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Category: internationalschools

Beware the ‘family’ approach

Another post about International Teacher recruitment, but one applicable to anyone searching for a job.

It’s common to hear recruiters and managers say the equivalent of ‘we’re all one big family here’ and it’s easy to understand why.  Austin Walker writes that it stems from, ‘a well-intentioned effort of building camaraderie, creating a staff culture, and bringing unity to a wide-ranging group of people.’ (Full article here)

But it’s toxic. And this is why.

If you are in a family, you’re in it, through thick and thin. Unconditional love and acceptance is the ideal. Not performance. We don’t stop loving our kid when they get a few Ds on their report card, nor do we kick them out. We try to help them and understand them. That’s the job of a family.

If you are going to work for someone who claims their workplace is a family, they’re lying. Because if you underperform, you’re out. Maybe not the same day, but eventually. You will no longer belong. So your place in the ‘family’ is conditional. You can be fired from your workplace.

But it’s just a metaphor, I hear you cry. Sadly not so. Because it carries more with it. It carries a paternal or maternal attitude to employees (or teachers) and infantilises them. Your director is not your parents, she’s your boss.

If the ‘family’ card is being played, be wary of expectations. You call call up family members at 2am in an emergency, or ask them to come and help with something over a weekend. Do you want to work somewhere where there is an implicit assumption that you’ll blur these boundaries for your employer? Will your actual family be expected to play second fiddle to your new, professional ‘family’?

Do you want to be valued for your expertise and your abilities? If so you want to work in a team, in a tribe possibly, or in a thriving professional community. But not a family.

Words matter – the weight they carry can be heavy and far-reaching. One of the words to watch out for in the recruitment process is ‘family’. And if you are an administrator hiring teachers, think very carefully about the words you use to sell the culture of your school.


Image: Photo by CDC on Unsplash

International School Teacher Recruitment season

It’s that time of year again.

No, I’m not referring to the Christmas/End of Year celebrations. I’m talking about international school recruitment. For thousands of teachers in International Schools around the world, now is the time to dust off CVs, reach out to ex-colleagues, sign up with recruitment agencies and book places at (online) Job Fairs. It can be a stressful as well as an exciting time.

I’m not offering advice on getting hired, but I am offering advice on dealing with the whole process from a wellbeing perspective. You invest a lot of energy in making a complete application – crafting your cover letter to be specific to that school, proof-reading it a hundred times, meticulously picking through the school website, perhaps contacting people you know who work there or used to, or know someone who does. That investment of time and effort translates quickly into expectation. You convince yourself you are in with a shout. Maybe you’ve even had that first video ‘chat’ (or a second or a third – in COVID times, online has become so comfortable that some schools will have you Zoom four or five times with different people or groups of people). Maybe you felt you had established a good rapport, you left the last interview with a strong feeling that this was the one. And you’ve researched the country and the city extensively – you can now see yourself living there.

And then comes the email, thanking you for you time, explaining that they are going to keep looking, and wishing you well on your continued job search. Or maybe there’s no email, just a ‘if you haven’t heard from us by such-and-such a date, please consider that you have been unsuccessful on this occasion’. (I’ve personally never understood that approach – even a cut and paste email with your name on it is better than nothing, and it takes seconds to do. Yes, even if you are getting hundreds of applications – it’s an admin/HR task and is simply polite.)

We can rationalise after the event – it’s what humans are good at. But it still hurts when we get rejected. Thinking logically about why you didn’t get that job can help you recentre and move on.

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

Every school has a jigsaw puzzle to complete with influencing factors that you probably couldn’t even guess at.

Maybe they have an internal candidate and just have to advertise the position for ‘form’. (It does happen.) Perhaps they have teaching couples being interviewed and really need to fill that counsellor/admin/secondary science/early years position and so the teaching partner will get the position you were hoping for. Perhaps they are looking for something they are not allowed to openly advertise for – age, ethnicity, gender: schools can’t openly say that they are looking for over 40’s, or for a male Primary teacher, or a female science teacher, but that might be the reason you don’t get the job. Perhaps it’s just down to a feeling from one of the interviewers – something they can’t explain but feel they have to listen to. Maybe they know, for reasons that you can’t see, that you would struggle in their community…

The list is endless and at the end of the day it’s perhaps pointless to second guess. Nobody, but nobody, applies for one job only and gets it. This is a numbers game, and whilst you may well have criteria of your own, you are going to be applying for multiple positions, and will, statistically, get turned down more times than you are offered a position. Many more times.

If you do feel you had a good rapport over one or two interviews, there’s nothing wrong with politely replying to that rejection email, thanking them for their time in considering your application and asking if they would be prepared to give you some feedback on the interview process. Maybe asking if there was a stand out problem on your CV or cover letter. Often, schools won’t want to get into protracted correspondence over this – they have moved on, clearly (and it may even be policy not to offer feedback) – but you may get some helpful information. They may even tell you they appointed internally in the end, or they had a teaching spouse to place and so the position was filled that way. And if you get blanked, then maybe, just maybe, you’ve actually had a lucky escape.

Just bear in mind that’s not necessarily – in fact most probably not – about you as a teacher. It’s about fit. Chalk it up to experience, check out your recruiters’ websites, open up that CV and try again. Best of luck.