How to Teach Abroad
Start the Process Early
Now that you’ve decided to teach internationally, you might be wondering how do I teach abroad? Where do I start? It’s time to apply for positions and interview with new schools. The process for applying and interviewing happens much earlier than it would in the US. You’ll find that not only is the timeline moved up the process will be slightly different as well.
When I was applying to teach internationally the first time, I worked on my resume in September, and I asked my principal for a letter of recommendation in October. Yup, that’s right in October! I had the letter at the start of November and began applying shortly after. I accepted my new teaching position at the end of January.
Agencies to work with
There are so many different recruiting agencies out there. I’ve worked with one agency the most so I’ll talk about them here. There are many different ones, so reach out and do some research to figure out which one will work best for you.
I have primarily worked with International School Services-Schrole. You have to sign up for an account, and I believe it is around $75 for a year’s membership. Remember, you’re going to have to invest money into your job search to yield results. Signing up for an account will get you access to hundreds of schools and positions. It will also allow you to attend any of their job fairs for free. Once you sign up for an account, you’ll need to create your profile.
Personal Information: You’ll want to upload your CV, necessary information about yourself- date of birth, gender, country of birth, country of passport, languages you speak, contact information, emergency information, and marital status. Now, marital status might seem weird, but if you are a couple and are both teachers, you’ll apply to schools as a team. If you’re married and one partner is not a teacher, you might get asked some questions about what the other partner is planning on doing for work. You’ll also want to include a picture.
Professional Information: After entering your personal information, you’ll need to enter your professional information- the university you attended, your degree and date of issue, a copy of your degree, your teaching license details, and a copy of your license. Then you’ll have to upload your work experience. Next, you’ll need to ask references to complete a secure online reference check. You will need to enter your reference’s first and last name, email address, phone number, organization, dates you worked with them, relationship, and position type. Once you click submit, an email is immediately sent. So, you’re going to want to send an email and ask before hitting send a request.
After you complete your profile, you can browse so many positions all over the world!
Here are a few agencies. There are many others out there that help people teach internationally. There are many more resources on how to teach abroad on their sites as well. Check them out!
Do Your Research
Before I click to apply, I do some research. I feel like that is pretty standard for job searches. Right?
First, where is the school located? Is this an area I can see myself living? Keep an open-mind here. I knew nothing about Poland before moving there, and I absolutely loved it! A lot of Americans are always worried about safety. I have honestly felt safer in Poland and Oman than I ever have in the US. If you’re concerned about safety, then do your research. It is so crucial that you can envision yourself living in this location for at least 2 years.
The next thing I look at is the school’s website. Now I do know that a lousy school could have a great site, and a good school could have a terrible website, BUT if it looks like the school’s website was made in the early 2000s and forgotten about, I move on. I want to see current events on a website, social media accounts, a calendar of events, a welcome letter from administrations. If things don’t seem right, they probably aren’t. I highly encourage you to trust your gut instincts throughout this entire process.
After the website test, I check the guiding statements of the school. These should be easy to find on a school website. Does my teaching philosophy align with that of the school? If it doesn’t, I move along. Find a school that is a good fit for you.
I don’t even know how up to date this website is kept. I was told to check this site by teachers who had been in the international teaching game for a long time. I did read reviews for my past school, and I would say they were reasonably accurate. Here teachers can evaluate their schools and their administrators. I checked it, and I considered that most people who leave reviews are usually slightly disgruntled, I read what was there and moved on. There’s always a hint of truth in every review, but I didn’t review my last school, and I was happy there. Most people who leave reviews are leaving and want to share why. I don’t even think I read the reviews for my current school. If you wish to subscribe and check reviews, do it.
Sometimes, you can get information about the benefits package before applying. You can see a salary range and know what is included and what is not included. Any information you can find on this topic is helpful before you apply. Sometimes there isn’t any information on this prior to applying.
What Are They Looking For?
When international (and I assume most other) schools are hiring, they want to know you are a great teacher, but they also want to see if you’re cut out for the international teaching life. Read this post about choosing to teach internationally. Schools want to make sure that you aren’t going to fall apart and run home at the first sign of trouble. Once I applied at a school that asked how I dealt with loneliness and isolation on their application. I’ve also had some interviews focus on who I am as a person, not a teacher. International teaching is a different game.
Here are a few topics/questions that I have been asked, or my friends have been asked.
-Have you lived away from your family before?
-Do you have hobbies outside of teaching? I find that having a life outside of teaching is a high priority in the international teaching community. International teachers live vibrant lives outside of their teaching lives.
-Can you continue these hobbies here?
-Do you have previous international school experience?
-What is your relationship status?
-Do you speak another language?
-How do you deal with new situations?
-How do you deal with homesickness?
-What have you learned from teaching internationally that you wouldn’t have learned if you stayed in the US?
This is a very basic list of questions but hopefully, you get the gist a bit better. If you have international teaching experience leave some additional interview questions in the comments. I’ve only gone through interviewing twice so I’m still quite new with this section.
Here is how I applied to schools. Some people attend a job fair, and that process looks totally different. If you’ve participated in a job fair before, please leave a bit of insight into the process below!
- I searched open positions on ISS
- I researched schools and decided which ones I would apply to and which ones I would pass up
- I checked ISS to see if I applied through the ISS website or if I applied on the school’s website
- I wrote a cover letter and answered all the questions asked in a thoughtful way
- Sometimes nothing happens next. Other times you get an email asking for an interview. And sometimes schools reach out to you and ask to interview you without applying
- Do your research again and jot down important questions and information to bring up in the interview. Remember, interviews might happen at weird times due to time differences
- Interview- probably via Skype
- Sometimes nothing happens, and at times you get a second interview
- Interview again sometimes with a teacher and the principal but usually with a director or other administrators
- Sometimes nothing happens, and then sometimes you get offered a position
- Read the contract, have a friend read it. If something seems off to ask about it
- Take the job and sign your contract or say thank you for the opportunity and continue your search
Remember, you are also interviewing the school. You need to have questions prepared, and the questions you ask an international school might be slightly different than the questions you ask a school in your home country.
Here are some possible questions to ask:
- Who is responsible for getting your visa? Does it happen before you arrive or after?
- How do you get there? Does the school pay? Do you pay and get reimbursed?
- When do you need to arrive?
- Does the school provide or assist with finding a place to live?
- Is there are realtor fee if they set you up with a realtor?
- When do you get paid the first time?
- When does your health insurance begin? What does it cover?
- Is there a shipping allowance? Is it a lump sum, or do you get reimbursed?
- What teacher materials are available in the country? What might you want to bring?
- What supplies are in the classroom? What do most teachers bring?
- Will they connect you with a teacher mentor?
- How do they help with the transition?
- What is daily life like in ______?
Accepting an Offer
Before you accept an offer, read the contract again and again. Question things that don’t seem right. I had to choose my health insurance based on three options in my first year teaching internationally. Another option was to get a gym membership, but you had to opt-out of insurance to get that option. I asked which one most teachers choose and went with that plan. It turns out I didn’t have health insurance for most of my first year! Choosing your health insurance from three very different plans does seem odd in retrospect. Ask questions about the parts of your contract that you don’t understand.
Only accept an offer if you plan to follow through on it. Accepting an offer as a placeholder for a better offer isn’t very respectable in the international world. Schools go through quite a process to recruit teachers, and having to start all over because you got a better offer leaves schools in a tough place.
Congratulations! You are off on an unforgettable adventure! You’re now ready to pack to move to a new country!