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Who are these people called International teachers


Being an international teacher seems like a great job when looking at it from the outside, but the reality is that it is not always that easy.

What is it that encourages teachers who have comfortable jobs, friends and families in their own country to leave all that behind and move to a new country where the language can be a mystery and even paying the power bill can be a challenge?

Teachers who live and work in countries far from home are generally quite different in their mindset from those who prefer to live with the comforts and familiarity of home. Generally they are people who have a lot of curiosity about the world. They value the difference between being a visiting tourist and living in another country.

They seek to understand a range of cultures through meeting a diversity of people and experiencing different ways of living. An international teacher is not someone with a room in a 5 star hotel, they are neighbours. They are the people who look different to everyone else on the train or bus and they are sitting beside you.

The drive to understand a diversity people and countries means that the life of an international teacher is not stable; it is one that changes every few years as they move from country to country seeking new understandings. The Most significant thing for people who live the expat life style is that most things are temporary.


Friendships are often temporary lasting a few years then dissolving as people’s lives take them in different directions. Social media such as 脸书 becomes the method of staying in touch and sometimes even that is impossible. The one constant thing in the lives of most international teachers is that sooner or later they will leave their existing job and move to another one in a different country. They will take with them mostly memories and a few belongings that will serve a reminder of time spent somewhere foreign and different.

I have recently been attending meetings of teachers organised by companies that help in this constant process of re-employment. ‘Job Fairs’ are a part of the life of an international teacher. They are times of uncertainty and stress as people seek out their next place to live and try to impress prospective employers.

One of the things that most impressed me when speaking to people in this pool of travelling teachers is their obvious dedication to the profession of teaching. As a group they seek to make the world a better place both by sharing what they know and by learning from the culture of the host countries they find themselves in. Of course there are some, who will never change and probably do not want to, but generally international teachers become humbled by their experiences and their perceptions of the world changed forever. Their desire to make even a small change to the world is matched by their desire to learn from it.

I recently attended a Job Fair in Shanghai seeking staff for AIC, some to replace those who may be moving on, others to fit our growing student numbers and some to bring new subjects to our expanding curriculum. The teachers I met were an impressive bunch, earnest in their desire to be good teachers and freely sharing their talent and knowledge. They were courteous and displayed respect for their fellow humans and the world in general. This reflected their open-minded and caring values that had been polished while pursuing their chosen profession and lifestyle. I left the ‘Job Fair’ having met some exceptional people who impressed me not just with their subject knowledge, but they were also wonderful, caring world citizens. I was humbled to be in their company and also at the same time proud to be a member of the travelling gypsies called International Teachers.

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