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How Hard Is It? Really.

As an international educator, there is one phrase more than all others that invokes fear. “Recruiting!”

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Those of us who have run the gamut a few times remember with fondness the excitement of the first job fair. The thrill of donning a suit and tie, tucking your CV’s under your arm and lining up at tables advertising Argentina or Israel or Laos or Japan. We remember that excitement. Vaguely.

By the time you hit job fair number three, that excitement has turned to something else. Like having a toothache and knowing there is an inevitable dentist visit on the horizon. Drill. Suction. Spit.

It almost becomes a second job during the months of August, September, October and November. Updating the CV, writing the philosophy statement, getting a decent looking photo, writing the cover letter. Then there’s the job listings. Getting up every morning to check the job openings. Yelling back to your spouse, “How about Ethiopia?” or “What about Kuwait?” or “Where the hell is Bokchovia?”

When the decision to give Bokchovia a shot is made, then comes the research and the application. Find the website. Read the mission statement. What curriculum do they run? How big is it? WHERE is it? How cold does it get? What is the governance structure? Is that really the uniform!!!!

Then comes the cover letter. What is the focus…??? Mission statement? Strategic plan? Me? The fact that I speak Bokchovian? Maybe the fact that I love Bokchovian beer???

It is HARD work. Time consuming work. Done BEFORE and AFTER work. And in the quest to be employed in 10 months time, it is done again and again and again and again and again. To Bokchovia, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, North Korea (I’ll go anywhere!), the Southern Hemisphere (almost every school in it!!!!).

And then… you wait.

And you wait.

And you  w  a  i  t.

And you   w   a   i   t

And you     w     a     i     t.

andifyouareluckyyougetaresponse. From one school.

One. Single. School.

Bokchovia sends an automated response, “Thank you for your application.”

Immediately, because you haven’t heard from any other schools (and you’ve begun discussing a “sabbatical year” with your spouse), you start imagining yourself in Bokchovia. Speaking Bokchovian. Drinking Bokchovian beer. You head back to the school website and start imagining yourself in the classrooms and the lunch room. You search YouTube for anything from Bokchovia. You find “Bokchovia’s Got Talent 2014” and spend 23 minutes and 15 seconds (that you will NEVER get back) learning that this is the place for you. Over lunch with your colleagues (the ones you will be leaving) you mention you might be going to Bokchovia. They nod, eyebrows raised. They’ve never heard of it.

And then, as a few more responses come in your colleagues retreat to eat somewhere else because they are tired of hearing where you might go. You become the world expert on which countries have talent and which don’t.

Eventually, if the planets align, the automated response is followed by a request for a Skype interview, which leads to a second Skype interview, then a face-to-face meeting at a job fair and then an offer and a contract. You check the country is still financially sound and politically stable, and sign. Done.

But what about all those schools you applied to and never heard diddly-squat from?

They should have their accreditation revoked, their Superintendent/Headmaster/Director removed and fined a bazillion Bokchovian gringotts!

That’s right! Revoked. Removed. A BAZILLION!!!!

I mean, how hard is it?

How hard is it to automatically send a message to each applicant to say thank you.

Thank you… for taking the time to consider our school and reading through our website. For carefully writing a letter telling us how much you are interested in working for us and for sharing how you think you would be able to help the school grow and develop. Thank you for sharing with us everything there is to know about your professional life and thank you for putting it all in a single PDF file not exceeding 450MB!

With the FREE technology available today, that, “Thank You for considering Bokchovia International School” email is possible to do AUTOMATICALLY! And again, just to press the point, for FREE!

And yet… in my recent experience, less than 25% of all the schools I applied to replied. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Silence. Is there anybody out there?

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If you are an administrator at an international school, please realise that the reputation of your school is built on shifting sand. It takes a lot of effort to make it steady and next to nothing to see it come crashing down. Take the time to set up a system that recognises each applicant for their efforts in applying to your school. It is not difficult. It is not expensive. It is a cheap investment.

At the end of my fourth recruiting journey I have been impressed by the schools that responded. Most were automated responses. Some gave the impression of being a real person. One was really real and thanked me for thanking them for the thank you.

I was not impressed by the schools from which I received no response!

