While attending an ISS conference, a “home made video” convinced me a school in the Congo was the school for me. The director showed this “amateur” video at the informational session. The photographer, a parent, had cleverly made the school and surrounding areas look like paradise in the jungle. Charged with enthusiasm, I neglected to ask some important questions at my interview. Unbeknownst to me the parent who shot the video was a professional filmmaker. I had been snookered by someone with an agenda to attract top notch teachers for their children. Welcome to the Congo. Uggh!
So, what should you ask when interviewing for international teaching positions? Of course each of us has our own personal interests and priorities and ISR recommends you take time to prepare questions around these topics. Your questions might range from the availability of certain products to activities such as jogging, gyms, libraries, bookstores, movies, etc. Don’t be shy. If you ask and find your interests are not going to be fulfilled in a particular location you can at least come prepared, or decline the job offer.
Directors are looking for a “good fit”. They want teachers who will integrate well with their current staff and administration. They look for teachers who are flexible and demonstrate an ability to adapt. Let’s say you ask about the availability of bookstores and the director tells you there’s only one and with very few books in English. Instead of looking distraught, you could simply say, “That’s good to know in advance. I can set up an eBook account and read books on line”. Now you’ve killed two birds with one stone. You had your question answered and demonstrated you’re flexible and a good fit.
In 2002 my wife and I interviewed for a teaching position at a mining camp in coastal Peru. After viewing the director’s photos of the school and area we realized we would be 100 miles from nowhere and dependent on seating in the company plane to get out on weekends. During our interview, the doorbell rang and the director left the table for a few minutes. My wife, who had told the director she loves art museums and ethnic crafts, took this opportunity to whisper, “No way in hell am I going there”. When the director returned he proceeded to show us the pay package. Wow…. $50,000 each, plus benefits! He looked at my wife and said. What do you think? She replied, “I’d love to come”. We weren’t offered the positions because we were obviously not a good fit. Had fishing, hiking, mountain biking, tennis been our passion we would have been right for the location. In this case no amount of flexibility was going to make the difference.
The point is, be honest and find out what you personally need to know about a location. Finding a “good fit” is a two-way street. If both you and the director are honest the chances of success at your new location will be greatly enhanced.
Contractual and Professional Matters
Topics in these categories include: health insurance, teaching load, expectation for after school activities, housing, travel expenses, and questions such as “Do teachers generally stay for more than their first two- year contract?”
In earlier ISR articles we covered these topics and more, in detail. We suggest you pick and choose questions from the following articles that reflect your needs. If you find yourself having to ask a number of questions from the 10 Tough Questions category you may want to reconsider the idea of teaching at the school in question. Here’s the line up:
• Ask the Right Questions at Your Interview
• 20 Questions You May Want to Ask
• 10 Tough Questions You May or May Not Want to Ask
Best of success this recruiting season. As always, we recommend you do your homework and check various sources for information on schools and directors.