Recruiting Annoyances Can Make Ya CRaZY!

January 27, 2016

annoyance2266059NO prospective nibbles so far …. One week after the interview and no news …. What if the school admin changes their mind? …. Schools in Sudan are not even contacting us …. My husband accidentally hit the Skype-camera button while only in his underwear!

Recruiting for International teaching positions is full of annoyances, replete with uncertainty and self-doubt that can throw even the most seasoned of us into an emotional tailspin. Are the emotional highs and lows worth it? Experienced international educators answer with a resounding YES, but going through it in isolation can be tough.

The ISR Recruiting Annoyances Blog was created specifically for sharing recruiting-related thoughts and experiences. Here’s an opportunity to “blow off a little steam” and offer fellow candidates feedback and support….and get some for yourself. Staying in tune with the progress, experiences and reactions of colleagues will help us ALL understand our individual situation and might even add some stress relief, as well!

…………..Recruiting Annoyances:

“So far, our job search has gotten us diddly squat. One ‘see ya at the fair,’ a couple of ‘your resume has been forwarded to so and so,’ and one outright rejection. In a way, I actually prefer the rejection; at least that means they’re communicating with us and our resumes haven’t just been thrown into a void. Any one else in this boat?”

“My nerves are frayed after signing a contract at the AASSA fair. I have not heard a word from anyone. People are coming to my house to buy my furniture; the realtor is listing my house, and no word. What if they change their mind? I am in a very difficult position if they do. Nothing seems to be easy, whether you get offered a job or not. Either way, we teachers seem to have to just wait, and wait, and wait. Any advice?”

“He accidentally clicked ‘camera’ and there he was in his underwear! We had our third Skype interview early this morning. Unfortunately, due to extreme time differences we needed to be up very early. My husband woke late and barely made it to the computer BUT during the interview he accidentally clicked the camera ON and there he was, sitting in his underwear!! The head of school and department head quickly excused themselves and said they would be contacting us again at a later date. Now what?”

We originally published this Article in 2013.

It will be interesting to compare teachers’ comments
from 2013 with those added in 2016.  

In what ways has the recruiting process evolved in the past 3 years?


De-Stressing @ Your New School

August 27, 2015

Lazy time. Man in hat in a hammock on a summer day

For most of us, coming in as a new teacher at an international school means we have a lot of adapting to do. Culture, language, food, climate, students, the parents of students, a new house/apartment, city and currency of monetary exchange are just a handful of what makes up the “foreign” environment that awaits us.

With so much energy focused on the actual move, how can you truly comprehend what you’re committing to? Here’s a short list of some changes to expect and suggestions from teachers who have been there/done that, and have some unique strategies for adapting to their new environment. (1st published 8/’11)

What’s New When We Change Schools?
Culture, language, food, climate, students, parents of students, your house/ apartment, the city, currency of exchange, your classroom, internet availability, administration, colleagues and committee work, school procedures, transportation, shopping, entertainment, medical care, bill paying, banking, and well… just about everything. Even your name may seem to change and sound new in terms of the local accent.

So, what de-stressing strategies work when all your familiar reference points are gone? Over the years I’ve stuck with 3 strategies that help me get a good start at a new school.

My Top 3 de-Stressing Strategies:
1. I get to know the school secretaries, the head of tech and the head of maintenance. I want them as allies. I even make some effort to get to “know them” before coming and try to bring some small gifts to sweeten the deal upon our first meeting. At one school, the tech guy desperately wanted US backpacks for his children. By bringing them along as a gift, I insured his gracious help with my many requests in the first weeks of school. I was nearly always put at the top of the list. Beyond just a colleague, he became a friend.

2. Make your apartment/house your home and refuge. I bring familiar things that make me feel at home. My music, a few pictures, books, a board game, special soap, and any other easily portable knickknack that makes me warm and fuzzy. I also bring a good supply of my favorite comfort foods. There’s nothing like a few favorite things from a known environment to help make the transition into the unknown a lot smoother. At the end of the school day you’ll want a welcoming home refuge from the crush of newness.

