Hiring an international teacher should be attractive to UK schools. Jess Gosling writes about the extra support and training she was given overseas.
Teachers working in international schools have a range of qualities that are refined and developed due to living and working abroad. Beyond resilience and courage, these teachers often work in an advanced environment that is well-resourced, similar to a private school situated in the UK.
Therefore, an international teacher will have access to cutting-edge ICT software and hardware, excellent Continuous Professional Development (CPD), plus will have the opportunity to support other experiences that make up a successful international school, such as sporting activities and the arts. These experiences provide teachers with a wealth of knowledge beyond teaching expertise. In this article, I will discuss two areas in which international teachers excel but are not often discussed: adapting curriculum and using new technology.
Adapting the National Curriculum for England
When using the National Curriculum or the EYFS framework abroad, a teacher would be unlikely to use pre-planned, mass-created units. Instead, planning would be designed to be appropriate for the students and sensitive to the particular requirements of that country. Teaching and learning must not offend or be controversial to the host country. Understanding and being sensitive to political tensions, religious beliefs, and appropriate cultural etiquette, becomes second nature when teaching abroad.
Often, the taught curriculum is ‘enhanced’ in this context. For example, in Asia, many children are tutored outside of school. The attainment in terms of maths, for example, is generally much greater than in the UK. Therefore, students need to be challenged so the teacher will pitch their lessons accordingly. Conversely, some international schools have a large proportion of second-language speakers of English. In this case, teachers observe, train and complete CPD to ensure they teach these learners appropriately. Teachers must reflect deeply on the needs of their class and differentiate skillfully.
Some international schools follow different curricula, such as the International Baccalaureate or Montessori programs. Therefore, teachers learn new ways of thinking and pedagogies, which enhances their teaching toolkit. As inquiry-based learning is becoming a popular ‘buzzword’ in the UK, teachers who have worked within curricula which promote inquiry can share this expertise when returning home.
Learning and adapting to new technology
New staff usually complete a period of induction before commencing their in-class teaching, which lasts between 3-5 days. This period includes training on all the different software necessary to work and teach within a school. Each school offers new ways of reporting, registering, record keeping, and assessment using technology. Often a school follows bespoke software or multiple software systems. Therefore, international teachers must adapt to new systems quickly.
Well-established international schools will offer Smartboards or Viewboards in each class, to further enhance teaching and learning. There is the opportunity to use Google slides, games, and school software to engage and motivate children. Work sharing/assessment software such as Seesaw or Tapestry can take a while to get to grips with. However, often in international schools, there are digital leads who will offer bespoke training in these areas. Teachers are often very keen to further their knowledge, so have the time and funding to become Google trained or Seesaw Ambassadors. They then support their community and enhance their expertise with this technology.
In addition, each school will prefer a certain operating system and hardware, including Google, Microsoft, or Apple. I began my journey internationally using Microsoft and now I am in a Google and Apple school. I have received a great deal of training and support within school, which includes highly-trained colleagues. Therefore, working within an international school can be a steep, but supported, technological learning curve for many teachers.
In summary, international teachers must be highly adaptable to new systems and are expected to take the time to learn how to use them. Often technology in well-established schools is cutting edge. Teachers have the opportunity to work with hardware they may have never had the chance to in the UK, such as visualisers, WeDo kits, VR kids, and Ipads. Being able to use these technological tools enhances teaching and learning. For example, entering an Egyptian pyramid wearing VR goggles brings the ‘wow’ factor to learning, whilst using Ipads to access stories and for guided reading also adds an extra dimension to classroom learning. Had I only experienced my teaching career within the UK, I believe I would not have the same level of skill and expertise in these areas, due to the lack of resources, funding, and time.