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Welcome to the “Real World”?

By Bryce McBride

When teaching in international schools, it is a common sentiment that somehow by doing so one is not living in the “real world” and that, while it may be fun to travel and have an adventure overseas, at the end of the day one’s teaching career is only real if it is in one’s home country.
However, after having lived and worked in Canada for the past three years, I have come to question that opinion from a professional standpoint.
From my own experience, the difference between teaching in international schools and in public schools in Ontario that has struck me most forcefully is the level of teacher mobility. The reality of international school teachers, who are expected to change positions and move between schools every four to eight years, is in my opinion much healthier than the reality experienced by public school teachers in Ontario who, assuming they have a permanent full-time position, are unlikely to ever move out of their school district, as by doing so they will lose all of their seniority and face years of underemployment while working their way into a new position. By working in a unionized environment, public school teachers experience both greater job security and diminished freedom.
Personally, I can think of few fates worse than feeling trapped in my job. Happily, international school teachers rarely experience this feeling, as their greater degree of mobility gives teachers confidence in their ability to secure a position in another school if their current work environment becomes intolerable.
So, compared to teachers in unionized work environments at home, teachers in international schools are arguably more professionally engaged for two reasons. First, as each year they spend in a school is a year they have chosen to spend there, they are more likely to be enthusiastic about their positions and their students. Second, because they know they will need to seek other positions in the future, they are more likely to continue to improve their teaching practice so as to remain competitive in the job market.
The reality is that teaching in international schools grants educators tremendous opportunities for professional engagement and growth that are often not found at home. We would all be wise to make the most of them.

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12/02/2014 - Bravocage
Great article, for it reflects the reality not only for Canada, but I'm sure it's the same everywhere. I'm Mexican and I have felt as Mr. McBride does. Those teachers attached to a public school spot are scared of moving for the wrong reasons. I completely share his feeling about "few fates worse than feeling trapped in my job". I have worked in the US, Mexico and Ecuador at International Schools, and I know I need to improve and continue educating myself to remain competitive in the job market. But the problem arises when employers notice I'm not American or Canadian. Usually this is the point where I feel rejected, regardless of 25 years of experience, almost native English speaker, and the fact that Mexico is in North America (most schools in Europe accept only teachers from "North America", but understanding North America just as Canada and the US). My credentials are valid, but many schools only take teachers with American or Canadian teaching licenses. Therefore, "the real world" for me would be returning to my country and look for another job, a permanent one maybe, because the degree of mobility for non American-Canadian teachers is not the same, regardless the efforts made and the results obtained at different International Schools.
Great article.
Leo Rodriguez
Athletic Director at CMSFQ



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