5 job advert euphemisms: How to read between the lines

A well-written job advert can make the allure of an exotic teaching destination all the more appealing - but don't be too easily swayed...

Chantille Rayman-Bacchus

The hidden meaning in job adverts

When the marking is piling high and the view from your classroom is a grey and drizzly car park, it's all too easy to imagine yourself in a more agreeable, exotic location.

Scrolling through the international pages on Tes can certainly be enticing – you'll find teaching posts from Singapore to St Louis to Seville. Certainly, the job ads are appealing, too, with all sorts of warm and fuzzy phrases designed to draw you in.

But as any English teacher will tell you, it pays to learn to read between the lines and see what a text is really telling you. Here are some classic international school euphemisms

1. 'Family atmosphere'

What they say: We’re a close-knit community that will become a home away from home. Students, teachers and their families develop close relationships inside and outside of school creating a real sense of belonging.

Help is ever at hand and friendships are easily formed over a glass or two of after-work wine.

What they mean: Nepotism and favouritism are rife, and you’ll be expected to attend every event going, making you wonder if leaving to escape those endless family get-togethers at home has really paid off.

Oh, and make sure you get on the right side of the right people or you could end up sharing your job with the school owner's wife's cousin.

2. 'A real team spirit'

What they say: You're here to make a difference and sometimes you've just got to jump in with both feet.

There's untold satisfaction as you roll up your sleeves alongside your colleagues to help dig out the school allotment for a new initiative in botanical studies.

What they mean: Multi-tasking is a must as budgets are tight and staffing is minimal.

Expect to diversify your skills and strengthen your muscles in unexpected duties outside the classroom, and make the most of the 'I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine' culture between colleagues.

3. 'Opportunities for professional development'

What they say: Plumping up your CV while living the El Dorado dream is easier than you think with international schools always hungry for teachers fresh from the UK with their insights on modern teaching practice – you’ll be climbing the career ladder in no time.

Plus with smaller staff teams, there are plenty of extra roles and responsibilities up for grabs.

What they mean: The international circuit is notorious for high staff turnover with teachers school-hopping their way across the globe.

Forget mentors or teaching buddies as sudden absences and departures can result in extra responsibilities and perhaps working in areas you never considered, or conversely, being managed by someone you least expected.

4. 'Freedom in your curriculum'

What they say: True heaven. Not only are you working in what appears to be the set for an exotic wildlife programme but you also have the luxury of reeling out those wonderful lesson ideas you could never make fly at home.

You finally get the time you want to develop student skills rather than always cramming content into tight heavily mandated curriculums and schedules.

What they mean: Chaos reigns! There are no pre-established systems, no shoes to step into, leaving you unsupported and having to organise and coordinate your own curriculum, making you ultimately responsible for all the good, bad and ugly decisions you take.

It's time to hook out those schemes of work you nearly deleted – there's some paperwork you just can't escape, no matter how far you travel.

5. 'Culturally rewarding'

On this they are correct: There's no doubt about it, guzzling sangria on the beach at sunset with your new international chums is magic, and is just one of the many enriching experiences you'd never get back home.

So if the job ads are calling to you, don’t be put off. As one who followed the dream, I promise you it’s a life-changing experience. 

But be aware that, just like teaching at home, there are highs and lows and issues to deal with that can, at times, be exhausting. On the other hand, when you're overseas, the weather is almost certainly better while that's all happening.

Chantille Rayman-Bacchus is a secondary English teacher who has been working in British international schools in Spain for 15 years

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