The job search for me this year can be summed up pretty easily:
- The relaxed calm – updating resume, exploring teaching philosophy, getting documents together, registering on Search Associates and casually researching schools
- The time-consuming calm – researching schools, sending applications, minimal contact with schools beyond the initial application and the occasional automated response.
- The storm.
Let me tell you a little about the storm that is the international teacher recruitment fair.
In the days leading up to the fair, I was slowly getting my voice back (teaching was actually a lot of fun this week as, in each class, we played a modified charades to limit use of my voice). I can deal with feeling crappy, frequently blowing my noise, having a little cough. What I did not want was to be lacking in my vocal capacities. With a lot of orange juice, hot drinks, and healthy eating, I sounded normal enough by Friday. Phew.
I arrived at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel Friday afternoon, ready to relax a bit and prep for the fair to start Saturday. Upon entering my hotel room, I opened the curtains to see an amazing view of the bay. This view gave me many a relaxing moment during a rather hectic weekend. I unpacked my things and organized myself, utilizing the hangers in the closet, the desk, and all the bathroom counter space (fancy clothes, desk use, and make-up are not things I normally associate with travel and hotels). Though I was upset to not have found someone to share the room with, having my own personal space would turn out to be one of the best parts of the fair.
How It Works
The orientation session, Saturday afternoon, basically explained how the fair would work (most fairs operate in the same basic way). All candidates and recruiters have “mail” folders. This is how recruiters and candidates communicate with each other throughout the fair. Many schools give presentations, which, in this case, was all that really “officially” happened for the first day and a half. In this fair, official interviews will start Sunday at 5:00, after the interview sign-up session, where candidates will approach their favored schools in attempt to set an interview (you have 30 seconds to 2 minutes to sell yourself). Official interviews will begin immediately after sign-up until 9pm, and all day Monday (many or most fairs start interviews sooner, but because of a conference that overlapped, this schedule was adjusted). If you wish to let a school know you are interested, you can fill out a “yellow card” and put it in the recruiter’s folder. If a school is interested in you, they will fill out a “green card” and put it in your folder.
I didn’t get any “green cards”, but I did receive emails from three schools prior to the fair. I had set an early interview (before the official interviews began) with each school – two on Saturday, one on Sunday.
I woke up Saturday morning bright and early, ready for my first interview – with a school who was not at the fair, but rather “down the street” at another hotel (there was a conference at this hotel). I checked my folder – empty – then walked 15 minutes in heels to find out the recruiter’s room number didn’t exist. I would later discover that “down the street” really meant “downtown” – he probably didn’t realize there really was a hotel “down the street”, or I horribly misinterpreted what he wrote. Regardless, I passed on the opportunity to reschedule. Saudi wasn’t very high on my desired locations list anyway.
On my way back to the Marriott hotel, I stopped at a wonderful little café a few steps from the hotel. I assume the gentleman who served me was “Joe” of “Joe’s café”. Breakfast was great, service was amazing, atmosphere was nice. I left this quaint place knowing I would return at least once before leaving San Francisco.
Just a hop down the street and across the road, and I was back at the Marriott. I checked my empty folder, and was ready for the PYP“workshop” scheduled at 10:00. Though I had done a ridiculous amount of research on PYP and had, mistakenly, limited myself to only applying to PYPschools, I felt I knew a fair bit. I decided to go to the workshop anyway to see what other information I could gather. I was happy to see that the administrator of a school I had been very interested in was leading the workshop, in part. I really liked this administrator, based on what I had seen. School and location are important, but I also think a teacher needs to feel comfortable and have some sort of rapport with the school’s administration.
After the workshop, I checked my folder – empty again – then went back to my room for some quiet time before heading to my 12:30 interview. This interview consisted mostly of the interviewer telling me how great the school was and how much money I would save. Side note: I much prefer my new boss’ approach of “low balling” so expectations won’t be too high. After 45 minutes of casual chat, and him raving about the school and the location, I politely thanked him for his time and was on my way. I might consider this if no other options present themselves.
With a couple hours before the orientation session, I checked my folder – nothing – and filled out a couple “yellow cards”, to let employers know that I was interested in their school. The hope was that a school would contact me for an early interview, or at least have me on their radar when I show up at the interview sign-up session.
After the orientation meeting, I checked my folder, then went to a few school presentations to learn about as many schools as I could. I attended the presentation of the school whose administrator was speaking at the PYP workshop (a school in Kuwait). I liked what I saw, and approached the administrator after the presentation. I gave him my “visual resume” and told him how I had been in touch with some of his teachers, all who had only great things to say about the school. After naming a few reasons why I would be a great fit at the school, the administrator offered to meet with me Sunday.