3. I’m careful not to be overzealous in volunteering for more committees and duties than I am comfortable with. At a new school, with my attentions being bounced around like a ping pong ball between school and personal needs, the last thing I want is more to focus my attention on. The temptation is to jump right in and make huge contributions to staff and school, but in the end if I take care of “number one” first I’m a lot more effective when it comes to contributing to the team.

Now it’s your turn. Many of us are starting off the new academic year at international schools that are new to us. What techniques work for you? Sharing our personal strategies is a great way to support each other and help make the upcoming academic year a success, in and out of school!


Recruiting Trends: 2013 & Beyond

October 24, 2013

acceptposition44033302Like most everything in our lives, the internet is remodeling the way we recruit for overseas teaching positions. Skype, the online video communication web site, has already proven successful for educators striving to interview for overseas positions while avoiding the high-priced recruiting fairs, often referred to as ‘cattle calls’.

Although a viable interview option, Skype just doesn’t transmit the subtle body language, mannerisms & expressions we perceive when actually face-to-face, across the table from a school director, particularly if that school director is not being exactly honest about their school. Of course, ISR School Reviews can compensate for that.

In between the extremes of attending a recruiting fair & Skyping for a job, are the recruiting web sites that invite candidates to submit sound/video recordings to complement their professional files. So far, these venues have shown limited candidate participation. Some theorize the problem is that many teachers lack the technical savvy to record/upload their video. Others say it could it be because most overseas teachers are in areas where a high-speed connection is not available. There may be some truth to both arguments.

Recently in the U.S., the GED (high school equivalency test) switched to a 100% computer-based testing format. Organizations that prepare test takers express that abandoning a paper & pencil based testing procedure unfairly doomed those with limited computer skills, to failure. An opposing view suggests the digital version of the test simultaneously tests for the basic computer proficiency necessary to function in today’s society. Is it possible recruiting agencies may develop their web sites to a degree that would exclude teaching candidates with insufficient computer skills?

International School Services (ISS), a major player in the recruiting world, recently added on-request candidate interviews to their web site. A school interested in a specific candidate may now send an interview request along with three questions. (As an aside, we can’t help but wonder why the process does not permit candidates to send three questions back at the director?) Using a web cam, the candidate records/uploads a video. ISS has simplified the process beyond anything we’ve seen so far, requiring only a rudimentary knowledge of computers. At first glance, it looks like the system will serve best to support the initial weeding-out process.

International Schools Review was recently invited to preview a web site in which candidates & directors participated in a prescheduled, on line recruiting event. The venue was slated for a specific day/time & all participants logged in & interacted in real-time. To our knowledge the idea is under further development.

What does the future of International Teacher recruiting look like? Will candidates be completely vetted for a position on line, making showing up at the recruiting conference a formality? Will recruiting conferences become a thing of the past? Will candidates lacking in technical abilities be excluded ? What level of technical ability is reasonable to expect from teaching candidates in the future? What level of technology do you see already incorporated into the recruiting process?


Schools that Throw Teachers Under the School Bus

July 11, 2013

schoolbus1685625You assume that when you’re teaching in a foreign country, your school will take some responsibility for your well-being. We believe most schools will. But, history shows some schools will throw you under the school bus for the “good of the organization.” As despicable as it sounds, there are International Schools and Directors who will sacrifice your well-being to placate wealthy parents and protect the school image they’ve worked so hard to create.

Recently, at Qatar Academy, Qatar, Dorje Gurung (science teacher) was misquoted by a group of twelve-year olds. Based on Dorje’s account of the incident, it appears the school, headed by Eric Sands, threw him under the school bus when he was accused of insulting Islam and thereafter jailed for ten days.

From the Dorje Gurung Blog:
  The (third) meeting with the Director (Eric Sands) was held on Sunday, April 21. Both the Director and the Principal (Mike Hitchman) were there. The Director started the meeting by asking me if I had anything to say. I realized then that whatever I said would make very little difference to the decision he appeared to have already made. So I said, “No.” The Director told me I was dismissed. Furthermore, he told me, I would lose out on five-month equivalent of salary-cum-benefits. I was a little disappointed, not for being dismissed, but for losing the money. I asked if he could do anything about the monies, adding how I had been counting on them. He couldn’t.

