How to start a new overseas teaching job in lockdown

How can you start a new international teaching job during a global pandemic? Tes talks to two teachers in this position

Grainne Hallahan

Coronavirus: Is it possible to start your new international teaching job?

All teachers starting new jobs during the Covid-19 closures will be facing a unique set of challenges. But those who are due to start teaching abroad potentially have a more complex problem to solve, with borders between many countries closed and travel seemingly impossible. 

But is starting a new teaching job in an international school during a pandemic as impossible as it sounds? It appears not. 

Fabio di Salvo accepted his job offer back in December before the world had even heard of Covid-19. He was very excited to be leaving the UK and heading to Singapore to teach physics. He believes it is pointless trying to make assumptions about whether he will be able to travel to the country in September. 

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“It is difficult to say what the impact will be in three months' time as the situation is constantly changing,” he says. “However, the plan is to go out slightly earlier to allow for a potential two-week quarantine.”

Coronavirus: What about my teaching job abroad?

Reece Durrance, a PE teacher in Essex, finds himself in a similar situation to di Salvo. He is due to start his new role in Dubai – but unlike di Salvo, flying out earlier just isn’t possible due to the suspension of visa entries. 

However, he is happy to say they’ve found a workaround.

“The plan is to start as planned – just remotely,” he says. “I will have an induction where I meet the other members of my department and learn their technology. And then record an introduction of myself for my new students, so that I’m not a new face when I start.

“I will then work with my new head of department to create and respond to online tasks. These tasks might have a sport skill focus or fitness target focus. Students will then evidence what they have completed back to me.”

Start dates

For Durrance, physically staying in the UK won’t make a difference to his start date.

“Until the ban is lifted I will remain in the UK, and my salary will be paid from my school overseas,” he says. “As soon as I am allowed to fly, I’m aiming to be on the first plane out.”

For di Salvo, however, being in the country is crucial for his contract to begin.

“In Singapore they can only begin to pay employees once they receive their employment pass on arrival,” he explains. “So if I am unable to arrive prior to my start date, then my official commencement date will need to be pushed back to a later date.”

If you have a job offer from an international school, you need to clarify your position on start dates and payment as soon as possible. 

4 tips for starting an international job on lockdown

Of course, the situation will vary for everyone, but there are some tips that should work for both teachers and schools in this situation:

1. Keep in touch

For both teachers, it has been the communication from the school that has made all the difference to their positive attitudes about embarking on their new adventure.

“My new school have been great,” says di Salvo. “I have been in constant contact with the principal, the admin team and the science department. All of them have clearly outlined the process of moving out there, and the potential different scenarios which may be in place.”

The headteacher of his new school was keen to clear up any worries di Salvo had.

“My main concern was potentially not having a job any more but they have assured me that this is not the case and that they are still very much looking forward to having me start at the school,” he says.

2. Use the time to sort paperwork

If you’re in lockdown, this is a great chance to sort out all those things you might have neglected during a busy term teaching.

“For teachers who find themselves in my position, I would recommend using this time in limbo to tie up all the loose ends you may have,” Durrance says.

It’s sensible to have photocopies of your important documents, and sorting out a good filing system is crucial before you move overseas. You can find more guidance on this blog on preparing paperwork.

3. Handover to the person replacing you

As you say goodbye to your last school, as well as returning laptop and classroom keys, you’ll also be getting ready to pass your baton to your replacement.

However, with school closures, that handover is more tricky, as with social distancing there will be no face-to-face meeting.

“As the head of Year 11, my replacement will be taking on the new Year 7 intake, so my handover has been with the new head of sixth-form,” says Durrance.

“Whereas normally this would be conducted in a meeting, we’ve been communicating over email and telephone instead.”

4. Get excited

Yes, the situation is far from ideal. However, that doesn’t change the fact that this is the start of a very exciting adventure.

“It has always been a dream for my wife and I to live abroad, especially in Singapore,” di Salvo says. “The school I will be working for looks absolutely amazing and fits with my teaching ethos perfectly. I am incredibly excited about starting work there.”

Durrance also takes the glass-half-full approach. “I'm really excited to start despite all the uncertainty, because although the global situation has altered since I applied, my views and judgement haven’t changed,” he explains.

“In time this pandemic will pass, so until then we all have to sit this out and be pragmatic about the situations we find ourselves in,” he says.

“E-learning in PE is totally new to me, so I will take this opportunity to try to improve my pedagogical approach so I can take it forward for my own development.

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Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan is Tes recruitment editor and senior content writer at Tes

Find me on Twitter @heymrshallahan

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