Master List of Schools w/ Top Savings Potential

There is more than just salary to consider when you’re looking for an International School with excellent savings potential. Airfare to home, the local exchange rate and income tax, among other factors, can make or break any Contract offer.

Beware of dazzling big numbers only to later discover your salary pans out to be worth less than a smaller salary in a less expensive place to live. All that glitters at recruiting time may not be gold.

In an effort to help colleagues around the globe identify schools with strong saving potential (in relation to all other factors), we invite you to participate in constructing a Master List of Schools w/ Top Savings Potential.

Your entry should include school name, country, city and, based on your experience, what you estimate to be the yearly savings potential. Sharing a bit about the cost of living and other pertinent factors will be helpful. Feel free to ask for savings potential information on a specific school.

For example: XYZ International School, Warsaw, Poland. I estimate my yearly savings to be about $10,000 US. The cost of renting an apartment in Warsaw can be high but everything else is about half the price of living in the United States.

Your participation is appreciated – Please Scroll to begin

Top Tips for Recruiting Fair Newbies 2020

If you’re standing at the precipice of your first ever International Teacher Recruiting Fair, get set for an emotional roller coaster like none other! One minute you’re flying high: Wow…that interview went super great! The next minute you’re in the depths of despair: Why hasn’t my top pick called me back for a second interview? Then, out of nowhere, an opportunity you hadn’t even considered presents itself. Should you go for it? Or maybe hang back and hope to hear from one of your A-list schools? Hesitate, and you may find yourself out in the cold. Jump too soon and you put yourself out of the running for a school you really want.

Navigating an International Teacher Recruiting Fair requires planning, planning and more planning, plus the flexibility to abandon that plan if need be. Written by a long time ISR Forum member and avid contributor, the following words of wisdom for newbies and seasoned Fair goers alike are a must-read before the “ride” begins:

From the ISR Open Forum
Re: First job Fair coming up. Top 5 tips please!
by Thames Pirate » Sun Dec 29, 2019 12:24 pm
Posts: 1080 Joined: Fri Jul 05, 2013 8:06 am

    Do your homework beforehand. Take the time to really research your top choice schools, including your pie-in-the-sky schools as well as more realistic options. Research the mission statements, browse their websites, look at whom they sent to the Fair, etc. A well-organised cheat sheet is worth its weight in gold. Knowing what positions are open from both the online database and from the candidate lounge (remember, sometimes things are posted in the lounge and not online, or are still online but not in the lounge because the spots are filled) will help you make your plan.

Have your prep work done and have a plan. Have your resumes, ichiro, whatever, ready and printed before you go. Have your clothes ironed and your initial plan for sign ups made (Which schools are you hitting up and in what order? What do you want to say to recruiters?). Decide which presentations you are interested in seeing. I colour-code with a highlighter so that I can easily check when and where to go, when to try to avoid scheduling interviews, and where I should go if I have the time. You won’t have time to find a print shop. Have a spare set of clothes ready for if/when you spill coffee during breakfast.

Get your rest, especially if you are jet lagged and/or an introvert. You are “on” the WHOLE time, and that is exhausting. The emotional roller coaster is exhausting as well. Rest when you can, either between events if you are at the Fair hotel, or at night. If you want down time, do it away from the Fair. But be aware that you might still meet someone from the Fair at the local eatery. Your room is your only real sanctuary. Use it.

Be flexible. Your plan will be shot to hell in no time. That’s okay. Things change fast for recruiters as well as candidates, and everyone is tired, sometimes cranky, and doing the best they can for their schools and their situations. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t get hired right away but others do. Be willing to take interviews even if you hadn’t considered the position or know little about the school. Change the order in which you sign up based on the length of line.

Network like crazy. Like I said, you are “on” all the time. That means watch what you drink at the social so you can be working the crowd. Talk to other candidates to see what you can learn about potential destinations or their thought processes or what went well in interviews. Maybe they will tell you where their interview went off the rails so when you talk to that recruiter later you can avoid that pitfall. Or maybe you can just encourage one another. Talk to recruiters, even of schools you are not necessarily interested in. You might learn more about the process, find an interesting job that you hadn’t considered, or make a connection for the future, when that person is at a different school where you might want to be. A conversation in an elevator led to a job for us once. Or a teacher to whom you gave a kind word of hope moves into leadership and offers you a job. You just never know.

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International Educators Going It Alone Overseasj

Pulling up stakes and moving halfway around the world for an International Teaching position is a bold move. If, however, you’re part of a teaching team you’ll have your partner to rely on when the going gets tough. But what about educators who go it alone? What’s it like to move overseas when you have only yourself to depend upon?

For starters, going it alone will certainly put you out of your usual comfort zone, motivating you to experience new things, meet new people and take chances you might have never before considered. When you’re on your own, striking up a conversation in a coffee shop and making a new friend is more likely. Getting out to community events, plays, movies, parties and the likes can be more enticing when the alternative is staying home, alone.

Asked if they would have moved overseas alone if they knew back then what they know now, most educators answered with a resounding, YES! Educators who have gone it alone say they developed a new confidence in themselves and an entirely new side to their personality that would never have emerged had they stayed home or relocated with a partner.

Of course, not everything is perfectly rosy when you fly solo, and there are downsides to consider. The possibility of meeting that special someone may suffer overseas, and you’re bound to face some lonely stretches. You may even feel so intimidated by the overseas experience that you’ll have to fight the urge to head back home. Life can be frustrating when you don’t speak the local language or understand how things get done. Culture shock and the feeling of alienation are very real, the effects of which are intensified if you’re on your own.

