Whilst the popular image of the international school teacher as the globe-trotting explorer is still prevalent in the popular imagination, recent research has started to explore the precarious nature of teaching in international schools. Examples of international school teacher precarity include short-term contracts, which are typically 2-3 years in duration, unfair dismissal, and potential marginalisation of one’s professional identity. This research resonates with a more widespread discourse of the precaritisation of life, which presents the short-term in terms of failure or a temporal state of risk. However, findings from this author’s doctoral work and subsequent field work, have found that being in a state of precarity can in fact be empowering. This paper explores this finding further by interrogating the notion of international school teacher precarity by utilising the concepts of 'positive psychology' and 'resilience capital' in order to bring into focus the affordances of international school teachers who are employed on short-term contracts. In order to capture the lived experiences of international school teachers in Chinese Internationalised Schools in Shanghai, China, in-depth phenomenological interviewing is employed. Whilst findings highlight the negative aspects of short-term employment, such as a sense of anxiety, loss of self-efficacy and uncertainty about future employment, the findings also identify many positive outcomes. These include opportunities for developing resilience and reinventing oneself.
Adam Poole, Independent Scholar, China