First, imagine you’re a teacher at an international school. The first few weeks of the term have sped by in a blur of lesson-planning, dusting the cobwebs from your students’ brains, and trying to remember everyone’s name! When you’re not dashing madly between classes, you’re at your desk trying to get ahead on your admin work. While it’s been hectic, you’ve made it through the first few weeks and are starting to settle into a routine.
This is your second year at your current school and you have a big decision to make. Renewals are just around the corner and you’re still fine-tuning lesson plans, the stress is real! You’re not even sure if you should stay here…the world is so big and mysterious and there are far-flung countries whispering your name…
Wait, hold up ✋ our teachers only worry about teaching!
Maybe you don’t like the thought of teachers fretting about their own future when there are students that need their full attention? But teachers are completely human. They have a long list of worries aside from just their future. The future is as big and scary and ever-present as it is for anyone. Teachers are not immune to a bout of existential dread.
Just 7 worries your teachers could be having on any given day:
What am I doing with my life? Is this my true calling? Will I retire here and teach the children of my current students?
Are the grade twos really grasping the imperative and should I try a more hands-on project-based approach with grade three - they seem a bit distracted?
Why is technology conspiring against me! AGAIN! I need to make a backup list of activities for days when the computers aren’t working.
I wonder if any of the other teachers are tired of these lunches?
If I could teach anywhere… would it be here?
Even if my benefits are pretty cushy, are there better ones?
Should I adopt a cat, cats fix loneliness, right?
Even the happiest teacher is going to have questions about their life and career
They might be sitting there counting their blessings: great students, supportive leadership, lovely textbooks, access to tech that makes teaching easier, colleagues they actually like spending time with and a community of expats that are willing to celebrate special occasions by attempting to roast a turkey in a toaster oven. What more could an expat teacher want? (A conventional oven, I hear you say… but no, that is not quite the point I am making).
Maybe this teacher has a bucket list, a passion for surfing or an urge to become a Buddhist in their spare time. Maybe they’ve thought about teaching in a country where one, or even both of those things are possible.
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Don’t forget that there’s a bit of wanderlust in their hearts
Even if your school presents them with the fattest possible renewal bonus, the chances are teachers are weighing up their other options. Schools will be putting pressure on them to sign a letter of intent and they’ve barely just got their heads above water with lesson-planning. It’s a lot to process.
Should they stay in their current situation, or follow the wanderlusting heart that landed them in your school in the first place? What if there’s a place in the world where they can start the day by surfing to a Buddhist temple before school has even started?
It’s a tough call for anyone in a good situation. Should I jump ship, even though the ship is well-built and sailing on calm waters. What if I dive head first into turbulent waters? Teachers in international schools have taken risks before, it’s worth remembering that they’re used to uprooting their lives, and once they’ve done it once, they know they can do it again.
It’s not that they want to leave, and years ago they mightn’t have. But now with Google, they can easily take a peek at the greener grass on the other side…they don’t even have to really be looking.
Well, this is all very scary. What can I do to keep teachers?
The best move for schools is to be as proactive as possible. You will have teachers that renew time and time again, but you can’t only depend on that. Sometimes it just won’t be the perfect fit, and the Buddhist temples might call harder than you like.
Building your school’s online presence so that you constantly have a pipeline of new teaching talent is half the battle. That way when some teachers don’t renew, you’re not stuck.
It’s also worth remembering that just because a teacher leaves, it doesn’t mean they’re done with you. They might still see the value of your school and help refer another teacher, provide a smooth transition of their classes and offer valuable insights into how to find a teacher who will love the position as much as they did.
Candidates are beginning their job search earlier and earlier
This is partly because renewals come around so early. The recruitment season is starting earlier and earlier and with technology, candidates aren’t afraid to start looking as much as a year in advance.
Letters of intent are becoming more commonplace. And incentivizing teachers to sign them earlier and earlier is happening too. For good reason. Pragmatic school heads want clarity on their recruitment needs as soon as possible so they have more information to make better decisions/plan their recruitment strategy/tactics.
Tech is changing the job hunt for everyone
Perhaps the biggest reason for the change in job-hunting habits is down to the technology available today. If teachers have a hard month in the classroom, you can be sure that a bit of FOMO will set in from an Instagram scroll...and some career-related Googling is sure to follow. Sometimes just out of escapism, and other times to seriously check out their options.
With information at everyone’s fingertips, it’s important that you’re putting your school front and center. You never know when teachers will be looking…maybe a bored hour on the bus, or while home sick for a week. Chances are they won’t trekking to job fairs hundred of miles away, they’re more likely to do a bit of extensive research on education career sites and bookmark any schools they find interesting.
The internet works both ways. Get yourself on Google, too.
If you want to have a competitive advantage, you need to make sure your virtual doors are always thrown wide open - that a curious teacher, at any stage of the recruitment journey, can take a peek inside.
That if they should google something as simple as “teach in Indonesia”, suddenly your school will waltz across their screen and say “pick me”. Whether they stumble across your job postings/website/social media, you want them to think “oooooh! That looks alright, doesn’t it?”
So what’s the easiest way to solve the how-can-I-show-up-in-a-Google-search conundrum? Get your school listed on a search-engine-optimized job board geared towards international educators! Google is a bit of a clever clogs (and yes, more than a little creepy). It knows these are the sites that give job-hunting teachers what they’re looking for, and they’re not afraid to plug those at the top of the page.
If you’d like to talk about how to kickstart your recruitment ASAP, feel free to drop me a line!