Saturday, April 30, 2011

Teaching agencies

Before you sign up with agencies, or think about teaching overseas, you need to be aware of one really important thing:
'Everyone' may be after NZ trained teachers, but the majority of international schools run under either the National Curriculum of England and Wales, the International Baccalaureate (PYP or Primary Years Programme and MYP or Middle Years Programme) or the International Primary Curriculum. So, NZ trained teachers with experience in at least one of these curriculum areas are in demand.
  1. It may be helpful to head to the UK first, so that you can get experience implementing the National Curriculum. However visa requirements are a nightmare. I will be devoting a whole post to the hoops and red tape involved in this pathway.
  2. The International Baccalaureate programme could be a more accessible option as they run online courses - with a huge amount of information available on their site (most at a price) and it is much easier if you are already affiliated with an IB World School. However, they do provide induction programmes, such as which comes in either a standard or condensed form and costs £350.00. They have a wide range of workshops - - I haven't had the funds to do these yet. If someone has feedback on how they felt about the courses, I'd love to hear about it.
  3. The International Primary Curriculum - is again, much easier to access if you're affiliated with an IPC school, but I have found the organisation incredibly helpful. They went above and beyond the call of duty for me and, as such, I would love to be able to experience the curriculum in action.
I did put off this post. I had no experience with teaching agencies prior to 2009, so I have been through a very steep learning curve and yes, some of it has been painful. I won't be speaking about getting work in Australia either, as that is a separate post. But I will be giving my tips for getting the most out of the agencies you're working with.

Generally, you have a place in mind that you want to head for, so this makes selection of agencies easier.My main aim was to travel, but I had no specific destination in mind, so I tried to cover my bases. The following is not an exhaustive list, but it contains the main agencies I have been involved with.
  • is a listing site. One of the easiest to deal with. All you need to do is to register, then search and apply for the jobs you are interested in. Although they focus on the UK, there is a great range of international jobs.
  • is similar to TES, in that you are the one searching and applying for jobs.
  • specialises in the Middle East and Asia, although they do post jobs on an international scale.
  • is a real people organisation. You need to work in with the people there, who will put your cover letters and CV forward and keep in touch regularly.
  • a focus on the UK, but also international jobs.
  • is the international branch of an agency that focuses on the UK. I didn't have too much luck with them, but your mileage may vary.
  • specialise in placements in the Middle East.
  • also focus on placements in the Middle East. There is a lot of paperwork involved.
  • focus on placements in USA (if I remember right, mainly in southern states, or it could be south-eastern).
Whew, that's been an awful lot of text and I haven't even started sharing hints yet.
  1. One key thing I will say is that you will need to invest the effort into form-filling. Most agencies give you an option of registering online. Now, I consider myself tech-savvy, so I didn't think it could possibly take as long as it did... but most sites will not let you just upload a CV. VIF, for example, has an indepth form that took me 1 1/2 hours to complete. The forms will take anywhere from 15mins to 2 hours. It is much easier for the form-filling if you have your paperwork handy. Also, make sure you save copies of the paper forms that you need to send through to the agencies. There are lots of similarities, so for those of you who, like me, are not typists... Copy-Paste is a real time-saver.
  2. You will then need to make sure you do your research. I found the teachanywhere podcast sharing phone interview techniques really helpful - they also have a range of resources and FAQs that are a great starting point. Quite a few of the agencies require at least a phone interview as the next step in registration, so it is very important that you prep for this. It had been around 10 years since I'd needed to be part of a job interview process, so at first... I was very rusty.
  3. Other than the phone interview, Skype is a popular option - so make sure to download this if you don't already have it. There are a few agencies that will organise face-to-face interviews or participate in job fairs... So, for a recap on the job-hunting process, I really recommend "Get That Government Job" by Dawn Richards. The accompanying website gives an idea of some of the content -
  4. One thing that freaked me out about my first face-to-face interview, was the emphasis given to the paperwork. Before doing any of your related research, make sure you have all your documents. Don't even limit it to what they tell you to bring. Bring any and all important documents in a little folder. I cannot stress how important the documents are - I even took to having a spare Justice of the Peace certified copy, plus originals and an extra photocopy for a while. Bring it all.
  5. The interviews aren't difficult, on a whole. As teachers, one thing that we love to do, is to 'talk shop'. So talking about your approaches to behaviour management, what your classroom would look like, how you would organise this or that curriculum area... is the easy part. Only tip here is make sure to talk about specifics. Some of the questions are so broad that if you don't focus in on specific examples from your personal experience, you may get bogged down in the process of answering the question.
Alright! You are now registered and you think everything will be smooth sailing from here... Maybe. My biggest tip for this part of the process... is to follow-up. When I thought I was well on the way to my overseas job with one agency and turned up for the interview... they shot my CV down in flames. I had successfully used this CV with all of the agencies that I had signed up with and no-one had said it was text-heavy, or formatted incorrectly?? You need to ask all of the questions and to followup with each agency on a regular basis, so that time is not wasted for either party.

I will save CVs for one of the next posts, as that was quite a saga in itself... But, other than following up, the thing that helped me the most in working with agencies was 'being a squirrel'. I held on to digital copies of forms, of cover letters, of varying versions of my CVs and this became quite a time-saver for me.

Remember, even if you are currently in a job where everyone thinks of you as the person to turn to, even if your students are excelling... you will face rejection. What I needed to do, was to reflect on each step of the process and to use my mistakes to learn from.

Hope this helps someone out there who is looking at getting overseas =)