international teaching questions
International Schools Services (ISS),
Bangkok, Thailand, January 5-9

Germany 3/23
Pros: Overall organization was adequate, the hotel was spectacular, Bangkok is a wonderful city

Cons: ISS support staff were not necessarily all that helpful (senior members seemed to know what they were doing, individuals at the candidate desk were a bit clueless). Several schools appeared to be shopping around and not terribly interested in offering contracts. Two of the schools that I was interested in packed up early and headed off to the Sheraton for Search, leaving me to have follow up interviews at the other hotel. This seemed a bit ridiculous to me since the whole point of staying at the fair's hotel was to take advantage of the networking opportunities. If the schools were leaving before the scheduled last day of the fair, this was simply impossible to do.

I honestly believe that I wasted about $4,000 in attending this fair. If I would have known that the bigger schools I was looking at were not ready to commit I would have waited it out and attended a London fair later in the recruitment season. Generally speaking, this is a completely flawed system. When I mention this process to my non-teacher friends, they honestly can't comprehend how it has been allowed to dictate the lives of so many educators - especially in this day and age. I secured a position via Skype a couple of weeks after the fair. I hope to never attend another ISS event again.

Thailand 2/24
If you're not a teaching couple, or you don't have IB experience, then you can forget about finding a job here. I spoke to about 20 schools during the interview signup session, and no one would interview me. It's not that I'm not qualified - I've got an M.A. in English and plenty of teaching experience. But every school I spoke to wanted IB teachers. This is an early fair, thus schools can afford to wait for that "perfect teacher". Also, it seemed that schools were conducting interviews at the fair before the first day even started. There were positions up that were already filled as well. It was pretty well organized, although the signup session should be longer. I waited over 20 minutes to speak to a school in Korea because the principal was conducting interviews at the session. Most other people I spoke to had similar experiences - I only spoke to one person who actually got hired at this fair, and of course he had IB experience.
Israel 2/20
My wife & I are both teachers with no kids and 25 years of combined experience. Despite the presumed favoritism, we wasted $5,000 going to Bangkok. We thought experience, good interviews, and credentials mattered. It appear to be more about who you know. Several schools would tell us they wanted a second interview, then found time to slip us a note of rejection. It was an emotional roller coaster I will never ride again.

My experience in science was a catch 22. I have 15 years of experience (2 in middle school and only 1 year of IB biology). No school with a MS opening could possibly believe I was a good MS science teacher and just about every general biology opening was coupled with IB. There were too many preconceived notions. We had several interviews, promises of second interview, a few, "we'll call you," and no job. If you are considering going to the fair, you should have several administrators there and actively backing you up. Schools do not have a sense of urgency yet. Late Feb. fairs appear to be more productive.

The hotel was beautiful, but too expensive. ISS treated us like mindless sheep. They are much more expensive than Search and offer no assistance, just nasty emails about missing documentation. The recruiter lounge had continuous beverages & snacks, while the candidate lounge had only water. We found our job for next year via Skype. I hope this will replace job fairs some day. Schools and teacher save $$$. I do not recommend either Bangkok fair unless you have several connections and specialized experience.

Korea 2/10
The ISS fair in Bangkok was a mixed bag. It was only the second job fair for my husband and me, and our first big one (we last attended the tiny Search fair in Carmel, CA). Personally, I love the job fairs and find them incredibly enlightening; both times we have come to surprising and unexpected conclusions about our professional goals based on stimulating conversations at interviews. I am glad I went and hope that Skype does not become the medium of choice for int'l school jobs in the future. As a teaching couple with a reasonable amount of experience and my husband's hard-to-fill specialty area, we did get a number of interviews, although only one of the resulting offers was truly solid and desirable - others were informal and / or pending recruiters' finds at the Search fair. The venue was fine: yes, of course the Shangri-la is expensive (although I don't know what type of room the previous reviewer who mentioned the $240 price was considering! we nearly booked one for $160, but were advised by friends to stay next door instead), but there are plenty of cheaper options a quick stroll away and honestly, do you really want to run into your potential employers in the elevators at all hours of the day and night?

That said, the already-cited conflict between ISS and Search fairs was extremely annoying and unfair to candidates and schools alike. ISS did a fine job running the fair, in our view, other than this factor. But I don't know how they can justify charging dramatically more than Search when their online system is weaker, and their fair virtually identical. We chose ISS this time based solely on their "classier" reputation and the fact that their fair started first, but I don't know that this rumored reputation even exists at this point. ISS screens some of the shoddy schools that Search admits, but all of the good ISS schools also seem to recruit at Search. Being at the earlier fair didn't make a notable difference, as the schools that had less perfect matches for us weren't willing to make an offer until they'd checked for perfect matches down the street anyway.

