As some of you know, two weeks ago I accepted a teacher-librarian position at Busan International Foreign School in Busan, South Korea. I officially start on August 1st, 2016 (but I assume I will arrive a week or two before that). Here is the story of how this came about.
Soon after arriving in Bolivia, I decided it made sense to look for a teacher-librarian position at an international school for the 2016-2017 school year. Recruiting starts early and I didn’t want to go to a job fair so by mid-October I had managed to activate my account with Search Associates. (Part of this was bugging four former supervisors and colleagues for confidential references.)
Once my account was activated I could see open positions advertised at various schools. I was keen to find a school with all three IB programmes and that wasn’t too huge. Many of the positions advertised were middle/high school or K-12 positions. I contacted a few friends working at the schools with positions (including in a couple instances the current librarian who was obviously making plans to leave) or someone I knew who had been at the school who was able to put me in contact with someone currently at the school. One person I contacted was a librarian I met while I was in Tanzania. She was working at an international school in Dar es Salaam and I spent a day in her library. We left Tanzania around the same time and she took a position at a school in South Korea, Busan International Foreign School.
Initially the position at BIFS was advertised as a K-12 but then it was modified to be just elementary. On Tuesday 27 October, I emailed the school and the next day I got an email from the principal offering me an initial interview with herself and the PYP coordinator the week of November 9 (as they were on holiday the first week of November). We set it up for my Monday evening (Nov 9), their Tuesday morning (Nov 10).
In the meantime, I sent an email to a school in Bangkok that was advertising a middle school/high school position (but I never got a reply and I wasn’t really surprised, seeing as all of my experience is in elementary).
Monday evening, I put on a dress (and makeup!) and headed to the BiblioWorks office because the wifi is stronger there. The interview seemed to go well. I asked a bazillion questions and was happy with the answers. Skype cooperated and we had both audio and video. The next morning I had an email from the principal about a second interview 3 days later (Nov 12/13).
Before that happened a position at the International School of Phnom Penh came up on Search. I contacted a friend who used to teach there to see if she could put me in touch with someone who was still there and she did. However in spite of being on Search Associates, ISPP asks that applications be submitted via a different recruiting site, Schrole. It meant filling out some information about myself, uploading my CV, answering some questions provided by the school and getting more confidential references. I hummed and hawed a bit. I wasn’t keen to bug my references again when I was already in the process of interviewing with another school.
Skype did not cooperate for my second interview with BIFS. We tried calling multiple times, turned off video etc but it wasn’t working well at all. They could hear me but they were garbled when they spoke. We ended up doing the interview with them typing the questions and me answering orally. It was weird. At the end, they said they were down to two candidates and asked if they could check my references. The next morning I had an email introducing me to two of the coordinators and asking us to set up a time for a short interview. I replied but figured I wouldn’t hear back until Monday at the earliest.
Sunday, November 15 I decided I shouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket and I started work on my Schrole application. Monday night I heard back from the coordinators and an interview was organized for their Wednesday morning (my Tuesday night). I completed my Schrole application and bugged my references (who were super quick) and applied for the ISPP position.
The interview with the coordinators was short but seemed to go well and by the time I woke up the next morning,I had an email from the principal introducing me to the head of school so we could set up a time for an interview as well as one from him directly. After a bit of back and forth, we ended up scheduling it for his Monday morning (my Sunday evening).
Thursday morning I had an email from the elementary principal at ISPP offering me an interview the week beginning 30 November as they were going on holiday the following week.
The next day I contacted a teacher who had worked at BIFS but was now working at ISPP to see what he might be willing to share about both schools. He said good things about both of them…
On Sunday, I had an email out of the blue from the principal at a school in Budapest saying she would like to talk to me about a position at their school that had just come up and wasn’t yet advertised on Search. We set a time for the next day. I wasn’t really interested in the position but I was curious about how inquiry is at the school as they are not PYP and I was flattered she contacted me. (Coincidently, the current librarian at that school used to work at ISPP and I met her on a boat on the river in Phnom Penh when I was there visiting a friend in June 2011 – small world.)
That evening I had my chat with the head of school in Busan. It was a friendly discussion and much of it focused on the salary and benefits. I walked home after, changed out of my interview clothes and made a snack. As I was eating I picked up my phone and realized I had an email from the principal asking if I had time for quick Skype. I crossed my fingers that my home wifi would cooperate and got online. Skype cooperated and she offered me the position. I asked how quickly she would need to know and confessed I had other interviews lined up. She said she would need to know fairly soon so as to not keep the other candidate hanging.
I emailed the principal at ISPP to let her know I had an offer from another school and got an autoreply that she was away all week. I took it as a sign and emailed the principal at BIFS back to accept the offer. She forwarded me a letter of intent right away. I emailed my Search Associates person because in their instructions it said to get in touch before signing anything. I got an email back from the principal at ISPP saying it wouldn’t be possible to do the interview any sooner (which didn’t surprise me) and to let her know if I did accept the offer.
I went to bed and tried to sleep. By the next morning, I hadn’t heard back from the Search person and as it was already night in Korea, I decided to give him 24 hours. I went ahead and signed the letter and attached it to an email but didn’t send it. (I did go ahead and cancel my interview with the school in Budapest though – I didn’t feel it was right to take up her time when I wasn’t considering the position.) By that evening, I still hadn’t heard back but I went ahead and sent it anyway (and then emailed the principal at ISPP to cancel our interview).
I am still waiting for it to sink in that I am moving to Korea and that I already have a job lined up for next year. However at the same time I want to take advantage of the time I still have in Bolivia and not spend it planning the future. That will be my juggling act for the next 6 months or so.
This was interesting hearing how interviews are conducted online now. It sounds very nerve-wracking. I’m glad it all worked out for you in the end. Congratulations on your new post. I will enjoy hearing what Korea is like. Keep us posted.