Fortunately, there are varying degrees of how on your own you’ll be if you decide to go it alone. Better International Schools strive to minimize the stress on incoming foreign hires by providing solid support. Such schools handle utility bills, maintain teachers’ apartments, secure Visas, organize weekly shopping trips, and even supply transport to and from school. Additionally, they sponsor social events, making it easy for incoming teachers to become part of the established school community. In this scenario, teachers going it alone can immerse into the surrounding community at their own place while enjoying a more familiar and secure school-provided base from which to venture out.

ISR recommends you decide the depth of experience you’re ready for. Get all the information you need at your interview to help make an informed decision. Read Reviews and research, research, research! The majority of educators who have gone it alone say it was the best thing they could have done for themselves.

ISR Asks: Are you currently on your own overseas? What’s your take on the experience? Would you recommend it to others?

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Is Ageism Keeping You from Getting Hired?

ISR guest writer, Sidney Rose, shares his thoughts on ageism in International Education.

Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially “normalized” of any prejudice.  Many of us would like to believe prejudice is a problem of the past, but this is clearly not the case. Incidents of prejudice and discrimination occur every day, including ageism, as practiced by International Schools and recruitment agencies.

I have been involved in international education for more than 30 years. I rose through the ranks: from teacher to Head of Department, then Deputy Head, and finally School Principal. I have been the Founding Principal of international schools in Sweden, Qatar, India (twice), China and most recently, Vietnam. I am an “expert” at obtaining Cambridge and IB accreditation and all things related to setting up a new school, to include acting as consultant to a few start-ups.

Finding a new assignment used to be relatively easy. I was in demand and commanded a good salary. Now that I am over 65, I can’t find a job. Suddenly no-one wants me! Recruitment agencies won’t even let me sign on with them. This, despite my credentials, experience and expertise.

I’m lively, energetic and enthusiastic about international education and in better shape than many younger men. I still have much to give, but my date of birth is a problem. If I remove my DOB from my resume, I get great responses from schools and recruiters… but when my age is finally revealed, everything suddenly goes quiet. You would think they would at least want to meet me and access my overall fitness to serve.

ISR covered this topic several years ago and perhaps it needs revisiting. Recruitment agencies are becoming ever more difficult.  Ageism is rife and stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people based on age is ever more widespread in international education.

I would like to reopen a discussion on this topic. To participate please scroll down and share your thoughts.


Sidney Rose

See the ISR Visa/Age Chart

School Not as Described

Educators who rely solely on the word of an interviewer may soon find they committed to two years in a city hard-pressed to offer enough points of interest to even fill an afternoon stopover.

Alarm bells should clang if an interviewer makes statements such as:  “It’s the best kept secret.” Or, “It was once the Paris of the East.”

Sadly, there ARE school Directors who will say just about anything to lure unsuspecting educators to their poorly located schools, knowing full well that once they’re there it’s not so easy to leave.

What’s your options when you arrive at a new school, only to find things are 180 degrees out from how they were described? In other words, What do you do when you’ve fallen prey to a con man?

Possible solutions:

A) If you’re financially solvent and can afford to walk out, consider taking the next flight home. The financial consequences of such actions are something not many of us are able to absorb, so this option may be off the table.

B) Hang in there and collect a few paychecks. Then, jump ship at the first long vacation. This way, you’ll have a few bucks under your belt and no one will wonder why you’re headed to the airport with a couple of big suitcases in hand.

C) Do as many (most?) of us would do:  Suck it up and make the best of it. Walking out on a Contract could do irreparable damage to your career. But then again, it IS your life we’re talking about.

It’s your career. It’s your future. There should be consequences for Directors who deceive educators into accepting positions that are far different than represented. As it stands, deceiving people out of their money can be a punishable offense, yet there are no consequences for deceiving educators into spending years of their life in some hellhole of a location.

With the school year getting underway, we’re seeing some recent ISR School Reviews exposing Directors who purposely misled educators into a lousy location. If you find yourself in such a situation, ISR encourages you to submit a School Review to warn your colleagues.  International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is What ISR is All About!   Send a School Review

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Back-Stabbing Director As My Confidential Reference

After what seemed like an endless chain of rejections it finally struck me that one of my confidential references had been stabbing me in the back. Problem is, what can I do about it, if anything?

My resume reflects a heavy math/science background, so I’m used to a good bit of positive interest in my candidacy at recruiting fairs. But this year, unlike in years past, that enthusiasm had screeched to a halt. I was dumbfounded.

At first I thought the wane in interest was due to younger, better qualified candidates who were possibly better “fits.” But through a series of events, I came to realize my most recent confidential reference was spitefully destroying my overseas teaching career. 

All fingers pointed to the director of my latest school! Some years ago I read an ISR article in which a school director confessed he had purposely written poor confidential references for outstanding teachers, and even played down their talents over the phone to inquiring schools. Why? Because he wanted to keep certain key staff from leaving his school. Ouch!

In accord with the ISR article, my recent director had offered me a handsome resigning bonus if I would commit to a 4th year. I had, however, been planning to move on for some time and when I announced my intentions I sensed an immediate change in attitude on his part. I can’t exactly explain it, but suddenly I felt I was on the outside looking in. For the remainder of the school year I got the cold shoulder instead of the usual “bro” treatment. 

My question is this: Can I do anything about this situation? Am I doomed to the wrath of a school director taking out his frustrations on me, and certainly other departing teachers? My letters of reference, along with whatever my current director wrote about me, are all online with the big recruiters and I seriously doubt I can get them to remove the latest one. Any advice? Anyone?

