Three years ago, I decided that I was in need of an adventure. Having just completed my B.Ed I was eager to begin teaching full time. Ireland had too many teachers and not enough jobs. Piles of paperwork and the prospect of relentless rejection were my worst nightmare. I was open to going anywhere, once the school was the right fit and so a few days after my job search began (with the help of a recruitment consultant) I had decided on my new place of work: Moscow.
Why Russia? Everybody asked. Why not? I asked myself.
Here are my reasons for taking the plunge:
Obviously the reasons differ from teacher to teacher but I would recommend researching each of the following before you dive into international teaching.
1. Well Resourced School
As many international schools are run for profit, the classrooms tend to be much better resourced than you would find at home. Endless colour printing, never-ending laminating sheets and teaching assistants in every class are the norm. You will find yourself with more time to actually plan, teach and assess instead of doing all of this in addition to photocopying, laminating and putting up displays.
2. Small Class Size
Typically international schools have better ratios of teachers to students. Some classes can have as few as ten children, whereas others could have the numbers you would be used to having at home. The main difference is that you will more than likely have one or more teaching assistants and in some cases, a nanny too (for the younger classes; somebody who helps to tidy up after the children and makes sure they eat their lunches). Either way, it is easier for you to ensure top quality lessons when you have constant support in class.
3. New Culture and Climate
To teach, to travel and to learn – what better way to do this than to explore the world of international teaching? Each country has its own customs and traditions, some which will be familiar and others which are totally foreign. In Russia, for example, on the first day of term it is customary for every student to present their new teacher with a bouquet of flowers. Imagine the teacher’s school bus on September 1st, packed full with over a hundred bouquets! Living in a country for a school year presents the opportunity to experience real life there. You learn what it is to be a citizen of that country, tasting all of the four seasons as you do.
How important is location? This differs for people. For me, I wasn’t too fussy about where I went. I was eager to be able to fly home now and again and it appealed to me that I could do so for as little as £150. Others choose location based on the package offered, the community of people already there or how easy it is to travel to other countries in the area. A school in a little known province in southern China might not seem appealing at first glance, however the cost of living is far lower there than in the big cities and more importantly, Thailand, Vietnam and The Philippines are all a short flight away.
5. Employment Packages
These are worth investigating. They range hugely so think about what it is you want. It is crucial to factor in the cost of living in the cities you are considering, as well as the salary. In Ireland, I would have had no job security had I been subbing, would have been paying rent, bills, as well as insurance and tax for a car. In Moscow, I had a generous accommodation allowance, bills were typically £10 per month, if even, there was a free school bus for staff and we were given free breakfast, snacks and lunch in school. In addition public transport was extremely cheap, you could go anywhere on the metro for the equivalent of 40p and my mobile contract cost about £9 per month for unlimited 3G, calls and texts. This left me with a lot of discretionary income. The saving potential depends on what is included as well as the cost of living. Different elements to consider are bonuses, whether the base salary is tax free or not, if housing is included and if flights are included? If so, how often? Make sure to have your questions ready as you prepare for interviews. At the very least you will have the guarantee of a one year contract and free flights to experience life in a new country.
6. Teachers already in the school
I researched schools online before choosing which one I wanted to go for. Knowing that there were other Irish teachers already there made this a top choice for me: instant community. When I arrived, there were also Ukrainians, Australians, Americans, Filipinos, Brits and of course many Russians (teaching assistants are usually not native English speakers but can often be fluent speakers). The bonus to working in an international environment is that you will make friends from all over the world. Most other teachers will be in the same boat as you and will be eager to make friends. You can be guaranteed that there will be plenty of other people who speak English around. Often on the school website, there is a list of staff with photos and contact details which you could put to use. I Skyped a teacher at the school before accepting the position. Obviously not everybody will have the chance to do this but you could always send an email if you had a specific question.
Once you have considered all of these factors, why not take the plunge?
It won’t be anywhere nearly as intimidating as this.