Finally, the IB mystique was a constant obstacle to us at the fair. Some schools were downright rude to candidates without IB experience (like us). The implication that IB is rocket science and that non-IB teachers can't learn the curriculum and teach it successfully is insulting to the many excellent teachers in the world who haven't happened to work at an IB school. Of course, like most people in our position, we want to join the exclusive club, and we did take jobs at an IB school that will train us and give us that experience. But the many schools who refused to consider us or our highly-qualified colleagues for this reason did leave us with a nasty taste in our mouths.

I recommend attending this fair if you're in a fairly marketable position - couples, strong international background, desirable specialties, IB experience. It's true that schools were being far more selective than they were at the late-February Carmel fair, where we were lacking any international experience, yet schools were practically throwing jobs at us out of sheer desperation. If you're newer to the game or lack flashy credentials or a head-turning teaching area, stick to Skype for the early months and save yourself (and your cash) for a later fair, maybe Boston / Cambridge or even the west coast US.

China 2/2
Overall this fair was fairly well organized with two large concerns. As mentioned in other posts the school presentation schedule was completely botched and many schools just ended up canceling completely. Second, updated vacancy lists where distributed very late in the process - I greatly prefer the Search method of having the hand-written lists up for display in the candidates' room (making it quite easy to update quickly as well). With that being said, otherwise I thought it ran fairly smoothly and on time, although the overlap with Search definitely affected the second half of this fair.

As far as jobs offered/available go - this is the earliest of the "big" fairs and schools can be very picky. I'd advise that if you are a single teacher in a fairly common area (elementary, social studies, PE, etc) you carefully consider other options. I speak from experience as I've recruited as a single elementary teacher/ms social studies teacher and its not always easy. On the other hand, I am now in a specialized field, and even with a non-teaching spouse I was turning down good offers. So I guess it boils down to how your experience matches up with the urgency to fill a specific position a school feels.

One word of experience (based on the 5 fairs I've been to) is that by waiting a bit you can often improve your lot. Often schools will want to wait and interview others, but there's no guarantee those candidates will still be available or accept their offer. So while you may be the third choice of the school that was your first choice, if they offer you a job two weeks after the fair and you're still available you end up where you want to be. The morale of the story is don't let yourself get pressured into accepting at a school you aren't comfortable with or you know is below the level of competitiveness your experience warrants.

Choose your fair wisely and then weigh your offers wisely as well.

Mexico 2/1
This was the first time I've attended an ISS fair and found it well organized and overall, a very positive experience. I am a single female and within 1 day had 6 interviews had 4 four job offers. I took time before the fair to research and contact schools so that I would know what was out there for me and of the 6 schools I was seriously considering, only 1 had filled the position I was qualified for before my interview. I liked that the fair was early in the season and Bangkok was a terrific venue, though a bit distant and costly coming from North America (but that was my own choice). The Shangri-la was a beautiful venue and there were numerous cost effective hotels just down the street for those of us who didn't want to pay an outrageous amount for accommodation. I also liked that there were computers set up for our use throughout the fair and that internet was reliable. The biggest downside to the fair is that after 2 days, it was essentially over with most schools moving over to SEARCH or doing double duty at both. I think the fair could have been scheduled to run from the 5-7th and that would have suited most people just fine and cut out the overlap.
Thailand 2/1
A lot of money spent and no job offers. It was the biggest WASTE of my time. All I kept hearing was "we prefer teaching couples" and I'm thinking don't you want to hire the most qualified teacher vs. limiting yourself to this? Also why pay for 4 days when basically two days into the ISS Fair everyone started flocking to Search's job fair in Bangkok and the ISS Fair basically shut down after two? Lastly, I sent all my documentation in on time and paid in full in on time but never received an email with the fair details, once again why pay $500 when you get this kind of service. Save your money and use Skype!
Turkey 1/26
The majority of the reviews I have just read regarding the ISS Bangkok fair are dead on. The Shangrai-La hotel was quit nice but way too expensive for a teacher's salary. We ended up staying a 5 minute walk away which was fine. The fair was rushed b/c of the Search fair. It was basically over in 2 days. Teaching couples were preferred and single teachers had a really hard time. I did walk away with a job and am happy about where I am going but this fair was not good. ISS blamed Search for the dates and Search blamed ISS. It is just ridiculous. Teachers and schools pay a lot of money to go to these fairs and I am really hoping the future of hiring is in Skype as it is free for everyone. The only good thing about the fair was Bangkok. What a great city, great people and food not to mention the massages! If you plan on this fair for next year, check the dates of Search as well and only go if you are a teaching couple!
California USA 1/20
I have attended this fair 2 times previously, and I walk away feeling worse about ISS each time. The first time I went, I was horrified when I saw the prices of the hotel rooms at the Shangri-La. It is a gorgeous hotel indeed, but I am simply not looking for luxury at a stressful time like a recruiting fair. It is ridiculous to think that your average teacher is okay with paying over $275 US per night, especially considering how little time you actually get to relax and enjoy your room and their facilities. Even on a typical holiday to Thailand when we are not recruiting, my husband and I spend less than $50 US per night on accommodation. We are young teachers, trying to save money and have children--I am not interested in staying in a luxurious 5-star hotel.

