Yesterday, I attended an ISS job fair that I had signed up for months ago, and decided to go because I was curious what opportunities were in store for me. I went in not very prepared and not expecting anything; I had remembered to print out my resumes last minute; and forgotten to bring thank you cards. I came out of the fair with 2 new friends, 2 offers, a better sense of myself, and a worldly experience.
Every single one of the presenters mentioned that once you get into this business of teaching internationally, you won’t want to get out. The lifestyle, being immersed in a completely new culture for a long period of time envelops you, and several administrators and staff decide to stay for just TWO more years, but that turns into ANOTHER two more years, then another, then another, and so on.
It was really interesting to see the different types of schools interviewing at this conference — I felt as if I were stepping into a whole new world. There was a school from Dubai, who completely overwhelmed the audience with their modern technology, over the top amenities, affluent way of living (it is not uncommon for residents to have maids). When I went to interview with them, they were located in the penthouse, were 10 minutes late for me, eating hamburgers and fries, and drinking wine. At first, I viewed all of this as “normal”, as I wasn’t sure what the normal job interview was like in this situation, and I obviously wanted them to like me. But after I left, I was completely offended. The way they treated me was degrading, and I was happy to find a rejection postcard from them. Another member of the conference was telling me that they spoke lowly of the girls on their staff. I’m not sure how valid that is, though.
Fortunately, the rest of my interviews were not as poorly conducted, and I actually enjoyed speaking to most of them. I felt a really strong connection with this one lady who was starting up a school in Beihai. The history of this start up begins with a Swedish/Finnish paper company that is located in that area of China, and has been there for about 10 years. So, the International School Services decided to create a partnership with the company to create an International School in that region. The incoming number of students is about 20+, and the Director was looking for only 2 teachers — one to teach early childhood, and another to teach elementary. At first I was hesitant about this opportunity, but the more I spoke to her in the interview, the more I found myself reliving the more passionate side of me when I first starting teaching. She had mentioned in her presentation that although the number of students were small, this would be a great opportunity to be flexible and adapt to the student’s needs. This immediately made me think of the TedTalk/RSA Animate video I saw of Sir Ken Robinson on the Education Paradigm (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U), which made me think of The New School in NY (I had discovered from This American Life) that allows the students to choose what courses they are interested in, and lets them build the English, Math, Science, SS foundation from there. I started to blabber on about these new theories and practices that inspired me a few months ago, and realized I can actually DO this. If I were to go here, I would be able to have total responsibility and control of how these students learn. The prospect of that was pretty exciting, and I think she saw that in me, and offered me the job today.
I think what I got most of the experience were the two wonderful and interesting ladies that I met. They were given offers that they had to either reject/accept within 24 hours, and we bonded over the ridiculousness of the deadlines, hate of men, and our teaching experiences. One lady was 55 years old, recently divorced, had a paycut from a public school in New York in the Hamptons (tip of Long Island), kids were spoiled and already grown up, and needed to find a job that would allow her to save money. She was a nervous wreck the entire time (which was quite hilarious), and ran back and forth trying to decide if she wanted to sign a contract from a school in Bahrain. She invited us up to her room, and we chatted over our futures. She told me I was too young to be giving up a steady job in the public system, and that I should go teach in Manhattan at a private school and get a Masters there at the same time.
12 hours later, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. My gut tells me that I’m not ready and need a stronger foundation, but the other part screams that this is such a great time for me to go out and explore what else is out there. Either way, I don’t regret going to this conference, even if I decide not to pursue these offers.