International teaching jobs – Everything I wished I had known

It’s January, the start of a new calendar year, and a time to reflect on the year we’ve left behind. Also, it’s the perfect moment to make new plans or goals for the future. If you’re considering an international teaching job as your next move? First of all….you’re making a great decision! This post contains everything you need to know about how to apply for international teaching jobs and an insight into what the road to starting your new teaching adventure. You can thank me later!

So, who am I to be giving this advice? I am a UK-trained primary teacher but for the past 5 years I have lived, worked, and travelled as an international teacher in South East Asia. Find out more about me and this blog here.

When deciding to teach, working overseas was always in the pipeline for me. There is so much of this beautiful world to explore, it would be rude not to! Turning the idea into action is overwhelming and there is a lot to find out. But don’t let that stop you before you’ve begun. Here are some things to initially consider.

  • What are your reasons to teach internationally?
  • Who else is involved in making the decision to move abroad?
  • What are your ‘”non-negotiables”?

Reasons for teaching internationally

One summer I volunteered in Sri Lanka, teaching conversational English in a young girls orphanage. This experience gave me the inspiration to set my teaching goals further afield and ultimately set the wheels in motion for becoming an international teacher. 

Identifying the reasons to teach internationally is important. Not only is it something that you will need to be prepared to discuss throughout the application process but it will also help you to decide where you should be looking in the world. If travel is one of your main priorities, I would definitely recommend South East Asia!

It is worth noting at this point, that international schools usually require a minimum experience of 2 years teaching experience. There are some options for those with less experience, however, it will be fierce competition.

Who else is involved?

If you are not going to be moving alone, then discussing your international teaching dream is an important conversation to have with whoever will be accompanying you. However, fear not, international teachers come in all shapes and sorts! Schools usually have a mix of single teachers as well as those with families, partners, and even those with pets. Strangely, until I moved overseas, I never realised how many teaching couples there are! Does no one else want to date teachers these days? 

Non-negotiables

Defining your “non-negotiables” is another important first step. For me, I was dead-set on which part of the world I wanted to move to. Cost of living is often a big factor. Some places are more expensive than others and you should do your research on what it’s like to live in that country/city. Popular places like Singapore and Hong Kong are some of the most expensive to live in the world! Whilst this shouldn’t put you off, as they are both wonderful places, it’s worth knowing all the facts beforehand. 

International school salaries and contracts also differ greatly. To begin with, I wasn’t all that fussed about the salary because of the rewards of the experience, however, having an expected salary in mind is useful when you get to the finer details of accepting an offer.

It was very appealing that my school offered an initial 1 year contract. Usually, international schools offer a 2 – 3 year initial contract period. After this time, you usually renew your contract on a rolling basis. If the contract term is not specified in the job advert, then be sure to ask in advance so you are adequately prepared at the interview stage.

Whilst there are some things that you are willing to accept, think through the things that are non-negotiable.

How to apply for international teaching jobs

Before applying for international teaching jobs, you need to get your paperwork in order. Here is a list of items you will need:

  • Degree certificates
  • Teaching certificate + QTS certificate
  • Educational qualifications e.g. GCSEs, A levels
  • Recent photograph (soft-copy)

It’s useful to create a word document containing all of the important information that you need when applying. Most application forms require the same type of information, so having it ready to copy and paste will save you time.

CV and Letter of Application

Next, it’s time to update your CV, and make sure to add those recent CPD courses you attended. International schools are looking for diversity in their staff and what they can offer to their students so having unique skills, training or qualifications will help your application stand out.

A letter of application is standard procedure when applying for any teaching position. Best practice is to tailor these specifically to the school you are applying to. However, it’s useful to create a template which will form the base of your letters to each international school. Take a look at the last one you wrote for your current role. How can you adapt this to suit what you’re like as a teacher now? There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank document wondering where to begin. 

Fundamentals to every personal specification:

  • Values and philosophies for your teaching practice
  • Classroom management and differentiation
  • Assessment 
  • Communication with parents
  • Leadership/roles of responsibility

International schools offer extra-curricular activities to their students. Commonly, every teacher runs some form of co-curricular activity, so plan in advance what you could offer. 

Where to apply for international teaching jobs

When searching for international teaching jobs, you have a few options, but I’m going to share the easiest, Tes international jobs

This site is where international schools post their adverts, and it couldn’t be simpler to find your next dream job. Tes international jobs is extremely helpful because you can narrow your search to specific continents, countries, or locations. Also, you can filter by department if you are a specialist teacher.

Recently, many international schools are using the ‘Quick apply’ function to receive applications. This is a helpful process that saves your information so you can then apply for multiple international teaching jobs through the platform. All that’s left for you to do is upload the attachments relevant for the post. 

