Wednesday, August 22, 2012

OS Teacher Librarian - Pt 2 - Rewards

I recently participated in a conference via video speaking to a number of Teacher Librarians in Sydney about the challenges and rewards of working overseas as a Teacher Librarian. I have adapted what I presented to put in this blog. It is in two parts Part 1 is Challenges , this is part 2 and discusses some of the rewards.


The personal benefits of working overseas including getting out of your comfort zone, learning more about your self, your abilities, your hangups and your strengths. It really does change you.

You get to be immersed in a culture for a long period of time and this will help you to become more internationally minded. It will give your children a global perspective and help everyone  in your family become more tolerant human beings.

The pay is usually at least can be up to double what you will receive at home plus an end of contract bonus between 15 - 30%. The package can also  include schooling for your children, housing, medical and a travel allowance depending on the country,school and system you are employed in. However, you do need to do your homework before assuming too much about what you will receive. Taxes are usually can be lower than your home country (esp USA, UK, Australia), and while you are overseas you may not need to pay taxes in your own country except on income in your country. (USA is different - they do tax you on your income overseas). Although pay is important, in many cases, it may not be the main reason people work overseas.

The travel opportunities are one of the biggest benefits of teaching overseas - My home country, Australia is such a long way from anywhere except New Zealand and Bali. But while living in Hong Kong I can take a 3-4 hour flight and and be in any of 10 countries, 4-7 hours I can be in India, the middle east, in 10 hours I can be in Europe, 12 I can be in the USA. And, the best part is that you will have the money to do it.

You will meet new friends from all over the world who will enrich your lives beyond expectations. However, they may also break your heart when they or you have to leave.

The cultural rewards are too numerous to extoll - you will become a part of the culture whether you try or not. It becomes a part of you just by living in it. You will experience things you never thought possible, and, it will change you.

Library Rewards

Working in an overseas school library is an amazing experience. Generally, the budget is can be much larger than a regular school (probably equivalent to an independent or private school) however, this will depend on the school, how they perceive the library role in the school and how hard you want to work at establishing a culture. In many places there is no other access for English speaking resources, so the school library is it for the whole school community.

The collection includes resources from all over the world as we need to order from all over the world to fulfill our curriculum requirements, but also for cost, this a truly a rich opportunity for the students at these schools to have resources sourced globally.

The students and staff are amazing. Generally there are few behavioural problems in an international school, the students are avid readers and very demanding pushing for more and more. They are switched on with mobile devices, laptops, e-readers all the gadgets, they are eager to learn and are supported by their parents. The access to digital resources can be overwhelming and become every day expectations depending on the school. Our school is 1:1 from year six, with the ratio for the other years being 1:3 we also have 60 ipads, ipods and ereaders. It will be hard moving to another place with less. This access and our budget allows us to offer exceptional digital resources to support the learning.

The professional rewards are many. In many cases you have the opportunity to forge your own paths, do what you want, take risks and create your own challenges in your library programme.

The professional learning opportunities can be amazing. Conferences and workshops are held all over the world throughout the year, and the PD budgets are usually can be large enough to cover some international travel depending on the school and their priorities. I have had the opportunity to travel to Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, South Africa, Paris, Istanbul to attend conferences and workshops and to meet other international Teacher Librarians. The international educators push boundaries to enhance learning because their students expect it.

Your exposure, reliance and hence capacity with digital technologies will increase depending on where you are, enhancing your employ ability elsewhere.

You will also be exposed to different curriculum, if you are lucky the IB curriculum. Learning about new ways of learning is always good. This again gives you new skill sets. A good TL should be able to learn and adapt to any curriculum.

So, you are now ready to pack your bags & shift your family - how to find a job?

There are a number of organisations who are professionals at finding work for international educators. Some cost money to submit your resume, others are free to teachers, but charge the schools. Some hold employment fairs around Christmas time which are worth attending if you can.

International School Services
The International Educator
Search Associates
Teaching Jobs Overseas
Teacher Recruitment International (Thanks to Angela for this suggestion.)

Another excellent tool is the European Council of International Schools Moodle (ECIS) -Look for the Library section. This list serve has educators all over the world sharing and job vacancies are posted often.

I hope these blog posts have given you some insight about working in a country other than where you call 'home', there is more to just picking up your suitcases and moving to another place, but if you approach the change in your life as an adventure and a personal journey of growth, it will be one of the best experiences you will ever have.


Staceyt said...

I never tire of hearing about life "over there"? Thanks Dianne

Lyndy said...

Hi Diane,
Great reading...just one query, re pay rates. The two or three jobs I have looked into did not pay more than I earn here at all, one was in fact a great deal less.
Am I missing something?

Dianne said...

