How To Do This

We get this question all the time:  How do I do what you’re doing?

Here’s some answers:

This is what we do:  we are teachers who have teaching certificates and university degrees from the United States.  We teach in schools in other countries, but we are teaching the same sorts of things that we would teach if we were in public or private school in the US.

***What here follows is my personal opinion, my own research, and what my friends have told me.  This in no way is comprehensive (though I’d like to think it is!), unbiased (though I wish it could be), or even the experience you will have as an international teacher.  So, you may not quote me and you must do your own thorough investigation to decide what is right for you.

Some Misconceptions Corrected:

-We do not teach at English language schools and I imagine this misconception will hold since we’re going to South Korea and there’s an ENORMOUS demand for and presence of English Language teachers who are native speakers in both private tutorial schools and Korean public schools and universities.  We do not teach ESL.  So, when I say I teach high school English, I mean Literature and writing–same as what you learned in high school.  However, if you are interested in teaching ESL at a language school, I will eventually post information about how to do this.  For now, I’m focusing this How-To on international schools.

-We do not teach at Department of Defense Schools (DoDDS).  These are schools that are located on American bases overseas.  There are many of these schools all over the world and is an attractive gig for many because you are teaching and living much as you would in the States, but the travel opportunities are much nicer.  So you have access to the American things, like restaurants and American grocery stores, and Little League and Girl Scouts and all that, but you can also step outside the base for a more multi-cultural experience.  At this point in our lives, this is not the type of school we’re interested in. But you may be.

-There’s a perception that we’re somehow not as qualified as teachers in the States.  Actually, for the top-tier schools, you have to be overqualified.  You must have a current teaching certificate, a bachelors degree (and often even a masters degree is expected), you must have previous teaching experience, and you must be able to demonstrate an ability to live overseas either by experience or amount and type of travel.  There are schools out there who will hire first year teachers or who, in special circumstances, will hire a teacher without a certificate.  But do not expect this to happen.  Because we knew right out of college that this is what we wanted to do, we worked for years to obtain our masters degrees, certificates and experience before we tried to go overseas. Language schools are a good option if you do not have two or more of these qualifications and you want to go NOW.

-We do not live tax free.  We pay local taxes.  We do not pay American taxes on our income because that would be double taxation.  Sometimes this is great because we may only pay, for example, 8% local tax like in Quito, Ecuador.  This does not work out so well in say, Germany, where the income tax is 40%.

-There are awesome benefits to living and working for international schools overseas, but there are also a lot of hardships that you need to be prepared for.  So please consider this carefully if you think you want to teach in another country.

Benefits vs. Hardships                                                                                                                                      

  • We save more money by working overseas vs. we won’t get much in American retirement or  pension benefits.
  • We make new, wonderful friends all over the world vs. we miss our friends and family back home and they miss us.
  • It’s fun to travel and try new foods vs. we miss the variety offered in the States.  Can’t be too picky overseas!
  • Our housing is provided-for either by an allowance on top of salary or in school-owned housing vs. sometimes you don’t get to choose where and how you’ll live.
  • Students are wonderful, smart, motivated, respectful vs. especially in schools that are mostly national or do not have strong English policies, the students speak a different language which can be difficult to manage.
  • Learning new languages can be really fun vs. the language barrier is a daily hardship.

*These are just a few items to show you that it sounds awesome, and it is, but it may not be right for you and you need to be aware of these things before you begin to talk to schools.

SO,  you have your degrees, certificates, experience, and itchy feet.  Now what?

International schools are private entities.  They are not all owned by the same company.  They must be accredited by international and US governing organizations, and so they are in some ways similar.  The first time you look for a job in an international school, it’s a good idea to go through an association to which the schools also belong.  They work like headhunters and host job fairs. Before the advent of Skype, the only sure way to get these jobs was to go to an international teaching fair hosted by an association.  You will still need to go to one of these fairs for your first job search.  Schools get from hundreds to thousands of inquiries every year from individuals looking for jobs.  They do not have the time and resources to sort through these, so they rely on the associations to do this leg work.  School officials also want to meet you and suffering through this particular process is like getting your wings in flight school.  The thinking seems to be, if you can handle the emotional roller-coaster of one of these job fairs, you can totally live in Venezuela or Egypt, etc.  It’s not really all that bad, but you do have to make stressful decisions on the fly, interview in intimidating situations, and possibly you’ll only have a few hours to decide the course of the next two years of your life.

***It is important to understand that the earlier in the season that you go to a fair, the better.  The later your hiring fair, the less jobs there are and the more disappointment as schools are using Skype to fill positions.  You will go to a fair thinking a school has their listed positions available only to arrive there to find that the school is either no longer attending, or yesterday filled all the positions you were interested in.  Of course, be ready for this at all fairs, but this becomes more prevalent the later in the season.

