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Many teachers dream of leaving their home country to be an international teacher. It’s hard to blame them. The class sizes are often astronomically smaller, the pay is better (compared to the new country’s standard of living), and the benefits often include housing, airfare, more time off, and a chance to travel and learn a new language. So how does one get a gig like this?
If you’ve never taught abroad, you will need to attend an international job fair in order to land a job at an American school. There are a number of hiring agencies that teachers can go through. The biggest ones are International Schools Services (ISS), Search Associates, and if you’re specifically interested in Latin America, the Association of American Schools in South America (AASSA).
Job fairs for international schools are held in December, January, and February, depending on the organization. Due to the logistics of hiring people from overseas (and looking for an overseas job), the hiring cycle starts early. This means if you're interested in teaching in another country, you should get started now with your research and updating your resume.
In order to attend a job fair for one of these organizations, you must become a member. There are fees associated, and you must have a teaching license and at least two years of teaching experience to be considered. The main benefit of being a member of one of these organizations is that you see job postings within their platform as soon as they go up. You also get to view salary and benefits information before the job fair. This is usually information you can’t find for international schools online. Once you’ve applied to an organization and have been accepted, you can sign up for your organization’s job fair.
So, you're signed up with an organization and you've decided to attend the job fair. But what do you need to know before you go?
1. Come prepared
You will need to bring a teaching portfolio that highlights all of your best work. You may or may not be asked to show it (I wasn’t), but you certainly will need to talk about yourself as a teacher. A portfolio can help you stay on track if you’re nervous.
Make sure to have at least 10 copies of your resume (more if you want to apply to many schools). It should only be one-page, front and back. International schools usually require a professional photo to be included at the top of your resume. It is also a good idea so school recruiters remember who you are after you give them your resume and leave for the day.
Come prepared to talk about why you want to live and work in another country, especially if you never have before. This may be an area you’re asked to talk about, so make sure you acknowledge the challenges you will face during your two-year contract while remaining positive and showing you’re committed.
2. International job fairs are like speed dating.
On the first day of the job fair, you will wait with the rest of the candidates in a hotel conference area until they swing open the main ballroom doors and all candidates are allowed to filter in and get to the schools’ tables to set up interviews. Once you get to a school’s table, you have about 15 seconds to make a good impression. This is why it’s important to do your research about the school beforehand as well as have a really concise resume. They’ll quickly scan your resume, maybe ask you a question or two, and then if you’re lucky, ask when you’d be available for an interview. If it isn’t a match, on to the next table where you’ll do it all over again.
3. Make sure you know what you want
Interviews at an international job fair are unlike any you’ll ever have. It’ll be in the recruiter’s hotel room (often the principal of the division you’re applying for), which is odd enough as it is, but it’ll also be a short time slot. You won’t get to tour the school or observe any classrooms, so you’ll have to just trust what the recruiter says. This is why it is important to know what you’re looking for in a school. Write down important questions you have like: what are class sizes like? How do teams work in their PLC? What do you do as an administrator to support your teachers?
Remember, this isn’t just a new job you’re looking for. You’ll also want to ask important questions about the country you’re moving to, what the neighborhoods are like that the school housing is in, etc.
5. Know the lingo
International schools, especially the ones with more funding, have the luxury of being able to afford the latest research-based curriculum and resources that many schools in the states do not yet have or cannot afford. Because of this, schools will want you to be experienced with tools like Fountas & Pinnell running records, reader’s and writer’s workshop, inquiry-based learning, etc. Make sure to research the school’s curriculum and read up on current trends in education, as education is always evolving.
6. Know you might not leave the fair with a job...and that’s ok.
Yes, attending these fairs can be expensive. You get your hopes up, interview a million times, and still leave the fair without a contract. I left my first fair without a job. After spending so much time preparing and researching and spending money, I wanted to give up. However, I learned valuable information that gave me what I needed to land a job shortly thereafter. Going to these fairs gets all of the international schools in one room, and therefore you have inside access to the current trends or programs that recruiters are looking for candidates to know. Haven’t heard of this program or that before? Well, now you have and will know what recruiters are looking for in your next interview.