Candidates Karen and Chris Ryan are thrilled to embark on their new leadership roles, Karen as Senior English Language Learner Coordinator and Chris as Dean of Students in Middle School, at BASIS International School, Park Lane Harbour. BASIS is a brand new boarding school east of Shenzhen and south of Huizhou in southern China.
Karen and Chris met in Australia, and this will be their first experience working together at the same school. Karen’s tales from nine years of international school teaching and educational leadership in Turkey, Switzerland, Thailand and China, as well as a stint at The British Council in Sri Lanka, enticed Chris to discover first-hand what a wonderful opportunity international teaching provides. He was keen to work with incredible educators to make a real difference to the lives of young people and to experience the world as a true global citizen.
A lot of preparation went into Karen and Chris’ job search before attending the Search Leadership Fair in Bangkok. Though early in the recruitment season, job postings for schools in Asia and the Middle East nevertheless appeared regularly, and Karen and Chris fervently gathered information on schools, jobs, packages and life in different cities in the regions. Karen and Chris explain why “legwork” before the fair is essential:
“It helps narrow down where you would happily live and work and where you might find it difficult to work, due to a variety of reasons, such as the cost of living being too high for the amount of salary you can save, especially if you have financial commitments at home."
In the past, Karen had successfully attended two Search Associates’ candidate fairs in London and, because of these positive experiences and her established relationship with Harry and Margaret Deelman, she and Chris were keen to attend the Search Leadership Fair in November, 2017. Karen says,
“One of the best tools/resources available to you through Search Associates is the support you receive from the knowledgeable and highly experienced Search Associates consultants, who know schools and school administrators extremely well. They also have an intimate knowledge of the history and governance of schools and life in various cities and countries, so they can help you make informed decisions based on experience and sound judgment."
Karen describes Search Leadership as a “small, almost ‘boutique’ fair [and a] stark contrast to the speed-dating experience of larger fairs.” Chris and Karen were able to meet with heads of schools and other recruiters on multiple occasions over the course of the fair. The Leadership Fair provided the opportunity for both Karen and Chris to pursue leadership positions in the same school and, if not in the same school, then at least in the same city. Though teaching couples are always in high demand, it is not always easy to find the right combination of leadership jobs and schools for both candidates. The Ryans’ strategy was to accept all invitations for interviews and consider the possibility of one of them securing a leadership role and the other a non-leadership role. The signup session provided the opportunity for Karen and Chris to request interviews for newly posted positions and to establish connections with heads of schools they hadn’t met before. They had this to say:
“Attendance at the schools’ information sessions answered questions [we] had about the schools and enabled [us] to meet the recruiters once more. This is always a good strategy, as it shows recruiters that you want to learn more about their school and that you are interested in working there.”
Although candidates are advised that it is rare that an offer is made at the fair, Karen and Chris were offered positions at the fair and given time to consider the offer. They really liked the Head of School and what they had learned about the school, despite it still being under construction. Nevertheless, they decided to undertake further research about the school, its parent organization and await the contract before making a firm decision.
As teachers and administrators, Karen and Chris have a lot of advice for prospective international teachers. They recommend that candidates spend time looking in general at different types of international schools and the remuneration packages they offer. An excellent exercise is to compare schools in the same city in a country of interest, to see what some schools offer that other schools don’t. They add,
“Talk at length with, or email, your Senior Associate and utilise their knowledge and expertise. . . . Listen to your gut and seek opportunities to talk with teachers currently working at the school for a bare bones take on life at that school and in that city. . . Don’t make a rash decision because you’ve been made an offer. If a school is happy to make an offer, they recognise and value your qualities and experience and so will others. You can wait to find the right job for you and ensure you are a good match for the school.”
Karen and Chris also emphasize that you should never sign a contract if you aren’t completely happy with it. Contracts need to accurately depict your role, tenure, salary, benefits, number of hours with students, number of teaching days and non-teaching days, annual leave allowance and other allowances such as housing, health, travel, professional development, etc. If the contents or language of the contract do not feel right to you, ask the school if they will consider amending the language and contents to accurately reflect what you’re being employed to do. Finally, Karen and Chris Ryan would like to leave you with a warm, virtual embrace:
“We wish you well in your search and hope our paths will cross one day. Happy job hunting!”