Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Teaching Overseas - Synopsis and Excerpt

 Just about everything you need to work through if you're considering applying for an overseas post.  This is not a pamphlet from an agency trying to sell you a dream with nice images, but tells you of what can go wrong and how to get out of a situation.  It should enable someone to decide whether the overseas life is for them.
It has to be an essential for anyone thinking about or currently teaching overseas.  Written by a teacher and educational consultant with 18 years experience overseas in Europe, Africa and across Asia, there's not much that isn't covered.  This book could save you heartache and money.


Why move?

Ask yourself these questions:
1)       Can I secure a post in my home country?
2)      Is that post a promotion or a sideways move?
3)      Have I completed my initial probationary period successfully?
4)      Do I see others moving to promoted positions or having to leave the teaching profession to work?
5)      Do you really want to teach as a career after completing your probation?
6)      Do you enjoy what you do?
7)      Do you feel that you can save enough money each month to take care of savings and getting a mortgage?
8)      Do you like your holidays and conditions of service?

These questions are designed to start off you critical analysis of your home country position.  If you can see that you are heading up the promotional ladder, you may need to start looking at a different set of questions.  These should re-examine your reasons for entering the teaching profession.
Also you need to be aware that your promotion (if you have had them) could have been to get you out of the classroom and doing damage there.  Be honest with yourself.  Are you really a teacher or a manager?  If you are a manager then should you really be telling good practitioners how they should be teaching?  Never forget that many classroom teachers elect to stay at that level because they love their job and actually are good at it.  Some school managers have kept them in the classroom because they don’t want to lose the good practice they have.

When you have looked at your options about what to do next, stop.


“Will this move from my current post impact on future retirement plans, pensions, health care and other benefits you may have in my home country?”
For example, will you be viewed as a “wanderer” who will not be happy in a permanent post when you have returned from this purportedly exciting world of working abroad?

Look at staff in your school.  Are they all young, newly qualified or within a few years of qualifying?  When they leave do they get teaching posts in your home country?

Can you see a gradually diminishing in the average age of the teaching staff in schools?
If you can spot the patterns, you will be starting to realise that the government’s (in the UK) claim of there being a shortage of teachers is a fallacy.
There are, in the UK apparently, more teachers not working in schools than there are teachers working in schools.

Think about that, and then think about why that might be.  School budgets perhaps?  Headmasters and Principals who are possibly on bonus systems for saving money?  Possibly more concerned with balancing the books than providing their students with experienced teachers (those who are on the top of the pay scale).  Have any teachers you know been “moved on” or “edged out” of post once they started to get too expensive to keep?

Unfortunately, it is far too easy for an unscrupulous school leader to create a situation that could cast aspersions on a teacher’s behaviour or character that are difficult to walk away from without some of the mud that has been slung, sticking.

So, before you start applying for overseas posts, think very carefully about your needs in the present and in the future.  Some people do find work again in the UK when they return, but many don’t.  When they do find work again, it probably won’t be at the same level, but lower than when they left, and they may have to accept lower salary.  Some schools do not count service overseas towards pay scale increments.
Looking for the Post

