“Grounded” Back Home

Dear ISR, The 2015-16 academic year is over and I’m happy for that. The problem is I resigned my teaching position back in December, attended an ISS Fair but did not find a job for the upcoming school year.

   Now what? I’ve been overseas for 11 years straight and have absolutely no plans to make living in the States a permanent situation again. Right now I’m essentially without much of a home, car or job, my health insurance is soon to expire, and have no social life since old friends and respected colleagues have moved on a long time ago from our hometown history. Worse, making new acquaintances seems like a pointless effort.

I’m feeling “grounded” so to speak — bored, frustrated, a little bit depressed — like I’m going seriously backwards in my life and career. I have savings but hate to deplete it, so substituting will hopefully defray daily expenses. I am registering for both ISS and Search recruiting fairs, taking no chances of not getting another international teaching job. But for now life isn’t much fun at all…

I’d really like to hear from other international educators who are, or have been, in the same boat. Hearing how others survived this sense of idling while my career and life languish, or from those who are currently dealing with it, would go a long way. Maybe those of us in this situation can help each other using your much appreciated website as a place to meet and share ideas and experiences. Thanks very much, ISR, for considering my request to share my letter with your readers.


(Name withheld)

22 thoughts on ““Grounded” Back Home

  1. Dear Grounded

    Perhaps I can help. The Chinese company I work for is planning to open 3 more academies in the future, the first of which will open in Autumn 2017. I suggest you contact me at a later stage, toward the end of this year(but keep in touch with me if you have not had any success yet so I can keep you in the loop.
    Ian Neil Everson


  2. We have been there. When our small school closed in Asia we ended up back in the US visiting family for the summer but still looking for overseas positions. Eventually we had to accept that we were no longer on vacation, we were unemployed. Being a SPED teacher, out of curiosity I looked into to the local job situation and sure enough there were jobs on offer.

    We found jobs, bought a house (rental options were horrible) and stayed for two years (upfront with school about tentative timeline) and ended up with great jobs back in Asia after a two year break.

    We had the chance to jump back in overseas in locations that would have been a horrible fit for us and chose instead to be patient and wait for the right opportunity.

    Hang in there. If nothing back home has any appeal for you, don’t be afraid to look around the country. You may find a job in a place in the US or in a school that would have some appeal for you and/or could help your CV. While you may have the itch to get back overseas immediately, working for a spell in the US can’t be worse then many of the schools/locations that could be available in your situation.

    It always works out, just not always in the way that you thought/hoped it would.


    1. I couldnt agree more. In 2011 I returned home from a very exhausting(both professionally and personally),spell in the Middle East. The doctors had advised that I sleep for as long my body would dictate. It was the soundest advice any doctor had ever given. Towards the end of my Middle Eastern sojourn I had decided to work in China. By the time I was ready to leave ther Middle East, I had not found anything suitable so I went home.

      I contacted a new agency, foreign and based in Shanghai. The service was very professional but I did not accept any of the offers as the fit wasnt good, in my opinion. I accepted an offer from a Chinese agency and it led to so manny more exciting opportunities. After 10 months I was invited to join an exciting project in beijing and worked there very happily for two years. Afterwards, circumstances led me to work for myself. It was one of the most exciting times in my career. Networking introduced me to amazing clients and exceptional job opportunities, not to speak of the working hours and the minimal workload. In March this year, I came across a dram jobm advertised by the shanghai based agency. In all my time in China, we had been in contact and finally there was something that took my fancy. An interview was set up and what a lovely surprise! My dream job had been given to someone else but HR had other plans for me and now I am one of the founding staff members of one of the most advanced and expensive private schools in the country (we open on August 29th)…It all works out(one must keep intervention to a minimum), or as John Lennon wrote:
      Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.


  3. You are not alone!!! After years of teaching in the Middle East, I decided it was enough of desert and heat, packed my last years in two pieces of luggage and return to the Americas.
    Started applying to schools in different countries with green nature, here hopefully trekking, cycling and camping could be alternative outdoor activities…. But unfortunately, it never happened.

    All schools I interviewed with told me how fascinating would that be having a teacher with international experience as part of their staff, but nothing really happened after that, except for the automated message telling me ” thanks for applying to … and good luck with your job hunt”

    I always wanted to take a Sabbatical, and now I could afford it … Decided to travel through the Americas and have skype interviews as possibilities to catch up with job offers from popular teaching websites until the offer one came in May ….. Hoorray !!!

    Nope…. Not really
    A recent communication coming from the SD is telling me that since I was not teaching during this school year, I should be enrolled taking graduate classes or else in order to be granted the school job that they had already offered through an early offer of contract signed in the middle of June.

    Now, here I am….. With both letters one
    Coming from the school principal and another one from the SD and still not job secured as today.


