Good schools have a global rather than parochial outlook. Many independent schools, and especially boarding ones, welcome overseas students from a wide variety of countries and continents. The gap student too – providing indispensible support to any extra-curricular or boarding programme – will have often been recruited from places as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. School field trips in independent schools often involve overseas travel too. All these things combine to make the teacher who is returning to the UK after teaching abroad, and possessing a similar global outlook, a much more appealing candidate than you might think.
There is a myth that teachers returning to the UK after travelling or working in several other countries may find difficulty in securing a permanent teaching role in a UK school – the view being that they once you’ve got the travel bug you may wish to move on again soon. The reality, however, may be quite different. There are many positive character traits and attitudes which overseas teachers will have necessarily picked up that will be of great value in a UK independent school; adaptability, social skills, fitting into new teams, and not to mention an awareness of how others live and work, all combine to bring a new perspective to students in a British classroom – and new perspectives within the staff common room too.
Independent schools are often very much interested in those invisible aspects of education, such as character development, life skills, social skills and a tolerance and empathy of other cultures and religions, so teachers arriving at a school with prior experience of another country’s language and culture are often welcomed with open arms.
Many teachers who have worked abroad make ideal team players – not least because they have learned to fit in with new teams in new locations and often in more than one country.
Every school, no matter how large or small, needs to keep pace with the ever changing pedagogies and practices of modern education, influenced by rapidly evolving communications technology and the resulting changes in the way we live and work. This often means embracing new ways of teaching, using new technologies and resources, and this means embracing change. Not all teachers are so change-friendly; some enjoy the security and stability to be found in the status quo. Teachers who have worked abroad, by definition, are often more change-friendly and not so risk-averse. These are positive attributes to bring to any staff common room.
A good teacher is a story-teller at heart – you might say it is a pre-requisite for the job. Teachers who are returning to the UK having lived and worked abroad will have stories to tell, and those stories will often (though not always!) have great value in the classroom. Similarly, those teachers who have experienced life overseas, and its many different cultures and customs, will have stories to offer the staff common room too. And what school leader does not want a lively and dynamic common room!