Where in the world might your teaching career take you?

Teaching can be a great career for those with a wanderlust. We asked three international teachers to share their stories

Grainne Hallahan

Coronavirus: COBIS has been offering virtual accreditation for international schools this year, says Colin Bell

If you want to travel the world, teaching in an international school may have occurred to you.

And with an expanding market, hungry for English-speaking teachers, there’s no shortage of opportunities.

Plenty of educators now set off on their own, or with a partner and children in tow, so we asked some teachers to share their experiences.  

Moving abroad when you’re single

Ross Armitage had a long and successful career in the UK, working in a mixture of challenging primary schools, before he took the plunge and moved to Hong Kong. 

My whole teaching career had been spent around Nottingham and Manchester.

I worked my way up to headship and was proud when, over the six years I had spent with my school, we moved from the bottom of the Bury league to the top 10 per cent of schools nationally.

I went to visit a university friend who had gone to work as a teacher in Singapore. I saw the life she was living and the school environment; travel, international friendships, a great place to work and explore.

So I sold my house, bought a flat and started to apply for headships in international schools. But the whole process was so different from what I’d done before.

Interviewing for a head of primary role was very different than in the UK. You could be doing a Skype interview at 6am in your shirt and tie and pyjama bottoms.

What was really different was the feeling that the people interviewing me were less interested in what I had done in the past and rather how I would fit into their school’s future.

I had to travel to London for recruitment drives for large school groups, and was asked to write about my philosophy of education. They really want to see beyond your skills and knowledge, and explore how you will fit their community.

Now I’ve made the change, my life has been transformed. Hong Kong is a rich and dynamic city. There is so much to experience on your doorstep: beaches, hikes, temples, markets, brunches, festivals, social events, sports and clubs. The weather enables you to do a lot that you wouldn't be able to do in the UK.

But it isn’t just one big holiday. I do work very hard. The difference is that international teaching life enables you to do so much more.

I’ve climbed Mount Kinabalu, been rafting, biking, sailing, visited tribes, trekked in the jungle, relaxed on tropical islands, kayaked in rainforests, seen orangutans and elephants in their natural habitat, stayed in homestays, in tents on beaches, and navigated to new locations. Experienced many different types of culture.  

My life has changed, and now I feel I really do have a great work-life balance. If you’re considering it, I’d say do it.

More information about teaching in China and Hong Kong

More information about preparing for a video interview

More information about going to a job fair

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Moving as a family

Teaching abroad had always been on Hannah Grange’s to-do list, and although it was something she thought she would do before she had children, moving with a family proved to benefit everyone.

We knew we wanted to move to the Middle East because my husband had already worked in Dubai with the Navy. We had visited the area a lot and had friends working in a reputable school over there.

For our children, the move has proven a real success and given them the opportunity to learn a new language. Here in Abu Dhabi we have a live-in nanny, who is from the Cameroon. Because the nanny is fluent in French, she speaks to our children only in French.

Being in Abu Dhabi has also provided our family with some exciting experiences that weren’t on offer back home. This half-term we slept in the desert in a Bedouin tent, and then woke up and did a hot-air balloon ride, and while we were in the air, we had a falcon show.

As Abu Dhabi is an airport hub for the world, we get to see lots of friends and family as they travel to various places. 

But it hasn’t only been opportunities for our children that have come out of the move, I have also had the chance to develop my career in ways that wouldn’t have been possible had we stayed in the UK.

Training online for my Nasenco (National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination) has been interesting and rewarding, as has being able to mark and teach the International Baccalaureate.

I have presented at a conference with our network of schools from Europe and the Middle East, and I have run a Model United Nations trip to Switzerland. All of these experiences, and being able to teach students from 72 different countries, have enriched my classroom practice.

More information about teaching in the United Arab Emirates

More information about moving abroad with a family

Moving as a couple

Sarah Gallagher’s children had grown up when she made the decision to take a teaching position in Italy, and moved herself and her partner to Rome. 

When my partner and I decided to move abroad, we were inspired to make the change because of the attraction of working in a more diverse and open-minded workplace.

The mindset in an international school is more open and curious. I wanted to work somewhere that transcended social, economic and religious borders to reach people who share the common core of humanity.

Teaching many nationalities is the norm in international schools. Subjects like history become enriched when the children in the class come from a range of different countries, and all those students are bringing their own experience to the classroom.

However, it is always complicated when you move abroad. You have attachments to a place, things are familiar. Moving to Italy had its own particular challenges because it can be quite a bureaucratic country.

However, the school provided us with a lot of support. They helped to sign us up to doctors, assisted us with insurance – lots of practical help that eased the transition.

Although our two adult children still live in the UK and US, that doesn’t mean we don’t have quality time together. Our time together is precious, and it is planned and shared because we know it’s only for a short amount of time.

People here expect to live their life with people they love at the centre. I see it everywhere,  all the time. In August, everything in Italy closes down for the holidays and it is wonderful. Living in Rome is like dying and going to heaven.

More information about teaching in Europe

Common misconceptions about teaching abroad

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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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