Friday, 6 July 2012

International Schools (and how I got in the loop)

It seems to me that working in the international schools circuit, which provides incredible employment opportunities around the world,  is a well-kept secret.  So I’d like to share information with you about how to get in the loop!

While most educators stateside apply for jobs in the spring and summer, you need to start your application process in the fall for international schools.  Although many international schools are independently run, many hire through agencies such as Council of International Schools (CIS) teacher recruitment service and International School Services (ISS).  We registered (for free) through CIS and went to a recruitment fair in Chicago, which was quite the experience.  Since my husband and I were both looking for jobs at the same time (he is an art teacher) we were only willing to make the move if we both got offered positions within an hour of each other.  After several days of non stop interviewing and networking, we were really excited to both get a few offers but they either weren't in the same place or they were in parts of the world we weren't prepared to relocate to.  Because of this we didn't actually find our jobs through CIS, we found them on our own!  We continued our search by emailing principals and heads of schools directly.  The schools that we contacted were all accredited international schools, here is an updated list.  Most schools seemed to be looking for someone with a masters degree and at least two years experience.

So after many emails, even to schools that didn't have counseling/art positions posted on their sites, and a few skype interviews at odd hours because of the time difference things finally fell into place.
I was offered a position at ACS Hillingdon International School and immediately after as luck would have it a position opened for my husband at TASIS The American School in England

I want to give you a better idea of the school that I work at because that is what I know first hand.  For starters here is a picture of what I drive up to each morning!

If you have twelve minutes you have to check out this video that was created this year for all four of the ACS International Schools.  There are two other campuses in the UK and one more that just opened in Doha.  Let me know what you think...

For me, working in an international school is completely different than any of the public schools I have previously worked at.  The first thing that comes to mind is my role and responsibility as a school counsellor (spelled with two L's in the UK).  Where I am now feels like the complete opposite of where I came from.  I will post more about my day to day life at work another time but so much of what I do revolves around the large population of Third Culture Kids (TCK) at my school.  I spend a lot of time welcoming new families, saying goodbye to students and helping the ones that stay that had to say goodbye to their best friends.  My work is all about transitions, which I am now very passionate about and am currently making a documentary on!

Our school is located on the Hillingdon Court estate, a Grade II-listed mansion house!!  The mansion itself is maintained with beautiful period architecture and grounds.  I have to pinch my self some days because it all feels like a dream. There are days where I sit with a lunch bunch group and I realize that every single student sitting at the table is from a different country, or times where I'm sitting in the cafeteria after we return from break talking to students about their holidays to Africa, Greece, Switzerland, Thailand and the US, or when I ask a kindergartener where she has lived and she lists 7 countries and she is only 5!  We celebrate diversity and have a multicultural day every single month, more to come on that later.

If and when you begin researching all of this yourself, you will most likely find that the registration process and the expense that goes into getting registered, flights, and hotels for a recruitment fair, you might feel a bit overwhelmed (we registered through CIS for free so look into a few agencies).  While you may be putting money out at first, the benefits package with most international schools will help even things out.   The formal benefits package varies from school to school, but you will find the following offered by many international schools:
  • Housing or a housing allowance
  • Round trip airfare once a year for you and your dependents
  • Shipping Allowance
  • Move In Allowance
  • International Health Insurance
  • Retirement Benefits
  • Tuition Waiver for Children
  • Funding for professional development and conferences
The informal benefits are life changing and some are difficult to even put into words.  Being exposed to different cultures and getting to experience them first hand has been incredible.  I have also enjoyed the opportunity of getting to know people from all around the world and building connections with them.  The travel opportunities are endless.  We haven't even been here for a full year yet and have already traveled to 7 countries!!!
Romania (This was through my husband's school where we worked with children that were placed in small family homes.  I will definitely do another post on this trip alone!)
Portugal (This was for a European Council of International Schools, ECIS, conference.  As a professional development opportunity this was paid for by my school, another post on this to come!)
...with more trips this summer to southern France, Italy, Switzerland and Scotland!!  It doesn't get much better than that!

All of that being said I miss my family and friends MORE THAN ANYTHING!  Even more than comforts from home that I can't get here.

I wrote this post to share my experiences and opinions so far.  If you have more questions leave a comment or feel free to email me at

Now it's time for a cup of tea before bed.  Cheers!

Thursday, 5 July 2012


I would like to start by saying how appreciative I am of all the school counselors that have been sharing through their blogs, twitter, facebook, and more! I am excited to join the bandwagon and start sharing.

Since this is my 'introduction' post I will tell you a bit about myself.  I was born in New York and ever since a young age I always thought I wanted to teach.  It was while I was getting my undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from SUNY New Paltz that I realized teaching wasn't for me.  I was student teaching my fifth grade class when I had to write out a pass for one of my students to see her school counselor.  She had come into school late that day and in the middle of my lesson she had me step into the hallway to tell me that her grandmother had just passed away.  I knew that I couldn't just write her a pass and get back to teaching my 21 other students.  The teacher I was working with let me to go with her to see the school counselor while she finished the lesson I was teaching.  It was in that moment, while I was sitting with my student and her counselor that I realized I needed to be the counselor for my students, not their teacher.  I shadowed and interviewed my old high school counselor before I enrolled at Long Island University, C.W. Post to get my masters in school counseling.

My first job as a school counselor was in an elementary school in Connecticut.  Next, we moved to North Carolina where I worked as an elementary school counselor for two years.  Budgets were being cut and I was getting worried about the security of my job.  I was told the last two school counselors that were hired were the first two that would be asked to go (I was the second to last hired).  I had already started looking into working internationally and this pushed me to look even harder.  After a few months of interviews, an international job fair and lots of waiting and thinking I accepted a job in an international school outside of London.  I prepared to move my entire life (including my two cats) to the other side of the pond all while planning my wedding!  Well, we got married in May and this past school year we have had the experience of a lifetime working and living in Europe.

I couldn't be happier with the decision I made to make this big move and would love to tell you more about how it has changed my life.  I also look forward to sharing some of my school counseling ideas with you and highlighting some of the great posts that I find from other school counselors.