During another season of recruitment, the international scene has had some changes to perspective and insight with regard to understanding diversity, equity, and inclusion. Many schools and recruitment agencies have been made aware, very late in the game, that they have been practicing colonial, antiquated, and biased approaches to the attainment and retainment of teachers.
During my many years as an international teacher, the color of my skin has influenced decisions made by recruiters. Once, I was told in an interview, “I do not think you would fit well in this country because of the color of your skin.” The next time I approached that same administrator, who was working for another school, he said to me, “I do not have anything for you.” This was before I even had the chance to say anything to him. That story is one of many that have happened to me and other international teachers of color around the world.
I believe I have landed on my feet at a great school and feel comfortable and well-regarded in the variety of work that I do in and out of the school. I believe there has been a lot of learning over the past couple of years and some action but there is still a long way to go and the momentum is waning. It is not enough to just get involved and occasionally encourage your staff to engage in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) workshops. Changes need to be sustainable, consistent, and meaningful. There is no meaning behind performative acts as they can lead to frustration with staff who really want to see changes or those who are fed up with being involved in these discussions as they are not affected by them.
I never set out to change the minds of people who do not want to see change. I set out to help those who struggle themselves as well as anyone who wants to get on board and help others. Over the years, I have learned to be very well prepared before even applying for a position in an international school. Here are some of my ideas and thoughts that might help educators of color as they navigate the international school system.
Websites and Social Media
I would strongly encourage those who are looking for jobs to delve into a school’s website. Do not rely on what you are given by the recruitment agencies; it’s not enough. Websites can give a lot of information, especially the pictures they use. Yes, schools may use pictures to try to show that they have some representation, but some schools do not even try. Look to see if schools share data on representation. This may feel like a performative action, but they may also be actually trying to show they are a school with diversity.
Social media presence and content are really important. Look to see where and what the school is posting. Twitter and Linked In are good places to look as these are very open platforms.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the School
Is the school actively doing work to amend their past practices? Have they publicly displayed and made the work they are doing accessible? Many schools will put a statement on their website outlining what they say they believe. It’s all good and well to display something like this on their public space but often that is as far as a school will go. You do not want to end up at a school that says something but does not act upon their words. Is there information about what the school has actively achieved and continues to act upon? What are staff involved with at the school and how do they show this? Why is the school doing this work? Is the work relevant to the context of the school?
Administration and the Board
Find out about the administration. Do your own research on who you might be interviewed by. Do you have commonalities with the people who will be leading you and will they really consider your perspective as an international teacher of color or will you just have to blend in with all the other white folk who have been recruited that year?
Who is on the board? What do they do and what are their interests? This information can lead to trying to figure out why these people have joined the board of the school and what their intentions may be with the school. Think about the importance of the information you gather here because the board can have a great effect on the direction of the school, parental influences, and school policy.
Affiliations and Accreditations
Find out who the school is affiliated with and accredited by. There are some international organizations that are actively trying to get international schools to make changes to their approaches to recruitment and practices in retention, but there are others that are doing nothing. Find out about these organizations. Organizations I can vouch for are the International School Services (ISS), the Association of International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC), the Council of International Schools (CIS), the International Educator (TIE), and the Educational Collaborative of International Schools (ECIS).
There is a sense of partnership across these organizations in order to establish a progressive collaboration, community building, and positive consensus that is leading to the building of critical consciousness in educational equity for international teachers of color.
It is crucial that you check out what each recruitment agency is doing for you. I have had many conversations with several international organizations that are doing their bit for international teacher recruitment. What you need to know is which organizations are really doing the work for you. Really look into organizations that have been consistent in their work and have included people of color in the work that they have been doing. There are some agencies out there that, if you look carefully, have nearly all white folk working for them that may show no intention of making any real changes. Think about what this might mean to you and how their affinity bias would play into your recruitment opportunities.
Who Do You Know and Who Knows You
Who can help you? Reach out to people you know as well as organizations such as AIELOC and groups like the Institute for Teachers of Color (IToC). They will help and get you connected with the right people. There are enough connections in these groups that will help you find something out about what you are looking into.
Put yourself out there in the world of social media. Don’t expect schools to know who you are and what you do. Many good schools are looking for that extra edge in a person so they can bring added experiences and critical thinking to their school. Be that person and do more than you might just do in school. Unfortunately, people of color still have to stand out to make a difference in their lives.
Dominique Dalais has been teaching for 26 years, most of which has been in the international school sphere. He is currently the head of physical and health education at the United Nations International School, Hanoi, Vietnam. Dominique was recently the coordinator of diversity, equity, and inclusion at his previous international school and is an experienced racial equity facilitator.
He is currently the chairperson of the ECIS physical education special interest group, an advocacy committee member of the ISS Diversity Collaborative, and a facilitator of the self care group for AIELOC. In 2021, Dominique was a panelist on two webinars for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) discussing diversity, equity, and inclusion in international schools as well as during the Outstanding Schools Europe conference 2021 discussing recruitment with a diversity lens.
Websites: www.dalais44.com / www.ibmypphe.com / www.internationalteachersofcolour.com
Facebook Groups: PHE in the MYP / International Teachers of Colour
Twitter: @Dalais44 / @ibmypphe