Schools are all about communication, and recruiting is the first taste of what’s to come.

How hard is it? Really.

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Twitter for unbeatable Professional Learning

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about podcasts (and referenced the fantastic chat with Pernille Ripp) and how they can be a fantastic source of professional learning. Just listening to other professionals doing the same thing you do and hearing HOW they go about their job can be SO informative! This week I would like to draw your attention to Twitter!
For me, Twitter is hands down, without a doubt, the single BEST professional learning tool available! Why, I hear you ask? Well, here’s why…
Teaching, like a lot of other professions out there, is a job that REQUIRES us to be constantly learning because our job is so dynamic (in a changing-all-the-time sense). Teaching is also a profession where one of the best ways to get better is to watch/talk to/ask questions of a colleague. Some of us are lucky enough to have colleagues in the same building who we can do that with (as an aside, if you don’t, I would URGE you to start looking now!). Some of us may be the only teacher of that subject, or the only person in that role within the school, so making those connections is a little more difficult. So, enter Twitter.

Twitter is at it’s heart, a community notice board. You want to tell the world something? You compose a short (160 character) message and “tweet” it, or “post it” or “pin it onto the noticeboard”. You don’t get to choose who listens. You just put it out there. If that was all, then Twitter would be rather useless. But that is the less interesting part of it.

Twitter is all about LISTENING!
The REAL power of Twitter lies in your ability to choose who you listen to, or in Twitter parlance, who you choose to “follow“. At last estimate, there are around 288 million active Twitter users. That is one HUGE noticeboard! But you don’t have to listen to all of them. You get to choose. And here is where the professional learning begins to take shape.
Of that 288 million, there are a handful (probably in the thousands) of active twitter users who do exactly the same job as you. And they regularly “tell the world something” about their job. It might be a cool resource they have just found. Or it might be about something they tried in the classroom. Or it might be a question they have about the course they are teaching. Because you do the same job, those resources, ideas and questions might be useful to you. My experience has been (and continues to be) that these resources, ideas and questions are the most useful source of professional learning you can get your hands on.
So what is the catch I hear you asking? It can’t be that easy!

So OK, there is a catch. The “work” is in finding who is worth listening to. As you might guess, not everyone is “telling the world something” that is necessarily worth listening to. Do I care what Justin Bieber had for breakfast? Do I care who Miley Cyrus is saying happy birthday to?? NO! So I don’t “follow” them. I follow people who are doing the same thing as me, who “tell the world” interesting stuff about how they are doing their thing. And that took a little bit of time and trial and error.

So, now that I have convinced you of how fantastic Twitter is :-), here is my advice…
  • Download an app (Twitter, Tweetdeck, etc) and use Twitter through the app. The website is good, but an app makes it a little more deliberate.
  • Use Twitter to listen. Don’t feel you need to start posting anything.
  • Find one person worth following. Check out who they are following and then follow some of those people.
  • “Follow” no more than 30 people when you first start.
  • When you do start posting, consider replying to “tweets” from those you follow.
  • Share the love! If you find something really useful on Twitter, let your colleagues know about it (and that you found it through Twitter!)

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Connections, connections, connections

This post is really a part of me setting up a new communications tool called “Slack“.Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 12.19.41 PM I don’t know if it is going to be useful or help me streamline my communications with my team at work, or if it is simply going to end up being two hours at work where I could have accomplished something important. I’m posting it to see if the RSS feed I have set up within SLACK is working.

This has led me to contemplate all the different tools I have experimented with over the past years that were designed by a committed bunch of people hoping to change the world, or at least a small element of a small number of peoples lives. How many of those tools do I now use, integrated into what I do every day? Not many. Do those committed folks still toil away at their dream? I don’t really know.

I know one guy who is chasing his dream and is building a thingy to clean solar panels. So far it looks like he might be able to have an impact.

At a conference I attended last week I had an idea that I think might have an impact. In fact, I think it is a very good idea. I shared it with a few people at the conference and they too thought it was a very good idea. It is one I might even start to develop with a view to really seeing it through. Not sure yet. Gotta make some connections. I don’t have those ideas very often.

I hope the RSS feed works!

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