Itchy feet?July 2013
Considering swapping your Kiwi classroom for pastures new? Education Review looks at your options.
The Recruitment Agency
If you have a clear idea of where you want to go and what sort of experience you’re after but would like the guidance and support of the experts, it’s probably wise to sign up to an agent. Recruitment agents can help with the logistics – things like finding you a teaching placement and helping you prepare for any immigration and travel requirements are part of the service. Agencies will handle all the paperwork, checks, and ensure your eligibility to teach in your chosen country.
Often, agents will also help prepare you for what you will expect in your new classroom and arrange for induction meetings in your new country, providing a good chance to meet up with others in the same boat. They can help prepare you for cultural differences and common areas that New Zealand teachers may find difficult.
Agencies can also help manage expectations, particularly around salaries – something that varies greatly from place to place. Teachers often find that contracts vary hugely and recommend going through a reputable agency to get the best deal.
“Go through an agency the first time. They know the good schools and which to avoid. I have met teachers over here on very poor contracts who dealt directly with schools.” – Peter Cowie, went through Teach Anywhere, teaching in Qatar
The volunteer teaching experience
While many teachers are attracted to the lucrative payment packages that can come with teaching abroad, others are motivated by different factors. The volunteer option appeals to those who want to give something back to education and help those less fortunate, while also gaining an insight into a very different and often disadvantaged lifestyle.
Volunteer teachers usually find themselves confronted with dealing with a much larger task than simply teaching. In many countries, education is highly regarded and sought after but hard to come by when children and teachers are often required to help with family businesses.
Organisations like VSA are ideally placed to help teachers be part of a larger programme of building communities. Education is one of the volunteer organisation’s core aims in the eight countries in which it works.
“While at first I was outraged by this lack of commitment and consistency, as time passed, I came to question what I would do given these same circumstances. Tanzania was no comparison for a teacher’s salary.” – Holly Payne, Queen Margaret College, VSA trip to Tanzania
The Scholarship route
Fulbright is probably best known for its prestigious scholarships, giving a small number of talented New Zealanders the chance to pursue their research or teaching interests in the
United States. The Fulbright-Meg Everton Professional Enhancement Awards in Education are for New Zealand educators in early childhood, primary, or secondary education to undertake a professional development activity in the US that will enhance their professional knowledge, practice, and/or skills. A small number of awards valued at up to NZ$5,000 are granted each year, towards a 12 to 90 day visit to the US.
“I encourage my students to let me know what they don’t understand, be it my accent or specific pieces of contextual information. My expectations prior to arriving here are different to my expectations (of both the students and myself) as I approach the end of my teaching at Georgetown.” – Scott Wilson, Unitec, Fulbright scholarship to Georgetown University
The working holiday
Probably an option for the more intrepid traveller. This way is better suited to the individual who is keen to have a break from teaching and wants to do some travelling first before gaining work abroad as a teacher. It is a good idea to do your homework before leaving New Zealand about immigration requirements and the sorts of paperwork likely to be needed, including police checks, references, and Teachers Council documentation.
The working holiday-maker is likely to be in pursuit of temporary or supply teaching contracts and many countries will have agencies lined up to handle this sort of work. Often the key is to register with these local agencies in good time to allow for a teaching placement to happen as soon as possible.
The nature of teaching, with its school holidays, lends itself to travelling. Often a working holiday-maker will seek a more permanent visa and teacher status if they find themselves enjoying it, but they have the freedom to keep it short-term and casual if they so wish.
“I’m on a two year working holiday visa and it wasn’t an issue at all in getting a job. There are so many people in London on working holiday visas that all employers are used to it. The agencies see the visas come through every day and schools have Kiwis and Aussies on contracts all the time on all sorts of different visas.”– Cameron Andrew, teaching at a London school
The language exchange programme
Language immersion awards (LIA) for teachers, managed by AFS Intercultural Programmes
New Zealand and funded by the Ministry of Education, are considered an invaluable experience by language teachers. Awards are offered for teachers of languages within the
New Zealand curriculum (other than New Zealand official languages) to travel to countries where languages are spoken that have curriculum support in NZ schools (currently French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Cook Island, Māori, Samoan, Korean, Tokelauan, Tongan, and Vagahau Niue).
AFS selects teachers, arranging all travel and host country details as well as payment of teacher relief and providing orientation both pre-departure, on arrival in host country, and on return home. It also provides the necessary support in the host country according to AFS international policy and procedures.
Teachers need to be fully registered
New Zealand teachers, permanently employed by the school, and teaching a language. They also need support from their principal and Board and a clear idea of what they want to achieve with the award.
Although applications from teachers from private schools will be considered, priority is typically given to teachers from state and integrated schools. Those teaching languages in Years 7–10 and applying for the first time are also given preference.
Other programmes, such as ILEP (International Languages Exchanges and Pathways), also offer a number of overseas programmes for language teachers.
“My experience in France as a student made me very aware of the difficulties and challenges which learners encounter when taking on a new language and has made me aware of the things teachers do that work and those that don’t.” – Chris Durrant, head of languages at Otago Girls’ High School, LIA recipient to France
Teachers and principals can apply for a sabbatical award for a period of 10 school weeks’ leave. Sabbatical leave is provided to engage in a balance of professional learning, reflection, and rejuvenation. The recipient receives their normal salary from the school while on leave and the award funds relief costs to the school for the duration of the sabbatical leave.
There are a certain number of sabbatical awards allocated each year. Applicants need to have the full support of their principal and board of trustees and intend to return to teaching afterwards.
While sabbatical leave is typically taken in New Zealand, award recipients can go abroad to investigate other schools and areas of interest.
“Actually it was one of those ‘light bulb’ moments where I was in a position professionally and personally, to take a term to do something different and relevant.” – Wendy Keir, Lynfield College, Secondary Sabbatical to Canada
The teacher exchange programme
Various organisations around the world offer the chance to swap places with a teacher from another country for a specified period of time. Exchange programmes vary and some are more prescriptive than others. AFS, for example, offers the opportunity for teachers to live and teach in Mexico, Korea, or Turkey. These are usually limited to a small number of places and accommodation and meals are usually included.
The American Visitors International Faculty programme and the Japanese JET Programme are further examples. The JET programme was established by the Japanese Government in 1987 to promote internationalisation at the local level. New Zealand was one of the four original countries invited to participate. Most participants are selected as assistant language teachers, mainly at public schools. Others join the JET Programme as coordinators for international relations or sports exchange advisors.
“The students I teach are definitely another highlight of my time here. My students love everything about New Zealand and in a recent international evening I taught the class Ma-ori waiata and dance to perform in front of an audience.” – Ula Lologa, Visitors International Faculty exchange, teaching at an elementary school in North Carolina