Nick and Paula Kendell have been involved in the world of international education for 25 years.
They vividly remember the initial teacher orientation at their first international school in Hong Kong. “As part of the ‘getting to know you’ activities, we were asked to order ourselves in terms of years of service at the school. There was only the tiniest group of teachers who were there over 10 years; the majority were employed from 2 to 5 years”. The Kendell’s were excited at the thought of working their way around the world. However, after their first three year contract, they found themselves still in the same school 10 years later, mainly because of the wonderful lifestyle in Hong Kong, and the school’s emphasis on building community and the value they placed on teaching families.
For Nick and Paula, one of the primary reasons to return home eventually was to indoctrinate their sons into their home ‘culture’ which included football and family, (not to mention to solidify their accents) and give them a sense of ‘home’. Nothing had really changed back in Australia since they had left, which they appreciated. The family assimilated into their various new roles quickly and carried on as if the previous 10 years were a long dream. The Kendell children, Tom and Liam learnt to be more self-sufficient and less entitled!
After four years at home, itchy feet took them to the opposite end of the globe for another contract, this time in Egypt. They planned the timing of this contract around the boys’ educational needs and the health of extended family members. The idea of introducing their boys, who were by now a little older, to travel and other cultures was too irresistible for them to remain in their comfort zone.
Nick and Paula believe there is a ‘boomerang effect’ for some teachers i.e. they come home for a few years after their first posting, slip into their old routine with friends and family and slowly start to feel pull of adventure again. Before they know it, they are off on another contract overseas. Other teachers skip the trip home entirely and move straight onto their next adventure.
Recent COBIS research on the topic of the amount of time spent teaching internationally, (specifically dealing with British teachers teaching in British International schools) and based on more than 1,600 survey responses, provides new concrete data about the profile and motivation of teachers entering and leaving the international school sector.
* 77% of outgoing teachers are happy or very happy with their international experience; 81% of new international school teachers are happy or very happy with their experience.
* Teachers choose to work internationally for many reasons. The main motivations are travel and cultural exploration (71%); and enjoyment and challenge (63%). Other contributing factors include: dissatisfaction with home education system (47%); career growth (45%); salary (44%).
* Many teachers return to the UK after working abroad, with family commitments (44%) and a desire to return home (45%) cited as the main reasons. 26% of returning teachers worked internationally for 3-4 years; 71% leave the international sector within 10 years.
* Returning teachers bring with them a wealth of experience and skills including cultural awareness (79%), global outlook/international mindedness (76%), adaptability (58%), and renewed enthusiasm for teaching (53%) as well as EAL experience, resilience, and professional development opportunities.
* Nearly a third of teachers entering the international school sector (32%) were thinking about leaving the profession before taking an international job.”
For the majority of teachers, time overseas is a short chapter that enriches their lives and leads to greater cultural understanding. (There are of course exceptions, such as those who end up meeting their life partner and who never return home again, except on vacation).
Nick and Paula, now with their recruiter hats on, advise those who are thinking of bunny hopping their way around the world every 2 years (which is the length of most contracts) – to probably stay at each school on average 3-5 years. This gives teachers long enough to acclimatise and learn the ropes of the new country and school, and to add value there before spending the last few months preparing to move (whilst still focussing on the kids, of course!)