Ian Wigley,
from the UK,
teaching in The Hague, the Netherlands.

Where did you teach before moving into international education?

I’d been teaching around Doncaster for 11 years, including schools in Sheffield, Rotherham and Chesterfield. I have worked with both primary children and children with special education needs.

Why did you choose to move to an international school?

Despite my experience, I was finding it almost impossible to find a permanent contract. I applied for over 90 positions and only got three interviews. I eventually had to take on supply work just to pay the mortgage, but even then I was struggling. I would sometimes go five days without being paid.

I had toyed with the idea of working in an international school before, especially after teaching tennis in America when I was 21 years old. I had applied through other agencies in the past, but they were unreliable so eventually I gave up the idea.

How did you discover Teachers International Consultancy when looking for a position in an international school?

I received an email from TIC. I thought I couldn’t lose anything by applying.

How was the service TIC provided?

The service I received was fantastic. I gave my CV to TIC and got an immediate response from a recruitment consultant called Amy. We sent emails back and forth and after 4 days I had an interview on Skype with the European School of the Hague! By the 10th day I flew out to the Netherlands for a face-to-face interview and got the job.

Amy was incredibly helpful and guided me through every step of the way. I can’t believe how quickly I got a job from applying! I now have money in the bank and a chance to develop my career. I have a lot to thank TIC for.

Would you recommend TIC to a colleague considering international education? For what reasons (if yes or no)?

Yes, the amount of effort TIC put into my application was amazing. The service that Amy provided was committed and personal. I would recommend TIC to any teacher considering teaching overseas.

How did you prepare for your move overseas?

I have worked overseas before, teaching tennis for 3 months in the USA when I was 21. This meant I knew how to pack last minute for a move. Apart from my relationship with my girlfriend I had no commitments tying me down, so making preparations was pretty simple. I packed a large bag filled with enough clothes and toiletries for a week, along with a collection of DVDs! Being somewhere close like the Netherlands as opposed to the Middle East, seeing my girlfriend regularly would not be as difficult. I booked a one way flight to the Netherlands, got myself a guidebook, and headed to the Hague!

How does your international school differ from state schools you have worked in previously?

The school I work in does not differ much from the schools I taught in back in the UK. The curriculum is similar to the National Curriculum of England and Wales, so adjusting was not too hard. The school is new, so there have been a lot of preparations to ensure everything is ready. The school was officially opened on the 11th October by the Deputy Mayor of the Hague, along with other dignitaries! As the school is fee paying, there is an expectation from the parents for results, which is a bit different state schools.

As soon as I arrived the school have been very helpful. They have walked me through the procedures for international teachers, which has made everything easier. The staff in particular have been incredibly friendly and helpful. When I first came out they helped me finding a residence as they knew the area better than me. I also now have daily meetings with the Deputy Head to help me settle into life teaching in an international school. He has been a teacher for 20 years, so his advice has been incredibly helpful.

Do you use a different curriculum in your international school compared to your previous schools, and how has that affected your teaching?

The curriculum is a European version of the National Curriculum of England and Wales, so it is quite similar to the curriculum I used back in the UK. However, we are given objectives that we must complete in lessons that sometimes you cannot fulfil with this curriculum, so there is space to be creative. I use various curricula, a teaching scheme/website called InterMath and my own 11 years of experience to help make the lessons as interesting and relevant as possible.

Using various curricula is a great way to develop your skills as a teacher. Finding a way to explain topics to such a multi-lingual class can be a challenge, but one that is a highly useful skill in education. Learning to teach with a European, multicultural approach has broadened my horizons and helped my teaching flourish. Having various approaches to a lesson and having experience with such a multicultural class has made me much more employable. Also being surrounded by so many experienced international teachers means I’ve been able to settle in quicker and gives me professionals to share and learn off.

How have you found adjusting to life in a new country? What has been easier than you anticipated, and what has been more difficult?

I have never been to live in a non-English speaking country before, so settling in here has been mostly trial and error! As I was so quick moving out, it was like being thrown in at the deep end. I was staying in a hotel for a while, but I recently got an apartment in the affluent area of the Hague! Now that I’ve moved in and the school year has started, I’ve started to settle in. Some days I miss England, and some days I don’t think about it all! I make sure that I still have some home comforts to help; like reading the Guardian and watching the football! Thanks to the internet and Skype, I can stay in contact with my girlfriend and family, and as the UK is so close, I can regularly visit or be visited by my girlfriend!

What advice would you give to teachers who are considering teaching abroad?

If you’re considering teaching abroad, simply go for it! As long as you can tie up any loose ends before you go, the benefits are completely worth it. Some people are happy staying in the same job all their lives, but the personal and professional experiences that you can get from teaching internationally are incredible and hard to pass up!

What qualities do you think someone needs to be an international teacher?

To become an international teacher, it helps to be outgoing. Moving to a new country by yourself means that you can become isolated if you’re not prepared to go out there and make friends. Being prepared to work hard also helps, as you will come across challenges that you will not find in normal education. However, nothing good comes easy!

One of the things that I’ve personally found helpful is learning from your mistakes. Moving to a new school is always going to throw up challenges, but even if you make a mistake, you will become a better teacher if you take something away from it. The staff at ESH have been incredibly supportive and it’s really help me to flourish as an educator.

What are your plans for the future?

I will be staying in the Hague for at least two years, but after my contract expires I’m not sure! I might return to the UK, using my new skills to get a job I would not have got before, or I might stay in international education. My dream is to one day teach in America, but right now I have a gorgeous flat, I’m financially secure and I’m constantly learning from my work, so I might stay here longer yet! It’s amazing that in just over a week of applying with TIC, my teaching career has turned around. I’m very thankful for all of TIC’s work and cannot wait to see where international education takes me next!

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