What Would YOU Do?

January 30, 2014

  Here’s a scenario that comes up this time of year, every year. An ISR Member would like to know what teachers would do.

  You accept a position at a recruiting fair in January even though you don’t think it’s the best job you could/should get. The money is good and you think it will help your international teaching career in the long run. But, since you’re not really wowed by the job, you keep your feelers out.

whattodo50179022  One day you get an email from a school you really like. They want to Skype interview you about a position. It has some administrative duties (yes!), it offers more money (yippee!), it’s known as a better all-around school, and in a better location for you and your family.

  You do understand the possible repercussions (blacklisting by the recruiting company) if you drop your other contract. Would you…

Interview only. It’s good for your ego and besides, you’re curious!

Interview and accept a contract. Damn the recruiters!

Decline interview. Ignore  the many benefits & accept your situation. “Your word is your bond”

Thanks for Playing….

ReConsidering Your Possibilities

January 23, 2014

comfortzone57074936Being an International Educator is all about putting yourself “out there” beyond your comfort zone, embracing new & different experiences. This is, after all, how we grow as individuals & as educators. In light of that, limiting your recruiting focus to just one or two locations seems contrary to the expansive spirit of the profession. Why not take a chance? I did & am I ever glad!

A couple of examples: I certainly had never considered Pakistan for a career move & when out of the blue I was offered a position, everyone tried to convince me not to go. I went to Lahore & loved it! The Pakistani people were gracious, the food & culture were outstanding, the students were a good group & with India less than an hour away (for example) the travel opportunities were spectacular. Although Pakistan was not originally on my limited, safety-zone list of places to go, in retrospect it should have been at the very top!

The Democratic Republic of Congo was not on my list either, but when I found a note in my recruiting folder at an ISS conference I decided to follow up, if for no other reason than to hone my interviewing skills. I did sign the contract & found the Congo to be quite a challenging experience, particularly since the school & location were grossly misrepresented by the director & his professionally-made video that painted Kinshasa to be a delightful tourist destination (this was Pre-ISR). Although the Congolese were warm & welcoming & I had fun resurrecting my high school French, the extreme poverty & complete lack of infrastructure at the school were horrendous. Looking back, I realize that the Congo changed my perspective on the world & international teaching in a profound way. Would I go back? Probably not knowing the situation as I now do. But it was a deeply enlightening period in my life, one that I’m glad I did not miss.

I don’t recommend you completely throw caution to the wind. There are most definitely some political hot spots best avoided. What I am recommending is that instead of limiting yourself to just a few possibilities, why not step out of your comfort zone, reconsider your possibilities & let the real adventures of your career begin!?!

Have YOU ever accepted a position at a school that was not on your list of desired places to live & teach? How did the experience turn out for you? Were you wonderfully surprised or shell shocked? We invite you to share your experiences with colleagues.  Please scroll down to comment.

Has ISR Helped You Make a Wise Decision?

January 16, 2014

stop-think-act44641327Letters from International Schools Review members telling us how we helped them avoid a “landmine-school” enforces our belief that we’re helping colleagues to make the best career moves. With more and more entrepreneurs creating for-profit, cash-cow schools, and employing Westerners to help complete the artificial image, it’s ever more important to be vigilant in vetting a school before making a commitment.

ISR makes the same strong, school-vetting recommendations every year. And then, about three months into the academic year, we begin getting emails saying, “I wish I would have read the Reviews before I came here!”

A teacher recently wrote to tell ISR she would have made a tragic error had she signed with a school, a school the Director was touting as being on the ‘cutting edge of educational practices’. ISReviews, to the contrary, painted an accurate picture of every classroom, across all grade levels, teaching in lock-step from a textbook–a photocopied, ancient textbook, at that!

Last week we heard from teacher who told us he attended a school’s presentation at the recruiting fair and was immensely impressed with the school’s size, architectural presence and resources. Consulting ISR he discovered the photos were of a local university that rents a small wing of one building to a local enterprise that call this space an ‘International School’.  He passed on the offer.

ISReviews are rife with reports of schools that don’t make their payroll, or don’t procure work visas for  teachers, who then find themselves working illegally in a country where they could be jailed if discovered. Worse yet are those that switch-up contracts upon a teacher’s arrival, withdraw health benefits and/or suddenly expect teachers to share housing. The list goes on and on.

There are a great many schools around the world that fulfill our expectations of what the international teaching experience should be. But, as with every industry, there are imposters with financially-oriented motives who masquerade as the real thing, waiting to ensnare the uninformed. International Schools Review hopes our efforts will spare you that experience.

Has ISR helped you avoid a landmine? Has ISR helped you step into a rewarding International teaching situation? We invite you to share your experiences!

Do Buzz Words = Successful Recruiting?

January 9, 2014

buzz21036584When it comes to selling yourself to recruiters it helps to know your stuff, or at least appear that you do. The last thing you want is to be passed over in favor of a teacher who talks-the-latest-talk.

I blew a chance to teach at my top-choice school in Japan when the interviewer asked, “Which educational philosophy do you subscribed to?” Reaching back twenty+ years to college studies, I responded with Bloom’s taxonomy–the only education-eze I could come up with under pressure. “Okay. Tell me about Bloom’s three domains of educational objectives.” Boy, did I look like a blank-faced dope!

Is it important to be conversant with the latest Buzz words at interview time? You would think years of teaching, glowing letters of reference & a college degree would speak for themselves. Apparently not. It looks like what interviewers are after is the Buzz-word sense you’re actively engaged in your profession & on the search for new, better methods to engage your students. This brings to mind the term New Math, a popular Buzz word in U.S. schools some years back. In the end, New Math may have only succeeded in producing a generation of math-illiterate kids.

Speaking of popular Buzz words in today’s recruiting world, scaffolding is one that particularly befuddles me. Turns out teachers have been scaffolding their entire careers yet never knew it. Unless, however, you can match the newest Buzz words with what you’ve been doing for the past 10 years, you may be seen as past your shelf life.

As I learned by reading the ISR forum, “Scaffolding is when a teacher or a competent peer supports a learner to help complete a task, which he/she couldn’t complete independently in the first place. Once the learner becomes more confident about the task or skill, you withdraw that support, naturally shifting the responsibility to the learner, which again in the lingo is called independent, self-regulatory learning.” YES! I’m a Scaffolder!

Other Buzz words I’m working on fitting into my next interview include: engaging, differentiation, mental dexterity, student advocacy, grit, adjusting assessments, structuring concepts & skills enrichment. If all these don’t get me a job, I don’t know what will!

Personally, I’ve seen too many technocrats spouting lingo & jargon at faculty meeting, only to hear from my two high-school kids they are truly lousy teachers. Obviously, Buzz words don’t make us good teachers, but Buzz words do seem to help convince some people that we are.

What’s your take on Buzz words? Is an explanation in plain English of your approach to teaching & goals for your students enough?


Recruiting Fairs, Verbal Promises and “Restated” Teaching Contracts

January 2, 2014

fingerscrossed5051823Verbal agreements made at recruiting fairs have little value, and in some cases neither do written contracts. Most schools are reputable but some do bend the truth to lure candidates into situations they would otherwise avoid. Imagine arriving at your new school to discover your singed contract has been voided. Then, when you refuse to accept a different & blatantly disadvantageous contract you end-up fired and black balled. It can and does happen! Go to complete Article (originally published in 2011 and updated here)