Tag Archives: recruitment

Embracing Wonder and Grace

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”    ~Epicurus

It was the first day of a new school year.  At lunchtime a message appeared in my inbox with the subject line, “Where will you be teaching in 2022?”  It would be errant to claim this to be the first wind I caught of peering into and “preparing” for the future.  Days prior, colleagues shared how they already registered with international recruitment agencies. A part of me was left reeling, falling perfectly into the “trap” of the subject line.  Wondering where might I be in a year’s time.  Try as I might, I wrestled with reality, asking, “Was it really already time to begin thinking about recruitment?”  

Regardless of the answer, any answer, I instead firmly plant myself in the present.  Teachers and administrators who have had “skin in the international game” for years may have the a priori belief that it never is too early to begin thinking about next year.  However, my experience in observing and listening to international educators for more than two decades, showcased how sometimes there was a sort of psychology of transition.  One that confirmed the necessity to be in the moment.

Like it was yesterday, I can remember how my first two years played out teaching overseas. The initial few months seamlessly fit with what is often called the honeymoon stage. The newness exciting to the cohort of teachers I entered alongside.  Differences such as conceptions of time, piqued our curiosity and were seen positively as stimulants. Later it would be these very items that would be irritants. We would settling in by winter break, still intrigued by cultural nuances and dedicated time to learn the language of the host nation. Friendships would continue to deepen. The first year was equal parts whirlwind and respite.  Life being lived in the present moment.  

Recruitment those days seemingly kicked into gear much later and so the start of year two was a continuation of positivity.  But, by March the second year some teachers in the cohort made the decision to move on. Seemingly overnight, there was a shift in mindset.  Certain friends became mere colleagues, ones I found myself no longer really wanting to even share conversation. Lightheartedness, laughter, and appreciation for any differences in culture were substituted for mockery and scorn. 

I wanted no part. 

It wasn’t until my second international post that I would be permitted a clearer window into what possibly was happening.  Again, a similar trajectory of experience played out.  From awe to contentment and then to frustration and even disdain.   Were there forces at play?  I was not sure.  But what I did recognize as truth was how there appeared to be a sort of uncanny coping mechanism, where individuals unconsciously deceived themselves.  As if darkness needed to exist to know light. Yet, it went beyond the paradoxical.  Little was in flux but the individual themselves.  The country was by and large the same.  The inhabitants, students, and school too.  Yet, ostensibly all that was celebrated the first year and a half, now was spoiled.

The aspirations of the “next place,” and far greener grass left some colleagues living in what might best be called purgatory.  Arguably they were living in two places.  Or possibly in no place at all.  What was certain was they no longer were fully present and appeared stuck. Of course this was and is not the case for all people in transition.  However, with each move I have witnessed a similar occurrence for some.  

And here we are.  Living in times where recruitment is no longer pegged to the seasons.  This is fitting as a result of the ubiquitous nature of so much in life, as we grow increasingly connected. Teachers for hire anytime, anywhere. A truly globalized world. Kind of like feasting on asparagus in Iceland in December.  Time and place no longer barriers. In the case of education; LinkedIn, Zoom and all the other platforms serve to displace the traditional recruitment fairs. Regardless, the subject line, “Where will you be in 2022” brought into focus for me, how there is a layering of beginnings.  Beginning a new school year, while already considering a beginning somewhere else. Simply becoming more aware of this, brought more contentment. Yet, this “layering” does come with some risk.  

The risk of living for today. 

What if instead of getting caught up in where we might be in 2022, we dedicated ourselves to doing as Will Richardson suggests?  “What if we committed to radical love, of one another and of the planet? It’s clear, I think, that anything less will prevent us from solving the problems we face. That and, of course, going out and jogging or walking or biking a few miles each week, turning off the narratives of strife and gloom, taking in the beauty that’s right in front of us, and honoring this current moment for all of its wonder and grace.”

Where will I be in 2022?

Hopefully still feeling grateful for my life, just like today. 

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Teacher Recruitment

A common and defining characteristic associated with international schools is that of transience. The ephemeral nature of many our community members’ tenures in international schools necessitates the ongoing management of change processes. The positive features of this constant change are the rich opportunities for personal growth, renewal, enrichment, and development of new relationships. However, this very same impermanence inevitably leads to our esteemed colleagues and beloved friends taking leave of our community as they seek to embrace new adventures and experiences. The reasons that some teachers take leave of our schools each year varies, from the need to return to their home country or the desire to work and live in a different part of the world, for example. While the inevitable departure of some colleagues will again be a reality at international schools around the world, we can take solace in the fact that personal and professional relationships will assuredly endure far beyond the end of this school year. Although there will be occasions to formally recognize those who will be leaving our schools, the focus of this note is on the present and the importance of appreciating and making the most of the time we have today and in the near future with our very special colleagues and friends. Teacher Recruitment Process:  The hiring of teachers is arguable the most important element of the work of a Head of School. To that end, one of the main focus areas during the month of October to February is the recruitment of teachers, which will include attendance at international recruitment fairs. In addition, it is not unusual for schools to receive over a thousand applications, in some cases, several thousand. I am often asked what we look for when hiring teachers at the American School of Brasilia. First and foremost, we are seeking to hire the best available teachers, regardless of nationality, who possess outstanding qualifications in their academic area, deep levels of relevant experience, leadership capacity, resilience, flexibility, and, of course, a passion for working with students and the learning process. An additional characteristic that is among the highest on our priority list is that of a positive disposition. The nature of effective teaching necessitates the ideal of teachers as eternal optimists, especially in terms of their belief that all students can reach their respective potentials. Furthermore, we owe it to our students to ensure a school setting that is comprised of people who are positive and optimistic, who see problems as opportunities, and who see the proverbial glass as always being half full. At the same, we cannot be Pollyannaish with respect to teaching and learning as teachers are challenged with directly addressing the inherent challenges associated with student growth and program development, in a professional, effective, and empathetic manner. Each year, our school continues to further articulate and refine EAB’s Teacher Profile, which is a document that outlines a set of guiding principles that are used to guide all hiring processes. In addition, EAB’s Leadership Team also examines the hiring, development, and retainment practices of highly successful organizations to determine what can be translated to a school setting. By way of example, we have closely studied Netflix’s human resource policy, called Freedom and Responsibility, which provides for engaging and reflective reading. Wishing everyone all the best with your respective search and hiring processes. _________________________________________________

Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at www.barrydequanne.com.

Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 ) flickr photo by Dieter Drescher: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cosmosfan/14628522324

Untethered

“You are so brave.”      “I can’t believe you are doing this.”      “I would never be able to do this.”

The above quotes are from my friends who are not International Educators. They are not from people who are in jobs where announcing you are resigning 6 months before you actually leave, is standard practice. (And even earlier if you are an administrator.)

But I am. And I just did. (My husband did too.)

What they all want to know is “How do I feel?”

I feel like I’m floating, untethered. I am rising away from what anchored me for the past six years. It is a great, adventurous and alive feeling. That said, it is an absolutely petrifying feeling too.

But this isn’t my first rodeo. I have performed this leap before, and it has always worked out. In fact, I used to do it as a kid when my parents would resign one job, head into the job fairs and find another. My memory? It was so Vegas, baby! They were big rollers and winners, living out there on the edge. The best part? They routinely ended up on an adventure they had never considered before.

Looking back now, I’m amazed by my parents’ mindset. The whole thing was an adventure. From recruitment to getting the job, it was all about envisioning yourself doing something different in a place you’d never heard of before. My father used to say, “We wanted to pick somewhere with an interesting name!” They believed if things didn’t work out… Ha! Of course, they would!

So, fast-forward 20+ years and here I am. Duel income, one kid, college tuition on the horizon, both of us in what might be the best and most productive years of our careers, and I’m feeling… untethered.

The recruiter in me understands why we need to have contract deadlines and even why those deadlines are getting earlier and earlier.

For one thing, it’s basic competition. Because most of our schools look for candidates who have international teaching experience, our schools end up all trying to get the same, best possible people, from the same, very small pool of applicants. This pushes us to make a move earlier and earlier. (However, Last year at the NESA Leadership Conference James Strong spoke about recruitment as a means to strengthen and improve schools. Besides the fact that we are all fishing in the same pond, Mr. Strong also pointed out that the very short timeline created by the signing deadlines worldwide might compromise our real ability to find the right fit.)

Also, and let’s be honest here, we all, recruiters and candidates alike, want to avoid the fairs. Nothing is more stressful than knowing you have to find or fill a job with the competition right there next to you. So the recruiter in me understands why we want to discover, vet, and hire people before Bangkok, Boston, or Iowa. However, doing so means we need to know what we have to hire for, so we can actually offer those jobs ahead of the fairs.

Not only do we need to know who is going, we also need to consider who already within our schools might want to move into a position, thus creating another vacancy. This all takes time. And time is what none of us has come Fall. No one wants to be or act in desperation. Recruiters are rushed to find and fill spots. Candidates (who are often teaching couples with children) are in a very difficult position because they are essentially making decisions knowing in the back of their minds- we must get a job. For some, leaving a school for the right reasons might lead them to accept a job at another school for the wrong reason- time. But who can afford to be jobless or what school can afford a vacancy for long?

Now let me switch up my headgear and pop on my candidate hat.

I do believe we are unique as an international education profession. I do not know of another profession, especially teaching in our home countries, where resigning requires you to let everyone know you are leaving many months in advance of actually going. Besides the stress it causes the people quitting jobs before they have new ones, there is the interesting conundrum of letting parents and students know your news early too. (Not to mention how our own children feel announcing to friends in October- I won’t be here next year!)

Yet, it is standard practice for those of us in this business to not only know we are leaving, but to let everyone else know too. Which forces us to discuss our plans (or lack of plans) for months. Parents, students, and other teachers all weigh in, wishing you well and often lamenting your departure. But to have that conversation with so many interested parties for months, first about why you are leaving; then around where you are going and how that might be… It really does create the longest goodbye.

For candidates, there is so much to weigh, consider and plan out and yet once you send the “This is my final year” letter you lose so much control over what will happen.

Recruiting is a unique and challenging time for all of us. Though I do wonder if it doesn’t lead to a little bit of natural selection of our ranks. Being able to live untethered might actually separate those of us cut out for this work from those that aren’t. Which is important. It is who we are.

Which is why- the week following my “big news” I’m trying to feel about it as my father once did. The man was always able to look on the bright side. Instead of worry, when he too decided not to return to a job and school for the following year, he would live in that space of pure optimism. It will all work out as it should, even if what happens is the last thing in the world you thought would happen.

I can hear him now, “Leap off the cliff with a wide, bright smile on your face because you are living a life where you really do get to go for it.”

Good luck to those of you leaping this year.

Photo credit: Nat Ireland via Flickr CC