Fall

Too many Americans at our school this year. I’m starting to pronounce things with a twang. My daily blog posting is out of this world. Perhaps monthly would be a better aim?

dole queue

Apparently it’s recruiting season for international schools. A few of the other staff are in a flurry of CV writing and awkwardly asking SMT for references. I’m not sure what I’m doing. I’ve never had to worry about it before. My jobs have always come along when I needed them. I think qualified and experienced Teacher Librarians are a rarity.

Other teachers have registered with Search Associates and ISS and are heading off to job fairs. Kinda wish there was such a thing as an international librarian job fair. Not just school libraries, but all libraries. Imagine!
This time last year I was yearning to be back in public libraries. Now, I’m no longer 100%. I still miss them and miss loving going to work each day (wondrous feeling), but I’m also curious about what library life might be like if I actually worked at a decent school – one with a state of the art library, well resourced, a workable budget, technology in the library – and maybe even another librarian on campus.

Part of me is also curious to see where I could end up.

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The most important place in town

I’m missing public libraries enormously. There were a lot of sensible reasons for moving back to a school library job, but they faded before the end of the first week. I miss my community. I miss working with other staff. I miss my networks, who haven’t really gone far, but I’m just not part of the crowd any more.

One of the those excellent reasons was to find out whether school libraries were my ‘calling’ and I’d just had some negative experiences, or if public libraries were really my niche.

It is well and truly the latter.

One of the things I used to do while I was a student teacher was gaze longingly out of the window (while I should have been planning to teach Shakespeare to Year 10) at parents, cars driving past, bin men, and longing to be “out there” in the real world.

15 years later I find myself once again staring out the window.

The other realisation I have made is that my skills, my abilities, my ‘talents’ if you will, are best suited for public libraries. There are reasons my most recent job (in a public library) was the longest I’ve ever stayed in one workplace. I LIKED IT. I WAS GOOD AT IT.

So, here I am in the 2nd month of a 2 year contract, wondering what an earth I have gotten myself into!

Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library Is the Most Important Place in Town

Agencies – or hunting international school jobs

Whether travel or teaching, I’ve never really had much luck with agencies.  I have registered with a few over the years – from teaching in the UK to Manpower in NZ (when we were so hungry we were growing food from scraps).  I’ve found them all like this to begin with:

Friendly Teacher Recruiter
Friendly Teacher Recruiter

But more “this” after about week 3:

Leanne will get back to you...
Leanne will get back to you…

Last time I was looking jobs in Asia I started with Teach Anywhere.  I had previously been in touch with them re: teaching in the UK and should’ve known better.  They’re very keen to sign you up, but once they realised my CV was less than ordinary they became very hard to contact.  They also seem to be incapable of understanding that my interest in librarian jobs meant *gasp* I was looking for a librarian job!  I kept getting interviews (literally principals phoning me) without notice, or for jobs I had told my Teach Anywhere recruiter I was not interested in.  Not surprisingly the recruiter became less friendly.

I found that although their website doesn’t publish names of schools, it is relatively easy to figure them out.  I also made a list of major cities and started googling: “CITY + teacher librarian + jobs”.  Using these masterful techniques I found a librarian job on a school’s website and contacted the principal.  He happened to be on holiday about an hour away, met me for coffee and offered me the job.  Interestingly he had paid to register the job with Teach Anywhere and been told they had nobody available (!)

That said, I am considering a proper agency this time.  Back in 2009 I had no library experience and was working part-time in a rubbish tip.  I had nothing to lose.  I also had no idea how much I loved being a librarian.  I think it’s reasonable to expect a school who can afford to pay to recruit staff should be able to pay to look after them.  Not always the case, but if you’re going to use a free agency you may just get what you pay for.

A friend from Darwin recommended Search Associates and managed to get jobs through them in top schools in Indonesia, China and Cambodia.  She also has a lot more solid teaching history than I do, so may have done just as well without the agency.  And she still had issues with jobs, so it’s not a guarantee there won’t be a crazy staff…

Other agencies I’ve heard recommended include TIC Recruitment and ISS.  It cost my mate about $250 to register with Search Associates, which gave her access to job listings, a dedicated recruiter, an online profile and admission to job fairs.

Still undecided so I’m off to google…:)

On the road again…

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be on the cusp of accepting a Librarian job at an international school in China I would have thought you mad.  Yet here I am.lanterns in street

I have had two interviews in the past fortnight, unintentionally in the same city.  Both are great roles – the first qualified librarian for each school.  One has an ESL teaching element (not a terrible idea) and the other is librarian.

