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Teaching Jobs in International Schools

A New Opportunity for Non-Teachers

By Meredith Alt

What can people who want to work overseas in a non-military or non-governmental capacity do to prepare themselves for long-term work abroad?

I have currently completed the first summer of a K-6 teacher certification program in the U.S. Following the second half of the program next summer, I will go overseas as a K-6 teacher at an international school. The program that allows me to do this, the Foreign Affairs' Spouse Training Program (FAST TRAIN), was created in 1990 to offer a way for spouses of foreign-service officials to become certified to teach in some of the hundreds of international schools around the world. Since then, the program has been expanded and is open to all applicants who would like to teach abroad. In contrast to programs designed to enable participants to teach English, FAST TRAIN is a condensed teaching program that results in either a K-6 teaching license or an ESL teaching license that is recognized in both the U.S. and abroad. The program is designed as a multicultural education program, and one of the program's requirements is that students either do their student teaching overseas or take paid positions in international schools.

A Faster Route to Teaching

Whereas some teaching certification programs require several years of coursework for participants to receive a license, the FAST TRAIN program, designed for students who already hold a bachelor's degree but have not taken education classes, can be taken over two 5-week summer sessions. For people living in the Washington D.C. area, it can be taken as a part-time evening program. For tuition purposes, all FAST TRAIN participants are granted in-state residency.

The general FAST TRAIN requirements for elementary licensure include completion of six education classes at George Mason Univ. in Virginia. In addition, students are expected to observe elementary school classes during the year and to write brief reports of these field experiences. Finally, students must go overseas to become certified. Students may elect to do 15 weeks of unpaid student teaching at any international school from a list of schools with which FAST TRAIN has already developed contact or by developing contact with a school of their choice. The other option, and the more common route for FAST TRAIN students, is to obtain a paid position at a school overseas. Compensation packages vary at the schools, but because most of the schools cover roundtrip airfare, insurance, and living expenses, there is frequently potential to save more money than would be possible with teaching jobs in the U.S.

The FAST TRAIN Summer Program

The summer program generally includes about 30 students who are on leave from their jobs or on vacation from teaching. They live in townhouses near the George Mason University campus, and they take full-time courses on teaching in international schools. The classes emphasize lesson planning and modeling lessons for elementary school students. The program also allows people to get to know other FAST TRAIN students, some of whom are already teaching in international schools, and to thus develop useful contacts for the job search.

Finding a Job Overseas

Hiring for teachers at international schools is generally done at job fairs, such as the job fair at the Univ. of Northern Iowa (www.uni.edu/placement/overseas) or through recruiters such as Search Associates (www.search-associates.com). Many of the job fairs are highly competitive and require prospective teachers to have two years of prior teaching experience. While FAST TRAIN participants also participate in the job fairs or sign on with recruiters, the program offers information about which job fairs, frequently the ones later in the recruiting season, are likely to hire students who have completed coursework but do not have elementary school teaching experience. Recruiters at Search Associates have also been helpful in working with FAST TRAIN students to find jobs overseas.

Flexibility is key to finding a teaching job overseas. Individuals who are open to teaching in a variety of countries are the ones most likely to find paid jobs. In the past, because they have completed the required education coursework through the program, FAST TRAIN students have been successful at finding jobs even without prior teaching experience.

Obtaining a Teaching License

After completing either their student teaching or their paid teaching overseas, FAST TRAIN students file for licensure and receive a Virginia teaching license. The license is recognized, through reciprocity agreements, by more than 30 states in the U.S. As a result, students have the option of teaching overseas for a while and then returning to the U.S. to teach. Students in the program vary from those who intend to permanently teach overseas, those who intend to alternate between 2-year contracts overseas and periods near family or friends in the U.S., and those who are participating in the program as a fast route into teaching in the U.S.

For more information, or for information about FAST TRAIN's new certificate in international school counseling, go to the FAST TRAIN website.

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