It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going. What lies ahead I have no way of knowing. But under my feet the grass is growing. Ya, it’s time to move on, time to get going.
I have been an international teacher for over a decade. I have taught on two continents and in three countries. Now, through personal circumstance and dolor a fledgling fluttering has turned into the desire to take full flight.
Today, I reactivated my Search Associate candidate status. This represents equal parts of excitement and dread. The excitement of the unknown is part of what drives me as an international teacher. The dread is the hoops I know I will have to jump through in order to get to where I am going.
Indeed, I am the type of person who is not so patiently waiting for a transporter to be invented in order to beam me wherever I want to go (seriously science, anytime now). You know, the type who loves airports, but hates flights. Who loves movies but hates lines, who clicks off a .gif if it hasn’t loaded in 0.002 of a second.
That type. You know?
As I prepare to leave the nest (yet again) for perhaps a new continent, certainly a new country, and definitely a new experience, it is time to model what I teach each day to my students and embody the IB Learner Profile as I take the leap.
I already can hear your chatter out there in the blogosphere, “What? But, it is waaay too early to start thinking about job fairs for next year!!”
To that I say, do you even teach?
If you are like me, once the year starts, suddenly, it is the end of the term and my students can magically tie their shoes and write actual legible things. In a baffled haze I wonder, how did that happen? Where did the time go?
And PANIC the job fair is next week!
But don’t worry, I have done this a few times, and if you will permit, I will share my checklist as I gear up for the year ahead:
Conduct research on the schools that you would like to teach at. Research the curriculum, their extra curricular activities and their community of learners. Browse their webpage, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and seek out the blogs of potential future colleagues. Develop your personal learning network to encompass the teachers and admin that work at the schools you are interested in. Get to know and understand the school’s ethos and really reflect on if it will be a good match for you.
Become an expert on that school’s history, their program of inquiry and their vision for the future. This is less to impress those you interview with, and more to have a deep understanding of the school’s mission. If your own pedagogical underpinning does not match that of the school- you will potentially have an uncomfortable duration of your contract.
Exercise initiative in creatively approaching complex problems that will certainly arise. Problems such as: a school that pulls out at the last minute, or simply doesn’t want to interview you, or has a great community but very low pay. Make reasoned, ethical decisions- but as cheesy as it sounds, trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. However, if you go for it- don’t second-guess yourself, after all, you are awesomesauce!
Start making contact early. Cold interviews are often awkward, so send a short introductory email to the directors and principals of the schools you think you are a good fit with. Then start to contribute to any social media conversations the school has. If the school is not on Twitter or Facebook, it is a great indicator of where they are at in their technological learning journey and moreover, what you can do to help them become a 21st century school.
Being knowledgeable and having time to conduct research means being principled and starting early. Search Associates opens August 16th for the following year of hires. So now is the time. If you are not normally active on-line and in social media make a schedule and stick to it. Even those like me, who spend a great deal of time on-line, ensure you take time each day to create contacts and develop relationships.
Open yourself to a myriad of possibilities. Get out of the habit of mind that you need a certain type of curricula, a certain amount of resources, a certain level of facilities. Except that it is a given- life will be nothing like you are used to- and that is ok. In my time as an international teacher some of my most rewarding experiences have come from the most unexpected of places in the most unusual of circumstances.
Be mindfully aware of what drives you. Take time to envision your students and the amazing things they teach you each day. Show empathy, compassion and respect towards those who you interview with. Highlight your personal commitment to service, and the fact that you act to make a positive difference to the lives of others each day. When you exude compassion and kindness you are rewarded in turn. Even if you don’t get the job you want, you have made potentially more than a mere contact but a friend, and used that moment to enrich both of your lives.
Have the same expectations you do of your students, and be willing to take a risk on a place, culture, or experience that may be uncomfortable at first but may turn out as exceptionally rewarding.
Get ready for the ride. Job fairs are an emotional roller-coaster. Often you are expected to make life-altering decisions in a very short period of time. Take time to rejuvenate and rest between interviews.
Take some time to reflect at the end of each interview and celebrate your sheer awesomeness. Love yourself just as much as you love your students. Try to remember that we are all on a learning journey and what lies ahead... you have no way of knowing.