Please keep my name confidential.

Best Regards to the staff at ISR,

My Position Has Been Reposted

Two interviews, two days of anxiously waiting and, finally, it was decided. I was their “Gal.” We shook hands on it as the director welcomed me onboard“You’ll be receiving your contract by DHL in the next few weeks.” Well…it’s been more than a few weeks since the recruiting fair and still nothing, nada, no contract!

I understand people are busy and things come up for a busy international school. But a couple days ago I was on the school’s website poking around and discovered “my” position had been reposted. At least I think it was a repost. I remember the position had been removed from the school’s website in the days after I was offered the job, but maybe in my excitement I overlooked it? Who knows?

In any case, I’m feeling totally insecure now about my future and obsessing on whether or not I still have this job. I’m just not sure what to do…Could a simple oversight be why the position is still on the school’s site? Maybe there are two slots for the same position? Worst case scenario, maybe (argh!), they’ve changed their mind about me and haven’t let me know?

Anyone else been in this situation or anything similar? I could sure use some advice and don’t want to do something stupid to jinx this job offer.


Can a School Ever Really Be All 10s or All 1s?

…  Does any school really deserve all 10s or all 1s on the ISR School Review Rubric? I love my school. But hey! It just does not rate all 10s. In fact, it’s not even all 9s. Personally, I’m suspicious of any Review that displays an over abundance of 9s and 10s. Ditto that for Reviews with scores of all 1s.

Every rose has its thorns (I love that song) and International Schools are no exception. Just because I rate a couple of things a 6 or 7, it doesn’t mean it’s not a simply fantastic school. It just means the reality is this:  There are a few things you’re going to have to live with to be truly blissful here.

Like I said, I’m suspicious of Reviews with copious extremely high or low ratings. Take a school in France for example. I know for a fact the “Cost of living in relation to salary” category will never will be a 10 in overpriced Europe. My research (and every educator I know who has worked in Europe) tells me teachers have to take on an outside job just to make ends meet. The only person I can think of who would assign a 9 or 10 to the “Cost of living in relation to salary” category in a Western European school is an admin trying to attract candidates. Such misrepresentation makes the rest of the ratings look suspicious to me. I discount such Reviews.

Here’s another example of what makes me suspicious:  A school in Mexico City with a “Security rating” of 10 would make me wonder who’s behind the Review. Likewise, a score of 1 for “Community things to do” would be ludicrous for Mexico City with its endless museums, art galleries and cultural events. A low score in this category would render the entire Review useless in my opinion.

Can a school ever really deserve scores of all 10s or all 1s? I believe the answer is NO. Common sense and a bit of logic will help you to read between the lines and look for hidden agendas. When the ratings in certain categories coincide with what you know to be true about an area of the world, this is a signal that it most likely is safe to rely on the Review as a whole. However, if things seem out of sync with your intuition and common sense, most definitely, proceed with caution.

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Survey: Are Recruiting Fairs Headed for Extinction?

In recent years, droves of educators have opted to abandon high-priced, time-consuming, Recruiting Fairs and instead, rely on digital platforms such as Skype for landing international teaching positions. The ease and ability to interview for schools in foreign lands without physically being present has certainly changed the recruiting game!

To help keep International Educators abreast of trends in teacher recruiting, ISR periodically conducts recruiting-related Surveys designed to help YOU make informed decisions on how best to approach your next job search.

The first ISR Recruiting Fair Survey dates back to 2013 and revealed just 34.6% of participants found new overseas teaching positions without attending Recruiting Fairs. Jump forward two years and the same Survey in 2015 showed a full 46% of educators found overseas teaching positions outside of Recruiting Fairs. Recruiting Fairs appear to be fading in popularity.

Fast Forward to 2019
Are Recruiting Fairs continuing to sink in popularity or has there been a resurgence in popularity? ISR cordially requests your participation in our 2019 Recruiting Fair Survey, the results of which will help colleagues around the globe better plan their recruiting strategy for the 2019 – 2020 season. Your participation is well appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Click the “View Results” link (just above) for up-to-date results

2019 Recruiting Fair Survey Results

+ 477 educators participated in the ISR Survey
+ 43% did not attend a Fair and used a digital platform to land a job
+ 8% found a position through networking
+ 19% attended a Fair but only about 1/2 of this group found jobs
+ 4% said they tried on their own but did not find a job
* 26% reported they did not go recruiting this year
*Note:  If we remove the group who did no recruiting this year from the Survey, we find that nearly 60% of the educators who did recruit, did so through digital means, and 11% did so through networking, to total more than 70% of educators who recruited and found jobs outside of Recruiting Fairs.
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Why Don’t Schools Post Age Restrictions?

Bangkok Recruiting Fair, 2019 – Preliminary Interviews: Pulling up a seat across from the school Director, I went into my spiel. He looked to be in his mid-sixties, out of shape and a bit tired from a morning of screening teaching candidates. My one goal was to get myself invited to a more formal interview later in the day.

We exchanged a short volley about my qualifications and why I had chosen his school. I felt super encouraged when, finally, he asked to see my curriculum vitae. I held my breath. “I had no idea you’re so…old. The cut-off age for a work Visa at my school is 56. Sorry, but I can’t hire you.”

I’m 56 years young! Fit, trim, and full of energy. The Director, it turns out, is actually only 49. I’ve been told some countries fear that at my “advanced age” I may suddenly become terminally ill and a long- term burden on their healthcare system. If I were them, I’d be more worried about the Director’s physical condition than I would with someone’s actual age. I don’t get it!

