Once you have been to Turkey, it is one of those places that you ask yourself, “Why ever did I wait so long?” Senior Associate Bill Turner and his wife and Search Associates partner Alison returned from an exhilarating tour there this past May to report,
“Turkey is an easy sell! It is a huge and fascinating country with some great schools and wonderful students, and so much to entertain and amaze you.”
Search Associates works with 19 schools in Turkey: 12 in or near Istanbul, three in Ankara, two in Izmir, and one each in Erzurum and Tarsus. They cover the International Baccalaureate (IB), American and British curricula, as well as, in most cases, the Turkish national curriculum. The majority are Ministry of Education schools, meaning that the students are Turkish, and they follow a bilingual English and Turkish program (with Ministry exams), in addition to an international curriculum (American-style, British, or IB). All these schools employ international teachers who tend to deliver the English-language teaching programs and international courses such as the IB, English National Curriculum, General Certificate of Secondary Education and A Levels. Three Search Associates schools in Istanbul, one in Izmir, and one in Ankara are defined as “international,” with students who are exclusively non-Turkish passport holders and a curriculum that is exclusively IB or British.
International teachers are sought by the bilingual schools mostly for the subject areas of English as an Alternate Language/English as a Second Language, Elementary, English, Math and Science. Some schools also employ overseas art, music and PE teachers. The international schools look for teachers of all subjects, with the exception of history, which must be taught by Turkish teachers. If your own children accompany you, you will need to look exclusively at the six “international schools,” unless your children happen to be fluent in Turkish!
Ankara, Izmir, Tarsus, and Erzerum: each has its own fascinating story, as well as access to a great lifestyle. Izmir sits on the west coast looking out over the Aegean to the Greek Islands. Known in Turkey for its outward-looking and liberal culture, Izmir offers beautiful beaches and open countryside along with chic urban living, and is just an hour from the ancient Greek city of Ephesus. Much of Turkey is forested and mountainous, with excellent skiing and snowboarding facilities. About Istanbul, Bill exclaims,
“Napoleon said it best, ‘If the world were one state, Istanbul would be its capital.’ There cannot be another city on the planet with a richer and more fascinating history. The stories of its peoples over the centuries are there for all to see: pre-historic, bronze age, Roman, Byzantine, Christian, Muslim, Ottoman . . . and then all the modern stuff too! Incredible. Forward into the 21st century, this is a city with a great urban vibe. Café culture next to the Bosphorus, three top class football teams, contemporary design and art. And the food . . . Have you ever tried a Turkish breakfast? Don’t be in a hurry to do anything afterwards . . .”
Let’s look at the question that your parents will no doubt ask you: “Is it safe?” According to 2011 data reported on NationMaster.com, Turkey is ranked 61st and the US ranked 30th for crime levels, which equates to 56% more than Turkey. Time and again, teachers told Bill and Alison,
“I feel very safe here. In fact, I feel safer than at home.”
A teacher at the British Embassy School said, “As Westerners we are treated really well.” Others at Enka said that when they moved into their apartments, local people brought food to welcome them, and others invited them to meals. They said they feel more than safe; they feel respected and looked after. Bill and Alison were told that Turkey is very family-oriented and more traditional than most of our own home countries. Keep in mind, however, the pace of life is slower and more sedate, which can lead to frustrations when one wants things done in a hurry!
The visiting Associates asked what kinds of teachers in particular would love Turkey. Answers ran deep and wide: people who want a genuine overseas experience in a country with a different language and traditions; people who love the great outdoors, such as skiing, sea-sports, hiking and rock-climbing; people who love history, because of the incredibly well-preserved archaeology; and people who love culture, the arts, dance, and literature.
Survival tips are no different than any great overseas experience: flexibility, patience, a positive frame of mind, and an explorer spirit. As Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Turkey is a country which rewards embracing the difference.
It is also a good country in which to save some money. Whilst the salaries are lower, relative to many other regions, the cost of living is also very low. Most teachers choose not to buy cars and are bused into school, and then provided with breakfast and lunch. As one told Bill and Alison, “I only need to buy a kebab for dinner!” Teachers can open up to five bank accounts in different currencies—pounds, Euros, dollars, Turkish lira, and gold—and have their salaries paid in any of them. In most schools, all or most of teachers’ salaries are paid in U.S. dollars.
To teach at the secondary level, your degree must match the subject you teach, plus a recognized teaching qualification (e.g. PGCE, MEd with QTS, QTS, state teaching licenses from your home country) is required. Some possible exceptions to this: possession of an EAL/ESL/ESOL/TEFL qualification might get you a job in schools affiliated with universities, such as Özel Bilkent in Ankara. To work in primary schools, teachers must hold a BEd or subject degree plus teaching credential/PGCE.
Great news for more mature Search Associates candidates is that there is no official maximum age to obtain a work visa. Almost all the principals with whom Bill and Alison spoke said that they had no objections to employing over-60s if they were a good fit for the school.
Don’t wait – check out overseas teaching opportunities in Turkey!