international education

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It is once again that time of year when international teachers start having to decide if they want to head off to a new place or stay put for another year in the school/country they are in. If contracts haven’t already had to be signed they will be in the next couple of weeks.

It is a fun/stressful time of year. Either you have already decided to stay, making it fun to watch and see where your friends who are recruiting end up, or it’s stressful because you yourself are thinking of leaving and going to a new school/country/adventure.

The recruiting process for international schools continues to evolve due to technology. At one point in time, not too many years ago, you had to go to an overseas job fair to have the best chance at getting a job. Now you just need to register with a service like ISS or Search Associates to get your resume and name in the system and wait for a call.

ISS (International Schools Services) has just released a new video to promote their service in helping teachers get their “dream job” overseas.

Even in this latest video ISS does not talk about having to go to a job fair. Many of us know that the job fair has taken on a new dimension in the recruiting process. More and more I hear teachers say, “I’m not going to a fair.” and instead use their network of teachers they know in international schools to find the job they want.

I have administrators tell me they go to job fairs to fill that one or two last position needed and others that do all their recruiting now via Skype and don’t attend job fairs at all.

If you are new to overseas teaching then a job fair is your best bet. But once you’ve been out there for awhile you create your own network and learn how the system works.

I find it interesting how technology has taken this industry that use to mean expensive plane tickets, nights in 5 star hotels and has brought the cost of recruiting for both schools and teachers down to a couple hundred dollars if any money at all.

Technology As A Skill

I have talked here before how technology is a skill and we know that because more and more administrators are looking for the skill of using technology with students when hiring teachers. It is going to be another big year for educational technology jobs. Already schools like IS Prague are posting positions and will probably hire these positions before the job fairs even get started.

I am also hearing from administrators both via email and once again through downloading of the interview quesitons I made for schools that are 1:1 looking for educators who understand how teaching changes in a connected technology rich environment. I am also hearing from those who have completed our COETAIL program that the season has already begun. A couple graduates have already gotten new jobs in new schools while others are just starting the process. Once again administrators seem to be high on those who have completed the COETAIL program which is exciting for Kim and I and the rest of our instructors.

With more and more international schools going to 1:1 programs and moving there fast they are looking for educators who have technology skills and understand how to teach in a technology rich environment. In fact, if I was in an interview today I would hope that nearly half the questions an administrator asked about teaching would require a response where technology was talked about. International schools are moving forward fast with technology and honestly, from what I am witnessing, leaving a lot of countries and other schools behind. It is a different world in the international school system and if you are looking to work for forward thinking schools you might want to consider looking internationally.

I hate missing ISTE this year but don’t worry it’s for a good cause. 

State Department SealOver the past three days I have been meeting with other international education regions to discuss the World Virtual School Project (WVS). At the moment this is an International School project being driven by the Department of State: Overseas Schools Division. The history of the project goes back to 9/11 and the closing of the International School of Islamabad after the terrorist attacks on that day. Basically as the embassy and school were shut down shortly after for security concerns it became critical to find a way to have the education continue especially for graduating seniors and even 11th graders at the time. Long story short a virtual school was set up for those students to continue their education and graduate on time.

After this success story the State Department and schools in the region started working on putting a plan into place that would allow them to carry on school if for some reason there was a school closure. Out of this concern the World Virtual School Project was born and has slowly been expanding to International Schools around the world.

The State Department would really like to see all International Schools that are tied to U.S. embassies, consulates, and interests to have a plan to continue school if for some reason school closure was to happen. 

As luck would have it two of the three schools I’ve worked at have closed for different reasons. Saudi Arabia for terrorist attacks and Bangkok for political protests. So this type of system would benefit many different international schools around the world.

With this project also comes the added benefit of actually connecting schools to do projects both regionally and globally. Using Moodle as the backbone of the project, the project has slowly expanded to 65 schools and is growing.

The WVS also played a role this past year in Egypt and in Tripoli were the education of students was disrupted due to upraising in those countries. So as you can see this is a program that is needed and has been successful already.

Unless you’ve been in International Education you probably don’t realize just how vital this aspect is to supporting U.S. interests abroad. It’s hard to explain and would take to long here…so the next time you run into an International Educator have them explain it to ya. 

All in all it’s been an interesting three days here just outside of D.C. I’ve learned a lot about the project, about the U.S. State Department’s role in International Schools and the WVS project and it’s goals for the future. 

In the end it’s just another way that technology is helping educate students around the world.

It’s that time of year again in the international education world of contracts, decisions, and thinking about your future. Kim Cofino has a great post about finding the right fit…the right school. Whether you are an international educator or not it’s worth a read.