Why do the majority of schools and recruiting agencies/Fairs fail to include age restrictions with their job postings? Wouldn’t this save schools and educators extensive time and money? Here at ISR we’ve heard theories on this topic, some of which don’t speak favorably of recruiters.

ISR Asks: What’s your take on this topic? Do you have direct experience with ageism at recruiting Fairs and/or with recruiting in general? Why are age requirements kept under wraps until the very last minute? Please Share!

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Also see: ISR’s Work Visa vs. Age by Country

Recruiting Fair Diary, London

About this Article:  Recruiting Fair Diary, London presents us with the unique opportunity to share a recruiting couple’s very personal Fair experience. From their interviews, to strategies and the emotional strain of waiting for phone calls from directors that never came, it’s all here. If you’ve been searching for real insight into the recruiting experience, this is it.

With eighteen years of combined International teaching experience, Master’s degrees and IB experience under their belt, the London Fair was the first-ever Recruiting Fair attended by the author and partner. In the author’s own words:  I’ve benefited much but contributed nothing to previous ISR discussions, so it’s now time for me to give a little back…

Our objective was straightforward:  a good school in western Europe which had positions for both of us. We had already turned down requests for interviews from some good schools in southeast Asia (been there) and central Asia (ten years ago maybe), but on the eve of the Fair there was just the single school with advertised positions that matched our interests. My partner and I had already sent letters of application to this school and to a few others with a position for at least one of us, all the time expecting that more matching posts would appear once we were at the Fair. We left for London already facing limited options and wondered openly whether we should relent from our narrow focus and expand to consider non-European schools. However, we also knew that our current school was keen to keep us and had generously extended our notification deadline to the first week after the Fair, so if we left London with no Contracts that didn’t mean we would be jobless for the next school year.

The evening before the Fair tested our resolve as a great school in east Asia, whose fortunes we had been following for years, emailed us asking to interview before sign-up. Neither my partner nor I would have considered working at School A as anything other than a great outcome for our job search:  the positions, school, the city, the package, the leadership – everything appealed, notwithstanding that it was not Europe. Some advice that had always been given to us about approaching a Fair had been to go in with open minds, and we were prepared to change our plans if it meant working at School A. We accepted the invitation to interview and prepared to fly out that night with a heightened sense of expectation.

DAY 1:
We arrived in London in the early morning and after the three-hour commute from Heathrow to Gloucester Rd. Station, we were thankful we had changed our original flight times. Had they been kept, we would have arrived late for the 1:00 pm Fair orientation. The orientation itself wasn’t too informative – it basically covered the information in the pre-Fair emails sent by Search – but the timely arrival meant we could prepare for that unexpected early interview with School A. Also, that morning another school we were interested in, this one in a great northern European city, had invited my partner to interview at the same time as the orientation. Schools will schedule interviews as soon as it is convenient for them to do so, so an early Fair arrival can be helpful to candidates.

We also had time to reconnoiter the Fair venue, touch base with our Associate, survey job listings in the candidate lounge, check the candidates’ mail room, and drop our CVs and notes into recruiters’ folders in the schools’ mail room.

A few observations:
1) The school listings in the lounge area was almost identical to what was on the Search database, something that surprised us.

2) There was not a single paper communication other than advertising to our candidate folders for the duration of the Fair.

3) We wondered whether the paper CVs and handwritten notes had any effect on potential recruiters as we garnered absolutely no interest from this contact method.

4) We were again grateful that out hotel was only 100 meters from the Fair venue, and we welcomed the opportunity to take breaks from the Fair venue to relax and reflect.

Two Fair features worth mentioning were the Attendify App and Fair Portal. The former was activated about a week before the Fair and allowed us to contact other candidates and, later, we used it to contact school representatives once mutual interest had been established, either through email or at sign-up. The Fair Portal on the Search site was particularly useful, among other things, for its list of school representatives who would be attending the Fair. A few days before the Fair, my partner and I emailed the directors and principals of our target schools to remind them of our applications and that we looked forward to meeting them at the sign-up. Most of the messages that we sent were at least acknowledged and a couple were keen on arranging an interview, so this enabled us to queue-jump later at interview sign-up. We also wondered whether Attendify and the Fair Portal would eventually supplant the need for mail rooms for candidates and recruiters respectively. Our experience with the App and the Portal was generally positive, much less so with the mail rooms.

My partner’s interview with School B’s section leader went well and was told that a follow-up Skype interview with other staff would be arranged for the next day. However, no position was open yet for me though the prospect of something becoming available was a possibility closer to the end of the school year. Our joint interview with School A’s director and section leader went very well. Each showed knowledgeable familiarity with our CVs and they sold us on their educational philosophy and vision for the school. Our heads were turned, and the prospect of working at this school with these leaders became a very appealing one. We were contacted after the interview and informed that School A wished to progress our application, asked if referees could be contacted, and if so, would set up follow-up interviews with our prospective line managers in the days ahead. My partner’s interview was scheduled for Day 2 of the Fair, and I was told mine would be set for a later day. What we inferred from this delay was that other candidates had probably (and reasonably) been prioritized ahead of me.