The first time round, I e-mailed ISS and asked if they could recommend a different hotel close by. I assumed that they would understand that not all teachers are okay with this price, and that they would offer a range of accommodation. Their reply was that no, they only recommend staying at the Shangri-La. When I brought up the above cost, that it was an unnecessary waste of our money, and that if they were truly trying to serve their clients, they would offer a range of hotel options. Their reply was "Google it yourself."

I was shocked by this--what exactly were we paying them hundreds and hundreds of dollars for then?

I also found their office to be quite disorganized. I would send in copies of my documents, always before the deadline, and then I would receive snarky e-mails telling me that they still hadn't received our supporting documentation, and that if I didn't hurry up, then I would have to pay the late charge! One package of documents I actually had to send THREE times before someone figured out it was there.

And last, it was disappointing (and slightly dodgy practice) to post all the schools and jobs that would be attending in advance, and then when you get there, discover that half the positions were filled already over Skype interviews or at the Search Associates fair. They really need to address the issue of overlapping fairs, I think it just makes for two weak fairs instead of one strong one.

In future, we will be trying to get jobs via Skype. I understand the value of face-to-face meetings, but considering that school administrators are embracing it because it costs them NOTHING, I don't really see why we would dump thousands of dollars to attend a fair in the future.

Czech Republic 1/11
The January ISS fair was a complete waste of time for me, being a single woman over 50. Most schools appeared to be looking for teaching couples and were not interested in even interviewing singles. I spent over $3,000 and didn't find a suitable position. I didn't talk to one single female applicant who received a job offer. The Shangri-La Hotel is an amazing hotel but very expensive. My other experience with ISS in Boston five years ago was very productive. I had lots of interviews and four suitable job offers. I would not recommend the Bangkok ISS fair to a single woman.
Tunisia 1/11
The basic organization was fine but the overlap between ISS and Search made it very unfair for the candidates at the ISS fair. The schools felt like they had 2 days with ISS candidates before they had to move to the other hotel to prepare for next group of candidates. At previous ISS fairs there was a general session to sign up for interviews on the first day and then again, another sign up session towards the end to let those who were still looking try to set something up with those schools who may have new openings or are still looking for positions. This did NOT happen at this fair as the administrators who would normally be doing that were on their way to Search. Basically, we paid for 4 days of interviewing and only received 2 (at best).

When we spoke with the people at ISS about it they blamed Search and when we spoke to Search they blamed ISS. Seems that there was a lot of finger pointing but no one really trying to fix the situation

United States 1/11
ISS organized this fair very well. We can only compare to the UNI fair that we went to 10 years ago. There seemed to be a number of jobs available, although we did interview with several schools via Skype prior to the fair, and accepted the day before the fair began. Since we could not get a refund for our tickets, we attended the fair events and networked. It seemed the this fair is geared for couples or singles with 7-10 years of experience. We were there with 11 people from our school and everyone got offers- from great schools. One complaint is that the Orientation/info. sessions were scheduled on Thursday all day, and it advertised they would be Wed. as well. It seemed backwards for people who wanted to learn about schools prior to signing. Also, most job stuff was done by Thursday since the Search fair started and Administrators all moved over. We wish we would have known that and would have planned to fly out earlier than Sunday morning. Overall, a good experience for us.
Indonesia 1/11
It was a complete rip off for many candidates as recruiters were off having a good time shopping and getting ready for the Search fair. They also clearly did not do their homework. The staff in the candidates office were totally inexperienced and were not able to help, most of the time it was deserted. A waste of time and money.
Myanmar 1/10
Looked like couples were getting jobs and singles were often not hired here or at least couples were given priority. Also seems to be a bit of age discrimination with interviews not granted many times to those over 50. One school had a single opening and interviewed throughout the day...planned to interview at Search days later and told interview candidates there were three applicants in-house wanting the same job. Competition for jobs often extended into next week with some schools also going to Search Fair. Second day of ISS Fair, many administrators were packing up and moving to Search Fair. A bit discouraging for those attending ISS.
Singapore 1/10
ISS Bangkok was FANTASTIC! To all future candidates I highly suggest you attend this fair. ISS is very organized and all ISS personnel were very supportive before the fair, throughout the entire fair and in follow-up. Communication was excellent. I would attend another ISS fair without any hesitation. The timing for interviews was well organized and many schools were hiring top notch candidates to fill their positions. The Shangri La Hotel was a fabulous venue for the ISS fair.