Here are the major job search organizations.  They all have pros and cons.  Decide carefully which is best for you:

  • The University of Northern Iowa.  I’ve not been to this fair but I know many people who have.  This is the biggest job fair and it’s also the cheapest because they only host a job fair.  There are no further matching services.  The pros are the price, the number of schools represented, including DODS and even some language schools (I think!), and the time of year means that there are many jobs available.  The cons, as we’ve heard, are that because there are no further matching services, there is also no screening of candidates.  Anyone can go, so the lines for interviews are LONG.  So this one can be particularly stressful.  But, you will get job offers here, even as a first year teacher and especially if you are well-qualified.  So this fair is a good bet.
  • International Schools Services.  Again, I’ve never used this organization but many friends have.  This organization holds several fairs in the US in different places at different times of the year, so they may be a good investment if you are a specialist, or you decide later in the year that you want to do this.  The pros:  an informative database of school information, matching services (schools can look up your information and contact you), well-run professional job fairs.  In fact, I hear their fairs are the best.  Cons:  this one is the most expensive.  There’s a huge gap between them and the next highest price. Also, not all the schools we have been interested in belong to this organization so it never made sense for us to join.  Check on this before you decide.
  • Search Associates.  We did use this organization once.  If we can help it, we’ll never use them again, but many people do like them and continue to go back.  This organization hosts MANY job fairs all over the world and the price is okay.  It’s kind of expensive, but not anything like ISS.  The pros:  the number of conferences to choose from, the best/top-tier schools belong to this organization, they have a good database of school information and have matching services.  Cons:  fairs can be great or horrible depending on the year, they choose very expensive hotels for their fairs, the associates are mostly all from one family who also owns the organization which just feels a little too weird to me personally, and their website and processes are technologically lagging and clunky.  They were also a little dishonest about some things with us and unprofessional at times which left a sour taste. But you have to decide for yourself.  We chose them because the most schools we were interested in at the time were represented there, and sometimes that’s really what it comes down to. Because the top schools go to these fairs, they may not be the best if you are a first year teacher or do not have another qualification from the list.
    ***Since I wrote this, Search Associates has seriously re-vamped their website.  It is MUCH better now.  However, I still hold my personal reservations.
  • The Association of American Schools in South America.  This is a really nice, small organization and we used them for our first job placement.  The pros:  the price is fine, the fair is very relaxed and not at all stressful, the employees are kind and helpful without being overbearing, and there’s a great representation of schools.  The cons:  it’s the first fair of the season and many schools do not yet know what their openings will be.  This is the only con I can think of.  Obviously, only go to this fair if you know you want to be in South or Central America or the Caribbean.   Be sure you have done plenty of research on the countries and cities you want to go to and do not accept a job offer if you have not conducted lots of info gathering on the city.  Many places in South and Central America are wonderful places to live, but many are also dangerous.  We knew we definitely wanted to go to South America for our first job so we opted for this fair and really loved the experience–and we found great jobs there (The American School of Quito).  It’s a good fair for first timers and many schools in this area will hire first years.
  • The Council of International Schools.  Friends have been to the fair in London and really had rewarding experiences.  However, mostly European schools are represented, so do not go to this fair unless you are very highly qualified.  Everyone wants to live in Europe, so they get to be especially picky.  The pros:  it’s cheap, good schools are represented, and it’s a lower-stress fair.  The cons:  because it’s cheap, the database and matching services are not up to snuff, and London is expensive!
  • Carney, Sandoe and Associates.  I do not know anything about this organization nor do I know anyone who has used them, so you’ll need to do your own research.
  • The International Educator aka TIE online.  This is only a matching and database service.  They do not have a job fair.  But MANY schools post their openings here and you can send the schools your CV directly from links in the site.  They also publish a quarterly news paper and offer other services like insurance for international teachers.  We use this organization for getting job postings and we have extra medical insurance through them.  This is a good organization and with it’s news, to which schools and teachers contribute, it’s sort of like the voice of international schools.  I’ve also known of people who have been contacted by schools through the site (this happened once to me too).  It’s also relatively cheap to join.  I recommend joining this service in addition to attending a fair the first time around.
  • Teachers’ Overseas Recruiting Fair (TORF) or the Queen’s College fair in Toronto.  Those of you in or near Toronto can attend this fair.  I don’t know much about it except that it functions much like UNI but is smaller.  Our Canadian friends have landed various jobs in American and International and Canadian schools abroad.  Just because it’s an “American” school it does not mean that many nationalities are not hired.  In fact, at our current school, we have staff from the US, Canada, England, South Africa, Jamaica, New Zealand, Australia, and Pakistan.