Having learned the hard way I made it as clear as I could in both interviews that libraries are my passion and the idea of being forced out of the library to teach in a classroom was Not Cool (plenty of other posts on that and when I finally tidy all my blogs into one place I’ll put a link).  Who am I kidding I will NEVER be that organised 🙂

Anyway, to my delight both principals understood completely and are interested in me because of my library background.  The second went on to say the current teacher in the library was not library qualified and desperate to get back to the classroom, so he was really looking for a librarian.

Now the tricky part of weighing up each position.

School 1

Pros

  • small
  • American
  • Montessori
  • younger principal, seems very easy-going and potentially easy to get along with; passionate about the school and what they are trying to achieve
  • IB accreditation happening this year
  • I have been offered a contract

Cons

  • small, which means they are the Wild Card – there is a chance they could be as disorganised as Ningbo
  • salary is lower than when I worked in Ningbo, 4 years ago before Masters and any library experience. Although salary is not top of my priorities, it is awfully disappointing to move down the pay ladder.
  • ESL classes – 10 periods per week. They have not indicated the format these will take, but it is already up to 10 hours away from the library each week – it is a slippery slope.

I agonised over the awful “please reconsider pay” email, but it had to be done. To his credit the principal seems to have pulled as many strings as he can to increase the pay, but it is still below my Ningbo earnings.

School 2

Pros

  • smallish
  • part of an education foundation who have schools across China. This means a ready network of other librarians, and potential for the future in terms of a reference and possible future jobs
  • this also indicates they will have a better payscale. The principal noted teachers are paid the same whether in Shanghai or Qingdao. I imagine they would struggle to appoint teachers to their Shanghai school if there were offering the same or less than School 1
  • full-time library role, no teaching
  • they are specifically looking for somebody to develop the library curriculum, and improve the use of the library as a teaching space, including already having an extension earmarked
  • Apple school. I am not sure how the Apple Educator program works in China, but this is something I have had my eye on for a while; it means my networks with apple educators in Australia could be put to use – getting them over to offer PD
  • Professional development: the school advertise this as a selling point for teachers and TBH I believe this school is far more likely to have the resources to support PD than School 1

Cons

  • Well I haven’t seen the library of School 1 but the School 2 library did look really small considering it is a primary and secondary library for potentially 800 students; saying that, the principal did mention an extension (which sounds like it will be an IT room)
  • Although the principal was great, I get the sense he will not be as laid back as the principal at School 1.  I know I work better when I am given a bit of freedom, so this is a slight concern
  • At this point I still have 3 steps to go in the recruitment process, although apparently I am the best candidate ‘so far’

It is a very difficult decision.  I think I am leaning towards School 2, predominantly because the role is entirely in the library – after my previous experiences I have learned anything less does not work out well in the end!

Elite travel – caravan parks!

Yikes!  Our attempt at just roaming along til we find somewhere we like and pulling in will have to come to an end.  Had booked hostel in Bridport but reached there at lunch time (nice, albeit strange, beach; great pies but not much happening) so figured we’d push on.

Just out of Launceston

As the day drew on we stopped to look up a few places on the web and found most booking up.  Finally got a cabin at a caravan park in Beauty Point but paid about 3x what we were going to pay in the hostel – $119!!!

Interesting old house in NE Tas

It was awesome to be in a cabin – with kitchen, bathroom and separate bedroom.  We could live in a cabin.

Still nothing on the job front…alternatively stressful and depressing.  Must be something to do with getting older but I am so ready to be starting to build my home.  Not ‘settling’ ie: stopping any old place, but finally getting back to Scotland, finding our place somewhere and just the simple concept of being able to purchase furniture we need without having to worry about how I’m going to sell it or ship it overseas…

Plus, M is getting older.  She will start school next year and we still haven’t lived anywhere that I can actually give her her own room…

Frustrating, but working in China has kick started the visa process and so long as I can find a job here soon we should be on our way next year.

Can’t wait!

On the road again…

Well, almost!

Amanda is moving into her mansion on the hill in a few short weeks…and needs to rent this place out to afford her new lifestyle (insert chuckle)…

Rather than being an inconvenience, I can only see it as an opportunity, or an excuse, or whatever you’d like to label it – it’s a chance for us to be free!  After more than 4 years of dreaming, scheming and having hopes dashed, we will finally be on our way far away from here…

Although I have had grandios plans in the past, I have tried to apply the KISS principle to this move.  We will sell up what we can at a garage sale, store things ready to be shipped to us when we finally ‘settle down’, and head to NZ (just next door).

I have been applying for jobs, but so far no joy (more on that later), so we may have to plan as though we are heading over there for a 3 week trip, and see where it takes up (which, between you and me, is definitely my preferred mode of travel, but it is apparently not an acceptable philosophy for a mother!)

So excited!

Kaikoura ranges, NZ

Kaikoura ranges…>sigh<…brilliant.

Why are we not there already???