International Teachers are different…we’re weird….we don’t like stability, we like change and challenge. We like travel, culture and to be honest I think we all like just being different. If you’ve met an international educator you’ll know what I’m talking about. Countries, airports, and airlines are just common conversation. We talk about “Bali Belly” the “Shanghai Shits” and the “India Illness” like it’s common conversation….seriously never start a conversation about being sick with an international educator….we share way more than you ever wanted to know. 🙂

But that’s us…..we live on year by year contracts, don’t try to make us sign a multi-year deal….cause that’s a deal breaker in itself (part of the reason we left Shanghai). We’re renegades, we’re individuals, and nobody is going to tell us where we’re going to live or that we can’t leave….cause we will just to prove you wrong. Yeah….International Educators are different. We expect open bars at conferences (over 50% of our food budget for Learning 2.010 was spent on alcohol…cause if you don’t have it people won’t come). We expect conferences to be in amazing locations. Borneo, Bangkok, Greece, Shanghai, Singapore, Egypt, Nice, etc. Yeah…..international conferences are rough.

And then there is the friendships you create. Deep meaningful friendships with people who become your family. My best friends little brother, who I’ve known since he was in 6th grade graduated from University at an elementary teacher and decided to try out the international teaching thing. His first posting has been Kuwait where he’s in his second year, meaning that he’s now having to decide whether to stay another year or decide if it’s time to move on. He wrote a blog post, a couple lately actually, talking about his decision and how attached one becomes to friends, a country and these amazing kids we have the honor of teaching. Some very reflective blog posts from a young teacher trying to figure out life, education, and the meaning of it all.

Created on an iPad by a Kinder Teacher for me. 🙂

And then there’s me…..maybe this blog post is describing me more then the general international educator (I’m sure they’ll let me know in the comments), but I’m constantly searching for something. The perfect school (doesn’t exist BTW), the perfect balance of online and offline, and what it is I want to do when I grow up.

As I’ve done more consulting and conferences in the past two years people ask me quite often, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

It’s a questions I honestly can’t answer because I don’t know where I see myself in 1 year. But here’s what I do know.

I know I love teaching, I know that in the past two years as I’ve presented at more and more conferences, and consulted with schools, and now running the CoETaIL program with Kim, that I love teaching teachers. It’s not that I don’t love teaching kids….I miss it every day, but as I evolve, as my thinking evolves I find myself enjoying the presentations, the consulting, the courses, and the discussions with educators near and far.

So this year when it came to deciding to sign contracts at ISB for another year we sat down with the administration to see if I could have my cake and eat it too. Could I work in a school with students and continue to consult and present? Three years ago we reached an agreement that allowed me to take days without pay up to 20% to do consulting. Which brought me to ISB in the first place. With a new contract season upon us it was time to see if we could come to an agreement again….and I’m happy to say we did.

Next year I’ll be on a 90% contract at ISB as the High School Technology & Learning Coordinator. So I’ve given up 10% of my contract to focus on following my recent passion of consulting and presenting.

I have to pinch myself to see if this is still really my life. Working at a school willing to work with me (and all my craziness), being able to do what I need to do to stay stimulated as an educator, to keep growing as an individual, to be able to follow my passion, and to be married to a woman who not only supports me in my craziness, but pushes me to follow my passion (benefits of being married to a counselor?).

It’s hard to believe that I’m actually doing this…that I’m going to try my hand at consulting and presenting and seeing where it takes me….and if I don’t book any gigs…well…I get an extra 20 days next year to blog. 🙂

It’s that time of year again in the International Educational world of recruiting fairs and finding your next position. The first fair just ended last week here in Bangkok and the list of fairs that still will be occurring through June can be found here and here.

Before the winter break I interviewed, was offered, and accepted a new position here at ISB. I’m not changing schools, just positions as next year I’ll move from the Elementary Technology position to the High School Technology position. In preparing for the interview and my conversations with the High School principal afterwards along with Kim and Dennis in the office, I believe there are four strands that you need to think about when preparing for an educational technology position and interview.

Four Stands of an Educational Technology Position
Four Stands to Educational Technology

First and foremost an educational technology position that is looking to integrate learning into the classroom needs to be about personality. You can not, will not, get into classrooms if you can not create positive relationships with other educators. You must have a willingness to help others, to be patient with people as they learn something new, and just be an all around likable person. Without having the interpersonal skills nothing else in this position matters. Teachers will not invite you into their classrooms, they will not want to work with you and both you and educators will be frustrated with your work.

Believe in something! There are many different views on the pedagogy surrounding educational technology, and you need to show that you have a view, that you stand for something whatever it is. Make sure you believe in it and be passionate about it. I might not have the best pedagogical view on educational technology, but I believe in what I believe passionately, and I believe that comes through in the interview. Know what you believe in, what you will help teachers achieve and how you plan on achieving it.

