6 ways to help new international teachers settle in

Starting your first teaching job overseas is a daunting experience - but there is plenty that your school can do to help

Jennie Devine

Teaching overseas: How international schools can help new teachers settle in

Easing any staff member into a new context can be a challenge, but with teachers who are just embarking on their international careers, there are additional stresses and pressures that more seasoned international teachers may take in their stride.

However, with some careful planning, a little hand-holding and plenty of support, you can ensure that vital new hire enjoys the move and becomes an integral part of the team in no time.

International schools: Easing new teachers into the job

Here are some ways to support these neophyte international teachers.

1. Reassure them the process is well-rehearsed

Remember that for a person making the leap to international teaching, leaving a life behind and moving to a new country can seem overwhelming.

It is vital therefore that you reassure the teacher about the process, laying out steps clearly and making sure that they have contact information for someone who will work directly with them and who can respond to their questions in English.

In times of uncertainty, it also key that any communication from new arrivals be answered quickly.

Providing answers to frequently asked questions pre-emptively means that staff feel confident that the school understands their needs – banking, phones and local travel information are all common themes that come up.

2. Assign a mentor

Not only should new staff members have an administrative or HR contact, but a member of the teaching staff can also be used to help ease anxieties about school life.

If a mentor is assigned, it is important that the roles and expectations of the mentor are clearly defined to avoid confusion.

Having a mentor allows a newcomer to ask questions that are not strictly academic nor administrative, and can be yet another friendly face.

3. Set up virtual team meetings

While in the past, initial contact between team members may have been done by email, a virtual team meeting is the perfect way for staff to get to know the people they are working with.

The online meeting immediately sets up a connection and allows the new person to ask academic and procedural questions about working within the team or year group.

This more dynamic approach can spark ideas and build enthusiasm – the meetings I have already had with new international teachers at my next school have made me and them excited to get started.

Having the head of section or a facilitator in a meeting is useful to break the ice.

4. Help them prepare to arrive

One task that can be overwhelming to a new hire is the practicalities of what to pack. They are having to decide what personal and professional items are worth the extra baggage fees.

Be explicit about what is provided at any accommodation (should they bring towels and sheets?). Ensure they know what documentation to bring, and they are informed about the dress code.

In the past, I have found it useful to remind new staff that the school has resources. They do not need to pack textbooks, display materials and binders of planning.

Staff should also have a clear idea of what their arrival looks like: where they will arrive, how to get to the accommodation, who will meet them there (if anyone), how to get to the school and when they are expected in school.

It is also vital that they know what they will need to travel and enter the country during the pandemic.

If entry to the country requires extra paperwork, quarantining or masks, make sure that the new hire knows this and that they are supported in complying with these guidelines.

5. Develop life outside of school

As important as it is to have staff settle into their role at school, it is equally important that the personal side of their life starts to take shape.

Sharing links to museums, courses, local English language newspapers, sports leagues and other activities allows new hires to imagine how they might choose to spend their free time.

It can also be useful to connect them with other staff who have similar interests – members of choirs, music aficionados, five-a-side footballers, skiers, avid readers and more.

6. Don’t overwhelm them

A Google Drive with policies, planning, handbooks, subject handbooks, examples of assessments and presentation, videos of online lessons, sample work and resources can be an excellent resource, but be clear that these are being supplied for reference.

Any vital items (safeguarding policy/staff handbook) can be sent separately, and the remaining documents, policies and procedures can be reviewed before the start of school.

Facing several hundred pages of required reading about procedures, policies and planning in the abstract can be demoralising.

Jennie Devine has worked in international teaching for 18 years, most recently as a principal at a school in Italy

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