The sign-up was bedlam. Schools from countries whose names started with A-K were in one venue (downstairs), while the rest were upstairs (or vice versa, I can’t recall). My partner and I approached three schools only, all in western Europe and to which we had sent applications before the Fair:  two which had positions for me only, and one which had had positions for both of us. The first two were interested in me (I’d like to think) but confirmed that nothing was available for my partner, so we agreed there was little point in pursuing the application. The only other target school at the Fair with jobs for both of us – School C – invited us to interview on Day 2.

Day 1 Summary – A joint interview concluded with School A in east Asia with the prospect of follow-ups; a single interview for my partner with School B with a follow-up scheduled for the next day; a joint interview with School C set for Day 2.

DAY 2:
My partner had a successful follow-up Skype interview with School B, and this led to a job offer. As it was in a great city, we considered the merit of accepting the offer and on something becoming available for me at a later stage or at another school in the same city. However,
we stuck to our plan, and with some regret had to turn down the offer. My partner also felt the Skype interview with School A went very well, though news of when my interview was scheduled was not yet forthcoming. Our joint interview with School C’s head of section went extremely well, we thought, and we considered that an easy rapport had been struck with the interviewer, someone who was likable, asked insightful questions, and with whom we felt we could easily work. The interviewer asked if referees could be contacted and, if all went well, we could expect follow-up interviews to be scheduled. There was one caveat, though:  the position for me was a tentative opening, and School C was waiting on whether the incumbent could confirm their intention to take up a position elsewhere.

Day 2 Summary My partner concluded a follow-up interview with School A but mine was yet to be scheduled; School B had offered my partner a job but it was declined; School C, the intention of follow-up interviews declared but not yet scheduled. My partner and I retired to the nearby Stanhope Arms, reviewed where we stood through the lens of a few brews, and compared Fair experiences with a friend and fellow job-seeker from another school. We thought it prudent to contact our referees about the likelihood of reference checks, and did just that before turning in, asking them to let us know if they had been contacted by representatives of either School A or School C.

DAY 3:
Anxiety sets in.
This was a long day. We waited in our hotel room for news that never arrived. School A from east Asia did not contact me about any follow-up interview, and neither my partner nor I heard from School C in Europe about any follow-up at all. Moreover, there was no sign that our referees had been contacted. Disconsolate anxiety set in. Had we been vain to think we were nearer the line than we were? Were we among many similar candidates for these schools, and if so, just how far back in the rank could we be not to receive even a polite message from either school about the progress of our applications? We were sorely tempted to use the Attendify App to contact the reps but thought better of it. Patience was our only recourse, but we were running short. In the end, we tried to distract ourselves by attending a few school presentations. Apart from a few, most weren’t very interesting or informative, with presenters relying on video clips about their school that we had already viewed online. The exceptions, though, were great schools, and with a view in mind for future possibilities we took time to speak to their directors afterwards.

DAY 4:
Our Patience Gives Way.
Finally! That morning I was contacted by School A to schedule a Skype call later that day with prospective line managers. The interview went well but revealed to me the challenges of the position, and the feeling I was left with was that I may not have been the ideal candidate, but neither had they identified anyone who may have been better. As for School C, our patience gave way and we emailed the section head to query the progress of our application. There was no reply.

We checked in with our Associate, whose modus operandi seemed to be to reflect whatever it was the candidate was thinking:  the advice was philosophically sanguine but ultimately helped little.

The next morning we were to fly out of Heathrow with nothing to show from the Fair. The relative hurly-burly of the first two days had delivered no result, and our conclusion was that we would be doing this all over again in a year’s time.

Both schools were ‘live’ again.
The day after the Fair we heard back from School A, explaining the jigsaw that is school recruitment and asking us to clarify when the deadline was for notifying our current school. We latched onto this sign of hope, explained the situation to our head of school who granted us a few extra days before having to declare our intentions. Also, our referees began to be contacted by School A, so we surmised that we remained well and truly under consideration for our respective positions. And then two days after the Fair, School C contacts us to say the incumbent for my position was leaving and asked us to Skype interview with prospective line managers the next day. They, too, began reference checks, and it seemed to us that if all went well, we would have a decision to make between two appealing schools:  one a renowned school in east Asia (some might call it a powerhouse) and the other an attractive post in a Europe. Both offered financially attractive packages and were we offered posts at the one school my partner and I would have been extremely satisfied. The second round of School C interviews went very well once more, with confirmation as far as we could tell that leadership, policy, and practice aligned. School C then requested a third round of interviews, this time with prospective team colleagues, a full six days after the Fair. The head of school remained in frequent contact over this period, and we remained transparent about the progress of our application with School A (as we had with School A in regard to School C). It now seemed a matter of which of the two schools would be the first to make us an offer.

It was School C, a week after the conclusion of the Fair. Verbal agreement secured, a paper Contract was dispatched the next working day – my partner and I were going to a great school in a great part of Europe!

My Takeaways from the Fair: 
1) If you have a strong working relationship with your current school, keep them abreast of your intentions and – if you can – try to secure some extension to the date you are required to declare your intentions. This ‘backstop’ option certainly worked for us!

2) Get to the Fair early, even the day before. If you have applied already for positions and let your schools know about your availability for early interviews, then they may very well take advantage of this opportunity.

3) Be specific about what you’re seeking, even if that might limit the number of interviews or job offers you receive. I felt all our interviews went well, although at the Fair itself we had only a combined total of three first-contact interviews. I’m not sure how many quality first-interviews I could’ve given, and it was easier to be keen when my enthusiasm for schools and positions was genuine.

4) The recruitment action for us started in earnest after the Fair, and the timeline for decision-making may extend beyond a week following the last day. Sure, our sample range was limited to two schools, but both operated in a similar manner and required a sequence of responses from us: a) establish an accord with the head of school or section; b) confirm capabilities with line managers; c) demonstrate the prospect for a working rapport with peers.