You need to be familiar with technology, the latest trends, and tools, but honestly this is the least important of the four strands. Technology skills can be taught. In fact you’re going to have to learn new skills anyway. Whether a new e-mail system, a new student information system, etc. More importantly, is to show that you know how to unlearn and relearn skills quickly and that you have a network of educators via your PLN to help you out.

This is one I did not think about but came from the high school principal as I was interviewing. Having a visions of where you believe the school should be in a given amount of time in important to school leaders. Be it 3 years or 5 years, they want to know that you have a purpose, that you have something you are working towards. Again believe in something and be passionate about it.

In the end passion is what sells a good interview. Of course these strands do not only apply to educational technology positions and neither does passion. Being truly passionate in what you believe in, what you feel you can offer, and allowing the joy of doing your job show will win over school administrators. They want to be excited by you, they want to feel the energy you’ll bring to their school. Get them excited about you, about what you believe in and what you feel you can bring to their school.

When I go into interviews I don’t worry about answering a question correctly, I worry about answering it honestly. If you don’t like what I believe in, what I’m passionate about, then I’m not a fit for your school or  organization and that’s OK. But if we “click” and are on the same page then I want you to know that I’m passionate about what I believe in and am excited to work at your school.

If you are interviewing for an educational technology position I think you can frame your answers around these four strands. Talk about your pedagogy, talk about how you build relationships with peers, how you use your PLN and that you have a goal for yourself and for the school. Focus your responses on these strands, and then put them to practice once you get hired.

In the last three technology positions I interviewed for I have spent little time talking about technology, the questions always fall into these strands. Administrators want to know if you are a likable person. They want to know that you stand for something and have a goal. Nobody really knows what we do on a day to day basis and they have to feel confident they are hiring someone who is self-motivated, is passionate and has a goal of where they want to take the school. Very rarely do I ever get asked a technology question…whether it’s because administrators don’t know what questions to ask or that they believe in finding passionate people no matter the job title, brushing up on your tech lingo won’t do you much good.

In the end….be yourself….because if you do get hired that’s who they will be expecting to show up to work every day.

Have you interviewed lately? What types of questions were you asked and would they fit into these strands?

SOSWe had a great conversation last Thursday night on the Shifting Our Schools (SOS) podcast. We ran about an hour and one thing I love about running my own podcast is I get to determine the length. As long as the conversation is good…let audacity roll! 🙂

At one point in the show we start talking about teachers and what we (as technology people who are helping to embed technology into the regular classroom) want to see. We talk about teachers who are willing to learn and banter that around for awhile until we land on this:

“We don’t want teachers as learners, we want teachers as risk takers!”

If you listen to the podcast you’ll know when I say it because there is a long pause as we all let that sink in. But it’s true, as a teacher, as an administrator I want risk takers.

What if we change the interview question from:

Do you consider yourself a life long learner? (A question I’ve been asked in every interview)


Are you a professional risk taker?

Give me an example of a professional risk you took last year?

What did you learn from this risk? What would your students say?

Do you believe it’s OK to fail?

Either way it was a great conversation around what types of teacher we have access to as integrators. We all agreed it was teachers who are willing to take that professional risk and invite you into the classroom that have the most success.

On another podcasting note and while we’re on the topic of risk taking. Dereck Rhoads left a comment the other day on what has become my most popular post to date about Interview questions for International School Job Fairs. While recruiting Dereck used some of the questions that I put forth in the post, changed them, adapted them to fit his needs and used them while recruiting.

But Dereck didn’t stop there. He recorded an interview with a teacher candidate and then posted it to his blog to share with the rest of us.

This has me thinking on so many different levels:

  • How does this change the interview process? Specifically for international educators where distance and costs are a factor?
  • What insight does a candidate now have not only on the questions that Dereck is most likely to ask, but also in getting a feel for what Dereck and his school are looking for in teacher candidates? We international teachers know it is all about the “fit”, about feeling that connection with those in the interview process.
  • How does this change the recruiting process, when you can go back to an interview and listen to the questions and answers and get a feel for a teacher candidate from almost a “fly on the wall” point of view?
  • How does this change the recruiting process for the candidate? Being able to go back and listen to your answers to questions?

What if every interview ended with the administrator handing you a mp3 file of the interview. I think that would be fair. You go into an interview, are asked if it is OK to record the interview, and both parties leave with the recording. Benefiting both the teacher candidate and the administrator in allowing them to further reflect on the interview.


This is just the beginning of what I foresee as a new way of recruiting teachers. International recruiting services better stand up and take notice of what’s happening here. The old recruiting fair model, in my opinion, is on its way out. Like other industries, either find a way to adapt and stay in the game, or be prepared to be asking the question “What happened?”

[tags]interview questions, international education[/tags]

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