It was a long day, and I needed food. I took a break from school presentations to reenergize, this time in the beautiful hotel lobby. Unfortunately, I decided to order a plate of horrible “quesadillas”. Definitely not Mexican! While I tried to force down the greasy, overstuffed quesadillas, I had a great conversation with a wonderful lady who was there with a trailing spouse (in the international teaching world, a spouse who does not teach is a trailing spouse – these couples generally have a more difficult time finding work than a teaching couple or single teacher). She was actively seeking out positions, but also had a job in the States that she could return to if she was not successful.
After a couple more school presentations, I returned to my room for more quiet, productive time. I did some research, prepped some resumes, marveled at the great view, and retired for the night.
Sunday morning began with interviews from two great schools (after checking my empty folder, of course). First was the Kuwait school that I had actively sought out at the school’s presentation. The next was at a great school in Shanghai (I was honored that they contacted me!). Both went well, but the Shanghai school was incredibly competitive (I learned this at their school presentation, which was PACKED with enthusiastic teachers). The Kuwait school had several high school positions open and only one elementary position. This is where the “couples game” comes into play. A teaching couple is a couple that are both teachers. If the school really wants one half of the couple for that hard-to-fill high school position, they will happily fit the partner into the elementary position, even if he/she isn’t the best candidate for that job. So I was a little down that being a single candidate might work against me here.
The “Real” Fair
I attended more school presentations, hung around in the candidate lounge, and made a plan of action for the interview sign-up session(otherwise, I’d be standing around like a deer in headlights, not sure where to go). When the doors opened, candidates rushed (I found this rush to be much more polite and respectful than the rush at the Queen’s fair) into the ballroom to find almost a hundred schools set up around the perimeter. I quickly approached a few schools whose presentations I had attended, and schools that I had contacted earlier via “yellow card”. I was happy to have set about 7 interviews, but disappointed that all were with schools NOT offering the PYP. The only school that turned me down was a school in Dubai who was looking for PYP experienced teachers (the only PYP school that had elementary positions, aside from the one I had already interviewed with). I guess I didn’t sell myself well enough. Oh well.
Near the end of sign-up session, I ended up chatting with a couple other young teachers, one of whom is currently working in Kuwait. I got a good feel for life there and which schools he recommended. The school I interviewed with earlier was definitely near the top for him and for me. “I don’t think I’ll get an offer there,” I told him, thinking about all the teaching couples who might have scheduled interviews with the school.
The “Official” Interviews!
I had four interviews Sunday night, starting at 5:30. All schools were very interested in my candidacy and scheduled a follow-up interview with me on Monday. I had many great chats with recruiters (I saw the interviews more as conversations than question and answer periods – which, I understand, is how it should be). My mind was racing with excitement from all the great discussions I was having and all the amazing possibilities that were presenting themselves. In the back of my mind, I was still disappointed by the thought that the schools I had interviewed with Sunday morning may not be interested – they were my two top choice schools. After my final interview, with a school in Myanmar, I went down to the hotel lobby for some food (9:30 by the time I ate). I had an amazing chat with another teacher who is from Mexico but was raised in the States. I also enjoyed a great hummus and pita bread, did some more research on all interested schools, then made my way back to my room, checking my folder on the way. This time, at 11:00 Sunday night, I actually had something in my folder! … a contract… from the Kuwait school. I walked down the halls of the hotel with a huge smile on my face, trying to contain my excitement. After thinking this ship had sailed, I was delighted to discover I had the job, if I wanted it. I immediately cancelled all my Monday interviews except with one school that I would still consider over the offered contract. I was also waiting to hear back from the Shanghai school, which quite possibly would be choice #1, if there were a choice to be made. I scheduled a meeting to discuss the contract, and slipped my notes in the other schools’ folders thanking them for their time and interest, but saying that I had accepted elsewhere.
Monday morning, I made the decision that I would rather work at the school with whom I already had a job offer. This was the only school that offered PYP, which really was top priority for me. So I cancelled my one remaining follow-up interview, and checked my folder to hear from the Shanghai school. I was slightly disappointed, but also a little relieved that they left a note saying “thanks, but no thanks”. It was nice to not have to make a decision, but a little disappointing, as this was one of the best schools at the fair (an opinion I think most would have agreed with).
After discussing the contract, and having a good chat with the recruiter and his wife, I signed the next two years of my life away. Hands were shaken, hugs were given, pictures of their grandson were shown, and I was off to enjoy my Monday in San Francisco.
In the 3 days that was this recruiting fair, I met many amazing people, both candidates and recruiters; had many great discussions, both thoughtful and simple; learned a lot about myself, as a teacher and as a person; and probably lost a couple pounds from constantly moving and forgetting to eat. The entire experience was just amazing!
Side note: during one interview, I had this feeling like I had met one of the recruiters before – she just seemed so familiar somehow. I shrugged it off at the time, thinking it might be a similarity to a recruiter with whom I had interviewed a month before. Last night, as I was falling asleep, it hit me that this recruiter, I think, interviewed me at the Queen’s fair when she was with a different school. People say the international school community is very small; it really is true!!