Teaching Nomad's Brett Isis on Recruitment Beyond Covid and Regulations

By Vanessa Jencks, January 11, 2022

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With so many changing regulations in the education industry, many teachers are wondering if it’s time to leave China altogether. Brett Isis, founder and president of Teaching Nomad, gladly sat down with That’s to discuss what his team has observed in the industry, both globally and specific to China.

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Image courtesy of Brett Isis

Teaching Nomad is a teacher placement agency that works in several countries, including the substitute placement industry in the US. For their international sector, they have a steady supply of jobs originating from 12 different countries. Their team is based in both Denver and Shanghai.

Isis explained that at the heart of Teaching Nomad is the mission to support teachers internationally and in the US by providing “great employment opportunities and professional development.” Their international unit has a goal to “bridge cross-cultural awareness and support life-changing overseas experiences” while their US substitute counterpart “helps to ensure that schools have the coverage they need to support learning outcomes, while providing teachers with valuable classroom experience.”

“All of this comes together to battle the global teacher shortage by retaining experienced teachers and giving non-education majors the opportunity to try out teaching. Then linking them with the training and certification they need to turn it into a rewarding career.”

In terms of China’s changing landscape with teachers leaning toward staying in China, Isis responded, “smart move! Right now there is massive demand for foreign teachers but an extremely limited supply. We’ve seen nearly every school increase salaries and benefits to attract and retain the teachers they have.” Of recent regulations shutting down or limiting training schools, Isis noticed a trend of tutoring shifting into core curriculum schools, potentially causing an increase in workload.

Isis was quick to point out that this increase in salary and workload “won’t last forever.” As China opens back up, “don’t be surprised if your school wants to reduce your salary to pre-pandemic levels or skip an annual salary increase, ” Isis explained. Overall Isis mentioned teachers should consider themselves lucky if they’re already teaching in China or using this unique season to propel their career. “Thousands of teachers wish they were already in China.”

Though the regulations have had an immediate impact within China’s borders, Isis mentioned that it’s too early to know with certainty how this will affect teaching recruitment in China long term. “At a recent meeting of school leaders in Shanghai, we heard varying opinions including more tutoring shifting to the K-12 regular school day. Some of the changes could be rolled back through government sanctioned partnerships between training schools and K-12 schools. At this point, there’s so much focus on test results that it seems impossible that afterschool training won’t continue to thrive in some form.”

Regulations aside, COVID-19 has had a much larger impact on Teaching Nomad, leading to their development in the US market, and on teacher recruitment in general. Restrictions on travel lasted for a longer time than Isis initially expected. “Schools in K-12 have had some success bringing new foreign teachers into the country, using PU letters. However, I would estimate they have only been able to get visas and PU letters for about 15 to 25% of the teachers that they would have wanted to hire pre-pandemic.” One change seems to be a mix between new regulations and the pandemic as “afterschool training centers have not been allowed to obtain PU letters, essentially eliminating all opportunities for beginner TEFL teachers.”

Teachers desiring to leave China still have options available. “Southeast Asia often boasts a better work-life balance but with a decreased savings potential. The Middle East is still a popular choice, especially the UAE. Culture shock is often easier there since so many people speak English, but the students can be tougher and don’t have the same intense focus on doing well in school like we see in China.” For teachers considering a move back to their passport country, there are plenty of teaching jobs available. In the US, Isis acknowledged public districts have higher pay, but he suggested private schools often have better work-life balance and smaller classes making a slight pay cut worth it for some. Where to go next all comes down to motivation for the move from each individual teacher. If teachers need input, Teaching Nomad has both resources to consider and staff that can discuss these options. 

For your next move in the education field, check out www.teachingnomad.com where they have jobs and continued education information available.

This article originally appeared in That's Mags January issue, scan the QR code for your free copy.

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[Cover image via Pexels]

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