I have just read Kim Cofino's new blog post, where she mentions her checklist of requirements when considering moving to a new school. It made me reflect on my own "shopping list" that I made last year when I was also looking to move schools.
- Location: this was first on my list as my aim in moving from NIST - an excellent school in Thailand - was to keep the whole family on the same continent. Our 18 year old son was off to university in England and my husband was able to find a job easier in Europe than in Asia. This time round our daughter and I were going to follow their interests and needs, rather than them following me, which is what happened in our last move. The only schools I even considered were in Europe.
- Curriculum: this one came second as I was determined to work in an IB World School. I wanted to teach PYP, our daughter was in Grade 9, so needed one more year of MYP, and we wanted to make sure the school offered IB so that she could continue onto that in Grades 11 and 12.
- Welcoming to teachers with dependents: having left one school several years before where tuition benefit was extremely curtailed, also as a result of tax issues, to the extent that my entire salary would have been used up paying tuition for our two children, I was determined to find a school and a country that welcomed families and did not penalise me for having dependents.
- Job description: I wanted a job as an IT teacher, but in addition I wanted a job description that allowed me to be flexible in order to support classroom teachers in using IT to enhance student learning. I wanted to be classroom based, rather than lab based. I wanted to be able to help teachers develop 21st century skills themselves and with their students. In addition I wanted to go back to a Mac school again, having been in a PC school for the past 4 years.
- Salary and benefits: We needed to have enough to live on, while my husband looked around for a job (he is not a teacher). We wanted to make sure that the school contributed to a "real" pension scheme - as opposed to giving a cash payment as part of salary that was then taxed - and that we had access to excellent and affordable health care.
Five years ago, when I attended the Search recruitment fair, I had narrowed our choices down to 30 schools in the entire world where I would be prepared to work. My criteria at that time were not so strict (for example location wasn't so important to us then). Now, with such a limited target, there was no way I was going to consider attending a recruitment fair this time round, therefore it was a matter of approaching schools I was interested in directly to see what they had to offer and if, in fact, there were any openings for an IT teacher - and this time I was down to just 7 schools! Eventually, after approaching all 7 I was down to just 4 schools that fit the bill, and 2 of them I later rejected for financial reasons. At the same time, we thought it was important to consider what our 15 year old wanted from a new school. She had just 2 questions for me to ask schools:
- Is there a girls' football team?
- Is either Dutch or Spanish one of the languages offered? (She speaks 4 languages and didn't want to start learning a 5th one!)
So, one year on from making that choice, how are we doing? Well I accepted a job in Switzerland, right in the centre of Europe. Salaries are high, the cost of living is high, the standard of living is high, the quality of living is superb. The school does all 3 IB programmes, though it is just in its 2nd year of offering the IB, and is still undergoing accreditation for MYP. Our daughter plays football (as well as volleyball) and studies Spanish. We are definitely very welcome as a family - there is no issue with dependents at school and there is even a child allowance for our son (at university) and daughter (at school) which amounts to 650 Swiss francs a month. I have come up with ideas for a job description that involves working on curriculum, communication and collaboration, staff training and support in addition to teaching (though I'm still waiting to hear if this will be accepted) and I'm starting on a flexible schedule when I'm back at school after the Christmas holidays. I have written a 3 year plan of how to integrate technology to transform learning. We are moving in the right direction but it's possibly too soon to say whether or not we hit the jackpot or whether I'm about to go "shopping" again in 2 years time once our daughter has graduated from school and is at university.