Dorje’s story is not unique. On June 13, 2007, the middle school principal at Al-Bayan Bilingual School, Kuwait (under the direction of Dr. Brian McCauly) was on her way home to spend the summer months with family. At airport immigration, however, Kuwaiti officials detained her, enforcing a travel ban placed on her by the wealthy parent of a student. By court order she had been banned from leaving the country. The powerful Kuwaiti man who had initiated the travel ban later threatened he would “destroy” her, all because she had sent his son to in-school suspension for fighting on campus. To this parent, an in-school suspension and Guantanamo Bay were one and the same. On her own in Kuwait with no one to turn to, she contacted ISR’s Dr. Spilchuk who, with the full support of ISR, came to her aid and helped her secure safe passage out of Kuwait.

You might be tempted to say, These incidents are just isolated cases. The truth is they are not! A teacher who worked in Guatemala shared the following story with ISR:

  I was teaching in Guatemala when an unfortunate incident took place. I had turned my back to write on the white-board when a middle school boy took advantage of the moment to crawl under the table with scissors in hand, stabbing another student in the leg. I was later called into the office to meet with the director and the boy’s dad (a very prominent military man and big-wig). The first question out of the director’s mouth was, “What is it about you that incites children in your class to act this way?” Needless to say this conversation was the beginning of the end for me at this school.

A teacher who worked in Thailand relates a similar story of betrayal by his School Director:

I was told that I would “take the fall” if anything came of a particular incident…. I had pointed my finger at a 3rd grade boy, saying in a stern voice to stop what he was doing (tapping & poking another student). The child began to cry. When the classroom teacher came to pick up her class, she noticed the boy’s red eyes and asked me, “What has he been up to now!?”
  This 3rd grade teacher reported that I had traumatized the child. I requested a Korean translator (The school had a large Korean student body) so the child could relate exactly what had happened. The director refused the request saying he wanted to keep this “hush, hush” from the Korean community. He also told the me that if anything came of it, I would be fired.
  As it turned out, the boy related the entire event to his mother who came to school to set the record straight about this misunderstanding. The director later told me I was lucky to have kept my job.

It appears we have the makings of a problem when you put wealthy parents with clout together with a school Director bent on keeping them happy at any cost to their faculty. That’s not to say all schools and Directors will sacrifice teachers for the “good” of the organization. Many will stand up for you when you’re in the right, and ease the blow when you’re in the wrong. They run the place like an institution of learning and not a country club for spoiled children. As we see it, a PhD does not make a leader–Leading is about character, vision and integrity, respect and a sense of right and wrong. These things can’t be taught in a course. Some people have it. Others not so much.

When you go overseas to teach you’re immersing yourself in a culture with rules, customs, procedures, expectations and a legal system beyond the scope of your immediate understanding. It’s easy to lull yourself into thinking you’re safe and sound when you’re not. It’s important to know who you are working for and if you can count on them. ISR hosts many reviews from teachers that say their Director/Principal always sides with the parents and the kids. We encourage you to visit the ISR Schools That Throw Teachers Under the School Bus BLOG and share your experiences with colleagues. If you are comfortable in naming the School and Director feel free to do so. The two teachers in our example of Guatemala and Thailand asked their names and the school names to be removed.

Have something to share? Please scroll to post.


Has the Boat Already Sailed?

April 4, 2013

downgrade_29328839From the ISR Forum: “I’m only too aware of the economics of my own country and that the quality of life for us as a family of four is being sapped. This is probably the underlying reason for looking at overseas schools.

“However, after recently reading several ISR Blogs, I am concerned that the lifestyle and package of international teachers is on the decline. Many posts comment on the great packages they used to receive compared to the packages on offer now. Many posts are commenting on the increasingly high cost of living without an equitable increase in wages.

“Whilst I know we’ll never be millionaires, the opportunity to offer our kids a quality education coupled with a life overseas is definitely forefront in our minds. I am concerned, however, that once we leave the benefits of the ‘teachers pension’ and remove ourselves from UK teaching circles, we probably won’t be able to return.