5) Explain both gaps in teaching career and other workplace experiences. Both School A and C remarked with interest on our Search biographies, which are not regular by any stretch but they do account for periods in our lives that did not involve teaching.

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Visiting an International School for a Tour?

Touring an International School that’s on your A-List sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? Firsthand knowledge and the chance to “pick up on the vibe” can be priceless.

Of course, it’s not always practical to fly off to a distant land for the express purpose of checking out a school. But what if you’ll be in the area anyway, say on spring break? You can simply send an email to the school director, introduce yourself and show interest in the school for a possible future position. The worst that can happen is s/he’ll say no and, well, that speaks volumes…

ISR Asks:  Has anyone had experience doing this? If so, how did you pose the question? How was your visit? Did you later apply to work at the school? Even if you didn’t land a position, was your visit worthwhile? None of us at ISR have ever done this! We look forward to reading your Comments. Please Share.

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Holding Teachers’ Careers Hostage

When school directors write to ISR asking us to remove a specific Review from the web site, they often try to severely discredit the individual they believe wrote the Review in question. They obviously feel their poor opinion of a suspect teacher should be cause enough to eradicate a Review from ISR, an attitude that speaks volumes.

In response to these emails, ISR explains: “From your position as school Director things may look quite different than from the perspective of a member of your teaching staff.'” We then stress that, “Not everyone has the same experience at your school. Everyone is entitled to share the truth as they know it.”

Soon realizing that discrediting a suspect teacher will not yield their desired results, some (most?) directors quickly resort to threatening ISR with legal action. These individuals treat ISR in the same bullying manner portrayed in the Reviews to which they object.

A Disturbing Trend

In an underhanded attempt to get Reviews removed from ISR, some directors are now refusing to write teachers Letters of Reference until specific Reviews are, in their words, “taken down.” Essentially, an administrator tells a teacher (or teachers), “We know one of you wrote the review.” Get it removed and we’ll then write your Letters of Reference.” Some directors have even gone so far as to refuse to verify employment!! ISR condemns this and believes it amounts to holding teachers’ careers hostage. 

Apparently, just how low some directors will go to squelch dissenting voices is yet to be seen. You can rest assured, however, if you are the author of a school Review that’s upsetting your school director, no one, not even ISR, knows you wrote it, unless you say so. Don’t be fooled by school personnel and/or their attorneys who will say and do anything to get a ‘confession.’

Fortunately, not all directors who disagree with a Review of themselves or their school will resort to holding teachers’ careers hostage. Most are in favor of ISR, support free speech and use information gleaned from Reviews to improve their schools. These school directors normally write to ask us what steps they can take to publicly contest a Review. ISR salutes these schools!!! THESE are the schools we’d all like to work for!


How Much Do Administrators Earn?

If you’ve been contemplating a move into administration, you already know a Google search yields little information in regards to what international school admins earn. That is, except for the obvious, “Administrators earn more than teachers.” How much more? is our question… 

ISR is asking for your help in attaching a general $$ amount to Director and/or Principal positions around the globe.

With at least a ballpark dollar figure to work with, teachers, with an eye on becoming an admin, can decide if the effort and monetary outlay to earn an admin credential will be worth the investment. Additionally, a more strenuous job search, plus additional responsibilities and work hours will need to be weighed against the potential pay hike.

If you have knowledge of admin salaries at your current, or previous schools, please Share that information here and help those colleagues who are contemplating a move into administration make an informed decision. You can also post requests for admin salary levels at specific schools and check back later for a reply.

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Bait & Switch: When the Job Isn’t As Promised

I’m currently in what I call a classic bait & switch situation. I was hired to teach high-school chemistry/physics & was “reassigned” to middle-school math with a bunch of kids who should be studying basic arithmetic.

To rub salt into my wound, the school does not even have a chemistry lab! The promise of a chem/physics position was nothing more than an under-handed ploy to lure me (or simply any warm-bodied human being) to stand in front of a classroom. Now? I live for the weekends. I detest these spoiled rotten, poorly behaved middle-school kids (and their parents) who academically & emotionally belong in elementary school. More than anything, the admin disgusts me. Worse, I’m not the only one they did this to.

Okay….my contract gives admin the right to reassign me as needed, but this? This is not a reassignment — this is premeditated deception. Naturally my complaints fall on the deaf ears of my recruiter who tells me, “It’s only for two years.” LOL! He won’t be laughing, though, when he sees I’m also naming him in my school review.

I thought about leaving on a weekend & never coming back. It’s a nice fantasy, yes. But, how can I bail when I’m thousands of miles from home & dependent on my paycheck to pay off student loans, among other financial obligations?

That’s my story. Anyone else have the same experience? I could almost accept it if the school had a chem lab & not enough kids to fill the course. But this? No!!

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Is The Recruiter Trying Too Hard? Are YOU?

Recruiting day: You’re ON! Expensive new suit…Check! Designer tie & pocket square…Check! Wing-tip shoes freshly buffed & a $100 haircut…Double check! You feel as though you’ve definitely put your best (Gucci) foot forward, yet notice a distinct hesitation from Recruiters as you approach their tables, hoping you’ll get a slot on their interview schedule.

