 and I think I had a mid-life crisis – believing that at my age I should be settling down and sorting my life out. When I got on the plane to leave Italy, I was in floods of tears but the decision had been made.

I spent the next 8 years back in the English education system and grew as a teacher once again, especially when I took on a head of department role at another inadequate school. Inadequate schools and international schools seem to be where I am at! We worked solidly for three years to turn the school round before I was promoted to Director of Learning. Again, another great learning opportunity yet always, always in the back of my mind I knew I would go back to Italy. Not a day passed when I didn’t think about Italy and how I was able to do a job I loved and have a life…something that had begun to seem impossible in England. I never hid this and the SLT at my school knew that that was what I had planned for me. Then three things happened: 1. I had worked so hard with my year 11s that I knew they were going to smash it. I also knew a really strong infrastructure was in place for the department to move forward. 2. I had a meeting in which I realised I didn’t want to work at the school any longer and, as a free agent – no mortgage, no partner, no children, it was easy enough to leave. 3. My current school advertised.

I applied and had the loveliest of interviews.  It was relaxed and it was clear we shared some similar ideas pedagogically. After finishing the interview, I decided I really wanted to work at the school and, luckily, they decided they wanted me too.

So, if you are thinking about teaching internationally, here’s how I would recommend you go about it:

  1. Consider the pros and cons to a move abroad. These will be personal and individual to you. Many of the cons will be to do with family. Rest assured though, you will still be able to see family. Technology nowadays is a marvel and regular conversations via Skype or FB messenger or Whatsapp are possible. Summer holidays are longer so you will be able to plan longer stretches at home to spend quality time with family. And thirdly, people will be queuing up to see you.
  2. Think about where in the world you want to live. If you are wanting to teach internationally, it might be because you are keen on seeing more of the world or you want a better lifestyle for yourselves. More often than not, it isn’t about advancing your career (although this is possible!) so researching and finding the place that will make you happy is vital. For me, Italy is in my heart. It is home and I feel most happy here for the reasons I outlined earlier. Some people like Europe because it is only a short flight away whilst others are keen to go East – you can make a fair amount of money there!
  3. Search TES. TES always advertise international school vacancies. I think February is a really good time for recruitment although a lot of places in the East will advertise earlier as their academic year is different. In addition, search associates is a really good website if you are interested in a leadership position abroad.
  4. Research your international schools. There are good and bad schools everywhere. There is a website where you can read the reviews of schools which might give you some idea. This might include Facebook. There is a brilliant expat group for Rome and it is full of information about living in Rome – you’ll need to consider what it would be like to live in the country but these sites are also full of really useful bits of information that you won’t even have considered before moving. They also offer social events for the expat community which are great in helping you to settle in to a new country.  Also, as standard, look at the school’s website to get a flavour and feel for the school in terms of their values and what they deem as important.
  5. If you know exactly where you want to be, there is no harm in you sending your CV ahead of the school itself advertising. A lot of international schools will accept CVs and keep these on record for when a position arises.
  6. International schools won’t necessarily follow the same curriculum with many schools following the MYP, IGCSE and IB programme. Whilst experience for these isn’t always essential and great international schools will offer you training, reading up about these courses will be really useful to you.
  7. Put in that application and, like all other jobs you apply for, look at the person spec and the job description to ensure that you feel there is a match.

Teaching internationally is the best thing I have ever done. I promise you will never look back. If you are considering it: be brave, do your research, put the application in. You never know where it might take you.

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