Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Going shopping for a new school

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.


  1. It sure is an interesting process, choosing a new life! When you think about it, it seems crazy to pick up and move all the way across the world every few years, but it's such a unique and exciting opportunity. Sounds like Switzerland has worked out well for you so far. We loved living in Munich while we were there. I'm sure I'll be going through a little bit of Bangkok withdrawal around this time next year, though...

  2. wow, sounds like you got exactly what you wanted. I too have a family that I want to keep together,but i am very interested in trying to teach abroad. I don't know where to begin though. You have a lot of acronyms in your post that I don't understand. Would you mind clarifying them please.

    I am currently a certified elementary teacher, without a job, in Georgia, United States. I am attending master's classes in integrating technology in the classroom and have been assigned to get familar with blogging and then start my own blog page. I came across Kim's page and that is where I found you. I hope to learn a lot of the two of you. Any suggestions you two might have on starting a blog or teaching across seas would be appreciated. Christine

  3. Hi Christine,
    Let me try to explain some of the terms that are unclear.
    IB stands for International Baccalaureate. There is a link to the IB in the blog. The IB has 3 main programmes - the PYP or Primary Years Programme for elementary students (up to Grade 5), the MYP or Middle Years Programme for students in Grades 6 - 10 and the IB DP or Diploma Programme for Grades 11 and 12. I recently made another blog post where I compared the AP and IB so if you are in the USA you might find this one interesting too.
    There are several organisations that hold recruitment fairs for international teachers - ISS (International Schools Services), Search Associates and CIS (Council for International Schools). All 3 of these organisations hold recruitment fairs in the US, as well as in other locations around the world. Check out their websites for more information.
    I've only really started blogging this year myself as a professional, though I have kept a personal blog for longer that I share with friends and family about our adventures around the world. I'm hoping to start blogging with teachers at my school after the holidays.

  4. Thank you for the clarification. I will check into those organizations.

  5. What an experience! It sounds like a wonderful adventure and place to live and work. I would love to visit Switzerland. In my dream world I would visit schools all over the world.