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How to find a 'family-friendly' international school teaching job
Read how an international teaching job rescued Fenella from an abusive marriage!
What to look for which would best suit your family
Having taught at international schools in different countries for over twenty years, I thought that I'd share some of my knowledge with those of you debating on whether or not to make the big move from a state school in your home country, to becoming a teacher in an international school.
Different countries have different criteria for whom is eligible for obtaining work visas to work there. Some countries have age limits, others have restrictions on certain nationalities, and others have restrictions on qualifications. For some a teaching diploma is sufficient, others may require a degree and a teaching certificate, and yet others might be content with just a degree and no teacher certification. I have to say, the best international schools to work at usually require teacher certification and a degree. I can't stress enough how important it is to do your homework properly, before accepting a job at an international school. There are many schools out there that claim to be international, but aren't. You need to read reviews written by teachers who have worked at the schools you are interested in. Granted, some of the reviews might be biased and could have been written because the teacher has a personal grudge against the school management, however, if there's a pattern of bad reviews then it's best to stay away. A good site with these kinds of reviews is International Schools Review.
As a single mother, being an international school teacher was the best career choice for me. My children were all able to get really good international educations, for free. Don't ever think that your children might be too young or too old to adapt to life in a foreign country. It benefits them unbelievably, and you end up with children who are well-adjusted, social, independent, mature,well-traveled, blind to race and nationality, and are global citizens. However, there are certain things you have to consider before schlepping your family overseas, and this is really where you have to do your homework. Much of this information is available on the school's websites.
Housing - Is housing provided? Some schools help you to find housing, but then you have to pay for it out of your own pocket, and the huge salary you thought you were getting is reduced to next to nothing when a huge chunk is taken out for accommodation costs. There are many schools that provide free housing, and it's often best to go for those. Check to see if the housing is on the school campus, as then you are sometimes expected to take on boarding duties as well if there is a boarding school. Housing on a compound is usually safe and if you have young children, then there are often other children they can hang out with and play with. Find out the size of the housing provided. A cute cottage can easily turn into something so small you can't even swing a cat in it. Do a little research as well about the safety and security of the city If there are serious security issues and kidnappings of children, it might not be wise to move your family there. Also check to see whether or not the utilities are covered by the school. Sometimes, the utilities can be crippling when you have to pay them yourself. Also check to see whether or not the school accommodation provided is furnished.
Social life - for you and your children is really important. If the area is unsafe and you have to remain locked up in your homes too scared to venture out, your family might end up hating each other. Find out what the nationality breakdown is at the school. Some schools say they are international, and when you get there you find that your child or children are the only expats/foreigners in the school. This often makes settling in and having friends really difficult. You don't want your child to be harassed or bullied just because they are different and come from a different culture. Do some research and find out what family activities you can do there. Also, if there is a Hash in the town/city, then you know that there will be some regular social interaction with other expats. If you go on Google Search and type in the name of the city you are thinking of going to and the word 'expat', you often come up with helpful blogs about the daily life for an expat in that city.
Health Insurance - Make doubly sure that your dependents are covered by your health insurance and that you don't have to pay any excess. Some schools neglect to tell you these finer details. If your child needs special meds, check to see whether or not they are freely available or if you'd need to bring a supply with you. It might be an idea to check to see if there is an International SOS Clinic or Global Doctor Clinic near where you'll be living. Another point to consider, is that many of the health insurance companies who cater for the international school teacher crowd DO NOT extend their cover to the USA and Canada when teachers are visiting there.
Schooling - As mentioned before, do your homework and make sure that your children's tuition is covered by the school and is one of your benefits. Check also to see whether or not there are extra costs over and above school fees which you will be liable for, like exam fees or a laptop so that your child can be a part of the school's laptop program. Find out a bit about the after school activities program, and if they offer activities that your children would be interested in. What sports are offered and so on, so that you can bring necessary sporting equipment with you.
Home Leave Allowance - Another thing to check out is whether or not you get a home leave allowance which will be enough to pay for annual return flights for you and your dependents. If your school is in the middle of nowhere, your home leave allowance might not cover the flights, so be very careful about that.
Shipping - With children accompanying you, it's important for you to take some of their prized possessions with you to help them to settle in easier. Make sure that the shipping is reasonable and you will be able to ship some of your possessions, and they have an allowance that you can ship your stuff back home at the end of your contract. The chances are, that the shipping allowance will not cover all your shipping costs as shipping, especially airfreight, is astronomical. Just make sure that the bulk of your costs will be covered.
Opportunities for travel - As you obviously love adventure, it's also a good idea to check out the opportunities for travel in neighboring countries. This might seem like you are jumping the gun, but it costs nothing to check whether or not there are affordable holiday destinations close by. You don't want to be stranded and spend every holiday in the city you work in!
Opportunities to save $$$ - Try to get in touch with existing teachers at the school. Their email addresses are often on the school websites. Ask them any questions you might have, but especially, find out how much money you can realistically save. They will give you far more accurate information than the school management might give you. After all, the school management wants you to apply for a teaching job, so they will give you a glowing account of life there and how much you can save. Some schools offer a pension scheme as well.
While there are some schools who are not interested at all in hiring teachers with families, there are others who prefer to hire families as they tend to stay longer and give the school continuity. There are many sites where you can find teaching jobs. Just make sure that you do your homework first, to find out if they are a family friendly school.