Another option you have is using an international teaching recruitment agency. If you are a little later to the application stage, this is a good resource to use, however I would recommend checking the Tes international jobs platform first, you can take a look here.

Search Associates is another popular recruitment platform for those looking for more support in the process. Once you register for this service, you have a database of schools which you can then apply to. Schools can also approach you. This is a good option for someone who is flexible with their location.

International Job Fairs are also an option you can explore. These are hosted at various locations around the world by recruitment agencies. These are a great opportunity to meet people face-to-face. LinkedIn is a good place to keep a look out for these fairs.

Choosing the right school

This part is going to be very personal to each individual, however, here are are some words of wisdom.

Make contact with people you know that are living/have lived in that country. What do they know of the international schools? For parents, this is an important point to consider, would you be happy for your child to go to school there?

Take a look at the schools website and the applicant information pack. Does the school represent you as a teacher? For example, I have a passion for literacy and reading, as did my school. Which made us a good fit. Think about what you have to offer. There is a higher chance of being shortlisted for a job if you can match your strengths to those of the school. 

Avoid being overwhelmed by the amazing facilities and impressive exam results. Keep in mind what you love about teaching, and follow that first. Also, be selective, you don’t have to apply for every international school in that country/city just because it’s your dream destination. 

Interviews

Now you’ve done the groundwork and started to get your applications out to potential international schools, you will need to expect some rejection. International teaching jobs are very competitive. Be determined and continue exploring other opportunities. However, if you are successful in getting an interview, here are the things you should know. 

Interviews can be several rounds. 

The first round may be a pre-screening interview where you are asked some initial questions using a video interviewing program. This is tough as it’s not a natural environment to talk to a screen and not have anyone on the other end. Prepare notes in advance, and have a copy of your letter of application printed so you can refer back to what you have already said.

Interviews may be hosted virtually

These days, particularly in the current climate, most international job interviews are held online. You may be invited for an informal discussion first to get to know you. After that, they will schedule a formal interview for the position. Be prepared for both!

Interviews can be in-person

International schools mark out time in their calendar to fly to the UK to hold interviews or attend international recruitment fairs. This is the best way for you to showcase your skills and experience. Bring along a portfolio of your teaching, take photos of your classroom or evidence that supports things you have already mentioned, or that you want to discuss further during the interview. 

Video material may be requested

This is fairly new, however it’s becoming increasingly more popular amongst international schools. As they cannot experience your teaching first-hand, they may wish to see a video recording of you teaching. It actually makes sense because to see a teacher at their best, you need to watch them teach.

You got the job!

Once you have interviewed for a position, the school will be in contact fairly soon to tell you the outcome. In my case, I interviewed on a Friday, and by Monday had accepted to move to the other side of the world! Therefore, all that decision-making prior to this point is crucial. If you don’t hear back within a week or two, start keeping your options open. 

Package

The contract and benefits package will be sent for your approval. The type of package varies depending on each international school, and can also be country-specific. The package may include:

  • Accommodation
  • School places or a reduction in fees
  • Return flights to your home destination
  • Tax-free allowances
  • Medical insurance
  • Relocation allowance
  • End of contract gratuity
  • Employee Pension Fund

If you’re happy to accept the offer, then it’s time to start packing! 

Photo by Ross Parmly

Preparing for your move

Research what goods can be purchased when you arrive so you can save your baggage allowance for those essential items that cannot be sourced locally. Usually, schools send a country guide explaining information about transport, local life and culture. A buddy from the school may also be assigned. They are to welcome you to the school but also hold information about what it’s like to work/live there, so ask questions. A group chat for new starters may also be set up.

Ready, set, go!

Your start date will soon be communicated to you, this will be the time when you will fly out to the country. There is an induction period to allow you some time to settle in and prepare your living arrangements. Many international schools also have a few days of orientation at the school to settle in and get to know your department and colleagues. 

During this time, speak to as many people as possible, and be open to new things. It is an overwhelming time, especially with jet-lag, but attend as many social events as possible. International teaching is not solely about working for a school, it is an experience that will introduce you to a great community of people, some of whom will become your new family. 

A common misconception of international teaching is that it’s a holiday. Quite the opposite. Schools expect a lot for their investment. The days are long and you work extremely hard. That being said, there are many great benefits of working internationally.

5 great things about international teaching

  1. Learning from teachers who bring different experiences
  2. Teaching different types of students
  3. Professional development opportunities
  4. Socialising
  5. Travel, travel, and more travel

What are you waiting for?

Although the process takes some time, hopefully this post has given you all you need to know about applying for international teaching jobs. Best of luck with your application! If you have any further questions, leave a comment below or get in touch.

Where would your dream international teaching job be?

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