Life as an International Educator

For the past 5 years I have worked as an international educator. There are many questions I get asked by friends and family when we visit home, skypes, messages, or chats at ridiculous hours of the day. You get to travel the world and meet some amazing friends and educators that would have been previously out of reach. So here are some tips for educators contemplating, or not, to get started living the life as an international educator.

“What are the schools and students like?”
I have now taught in the Middle East and now Asia, and, kids are kids. It doesn’t matter which country you are in, students will have the similar challenges, whether from home circumstances or in their learning at school. They all have similar interests and funny personalities, just like the kids you teach at home. They have many cultural and language differences that will make you enjoy them in different ways too.

The schools are all generally well resourced with facilities and classroom equipment to support your teaching and learning. This may be something you are or are not used to at home, but always remember all schools are different, with different needs and priorities. The schools are not going to be better or worse, they are going to be different.

“What is the package like?”
For many people this is the common question, and generally the most common reason people won’t take the step. The truth is most international schools with be comparative if not better salaries than at home. That included that most schools will provide some sort of living allowance that will cover rent or a school provided apartment or equivalent. Outside of Europe, most countries have a lower income tax and most places in the Middle East have zero income tax – yes, no tax!  

There will also be some sort of gratuity payment at the end of your contract, which is generally a month’s salary for each year worked – this is essentially your superannuation equivalent from home. Among many other financial benefits, schools will generally take care of an annual flight to home country, medical insurance for you and your family as well as organise all Visa and ID documents, and often a PD allowance to support your professional growth.

“Do you ever work?”
This is a common question I receive from friends who see me on a sitting on a beach, exploring ancient ruins or eating some delicious local food a few days away on a short plane ride. Reality is, most schools will teach approximately just shy of 200 days per year, this may include professional development days etc., which ends up being quite similar to home. The advantage of working overseas is that you are generally a lot closer to those holiday destinations that you have always wanted to visit. They are also generally reasonably inexpensive and more accessible than home. That being said, one of the main reasons for wanting to be an international educator is that you enjoy the experience of travelling and learning about new cultures and meeting new people.  

“How do I find out about jobs overseas?”
Many schools advertise on their websites, so do some research and find out about them. Most schools, other than a small handful of Australian Curriculum schools, will being their recruitment process late November for an August start the following year.

There are a number of recruitment agencies around that post jobs all-year-round, Teachaway, Goabroad but I have found that Search Associates are the biggest and generally the best. They host recruitment fairs across the recruitment period of Jan-March in major cities across the world, check their website for more details. For a small fee they will allow you to have your own profile and connect and research jobs through their website, as well as meet with schools at the fairs. Having said this, it is a bit of who you know too, similar to home. So if you know an international educator, contact them, schools like to employ people they (someone) knows. It is a safer recruitment for them as you are more than likely to settle into a new place easier.

They also often like to recruit families for that same reason of stability and reliability. Just because you have a family it doesn’t mean that you cannot do it. There are many families who I have lived and worked with overseas and they love it. Most schools offer up to 2 children free tuition on top of your already generous package.

“Where do I sign?!?”
You might be thinking, sign me up now! Well, here are some things to consider when researching schools and things you may ask schools in advance?

  • What curriculum do they teach?
  • What is the package for teachers? And or families?
  • What is it like to live in that place?
  • Is it easily accessible to an international airport?
  • Are their professional development opportunities?
  • What is the workload for the position?
  • What do people do on the weekends and for social activities?

“Well, what are the negatives?”
Yes it can be difficult, being up to 14 hours flight away from close friends and family that you have relied on for support your whole life. You often miss special occasions, weddings, birthdays, Christmas’ and those small events that may be small in the grand scheme of things and but would love to be there all the same. The little things frustrate you, banks, telephone companies, governmental agencies and often just people in general, and it is important to keep in mind it’s not wrong just different. However, you develop your own support network of ‘family’ overseas and if it is one good thing expats are good at, it’s looking out for each other (Oh, and having a good time). Weigh up your options, if you are already thinking about it you are already halfway there! – look forward to meeting your for a beer somewhere.

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