International Education Recruitment Season – Things I’ve Learnt as a Non-Working Spouse

Before we ventured into international education, I had no idea about how the recruitment season worked and how stressful it was for teachers but also the whole family. Here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way and some tips to help you stay sane.

Resigning before you have a job

Most schools will ask if you’re signing on for another year early into the new school year, making it almost impossible to have secured a role before you either have to commit (and face breaking the contract) or resign without any security. This is especially challenging (and stressful) when you’ve got a family to consider.

Biased advice

While I’m a big supporter of online groups, everyone’s situation is unique. While people usually try to help by providing advice and details of their own experiences, it doesn’t mean that it’s always correct or applicable/relevant. I’d recommend reading the various Facebook group posts regarding international teaching with a grain of salt. 

For example, I’ve read countless threads about how impossible it would be to find work with three children and a trailing spouse within an international school. So far, my husband has worked at two good international schools where it hasn’t been an issue, and he has had numerous interviews and job offers. Don’t rely on people’s experiences, which are often biased even if they mean really well. Do your own independent research and apply to schools that offer what you’re looking for – you’ve got nothing to lose and can always ask questions at the interview stage about things like school tuition and housing.

Most schools will promote this information on their website or it’s readily available on third party sites like Teacher Horizons where you can also search for jobs. Also, check out reviews like on International Schools Review, but remember that many people write reviews after a negative experience and be aware of any overly positive ones that may have been written by someone from the HR or marketing team!

The yo-yo effect

Constantly thinking about if you’re staying or going, researching schools, checking out reviews, looking up whether places are family-friendly and all before you’ve even applied can be downright exhausting. Having gone through this process a few times, trust me, I know!

Given I have little control as a non-working partner, I’ve encouraged my husband that when we decide to move again, he should apply to any roles he thinks are beneficial to his career that also offer a great option for our kids and family life. We’ve drawn up a list of things we’re looking for so he can search without me getting too invested too early. I trust him to make the right call, but if he’s successful at the interview, I’ll do some more research to double-check he’s got it right!

Staying vs Going

Unlike living in your home country, changing jobs means completely changing your entire life. It can be easy to get swept up into the excitement of what living in a new country or city could offer, but it’s important to be practical. Particularly if you have a family. 

Think about where you’re at, whether in your own country or already overseas. Consider what a change will mean for your kids, and assess their happiness and your own. There’s bound to be someone who wants to stay and wants to go, so it’s difficult to decide what’s best for everyone, particularly the more kids you have! 

An international move is a big undertaking, so if you’re settled, the kids are happy and you or your partner is satisfied at work, decide if it’s worth going or whether it’s better to give it another year to wait for the perfect opportunity. It’s incredibly stressful deciding what to do and such a unique position working in international education. 

Don’t be persuaded by those around you

Depending on where you work, it can be easy to get swept up by colleagues and friends, particularly in close-knit expat communities. If others are moving on, you may be more inclined to do so, particularly if you’ve formed strong friendships. Likewise, if they’re staying, you may be inclined to stay too, even if you’re not 100% happy in your job. It can be hard, but try to take a step back and make a decision based on you and your family. Try not to let others influence the right call for you and your family.

Good luck on the job hunt! The process is exhausting, but there’s no other lifestyle I’d rather be living!