“Will the future of International teachers be at least as viable as it is now? Do you think the boat has sailed? Should we weather the storm at home and forget the possibility of a better life? We’d love to hear some thoughts on this topic.”

Please scroll down to post


Is Teaching Abroad Right for ME as a New Teacher? by: Dr. Barbara Spilchuk, ISR On line Teacher Consultant

March 28, 2013

choice41516506Each year more and more university students are choosing to go abroad after they’ve finished their Education degree. Many come to me asking the question: “Is international teaching the right choice for me?” This is not a question I can easily answer for young people choosing to make their first teaching experience an international one. All I can do is tell the students to consider the following three questions:

Have you traveled abroad before? The answer to this question may seem unimportant; however, young teachers who have international experiences, even travel experiences with their families, have a greater understanding of the cultural differences they might experience when they go abroad. This greater understanding will set them up for a better chance of success in a country where the life experience is significantly different from what they are used to.

Are you LEAVING or GOING? The answer to this question is pretty critical. If a young teacher simply cannot find work in his/her own country, and s/he feels that an international teaching experience is the only option left to begin a teaching career, this is not the best reason for going abroad. Why do I say this? I say this because when you make a decision about your career, you should make the decision to GO to someplace, not LEAVE some place, for whatever reason. Every time I’ve made a decision to LEAVE some place, it has not been as productive for me as when I have made a decision to GO to a specific place. It is all in the mind-set. Let me explain:

If I am leaving some place for a reason that is not positive (i.e.: I cannot get a job, I’ve had an argument with my family or friend, I’m trying to escape an existing poor work situation), then my mind is not on the future….It is on the past because I have not reconciled myself with whatever the issue was that has prompted me to LEAVE. I have learned that it is better for me to be at peace with whatever situation is at ‘home’ before I decide to GO to a new place. This way my mind is fully situated in the future and I have a better chance of success with no regrets for my past. An exception to this rule is if    the situation ‘at home’ is a dangerous one that you need to remove yourself    from.

Do you have a specific place in mind where you would like to GO?  Have you done your homework on the host country’s people, customs, environment, politics? Not every international teaching location is good for every young teacher…or for every seasoned teacher, for that matter! Knowing something about the country you may be going to BEFORE you accept a contract can help you stay out of difficulty. Customs, traditions, religious beliefs, gender or racial issues or biases, economic demographics, attitude towards foreigners, health and safety issues, just to name a few considerations, should be explored BEFORE you sign a contract!

I shake my head when I get a letter from a young teacher that says s/he feels isolated or unwelcome within their community and they want to break contract. Did you check to see what the situation was in that community BEFORE you agreed to sign the contract? How did you check? Did you ask to speak to teachers already there? Did you talk to someone from your embassy? Did you research online? Did you read the ISR reviews of the school you would be going to BEFORE you signed your contract? Better yet, did you try to find a travel partner to go with? I always recommend that new international teachers go in pairs, either with their spouse or with another ‘newbie’. That way there is a built-in support system in the new location to help with the cultural and isolation transition.

There are so many things to consider when choosing International Education as your first choice when moving into your education career after completing university. I encourage you to think things over carefully and if you have questions or comments, just scroll down and post your thoughts. I’ll be keeping an eye on this Blog and will be more than happy to help you with your decision-making! 


What’s It Really Like to Live Here?

February 7, 2013

What’s It Really Like to Live In The Middle East

mosque Whether you hope to explore the ancient city of Petra or rock the night life of Tel Aviv, we’d love to hear what you have to say about living in The Middle East.

Do YOU have comments & insights to share  with colleagues regarding the pleasures & challenges of life in The Middle East? Please do! International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is ALL about!

Share your thoughts with colleagues:
• What is the BEST & the WORST of living in The MIddle East?
• Do you recommend living in The M.E. or are you counting the days?

What’s It Really Like to Live in The Middle East?
Scroll down to JOIN the Conversation!

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See all the continents included in the
What’s it Really like to Live Here Series
Asia / Africa / the Americas / Europe / Middle East

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