7 Signs an International School is a Good Place to Work
This guest post is written by Ron Rosenow, the founder of the internationalschoolcommunity.com website, the leading community of international school professionals.
There are many reasons why people want to leave their home country and explore the world of working at international schools. They are: love, career, money, travel, weather, location, etc. But regardless of why you have moved, you want to make sure that you find a good international school at which to work.
Of course, every international school has its downsides, but finding a real gem of a school is every international educator's dream. So, how do you know your international school is a good place to work?
Here are a few factors to consider:
If your international school has a union, then you are to be sure that there are people looking out for the best interest of you and the rest of the teachers. Many international schools in Europe will have a teacher's union available for teachers to join, for example. Knowing that there is an organized group of people that are looking out for the teachers' best interest is something that can keep you safe and secure in your job. Teachers' unions make sure that the school administration can't abuse the rights of the teachers which can put you more at ease with your job and job security. There is strength in numbers!
Friendly Work Culture
When your teacher colleagues are very friendly and there is a good community spirit while working at your international school, that is the best feeling ever. Teachers are looking for people to inspire and for others to inspire them. If your team at work gets along and looks out for each other, then the actual job teaching will be a breeze. It is nice when there are fresh faces to work with each year to keep you motivated and kept abreast of how other international schools are doing similar things, but it is also nice if you work at an international school with many veteran teachers (those who have been there 10, 15, 20 years), as you sometimes can build a strong bond with them, and they also often have many connections to the local community and culture.
Work Opportunities for Trailing Spouses
The city your international school is in is just as important as the international school you are going to be working at. It can be especially important if you have a trailing spouse for example, as you'll most likely want to have work opportunities for that person as well. A happy home life and family can make for a happy experience for you working at the international school. Flexibility is the key as then spouses can find a myriad of opportunities while living abroad in some of the major cities around the world (like Dubai, for example).
Excellent Health Care Options and Benefits
Everyone wants to have the security in knowing their health will be cared for and looked after. Not all countries and international schools offer the same kind of security though. Some international schools in Europe, for example, will have a national health care system that you will automatically get access to. You can even top that off with an extra (and cheap, too) private health care coverage which will give you access to even more benefits and faster service. Other international schools (like in China) will offer their teachers a private health care subscription. The benefits of these private insurances can vary from school to school, so it is good to do your research. The lower the cost to you and the easier access you have to quality hospitals and clinics, the better your international experience will be working at that international school.
The parents are usually what make or break an international school. They are typically the ones that are giving all the money to the school so that it can survive and even thrive. Unhappy parents make for a tumultuous time for an international school and can cause instability in a number of areas. When parents are pleased though, it makes for a great place for teachers to work. Also, when parents are generous to the school, that helps as well. It is great when there is also an active PTA. The PTA helps to organize many annual events for the teachers and students that are just as important as what is happening in the classrooms (active and supportive room parents are equally helpful). The best day of the year is teacher appreciation day which at some schools is organized by the parents!
Professional Development Opportunities
If an international school has ample and varied PD opportunities, that'll keep all the teachers happy; especially when there is choice and freedom involved for how teachers want to utilize their PD benefit. Sure some great PD can be offered in-house, but combined with external PD opportunities is the best set up. If there is a lack of PD offered or it is a challenge in getting your PD requests approved, then teacher moral can go low. International schools that realize that the PD of its teachers is a teacher benefit (that the school often also benefits from), the better the experience will be for the teacher. International schools need to make sure that teachers there can gain experience which will in turn make them better teachers and more marketable for their next school.
Having extra money in our bank account is truly one of the top reasons that teachers teach abroad. If your international school has a housing benefit, that means more money in your pocket. If your international school provides an annual flight to your home country, that means more money in your bank account. If your international school puts money into a pension fund for you each month, that means you are better prepared for your future. It is nice to live the 'expat life', but all international school teachers need to have a plan for their retirement. Find an international school that will offer you a high salary, maybe even a tax-free salary, that will allow your to pay off your loans/mortgages, to make monthly payments into your investment account and to save up for big down payments (like for a house or apartment). Make a plan to save your money right away when you start year #1 of your international school teaching experience.
International School Community
All of these signs that an international school is a good place to work can be easily researched on the internationalschoolcommunity.com website. 1000s of international schools are listed there, many with Mayors who keep them up-to-date with the latest information. We've organized each school's profile page into 66 comment topics so that you can find the information you are looking for faster! These comment topics cover a wide range of information that are separated into four categories: school, benefits, city and travel information.
Thank you to Ron for sharing such a great article with us! My name is Sorcha Coyle and I’ve been teaching in the Gulf (Qatar and Dubai) for the past 9 years. I also run Empowering Expat Teachers, whose mission is to empower future and current expat teachers to lead personally, professionally, and financially rewarding lives. If you haven’t already, join the supportive EET FB group here and follow me on IG @sorchacoyle_eet for lots of research, CV, and cover letter tips! Last but not least, I also provide CV and cover letter support to future and current expat teachers with my range of services in Teach Abroad Academy- check them out here!