The problem may be this:  Aren’t you trying a bit too hard? Teachers who go recruiting looking as though they belong in a well-appointed NYC Corporate boardroom may be making the wrong first impression on a Recruiter who’s looking for educators who can succeed in the classroom with a bunch of rowdy kids. Recruiters also need new hires to professionally represent the school despite extreme heat & humidity, funky roads, roaming packs of dogs, tiny accommodations & possibly an unspoken severe lack of basic amenities at their school.

Over-dressing, exaggerating, boasting, grandstanding & the like could easily send the message you’re trying too hard. The Recruiter may be wondering, Could you possibly be a self-indulged, high-maintenance type who won’t pitch in & get his/her hands dirty? Will this person handle it well when the going gets rough?

What about RECRUITERS who try too hard? Does he/she seem desperate to hire any warm body willing to consider their school? Is a Recruiter telling you a place (like the D.R. Congo) is a gourmet’s paradise when a documentary you recently saw showed local, hungry people eating palm grubs for food & locals with amputated limbs & machete scars begging at every, single market stall? Statements like, “It’s the best kept secret” should bYOUR clue to do some serious due diligence! Someone is trying too hard.

Google can, of course, be your best ally when researching a locale. Keep in mind, close-ups of smiling kids, tightly cropped images of school facilities, shots of tree frogs & egg-laying turtles, plates of tropical fruit & vegetation with a few people in traditional clothing can signal:  Someone trying hard to make a boring place or hardship post look good.

Recruiters may try so hard they purposely misrepresent their schools. Case in point:  A PE coach was shown an aerial shot of a school & its facilities at her interview. The photo included an Olympic-size swimming pool. As her specialty was swimming, she was excited at the job prospect. Upon arrival to the school, however, the pool turned out to be a blue rectangle painted on the ground. “Oh,” said the local-hire PE assistant, “didn’t he tell you that you were looking at the architect’s rendering of where the pool will be installed, someday?

A final word on trying too hard:  Recruiting is about educators trying to find schools & schools trying to find educators. Everyone has on their best smile & endeavors to make a success of the experience. There’s is, however, a marked difference between trying too hard and just plain trying. Don’t fall into the trap of trying too hard. And, most of all, proceed with caution when you suspect an interviewer is trying too hard. 





More Than Just a Slogan: Go Paperless this Recruiting Season

Dear International Teaching Community of Organizers, Administrators, Recruiters, Fair-Attendees,

..My name is Michael Brown, an overseas educator, soon to be attending his fourth Recruiting Fair. I am writing with a singular purpose in mind:  I am asking you to GO PAPERLESS THIS RECRUITING SEASON for the sake of Mother Earth.

Okay, maybe we cannot go completely paperless in one fell swoop, but we can commit to taking positive steps in that direction. With the future of our planet at stake, we all have the responsibility to help effect positive change.

As it stands, we create a huge carbon footprint when we fly off to a distant locale for a three-day Recruiting Fair. Compared to Skype, Face Time and other digital venues, it’s plain to see Fairs have a powerful negative effect on the environment. This assault on Mother Earth is only compounded by the tremendous quantity of paper consumed in preparation for these Fairs. Teachers and administrators alike promote Earth Day and a “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mindset in the classroom, yet continue to print out multiple resumes (or expect to receive them). Why not post resumes and all other print material online?

Still ‘hanging around’ and exacerbating the situation is another dinosaur of the past known as the hanging file. I beg recruiters and candidates to not use them as resume drop-offs. Instead, a small note could suffice to attract attention or communicate outside the multitude of virtual options such as email, Messenger, WhatsApp and/or the organizer’s Fair portal. We, collectively, should no longer need printed communication at this point in our digital evolution.

To be direct, paper-heavy Recruiting Fairs rely on an outdated system we should change immediately. We can all promote electronic communication as the sole avenue of organizing interviews and end the expectation to receive a printed, full-page resume and cover letter.  Small note cards, (or better yet, none at all) are all that’s needed. Smart phones all have a Notes App — let’s use them!

I’m not bringing paper copies of my resume this year, which I also did not do at my last Fair in 2012. If you haven’t printed off copies yet, please don’t.  Our resumes are on the recruiter’s site, readily accessible.

I ask organizers and administrators:  Whom would you rather have teaching at your school? An educator who ‘talks the talk’ or one that ‘walks the walk?’ The answer is clear! Going paperless says,  ‘I’m about more than just slogans.

Michael Brown

ISR Note: The Sierra Club tells us one tree, depending on its size,  yields from 10,000 to 20,000 sheets of paper. We’ll use 15,000 as the medium figure for this example: Teachers generally print at least 15 resumes, plus cover letters, to total a minimum of 30-sheets of paper per fair attendee. Multiplied by 300 attendees, we’re looking at a minimum of 9000 sheets of paper per fair. Multiplied  by 20 or so fairs, we find that 180,000 sheets of paper ,or 12 trees or more per recruiting season, are sacrificed for resumes and cover letters alone. 

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Between the Lines: Your Cover Letter

..Recruiting season is underway and International Educators are asking age-old questions about Cover Letters. “How long should it be? Where does my contact info go? Should I include this? Do I leave out that?” ISR asks:  Why would anyone want their cover letter to be like all the others? 

Without a doubt, your cover letter must be well-organized, concise, and succinctly contain information to spark interest in finding out more about how perfect a candidate you are. Most importantly, to be successful your cover letter should reflect WHO YOU ARE beyond diplomas and work experience. A truly great cover letter will leave a school Director with a favorable impression of YOU, while simultaneously filling them in on the facts.

