Why UK schools should not overlook international hires

Teachers returning from overseas have a raft of skills that UK schools would benefit greatly from - as this international head with past UK leadership experience outlines

Chris Barnes

Covid and schools: Why are teachers struggling to find jobs?

As UK schools reopen and are filled with the sounds of life following the past 18 months, a job change for September 2022 is probably the last thing on many teachers’ minds.

But in international schools, owners or boards will soon be asking staff for notice of intent to renew contract.

For those deciding to return home, this means they will soon give formal intention to leave by Christmas, if not beforehand, and so start thinking about new jobs for September 2022.

Yet, one of the strange paradoxes of international teaching is that, while it is often relatively straightforward to obtain an international teaching job going out, returning is not so easy.

However, as someone who has worked in UK and international schools, there are many reasons why an application from an international teacher should be given due consideration.

1. Resilience and versatility

Social media makes it seem as though teaching overseas is one long holiday. The reality is quite different.

Anyone who has spent time overseas quickly becomes used to dealing with adversity, pupils with English as an additional language (EAL), demanding parents – often through an interpreter – and navigating Byzantine government paperwork.

Living in a culture other than your own necessitates flexibility, as much in the environment is outside of your control.

Those who have taught overseas learn to get on with the job in hand because being willing to take on such a challenge is something for those who are innovative, adaptable and not easily fazed.

As such, they can bring a wealth of experience, adaptability and flexibility that any school would undoubtedly benefit from.

2. Heightened IT skills

Many international teachers will have very strong IT skills, since their schools have technology embedded across the curriculum.

They will have been afforded access to a wide range of technology to heighten the learning experience, with many using it for the whole of their time overseas.

And, if they were well-versed beforehand, they will be even more so now, owing to the impact of the pandemic, and this will only benefit future employers.

Many will have delivered full-time synchronous and asynchronous learning during extended campus closures – just like their counterparts in the UK.

Given all this, and the likelihood of a continual shift to use more technology within education, these skills will be a real asset.

3. Helping EAL students 

Teaching students who speak English as an additional language is a skill in itself. 

Teachers in international schools were already used to this challenge but the pandemic has made it something they are even more adept at: explaining and demonstrating concepts via video links has meant that international teachers have had to rethink the way they present their subject to ensure the best outcomes for students of all abilities. 

Given that many schools in the UK have a number of EAL students, these skill sets could be especially valuable and worth tapping into.

4. Working with parents

Students’ cameras may have been turned off but there has often been an ever-present parent in the background. 

As parents are often unfamiliar with the style of learning in international schools, teachers have become adept at explaining patiently the reasons why there isn’t a textbook provided, why the class is not following the textbook through in the same order or why practice papers are not being sent home/posted online. 

International teachers have always been good at this, though, with parents’ expectations and engagement high.

Parental engagement, of course, varies by setting in any nation but the skill of being able to converse with parents is vital and something international teachers are particularly adept at.

Be open-minded

Perhaps most crucially, if a CV or an application form from an international candidate lands on your desk, have an open mind about what this person can bring to your team.

After all, when schools say that they are serious about celebrating diversity and championing experiential learning with students, they need to do the same with teachers.

Chris Barnes is an experienced school leader in UK independent and international schools. He is on Twitter as @MrBarnesTweets

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