The internet is a wonderful thing isn’t it?
There are many sources of information about where to find posts overseas online.  Too many probably, and several advertising the same role perhaps?
There are recruiters out there who wish you to sign up with them first, hand over your money and then they will try to find you a job.  There are others who will take out adverts on behalf of the school and get paid their money by the school or organisation when they have supplied a teacher who successfully completes the probation period.
Which of those types of recruiter wants to make sure they supply a teacher who will fit into the school and stay there?  Redundant question, I know, with the answer being the one who has to wait for their money.  They also have your best interest at heart too, because they shouldn’t be aiming to try to fit you (our square peg) into a school (the round hole) that wouldn’t suit you.
How do you spot the difference between these recruiters?
The recruiters who are in the game for the long haul generally will advertise on behalf of the school in the Times Educational Supplement online and paper version.  These days the paper version of the TES will carry less overseas adverts and most are in the international jobs section online. There are other newspapers worldwide that carry teaching posts along with organisations such as VSO, Aus Aid etc that have volunteer posts on their websites.
Some schools will not use recruitment specialists and take out their own adverts and interview using their own senior management people.
I did mention the TES for a reason, however.  You must start browsing the overseas posts well in advance of when you want to apply for a post.
The first reason for browsing is to note down those schools that are advertising all the time.  There are schools (especially from Spain), who are running adverts in the TES almost every week.  Clearly, you should avoid such places as people are not staying there very long!
There are others, who will always place an advert in the TES every November/December that covers all subjects and positions in the school.
In those cases they are “fishing” for applications.  It’s a bit naughty really.  They will have asked their current staff on one year contracts whether or not they wish to have they contracts extended.  While the replies are being processed, the school is receiving resumes and curriculum vitae from those responding the advert.
If someone applies for a position who seems more well qualified (on paper at least) than the current post holder, then the incumbent teacher may well have a letter saying that the school has decided not to renew their contract for the following year.
The school is also at the same time collecting a database of many qualified teachers who, if needed, could be contacted at short notice and drafted in to replace current staff if needed.
So, you have realised now that many of the better overseas school put out their adverts in the October or November proceeding the September for which they want to recruit.  The question now is “Which part of the world do I want to target?”
This is very much where you actually get some control in the process, though it depends on your reasons for the overseas move.
These questions should help focus your decision:
1)      Do you want a post with:
a)      Annual return flights?
b)      Initial and final resettlement baggage allowance (minimum 500 USD)?
c)      Accommodation provided?
d)     Utilities paid for by school/company?
e)      Tax free salary (see explanation after list)?
f)       Private medical insurance?
g)      Employer organises in country work visas and residency?
2)       Are your qualifications portable to particular countries?
3)      Do you have medical problem that would be exacerbated by the climate or would you be able to get the medication you need in that country?
4)      Are you after sightseeing or further travel opportunities that would be benefited by working close to an international travel hub?
5)      Are you able to get to the country’s embassy/consulate easily for visa processing.
6)      Are you HIV positive?  If you know the answer to this is in the affirmative, then (if an EU citizen) you should give up the process of application outside the EU as every non-EU country will test you. On finding a positive blood test they will put you on the next plane home (probably without counselling).
7)      There are weather and geological factors you should note.  Are you of a nervous disposition?  Frequent earth tremors may freak you out and strong tremors could have you on the next plane home (if the airport is still working).  Parts of the world do suffer from extreme weather.  In the Philippines the school had three warning sirens – fire, earthquake and typhoon.  If you thought hurricanes in the Caribbean were bad, try a typhoon for size!  Cyclones wreak havoc in Western Oceania.  The opposite is also a problem, such as drought in Africa.  I find volcanoes interesting, but don’t want to live next to one.
8)      Your personal hobbies and interests.  You may be wishing to learn or continue with scuba diving or some other activity out of school hours.  Look at what the different countries have to offer in those areas.  I am an angler so I like to see the fishing opportunities in a country.  Mongolia, for example has the world’s largest trout species, the Taimen, with specimens up to two metres long and 100kg in some rivers.

The questions given in part “1” above should be your starting point in the search for a school and these can all be found in some schools (the better ones). 
There is a catch with the words “tax-free”.  For some schools it means that you get the equivalent UK salary but don’t have any tax or other contributions deducted.  This is fine, just remember that you may wish to top-up you NI contributions on a regular basis should you like a state pension or at least some social security benefits should you return and need them.  Pensions may need topping up too, just remember that the employer won’t be adding their contributions as in the UK.  You will have to top up the full amount should you wish too.
Other schools will pay you a salary which is equivalent to the UK salary that has had the tax deducted.  You just won’t be paying tax on it.
I like to look at a country’s cost of living (which a good school should offer links to on their website for prospective staff) and calculate how much I can save when working there, compared to other job offers and the UK situation.
Schools within Europe will often not offer flights or accommodation.  Ask yourself why not?  Given the age of cheap flights, how much good-will would be achieved by organising the flights for the staff and sourcing accommodation?  Let’s face it.  You are going to give up your life in the UK or elsewhere and move it to a new country.  Sorting out flights, baggage and accommodation should be best accomplished in bulk and by local school staff who speak the local language and have local contacts.
As a UK, Irish, Aussie, Kiwi or US teacher working overseas, you are generally going to be at a school delivering a curriculum in English, even if the students aren’t native speakers.  You are not generally going to have studied the local language for every country you could be heading too.
I have visited twenty six countries in my life to date and have only spoken the local language well in three places outside of the UK – Eire, US and France (and the latter level is not fluent).  When I do try to learn a local language, the only real repetition and learning occurs when using taxis.
Your language skills could send you heading towards a particular country to work.  A great many of the overseas teachers are teaching English, especially with the voluntary organisations.  Even within the overseas schools, often the English departments are large to cope with developing English skills amongst the student body.  Some of the teachers are not necessarily of Qualified Teacher Status, but have qualifications for TOEFL or TOESL and may be in an adult education centre.

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