In a profession where “fit” is everything, it can be that what you say between the lines of your cover letter is more important than the actual words themselves. An excerpt from a long-time contributor to the ISR Open Forum sums it up:

PsyGuy: Most International Teachers are very indistinguishable from one another, there isn’t really much in their backgrounds or experiences that differentiates them from one another, and, as a result, very minor, even trivial differences often mean the difference between the IT who gets the appointment and the ones that don’t. Recruiters aren’t really looking for the greatest IT. They already know you can teach and so can every IT that came before and after you. What they are looking for is “fit,”….. that the IT candidate is going to harmonize with students, parents, the other staff, the curriculum, the ethos, the mission, etc.”

The ‘take-away’ message:  Your cover letter may say you’re a creative, flexible educator who’ll be an asset to the team, but all that is meaningless if it’s filled with clichéd, boring, dry verbage. Landing an overseas teaching position is not just about SAYING you’re creative, flexible, adaptive and a good fit. You need to show it!

The 4-Part Cover Letter

Part 1:  Introduce yourself, succinctly . Save the juicy, interesting tidbits for Part 3. State the position for which you are applying plus the date on which you are first available to fill it.
Part 2:  Match your professional/educational experiences with the stated job requirements.
Part 3:  Highlight some personal information about yourself and how you will “fit” into the school’s overall atmosphere. Illustrate how you will be an asset to the school beyond merely filling the position.
Part 4:  Express excitement about the position. Encourage the reader to review/critique your resume.

Your challenge:  Get creative! Step out of the confines of the typical, uninspired cover letter. Mix in some personality. Choose words that fulfill the basics requirements, while at the same time illustrating your unique personality. Show a Director that beyond qualifications, buttons and badges, you’re the best fit for the job. 

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What’s Hiding in International School Websites?

At ISR, we spend considerable time reading School Reviews and looking at corresponding school websites to verify certain information.  After viewing thousands of school websites, we’ve concluded that schools with multiple poor Reviews on ISR have websites that share similar characteristics. As we head into recruiting season, we thought now would be the perfect time to share what we’ve learned:


Under Construction, 404 Pages, No Website at All!
An International School with a poorly functioning website is unacceptable and shows a distinct lack of investment in technology, an antiquated business model and/or an inability to keep pace with the modern world. A poorly functioning, or non-existent website can signal low transparency and a purposeful lack of communication with the school community at large. ISR advises you to proceed with caution.

English-Version Website Non-Existent
Schools catering to an International community should, and must, have an English-version website. Lack of one suggests a school that caters to locals only and lacks an International/diverse population.

Welcome letter not signed by Director. No Staff Directory
Websites lacking a personalized Director/Principal welcome letter should send up a red flag. Be wary of school sites with generic welcome letters or mission statements signed with, simply, “School Principal.”  These schools are frequently represented on ISR by School Reviews that tell of excessive staff/admin turn-over.  

Well-established, well-run schools not only display a photo of the person in charge, a brief run-down of their qualifications, and a signed letter, but also a directory of staff. Admittedly, some schools do not name their staff and/or admin team to protect their identity. As such, this may be a sign of anti-American or anti-European sentiment in the community. ISR recommends you exercise caution when considering schools without admin/staff transparency.

The Same Few Expat Kids Are All Over the Website
Alarms should be going off in your head when you spot the same few expat kids in multiple photos. Chances are the school is trying to look international when in reality it’s made up of a predominately local population. The few expat kids scattered throughout the website are usually the children of the international teaching staff. On the other hand, if you are looking to teach in a school that caters to mostly host nationals, this could be a good sign.

Facilities and Canned Photos Galore
School websites with lots of cropped photos of facilities and stock close-ups of individual kids may have something to hide. Teachers often review such schools by saying they have unfinished construction, unopened sections of the campus, issues with student population, run-down facilities, poorly constructed buildings and/or a non-international student body.

Accreditation Badges Missing
Last but not least is an item we think of as a Yellow Flag. If you see a school website without Accreditation badges, or that does not mention the agency that accredited the school, it’s an indicator further research is needed on your part. Lack of Accreditation badges can mean the school lost its Accreditation for failure to meet standards. In such cases, Reviews of the school usually reflect this point. Many never-accredited schools do, however, receive perfectly fine Reviews.

As always, we remind you:

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Do Corporate Schools Have a Heart?

Years ago I returned from a few pleasant years teaching overseas. Recently, however, I decided to throw my hat into the ring this upcoming recruiting season and head back to a life of teaching abroad.

Overseas, I taught in small, independently-owned International schools. Looking around at job opportunities now, though, I’m noticing the trend in International Education appears to have shifted to multi-national educational empires, with names like GEMS, QSI Schools, United World Schools and Nord Anglia.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but there does seem to be advantages to being part of a big, global network of schools:  established curriculums, sister schools that share resources, clear management structures, professional development conferences and potential lateral moves between schools, to name just a handful. The downside for me is this:  I’m not much of a corporate gal (hence the teaching degree) and worry about being a part of a huge, impersonal bureaucracy. Considering the size of some of these education goliaths, I’m concerned the needs and day-to-day affairs of the little guys (i.e. the teachers) might be overlooked. There is also the ever-present threat of the bottom line…Will the need to turn a profit overshadow the needs of the children?

Anyone willing to share their experience with large education companies as compared to smaller, more intimate schools? Are the corporate schools simply money-making machines focused on maximum profit, or are there schools with heart and community that happen to fall under a corporate umbrella? Should I stick with what’s familiar to me and recruit for a small independent school? Or take my chances in finding a corporate school with a heart?

Thanks for your input!

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