Hi Lyndy,
It will depend on the country, the school & the system you are working in and of course what level you are leaving your home country.

It does pay to do your homework on pay rates, even in small Hong Kong the difference can be quite large between schools on pay & benefits.

In some places the TL is considered support staff, so you do need to be wary of this as well with regard to pay & benefits and even holidays.

Angela said...

Be very careful when you speak generally or give an impression about pay rates, conditions of work, and size of library budget! Not all overseas schools pay as well as yours Diane, nor have as generous a benefit package! I am making half of what I would make in Australia, and although Vietnam is considered to be generally a cheap place, cost of living is rising steadily, but our salaries are not! Tax can be as high as 35%, as well as a general VAT of 10% depending on what you buy and where - these are not insubstantial costs. Sometimes the package benefits for working 'singles' are not, percentage-wise and on-balance, commensurate with those of employed 'couples', or 'families', so beware of that too. Further, forget about a union or a quaintly named 'Staff Association' to fight for you to improve conditions. There is no recourse to any international teaching union (that I know of) to protect you if you feel you are unfairly treated in your workplace. This is very different to our perceived 'rights' in Australia. One just has to 'suck it up'. Same for PD budgets - what the school will allow you to do or got to for training. In some schools, you will be denied opportunities to go to to interesting PD - some Admin feel their institution unfavourably compares with other schools, so prefer to 'save face' by not allowing you to go, or won't spend the money on you, or you may hve to agitate very hard. Some schools do not have budgets which allow visiting authors - and there is no PTA find to appeal to. so, do your investigation into your potential school carefully - don't forget you can join International Schools Review for a small amount, and read school reviews.
In between the embittered leavers, and the Admin propaganda is the truth, and it's very helpful. Also, the T-L networks are excellent usually, and if you can tap into them in particular places (if there is such a group), you can find out a great deal before committing yourself. On the whole, my overseas experiences in four countries over 12 years have been very worthwhile - I may not be rich, but I have learned a great deal, built a legacy of new T-L support groups in two large cities that had none, and find the burb's at home very bland, alas. I do see a time when I will retire in a developed country, but for now, the general working conditions, including the respect of students and parents - so rare in many government schools at home - is greater overseas. I have no desire to battle it out with adolescents in the later years of my career! Another agency to assist with finding positions is TRI at
Australian-based, no fee to join!

Dianne said...

Thanks for your comments Angela, I take on board what you have said regarding salary. I have edited the post to reflect less generalisations!

Thanks also for the point about the unions and support when things don't seem fair. Sometimes even the laws of the land do not support foreigners rights and conditions. So do beware.

I will place the agency you suggested in the list as well.

Thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

I don't think a person who has spent 18 years in one country can be regarded as a true 'international school' officionado! Many teachers/T-L's live and work in ten or more countries across their career. Also, some 'international' schools are iontermational in moniker only - they use the term to attract wealthy parents to pay their high fees, with very little in the curriculum or facilities to warrant the term. Further, I believe having a partner (usually husband) in a job with a 'squillion dollar contract' (banking, business, airlines) makes it easier to accept the conditions at some of these more 'variable' schools - one is less dependant on one's own major wage for survival as an ex-pat.

Dianne said...

I agree with you and I don't make any claims to be an expert, but it seems the 'true' experts don't want to share their experiences in a public forum with their real names in any positive light. I would encourage you Anonymous to start your own blog under your real name and let people know about your experiences if this is what you want to share.

I was asked to present at a conference on this subject, I did so with the disclaimer at the beginning that I have spent 18 years in the one country, know the situation in HK well having worked in 4 schools here as a TL, and many others in other positions. I have not lived in other countries, but have used personal knowledge of others experiences to supplement what I shared. I then reproduced parts the presentation on my blog. If you want to personally attack me for doing this, and you feel that I have not truly represented some of the challenges and rewards that I have experienced, then please feel free to write your own to share with all.

I do feel you are bitter & twisted about some things - like I have a partner who helps to pay our way, yep absolutely I do, but I also had 4 children which pretty much negates any windfall we may have had through any not quite near squillion dollar contract living in an overseas country. There are a few of us who do this all over the world.

If you would like to attack me further, could you please take it off my blog and email me privately, using your real name, so I at least know who I am talking to.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this post. I am a Sydney-based TL who is considering making a move to teach overseas in the near future. The information and links that you provided have been invaluable!
Thanks again.

Dianne said...

I am glad you have found the information useful Anonymous 2, good luck with your search. I hope it gives you some ideas about what to ask questions about before jumping in and taking up the post.

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American International Development Council Inc. said...

Working overseas can definitely be a life changing experience. You have highlighted many of them here. Getting out of your comfort zone and in to the world can really make a difference.

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