After nine years as overseas educators in Dubai, David and Jenn Platt are packing their babies—Jo and Rupert—and heading to China!
The Platts used to dream of teaching abroad at the end of their careers in public education “back home.” But one day, after discussing it, Jenn and David realized that it made no sense to wait. Internationalism, different cultures, travel—and everything that comes with being an international educator—was exactly what they loved. They decided to move sooner, and David and Jenn could not be happier with their decision.
The couple’s overseas teaching careers began at Dubai International Academy, where they eventually assumed the roles of International Baccalaureate Diploma Coordinator and Gifted and Talented Coordinator. David and Jenn then became Head of Secondary and Deputy Head of Secondary at Collegiate American School, another facility in Dubai within the same organization, Innoventures Education.
As a youth, David wanted to be an astronaut. He studied aerospace engineering at university, with the goal of teaching it someday. And his career did begin with teaching at university level, but when the opportunity to launch an engineering curriculum at a local high school came up, David jumped at it. He says,
I took it and haven’t looked back since. What I most love about teaching is that every day is different, and every day you get a chance to make an impact on someone . . . who may then go on to make a difference in the world.
For Jenn, the idea of teaching came later. With a desire to help others, she earned her B.S. in Biology/Pre-Med. It was a friend who insisted Jenn try teaching because she said Jenn was “really good with people.” Jenn attended a local education job fair. She reflects, "From the moment I stepped foot in the classroom I knew this was exactly where my calling was."
Jenn has continued her own education by earning a Masters in Biological and Chemical Sciences and completing the International School Leadership Certificate program from the Ontario Principal's Council. Currently, both she and David are earning Certificates for School Management and Leadership through a joint venture between the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard Business School.
The Platts learned of Search Associates (SEARCH) when they first began looking into international education. David explains what prompted them to sign up:
Having an agent to review candidates’ documents and give feedback, access to a large database of schools and the accompanying information and credibility associated with the agency is all very helpful. As an administrator, I also appreciate support with the hiring process: the agency’s ability to “vet” candidates and provide confidential information regarding each candidate is extremely helpful.
David and Jenn find that one of the biggest differences between Stateside and overseas teaching is the internationalism of the students. In the U.S., students do come from many backgrounds, yet almost all are “American.” In overseas schools, they have worked with students from over 65 different countries, with all sorts of backgrounds and cultures. They exclaim,
It has been incredible being exposed to such diversity—and the opportunities that come along with that. We have taken students on trips to Cambodia, Nepal, Switzerland, Austria, and throughout the United Arab Emirates.
The Platts’ latest job search began more than a year before they actually planned to move. Their priority was to find the right school for both, rather than any particular position, location, or salary. By starting early, Jenn and David were able to cast a wide net, do a lot of research on different schools, and explore more options. For them, the most useful website functions have been the ability to search for positions as well as schools and to set up notifications to receive regular updates about openings. They checked their dashboards on the SEARCH website frequently.
After loads of research, input from Senior Associates Bill Turner and Ray Sparks along with interviews and discussions with the school recruiting team, David and Jenn accepted positions at Shen Wai International School in Shenzhen, China. The Platts feel that the school’s philosophy, curriculum, and approach matches theirs and that Shenzhen is a city that will provide a great lifestyle for them and their dogs.
David and Jenn have to admit that getting little Jo and Rupert to China safely is “waaaaaaaay more stressful than moving and taking new jobs.” They absolutely recommend that people moving with pets invest in an experienced and reputable pet moving agency to help. The different regulations, requirements, and paperwork required for each country can be extremely daunting to navigate on one’s own.
The Platts are very glad they made the decision to venture abroad sooner rather than later. The most rewarding experience of their lives, their careers in international education, prompts them to encourage prospective international educators to “absolutely try it!” They recommend doing research and asking lots of questions to find the right school in the right location for you, but insist that you remain open to a wide variety of options, since you might be surprised where that “best fit” is. Jenn and David have some final words for prospective international educators:
There will be challenges, so you need to be patient and flexible, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. Yet, if you want to really experience the world, both in and out of the classroom, teaching in an international school [offers] an incredible opportunity to do both.