  4. You are not alone; I think we all go through this job insecurity and a sense of third culture homelessness from time to time as we opt to see opportunities elsewhere. If we owned our own businesses I believe we’d go through some similar periods but for us the loosing touch with old friends and family adds additional hurt so just work at it rekindle and insist that those who have professed some loyalty to you make time to see you. It is do important for our emotional wellbeing to stay connected, choose connection and make time for it.
    Don’t ever give up, there are many many last minute teaching posts popping up and it could be the right fit for you. Check out tie online, search, and international school services daily.
    Take it one day at a time and do good things for yourself.
    A friend


  5. Why would you rely on ISS job fairs? There are lots of credible agencies as well as TIE etc… all out there advertising jobs. Sitting around moaning and feel sorry for yourself is hardly very productive. Is there anything wrong with your references or some other reason you were not hired.


  6. I have been in this exact situation. In my case we returned to San Diego with our two elementary school age children. Be the time we returned to overseas teaching, about a year later, we had run up a bill of almost $16K on the credit card. Life in places like San Diego is very expensive. Just the health insurance alone for the 4 of us was $700 monthly. I shutter to think of the cost had we been older or had health issues.

    The idea that adults with responsibilities will resign a position and then go recruiting is ridiculous and only emphasizes how so many schools see us as disposable commodities. Never the less, I love the overseas life style as does my wife. I feel my kids have benefited in ways that can’t be measured. My advice is to hang in there, do what you need to do to make it for a year in America and then be gone. You’ll find a job. If we can do it with two kids, so can you.


  7. Good luck, finding work is a full time job in itself a lot of the time and doesn’t really allow one to relax the mind while between jobs, no matter how “holiday like” an environment one can be in. Choose a place or two to narrow your focus ( I found applying to many countries at once spread oneself a bit thin in terms of energy put into applying) and then bug the hell out of the schools to give you a look. Job fairs can be silly, time wasting hoop jumping IMHO. I think it best to go directly to the school itself in person or by phone/email/fax if you’re abroad. My personal experience is that I feel I wasted a lot of time filling out online forms for job search websites that never gave me a look because there are thousands of job seekers and basically teachers are a dime a dozen (though some would argue that teachers like themselves are NOT a dime a dozen…. which is fair enough). I think it best to be in the place you want to be and contact the schools directly. There is always someone dropping out in September or October for various reasons. It may not be the ideal school you want but at least you’ll be busy earning some dough.


  8. Don’t know how old you are, but I had a year of nothing after completing a Masters degree (difficult to say if that in itself was any help in the long-term) and another year in 2001/2. I have been in the same situation since October 2015 when I had to resign from a post in Mumbai. I attended the London CIS recruitment fair in January of this year and had only two interviews (I agree with a previous comment that these are now not as useful as in the past as many schools use Skype instead). I have had two Skype interviews since Mumbai, without luck, but this could be due to my age (60) and my subject – History.

    Hope this message is not too depressing – Good luck!


    1. I am a similar age and yes, it makes getting job offers a lot more difficult. At this age we drop to the bottom of the candidate barrel. And it means waiting to the end of the hiring season and being available when hires fall through in July/August. And adding another subject would also help, even if you haven’t taught it. In addition to Economics, I have also taught Business, ICT and junior Maths. There was a first time for all of them, and not long ago …


    2. I got a job in Korea teaching English when I was 67, about $2000/mo. Be sure to check the school out and talk to teachers currently teaching.


  9. My advice is forget about job fairs. They represent a small fraction of the jobs available, and competition from other high quality candidates is intense. Apparently Search Associates still does all the jobfairs, but now makes 60% of its placements online. Candidates get the jobs without attending a jobfair. My school in Shanghai won’t be using jobfairs anymore because of poor results. Anyway, for candidates it is much easier to get an offer by approaching schools directly. Joyjobs is useful for finding schools that have suitable openings.


  10. Dear Anonymous,

    While reading your post I could not help but think of how you are going through some reverse culture shock. This happens when we return home and are trying to fit in after being accustomed to a completely different environment away for some time. It happens even if we have been away for one year. You were away for 11 years.

    Being back home will help you re-evaluate your teaching experiences and perhaps bring up a new goal for you. Treasure the down time you have in between contracts as a time for yourself. Working makes the years fly by and all of a sudden it is too late for things such as getting that masters, or, other goals are not viable anymore.

    The other aspect of your experience is the fact that you had 11 years of solid work. To look for work now must make you feel like you are a duck out of water. Looking for work is a whole different kind of job we do for ourselves. You really have to research what is available and what is worth applying to. Now that all applications are on-line, there are numerous applications for the same posting. I still trust recruiters to help provide offers, and look on my own as well. There is a learning curve with the whole process of looking for work.

    There has been good advice on this thread as well.

    Good luck with everything.

    Helena B.


  11. Good advice on here. I am looking for work and am over 60. Just done a couple of years in Saudi Arabia and loved it. Would love to have stayed. Why is it only men can be employed there till way over 70. I’m healthy, fit and enthusiastic. I’m not giving up yet, I just haven’t found the job that’s out there yet.


