Landing an international teaching position can be a dream come true. With decades of experience, the associates at Search Associates (SEARCH) are there to guide educators in their job searches, which can sometimes mean steering them away from what might be a mismatch between them and a school that they thought was perfect. For Aaron and Susan Batchelder, some key advice from Senior Associate John Ritter and his SEARCH partner Susan Ritter has helped them make the perfect decision for their next adventure in Manila. Aaron explains,
John and Susan were adamant about our being open to the right ‘fit’ for our family, and not focused necessarily on the right individual job. My wife and I tried to keep our children at the forefront of our search, because the original plan has been for this to be a positive experience for them, with us being secondary to that priority. . . I will admit that I have had to be ‘brought back’ to this focus a time or two, but I believe it has been the driving force to where we eventually landed.
Aaron and Susan are seasoned educators, already experienced in teaching abroad. In his 19 years in education, Aaron has taught elementary, middle and high school and served as a middle school assistant principal for two years. Aaron’s career began in Texas, where he stayed seven years until a move to Mexico City for a 4th grade teaching position at the American School Foundation (ASF Mexico City), where he met Susan as part of the 4th grade team! Prior to her two years of teaching 4th grade at ASF Mexico City, Susan, completed her student teaching with the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS) in Germany. After graduating college, she taught for three years in the States before moving to Honduras for a year to teach 4th grade at Escuela Internacional Sampedrana.
Aaron and Susan returned from Mexico to the States to marry and start their family near Susan’s home in Alabama. During their 11 years there, the Batchelders enjoyed raising their children—Jacob, now nine and Linde, now seven. Nevertheless, Aaron describes a nagging feeling:
There just always felt like something was missing . . .We both missed being abroad and have always wanted to give our children the international experience. We always wondered how wonderful it would be to share this with them. Plus, Susan and I have not taught at the same school the last eleven years while teaching in Alabama.
For their latest job search, the Batchelders floundered a bit as they used another recruitment firm. Though they had heard about Search Associates, they did not realize to what degree SEARCH was effective at helping to find jobs for international teachers. Once registered, Susan and Aaron were immediately impressed by their designated Senior Associate John Ritter and his SEARCH partner Susan Ritter. They say,
John and Susan were both wonderful in assisting us, walking us through the application, from our professional history to the CV. They answered every question we had, gave us support, and made professional suggestions for our documents.
Moreover, Aaron and Susan found SEARCH’s tools and resources much more user friendly, with a more efficient and effective process for completing the application, guidance through developing the CV, and an easier way to find out about job fairs. They add,
Personal feedback and suggestions from John and Susan throughout the process were spot on, even if they were telling us things we didn't necessarily want to hear. They were one of the most important aspects of the Search Associates experience.
Excited about the number of job fairs SEARCH offered, the newly-registered Batchelders immediately signed up for Bangkok Leadership Fair, to be held only three weeks later! Aaron says,
I wanted to test the water in international leadership and felt this might be a good opportunity to see how I might be received . . . but, again, the idea is to find the best fit for the family. We feel that is the best way to ensure long term happiness and success in our new chapter to our journey.
Susan and Aaron enjoyed the process of the fair tremendously—from researching schools and positions to preparing for interviews, and traveling to a new place. They definitely recommend it to other aspiring international teachers. Being able to explore the schools and their locations and openings ahead of time was instrumental in developing a feel for what they wanted as a family. During the fair, the Batchelders appreciated the opportunity to talk face-to-face with recruiters to get a better sense of the school, life in the host country, and expectations.
With parameters set for themselves and their children, creating a list of possibilities that would work for all the Batchelders was an exciting and challenging puzzle to solve. Aaron and Susan were grateful that school recruiters were so frank during interview sign-ups. For example, when the topic of bringing two children was raised, one said, “Your children will struggle socially here.” Aaron says,
The importance of staying open-minded was a crucial aspect of what we feel was a successful experience at the fair. My personal top three positions ended up flopping, and the jobs we ended up taking hadn't even been discussed by us as part of the pre-fair process. You just never know where the journey will carry you.
When interested in a school, Susan and Aaron not only researched the school and its region, but they would also look at how long a school had been established, before asking around about its reputation. In the end, the Batchelders accepted positions at Brent School Manila (Brent)— 4th grade for Susan and 6th grade social studies for Aaron—and they are very happy with their decision. Aaron describes how smoothly the process went:
We had an initial interview with Brent on Friday before the fair; then, we scheduled a follow-up interview on Saturday at the Bangkok fair. On Sunday evening we spent two hours with Jason Atkins, the headmaster, to get a better feel for the school, life in the Philippines, and how we might fit there. John and Susan Ritter, both at the fair, helped us throughout the entire process.
Susan and Aaron love their career in education because it gives them an opportunity to impact young lives in a positive way. Being a positive part of a child's day is a blessing, and it is important to never lose sight of this. The Batchelders also love the fact that teaching abroad is less stressful than in the U.S. High stakes testing is not a punishing force, and they get to work with a student body that is more motivated and families who are more involved in their children’s education. And while living overseas has its own set of challenges, it doesn't necessarily involve the push for student academic improvement. Student achievement happens organically.
The biggest recommendation Susan and Aaron could make to anyone moving abroad is to stay open-minded. They are adamant you will get “GREAT suggestions and recommendations from your assigned Associates, even if it's not what you want to hear.” Try not to get too caught up in negative biases and prejudices. Trust the journey, and do your research. You never know where the best fit might occur. Aaron exclaims,
We didn't even have the Philippines on our radar, yet there I was, researching it in our hotel room in Bangkok! In fact, when Headmaster Jason Atkins requested an interview, I told Susan, ‘Forget that, I don't know anything about the Philippines,’ and guess what? We are moving to the Philippines!