Just wondering about a life-changing encounter.

As I am flying out to a recruitment fair, I would like to share a story that happened to me thirteen years ago, when I attended my first job fair as candidate in London. I have been sitting on this story for a while and I feel that it is a good moment to share it now.

Back then, in 2004, I lived and worked in London and after four years it was time to go and discover the world a bit more. I knew very little about the international school circuit and I attended a late fair in London. It was very convenient for a first time as it was a train ride away from home. As I often say, job fairs have a very special flavour. There is actually something quite unreal about them: such a concentration of people looking for the best fit for their schools or for their lives is quite incredible. Some people love it, others don’t. I really do like this atmosphere but thirteen years ago I had no idea what I was going to experience. On my first day, the fair buzz hit me and on that first morning, after different interviews, I had three strong options. And as I was going to take a break and ring my wife to talk about the options  ahead us, I got into this elevator. An English teacher was already there and as we were going down to the hotel lobby and he looked at me and he said to me with a big smile:

“So, what do you have?”

It was probably obvious than I was very excited. Then started a conversation about international schools in the hotel lobby. He had been in the circuit for a while and he had a genuine interest to give me some hints. What an opportunity for me since I was so green! To his first question about what I had, I told him about the three schools: school A, school B and IICS in Istanbul. Right away, he told me to not jump on anything but he shared that according to him school A was not necessarily a great choice for me (he shared very detailed reasons), that school B was a good IB school, but that it could be difficult for my wife to get a job in the local French school as it was very small. And he finished by saying that IICS was a great choice, that it was also an IB school and that I would learn a lot there. In my memory, the conversation ended at that moment, I have no recollection of other discussion points and the English teacher somehow vanished. I was left with my three schools on different continents and I was just given some critical advice. The research that I did confirmed all of the English teacher’s  sayings and I signed with IICS the next day. I started as a French and Spanish teacher, learned about the MYP and DP and left after eight fantastic years with a five year experience as IB DP coordinator. That was indeed a great choice and as years go by I still thank this English teacher who gave me so valuable advice. I can’t remember his name (did we even exchange names?) or where he was from, but I remember that he was an experienced English teacher well versed in the international teaching circuit. If he is out there reading this post, then I want him to know that he changed my life after this five minute conversation. 

I have since then worked with many more colleagues who gave me fantastic advice and I am now humbly trying to support and give tips to colleagues as much as I can. I am convinced that our lives are intrinsically collaborative : for teachers and recruiters to have a good fit we need to exchange to make informed decisions that involve not only us, but our families and our communities.

For those of us going to fairs over the next couple of months, let’s not forget to re-connect with former colleagues, PTC instructors, TIE folks  etc obviously, but I encourage all of us to talk to people we don’t know. You might encounter an English teacher in an elevator who will change your life.

Wishing you all a fantastic new year. 

For what it’s worth…

About Fred Bordaguibel-Labayle

Frederic Bordaguibel-Labayle is the High School Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador. Fred was born and raised in the southwest of France; he finished his studies and started teaching in the UK, then went on to Istanbul and he is currently in Quito. Fred likes to pause, reflect, and share his experience as an international educator and administrator.
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