Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Do 21st century skills make you more marketable?

Although the new school year has only just begun, already some teachers in international schools are making decisions about where they want to be teaching next school year.  In my last school teachers who gave early notice that they were leaving - before the end of September - were rewarded with a cash bonus.  This allowed the school to immediately start searching for new candidates and, in some cases, to interview and appoint these teachers over the October break.  There was another date where you could also give notice - the end of October - and still receive a (lower) cash bonus.  Again this gave the school the opportunity to search for and appoint teachers before the frantic rush of the recruitment fairs which started during the Christmas holidays.  Now some teachers like to have an offer of a new job before they resign from their current one, but excellent international teachers can be hard to find and many are confident of their own reputations on the international school circuit and therefore opt for the early resignation and cash bonus.

Yesterday I was reading a blog post by Silvia Tolisano about reverse recruiting.  She and her husband have registered with international recruitment organisations, but are also trying to use their social networks to find a position.  Silvia defines reverse recruiting as "identifying the best job vacancy for a candidate" and they have therefore built their online hub in the hope that schools who are looking for someone to fill a position or perhaps who are looking to create a 21st century learning position, will come to them.

Another article I was reading today was from Online Universities which discusses the skills needed to be a 21st century educator.  I was interested to read about these, as I assume that these are the skills that good schools are looking for and asking about during their recruitment interviews:

  • Competence in blogging:  as someone who has been told last year that my blog represents a "professional concern", I was delighted to see that many good schools are encouraging this sort of reflective practice and seeing it more as an asset than a liability.
  • A presence on social media:  connecting with other educators by using sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn is also seen as an important 21st century skill for teachers, allowing them to exchange their ideas and grow professionally.
  • Interclassroom communication:  using Skype to connect classrooms around the world is described as a valuable skill - and this can also encourage administrators to use Skype as a recruitment tool too.  I've had a number of interviews in the past using Skype and have found it to be much easier (and less costly) than attending recruitment fairs.
  • Cultural literacy:  knowing that a teacher has lived and worked in a number of different countries can be an advantage for recruiters.  Moving to a new country and adapting to a new culture can be daunting and stressful.  The majority of teachers I know who have broken their contracts in good schools have been those for whom it was their first overseas experience.
  • Teaching styles that value student participation:  many international schools follow one or more of the IB programmes where the emphasis is on constructivism, creative and critical thinking, collaboration and international mindedness.  Being open to a range of different perspectives among the students encourages open-mindedness.
  • Involvement in community service or action:  many schools value experience in these areas.
  • Information literacy:  excellent schools need teachers who know where to find information, organise it and use it with their students.
  • Networking:  schools need to see that teachers are also learners, that they are attending conferences, professional development and connecting with other educators at the cutting edge - and often these connections can be done online and from home.
  • Using technology to transform learning: being able to provide evidence of how you have used technology not just to enhance but to transform the learning is definitely something school recruiters are looking for.
Another article that I was reading today was about the growth of international schools (and therefore a need for more international teachers) particularly in Asia as a result of the expansion of global companies.  New schools are springing up all the time in Asia, though many of them have owners and are run for profit and therefore not schools where I would consider working myself.  As Asia tends to have the best recruitment packages (housing allowance, home leave, medical insurance etc), and because competition among them is fierce, top schools there are scrabbling to recruit and retain the best teachers.

For teachers themselves, using social media sites can have many advantages during the recruiting season.  There are a number of sites where teachers can rate their schools, directors and principals, and while some of these ratings are obviously by disgruntled employees with an axe to grind, over time it's clear that some schools are consistently rated better than others in areas such as housing, salary, resources and academic standards.  Even more telling are some of the schools and administrators which do not feature on these sites at all - why not, I ask myself.  Why isn't anyone writing anything positive about them?

Today it's extremely easy to find and connect with teachers in schools where you are interested in working, and to ask them directly for their opinions.  Again, if I found a school where teachers were not blogging, networking and sharing their expertise, this would immediately start alarm bells ringing for me.

On the whole, therefore, I feel that 21st century skills do make teachers more marketable - and perhaps even more important than this, they allow teachers to connect with others and get a more balanced picture of some schools than would be shown by slick presentations at recruitment fairs.  Administrators with 21st century skills make their schools more marketable too, and this will certainly encourage better teachers to apply to them.

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