What Kind of International School Do You Want To Be Part Of?

As in every network of schools, there is a considerable range of excellence in international schools. But how does one begin to appreciate the differences and perceive the real educational leaders? Your first decision is whether you want to be in an environment that promotes and reinforces learning as its first priority. There are very comfortable assignments, with good salaries and comfortable environments, that do not push hard for educational excellence. The point is you need to know what kind of environment you want, and how to find out where that exists.

If you are very insistent that your potential school be a leading innovator with a strong commitment to continual improvement of student learning, you will be in line to work at one of the very best international schools. And here is how you find out what drives that institution:

1) What are their provisions for professional development, and what percentage of their budget is devoted to this? (Should be at least 2%).

2) How do they express their central mission verbally, as many of the written mission statements may be very much alike? You need to ask what is their main criteria for selecting staff, which will give you insight into this question.

3) Be sure to speak to a few of the teachers at any prospective employer, and ask them about the quality of their colleagues and the school’s commitment to learning. And remember, strong educational leadership is not always welcomed by every staff member.

4) Be prepared to share your examples of student work under your direction; tests and assessments you have used; and samples of your best lesson plans. If they are not very interested in these, you will have learned a lot about the school’s priorities.

5) Check whether the writing and public speaking standards are expressed in “essential agreements” within departments. This will indicate a strong sense of purpose, or the lack thereof!

6) Ask the principal or head what are the most important characteristics of the staff they are seeking to hire. Do you fit into this scenario?

These approaches will enhance your understanding of the kind of school and staff you may be joining. And please remember, this is by far the most serious and significant factor in your decision—far more important than the school’s location or physical plant.

What Should Candidates Be Doing Right Now?

If you are hoping to land a good international teaching or admin position for next summer, here are a few things you must attend to right now!

1) Update you resume with major emphasis on your most recent teaching experience, including subjects and levels.

2) Line up 2 or 3 current or past supervisors to be ready to complete confidential recommendations for you, both in writing and in response to checkout calls. Make sure they are comfortable giving you a strong letter of endorsement.

3) Try to be in early contact with schools that interest you, even if they haven’t yet announced an appropriate vacancy. In many schools teachers are not required to announce their intentions for the next year until a month or two from now.

4) Once a school indicates interest in your candidacy, keep in contact with them and seek to speak with teachers and your prospective principal about their standards, requirements and special conditions for living and working there. Be ready to consider locations you might not have considered in advance. (Nor everyone can get their first international position in Western Europe!)

5) Be prepared to discuss candidly your special strengths as a teacher; the ways you assess your impact on your students; and the areas in which you are still trying to improve. Good to practice this with a school administrator if you can.

6) Keep in mind that location, while important, is not nearly as important as being in a school where you are comfortable and compatible with their goals. Your experience in an international school will be affected much more by the school, your colleagues and the students, then by the city or country you are in.

7) Be as positive and constructive as possible about your past experiences. Morale issues are very important in international schools, and no one wants to hire a “moaner.”

8) Above all: Get your resume and confidential recommendations into the Tieonline.com Resume Bank; and subscribe to the IJN service to keep abreast of all relevant, new vacancy announcements!

Meaning and Purpose

So recently I had the wonderful opportunity to re-read one of of my favorite books, as well as the chance to have my eyes and heart opened by some unexpected people, in some unexpected places. Collectively, these experiences got me thinking a lot about the importance of meaning and purpose in our lives, and the responsibility we have as educators to instill this life focus in our students and children. Hopefully as teachers, we have eagerly and specifically chosen this profession because of the unmatched and unlimited purpose and meaning that comes with the territory. In my opinion, educating children and young adults is not only fulfilling, rewarding, and extraordinarily meaningful but hugely daunting as well. It’s not enough to simply teach our students the course content, or all we know about reading, writing, and arithmetic…….we NEED to teach them about courage, love, service, empathy, and all that goes into leading a life of meaning. We have a deep and urgent responsibility to prepare our kids for life outside of the school walls, and we need to be held accountable for ensuring that each student has opportunities to see, and find, purpose in their lives.

In Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive”, he talks about the power of intrinsic motivation, and how leading a life of purpose and meaning is a fundamental need and want of every individual. He goes on to say that a person’s happiness is directly related to how much meaning they find in their work, and how there is an increasingly significant shift in what young people are looking for out of their lives. It is no longer about how much money they can make, or how successful they can be, it’s about the positive difference that they can make in the world and in other people’s lives. Pink often talks about how “meaning” is the new money, and I wonder how much we are doing to emphasize this in the contact days that we have with our students. Are we really looking to connect and relate what we are teaching in a way that allows our kids to see the purpose in it…..or the meaning? Are students leaving our classrooms with a better understanding of who they are, and a better sense of who they can be? I know that they are becoming better readers, and scientists, and mathematicians but are they becoming better people? If it’s not a confident and resounding yes!, then I think we should re-evaluate our own purpose and meaning as educators.

I was in Cambodia again over the holiday, and we decided as a family to go on a tour of a local floating village. I was talking with our guide about the abject poverty of the
people, and how sad it must be for them to live like this when he told me that I had it all wrong. He just happened to be a retired teacher and what he said brought me back to what is truly important in life. He said that even though they have no money and live in make shift shacks with none of the amenities that we take for granted, these people are happy! They are fishermen and farmers and each one of them has meaning and purpose in their lives. They provide food for their family, the teach their children how to farm and fish, they come together as families and a community at night, and each one of them is thankful for what they have. They all value each others contributions and worth in the village and they  understand their place in the world. The kids see a purpose in their lives/future and are intrinsically and intensely motivated to contribute back their surrounding community……..these children want for nothing and are truly happy he said! I wondered about how many of our students are this genuinely happy with their lives, and how many have the same level of confidence in who they are, and where they are going in life?

I also had the opportunity recently to go recruiting at the Queen’s University job fair, and the overall experience made me ridiculously excited about the future of our profession. I interviewed a dozen or so young teachers and to be honest, I was blown away by the questions that they were asking of me. It wasn’t all about the salary, or the housing allowance, or the opportunities for travel during the school holidays……….it was all about the vision of our school, the commitment to service learning, the opportunities to coach or provide after school clubs for kids, and whether or not our faculty had a common purpose. They were acutely aware of what they wanted out of their careers and it inspired the hell out of me. I think that this week we should measure the amount of meaning and purpose that we each currently have in our lives, and ask ourselves if we’re getting what we need out of our current situations……..are our students getting what they need and deserve out of their school days, and are they aware of it? Are we really helping them find their meaning and purpose in life, and are we truly taking advantage ours?

Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……..
“No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness, and the generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.” ~Emma Goldman

Article #1 – Purpose Driven School Work Purpose
Article #2 – Helping Young People Find Purpose Helping Young People Find Purpose

Meaningful Website………..
http://www.teachersmind.com/Education.html

TED TALK……….
Victor Frankl on Meaning and Purpose
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/viktor_frankl_youth_in_search_of_meaning.html