How to Teach Overseas
A not-so handy step-by-step guide
Some readers are intrigued by my upcoming move to Singapore to teach abroad. Several people have even gone so far as to ask "How can I pursue teaching overseas?" Before going through this process, I had very little understanding of what was involved in pursuing a job at an international school. Now that I’ve been through the process, I thought it would be good to share the steps that I followed that brought me to this new career direction:
- Get a job as a teacher.
- Work to improve at your craft.
- Take the offered a chance to teach AP Biology in your third year on the job.
- Build your AP Biology course into something you aren’t ashamed of.
- Share what you are doing and learn about what other AP Biology teachers are doing via the various networking tools and modern digital infrastructure that is available to you.
- Become a loud, somewhat respected voice in the larger AP Biology teaching world.
- Make the acquaintance of other, more respected voices in the larger AP Biology teaching world.
- Start a podcast with one of them.
- Build a large enough audience through that podcast and a large enough reputation through your other work so that when your cohost transitions to an international consulting career, your name comes up as a possible candidate for an AP Biology opening and the people filling the job actually know who you are.
- Clear the rather drastic life change with your family/life partner and make sure they are totally on-board with the idea
- Apply for, interview for, and accept the position.
Okay, so I’m guessing that after reading that you might not find it quite as helpful as you thought it would be. Understood. I’ll also be upfront and acknowledge that my personal situation is pretty divergent from what I understand to be the “normal” way that people get jobs in international schools (which seems to involve maybe working with a hiring firm, probably attending a job fair to interview, and hoping that your research about whether or not the school you have agreed to work for is the right choice holds up). I also can’t talk all that much about the emigration process, as it has only involved filling out some paperwork and sending it over to super-helpful school staff who do this sort of thing on the regular (eventually it will also include getting on a plane). But I do think there are a couple of lessons to be taken from the path to my new jobby-job, even if it is somewhat atypical.
The First: The best thing you can do as a teacher is to focus on your craft. I can’t stress this enough. In my opinion, your work as a teacher shouldn’t be about trying to advance through the system or land a “better” job. It should be about trying to do the best work you can for your students. Which is a moving target, and one that requires you to keep moving, too. Everything I wrote about above comes from a place of wanting to be the best teacher that I can be. I don’t say that to be self-aggrandizing, or to suggest that I’m some hot-shit educational whiz. I do not doubt that I will be a much better teacher next year that I am now. The point isn’t to be great; it’s to work toward greatness. By focusing on trying to be the best teacher you can be, all the other stuff comes along for the ride. Trust me.
The Second: Luck is required. The new job only became a possibility because I happened to be connected to someone working with international schools on a regular basis. Even then, I was only available for the job because I had decided (at the VERY LAST MOMENT) to turn down a different position at the start of this school year. Working back from there, I only became the AP Biology teacher in my district because no one else wanted to be. I only became a science teacher because of the various fortunate occurrences that happened in my life leading up to deciding what I wanted to do, and even then I only took my job in Deer Park because they happened to be the first district to offer me one. If any of this had gone a different way, I wouldn’t be Singapore-bound. This lesson isn’t one that can be “used” in any real sense. You can’t make yourself more fortunate. That noted, the best thing that you can do when dealing with the random fortune of the Universe is to do as much as you can to make yourself available to take advantage of it where possible. That’s a much less eloquent version of Louis Pasteur’s famous quote, but I think it holds true anyway. While there was a tremendous amount of random stuff that had to happen to me to put me in my current position, the same is true for pretty much everyone reading this. So let’s acknowledge that this is the case, and then do what is needed to get the best bounce from it that we can.
I don’t know if either of the above are more useful or interesting for you that the guide at the top of the piece, but I think there’s some truth here. At least there is for me.
And I’m the one who’s moving to Singapore to teach in an international school 😘.
Does this piece do anything for you? Does it spark a thought? Does it earn your ire? Drop me a line or leave a comment if you have something to say.
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