There are also several sources of information to help you decide on schools and fairs or offer support once you’ve got the job:

  • The US State Department Office of Overseas Schools.  The State Department endorses and even supports many schools overseas, especially when there is not a DODDS school present in particular cities.  They have recently updated their schools page to provide links to many schools around the world, both endorsed and unendorsed.  You can use these links to look at schools before you join an association.  Sometimes it’s hard to find actual websites for schools, so I really appreciate this pretty comprehensive list.  Though I do notice they do not yet mention Chadwick International for South Korea.  But that’s okay–it’s brand new!  It will get on the list soon.
  • The International School Teacher Ning.  Set up by friends of ours–a social network for teachers.
  • Joy Jobs.  A site from a teaching couple offering information and job postings, esp. for the first timer.
  • International Schools Review.  A site for current teachers to post reviews on their schools and directors.  To be taken with a grain of salt.  People who post these may or may not have something to bitch about.  It’s sort of like a negative teachers’ lounge at school that you avoid because you realize that nothing is perfect and you don’t want to be brought down.  It’s still helpful though because if your school has no reviews, everyone is happy.  If you see one or two bad reviews, those people had personal problems.  If there are many bad reviews, proceed with caution!  And if the writer SOUNDS like it might be an administrator, it IS!  This happened at our school in Turkey.  The admins got on the site to write reviews to temper the bad, but you can tell it’s them.  So this site can be a good laugh, but can also be very helpful.  We use it.  Just don’t take it too seriously.

So that about does it for what I can tell you on how to get started.  If you’d like, leave a reply, comment, or suggestion and if I get questions, I’ll set up an FAQ.  I may not have anticipated your questions, so if they are unanswered–just ask!  I’m a teacher!

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Erin Kahle
    Aug 14, 2011 @ 16:14:47

    Erin, this is a pretty thorough list! I get questions about this kind of stuff all the time, so now I can just refer them here! Good luck on your move and school year!

    Reply

  2. angie
    Aug 22, 2011 @ 00:22:49

    LOVE this blog! Is there a way I can contact you via email to ask you some questions?
    Thanks!

    Reply

    • erinhenkels
      Aug 27, 2011 @ 05:07:50

      Hi Angie–Thanks for the comment. I tried emailing you this week, but maybe it went to your spam or you don’t use the email attached to your profile. You can contact me personally at erinhenkels at gmail.com

      Reply

  3. Laura
    Feb 15, 2012 @ 00:26:43

    I was excited to find your blog since I haven’t found too much on Songdo. I’m hoping to interview with Chadwick this weekend at a job fair, and I’d love to ask you a few more questions about the area via email. Can you email me back? Thank you!!

    Reply

  4. Mark
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 16:51:54

    Hi! I have a question about Chadwick’s interview process as well, as I haven’t heard back from them…do you think they will contact me if they’re NOT interested? Maybe a “no thank you” note? If not, I’ve applied for 9th grade Music and I’d love to hear from the school so I know to either accept another post or keep hoping for Chadwick, as it seems like a great place to start my “American education” career (I’ve been in the British system (though I’m American) for the past 13 years!)
    Thanks for any info!
    OH! AND, your blog is amazing!

    Reply

    • erinhenkels
      Feb 24, 2012 @ 02:39:37

      Gosh, thank you, Mark. I swear, all you people are going to give me an unhealthy sense of self-importance. Just kidding. But thank you for the comment. Unfortunately, no, I don’t think they will contact you unless they are interested in getting more info from you or want to begin a conversation. We get a LOT of applications and as a general rule, international schools will not contact you unless they want to speak with you. I know that can be frustrating, but I think it’s just a matter of sheer numbers and logistics, so try not to take it personally. Good luck on your job search!

      Reply

  5. Camiguin Foster
    Mar 22, 2012 @ 21:22:10

    Hi Erin. My husband has accepted a job at Chadwick teaching 9th grade Geometry! We have been reading your blog (as well as your husband’s) and have REALLY appreciated all the information, as there is little to be found on the web. Anyways, I see you posted your email above and I hope you won’t mind if I contact you with some questions as we prepare for the big move. Looking forward to meeting both of you!

    Reply

  6. Jennifer
    Apr 25, 2012 @ 02:15:06

    Sounds very exciting. How often do you move, and do you have children?

    Reply

  7. maria
    Aug 22, 2014 @ 19:25:59

    Hi beautiful,

    Thank you for such a helpful site. I am considering moving to Songdo but I have no clue in how to look for a job in a different industry. Can you tell us if you have heard of other demanding jobs in the area? Also, do you know if there is some sort of recruiting agency? Any guidance would be deeply appreciated.

    Reply

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