A Teaching Team

The past several months have been an absolute whirlwind that reached its peak over the winter break. Krista and I decided that it was time for us to move on from our current school and get back on the roller-coaster of international recruiting. The goal of this post is to reflect back on the process we went through to land us our future position.

loop-de-loop in our future city

We are a teaching team, which means that a school needs to have positions that fit both of our skill sets. By chance, we’ve both taught almost all subjects at the middle school level but I currently teach math/science where she teaches humanities. (For some reason current work defines us the most.) OK, so we needed to find a school with two middle school openings that also met our own criteria. A few key points:

  • Chinese program / culture (It’s absolutely important for us that our girls keep learning Chinese so our ideal location was China)
  • A large school with lots of teaming opportunities – we’ve dipped our toes into the waters of being the lone rangers and are just not keen on closing our doors and running the show. We want to plan curriculum with others, talk about learning, discuss students and be energized by the ideas of others.
  • A focus on project based learning and integrated curriculum.

I know that part of the “adventure” of being an international teacher is winding up in unfamiliar places, but this time we wanted more direction. We researched schools and began reaching out. Skype was the vehicle for conversations as we talked to principals though there were some bloopers along the way. The connection is not always that good and video can really bog down a conversation. More than once, we had to cut off the video and talk to the computer. Talk about being thrown off of your game! I was surprised as to the extra challenge posed when you cannot see the person you are talking with. The “best” Skype discussion happened while we were on vacation. (Side note: vacation with two 1-year olds does not count as vacation. Where is the break for Mom and Dad?) The first question we were asked in this interview was, “Are you in the bathroom?”

“Umm, no. We’re on the patio.” Well, our hotel space – located in southern Thailand – consisted of a room with an outside, open-air bathroom/patio type area. So, I guess we were in the bathroom.

As the conversation continued, one of our girls who was quite sick began having sleep issues. She screamed. We soothed – one at a time so the interview could continue. Then, our other daughter fell off of a mattress and was rescued, screaming loudly of course, with her feet dangling in the air and her head on the ground. Yikes! To top it off, a thunder storm started rolling in. In the end, the conversation was still a good one.

I enjoyed the overwhelming majority of the “interviews” that took place. For the most part, the interviews were rich conversations about education that were quite enjoyable. How do you define success for yourself? For your students? I’ll continue working on this one for a while. Assessment also appeared to be a hot topic as we were queried regarding our practices in assessing students throughout a unit, reporting results and using the assessment as a means to improve lessons. The schools we talked with are at a 1:1 technology platform and we had lots of discussions about the integration of technology and how students are actually using it in our classes.

One of the best things that I did was the creation of this blog – and I didn’t do it for recruiting. Krista also has an online presence and we found that recruiters wound up spending time looking over the materials we’ve laid out. Conversations were prefaced with references to our ideas presented here and I believe allowed for better discussions. (Thanks again to all those who encouraged blogging – it’s paid off in yet another way!)

We’ve heard from many that being a teaching team is helpful  as many schools look to save costs by hiring a couple and there is (maybe?) more potential for longevity. I don’t know…but we found ourselves encouraged by possible openings to find out that there was only one position. Recruiters are faced with a puzzle of filling openings with candidates that they think are the best match while also having to juggle what is available. At one point, we were told that strong candidates have been passed over if a hard-to-get position such as a school psychologist has a teaching partner that needs to fill a position that we want.

Where are we? Absolutely excited, energized, ecstatic (all the e’s!) and exhausted. At the end of this school year, we will pack our bags and more to Beijing to begin work at the International School of Beijing. Did I say we are excited?

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