When international educators are seeking a new position, most will reach out to their professional networks in search of advice and information about schools. What do you know about this school? Has anyone worked with this administrator? What are the working conditions in xyz country? It is fitting that in a community as closely-knit as this one, educators will be looking to each other for advice.
But sometimes, we simply don’t want to hear what others have to say. We have our own reasons for seeking a particular school, location, or position, and we’re not interested in what people think of our choices.
And yet, advice and opinions abound. We hear the anecdotes and stories, perhaps accidentally, perhaps because those who are holding them make sure to tell us. Some people feel it is their duty to shove more information at us, even though we haven’t asked for their feedback or insight.
I have a friend who recently accepted a new position and was, naturally, super excited about it. It didn’t take long for word to spread amongst her colleagues, and soon, she was flooded with visitors. Except here’s the catch: nobody wanted to congratulate her. Instead, all of them were clamoring to tell her the negative things they’d heard about her new school. “It frustrates the heck out of me,” she told me one day. “I don’t care what their experiences are or what opinions they have about this school. I have a good feeling about it and think that I will be really happy there, and I don’t need people trying to bring me down.”
I’ve heard similar frustrations expressed from others in my own professional network. They might choose a particular school based on the availability of an elusive position they’ve been seeking. They might find the school’s mission and vision directly in line with their own. They might choose a school because they really want to be in a certain city or country. Or they might choose it simply because they had a natural, positive connection with the administrator during an interview. Whatever the reason, one thing is always the same: they’ve just concluded their job search, and they are relieved and happy. Jubilant, even. But there will no doubt be somebody, somewhere, who has had a negative experience and will be eager to share it. Their intentions are good, of course, seeking only to forewarn a friend against a possible bad situation. But when your friend has already committed to the job, this is far from helpful.
If someone is asking for information about a school prior to interviewing or signing a contract, by all means, give them that information. Tell them what you know, IF you know it recently and first-hand. If you have personal experience with the school in question, know what your friend is looking for in their next post, and don’t think it’s a match, tell them. If you feel that they need to be steered another direction, steer them gently. Unfortunately, more often than not, the opinions and anecdotes that people choose to share are outdated and passed through the grapevine. If we’ve simply “heard” that a school is not good, or an administrative team is weak, we’re really in no position to offer advice in the first place.
If, on the other hand, your friend or colleague has just signed a contract with a new school, congratulate them, no matter what you’ve heard about the school. Tell them that you’re happy for them. Don’t share the story about the guy-you-once-worked-with-who-used-to-work-there-and-hated-it. Your friend doesn’t need nor want that information. They have just committed to at least two years working at this new school, and now is not the time to ruin their happiness and excitement with negative quips. Keep it to yourself. Schools change. People choose schools for different reasons, and their reasons may be different than yours. You may not understand or appreciate their motivations, but the factors that pull educators to certain schools are as unique as the educators themselves. Let your friends celebrate their new jobs. Don’t sabotage their joy with unsolicited horror stories.
Looking for a new job is a stressful time for everyone in this network, from a first-year teacher to a seasoned head of school. When we finally get to the end of our own personal recruiting season and have committed to a school, we want to relax and let that fact sink in. We don’t want negativity to chase after us like an angry swarm of wasps. To everyone recruiting this season, best of luck in finding a perfect match. Once you sign with the school that you feel is right for you, relish in the fact that your job search is over. Ignore the naysayers who may try to steal your joy. Be at peace with your decision. Enjoy the moment. And congratulations.