  12. Dear Name Withheld,

    I have been overseas for 11 years, too. I would not want to be in your situation. That would be very difficult. If I were you, I would deal directly with the schools. For example, I know that in Kuwait (where I taught a year and am now a Vice Principal) has many openings for western teachers still. Some of the schools are good and some leave a lot to be desired. But you can find out the names of the schools and check websites for openings quite easily yourself. You won’t make more money with a search agency. You will also not find more reputable schools. I’ve heard real horror stories from teachers who went that route, so it’s not added security, but does take longer. Some schools won’t even work with agencies, like mine. The school board doest feel they get better candidates from them. Some Bilingual schools in the Middle East require national garb even for non Muslims. Most American schools and Canadian schools without “bilingual” in their school name do not have special dress codes.

    I’ve heard that all the Middle Eastern countries are still in need of western teachers. Dubai is as safe as Kuwait with American military presence and protection. Bahrain, too. The other countries are very religious and/or highly volatile and not great places to live unless you share their beliefs.

    By the way, in the Middle East “International” schools usually mean international staff with mostly local students. Some schools have only American teachers or only British teachers – rarely both because the teaching systems are very different.

    Hope this helps somewhat. I know you can work overseas even this late if you have the qualifications, the proper references, and the desire. Don’t write off the Middle East without trying it first. I came to Kuwait for a year and am still here after 11 of them! I also gave no intention on leaving anytime soon.


  13. a few questions:
    1) Are you using a recruiter like Search or ISS? If not consider joining them, if so let them know that you’re ready to do shorter stints to replace teachers who fail to show or retire/quit early. there is a big need out there.

    2) Why are you so passive and reactive? Get on the net and visit school sites where you’d like to go. Fill in applications for positions you’d like to have. Call the schools and ask to speak to the General Director, Head of school etc. or failing that the section principles.

    3)Have you gotten in touch with DODS (dept.of Defense) schools? If not do so immediately as there is a shortage there at the moment.

    4) Did you know there are quite a few International private schools in the US and Canada? They are all on the net and easily reachable, and they are always hiring.

    5) Did you talk to the Us state department? They know which countries and US/International schools are looking for under the radar teachers,staff.

    6) You do realize that Fairs are often one of the least likely places you’ll find a job? Most positions are filled at this time of the year so put your efforts elsewhere,imho!

    7) Did you go to the ISR forums (if you are a member-if not join!)?Many ISR members know of potential openings and can help guide you to the schools that are worth applying to.

    There is some grerat advice on here so go out and get off your keester and do it! You can succeed!


  14. Similar situation for us. We are hoping that something comes last minute otherwise will use the time to do additional study. It is also nice to have a breather, so to speak. Hope it all works out for you quickly 😊


  15. I am grounded this year so am headed back to university to upgrade my degree. Look into a Masters. Loads of teachers are doing this for pay scale opportunity. Also, you would be surprised how many 11th hour jobs come in August.


  16. I have a similar problem, and to make matters worse am over 60, which leaves out a lot of Asia. But I am not giving up. Remember that this time of year there can be a lot of sudden dropouts, so make sure your cv is lodged where you want to go. And indeed, consider not making money/security the first priority, but widen your scope to include countries where you can both enjoy yourself and pick up some new skills.


  17. Go to Ecuador, Colombia, or Peru. The pay is not great, but the lifestyle is fantastic, and they don’t care what your age is. I haven’t taught there, but I’ve spent months in those countries and met a lot of American teachers there. They LOVED their jobs. Like I say, you won’t make much money, but the people of those countries treat you with respect and kindness. The children are lovely, the lifestyle is healthy, the air is clean. It would be a nice place to finish your career and then just retire there. Most of all, keep your chin up. You are worthy and will find the right fit. Good luck to you. Don’t worry, be happy.


  18. Dear Anonymous:

    First, good luck; you will need it. I am guessing that you are still well under 55, so you do have time to recover.

    Resigning from one job without another in hand usually damages your employability, even if the position was untenable [sexual harassment, abuse from students, lack of security in a newly embroiled war zone, etc.]

    Unemployment raises flags, all assurances to the contrary notwithstanding. You might be wise to take a Summer class to indicate that you are “serious” about your professionalism. Similarly, you might take some of the state exams for credentials that extend your options. [My current credentials are in my three distinct degree fields; I am studying for a fourth area, in which I have almost no coursework, but – interestingly – have taught, and in which I already have NCLB “highly qualified” ratings based on subject matter exams taken “out of curiosity” in another state.

    Job fairs were good for my daughter and her husband; the pre-sign-up discussion with one of the sponsors was not encouraging for me, as an older teacher, so I skipped them. However, I worked with several of the job boards [tek in the UK; joyjobs.com in the US] for leads that worked well for me. Indeed, after trying to find full time work in the US for the past four years, I signed up again for joyjobs. It may not work, but the postings are from – and for – knowledgeable people.

    Again, Best Wishes!


    Jon Cristofer Miller


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