May 24

Ep. 22 – A pathway from instrumental tutor to international school music teacher


I'm so happy to have had the opportunity to interview good friend and inspiring educator Yann Zhe Yau.

Yann and I worked together for a number of years in Malaysia. His story is inspiring. His attitude is exemplary.

Yann is a joyful, positive and thoughtful music educator that represents a new wave of international school music teachers who have transitioned from their role as instrumental tutor. Yann worked with me as a trumpet tutor and then did an online PGCEi through Warwick University, before securing a full time classroom music teaching role in an international school. As a Malaysian working in a Malaysian International school, it is fascinating to see how the historical and political influences on international schools come through in hiring practices and biases for host country national staff.

In this episode, Yann and I discuss:

  • Some of the interesting cultural tensions in Malaysian society, particularly around national identity and ethnicity. 
  • Yann's journey to international school music teaching.
  • Some of the potential biases faced by host country national staff working in international schools.
  • The favourite moments and challenges that Yann has experienced as a new international school music teacher.
  • A variety of wonderful pieces of advice for those interested in transitioning from instrumental tutor to full time music teacher, including some of Yann's ideas on time management, managing expectations and self-belief.
  • How to be an 'asset' to an international school music department!

Yann and I touch on some challenging topics and I'm so thankful to Yann for taking us on this journey. This episode has to be one of my favourites so far as it represents an exciting shift in 'international' schooling. The question: what does it mean to be 'international', once again, comes to the fore. Keep an eye out for an upcoming episode with Dr. Denry Machin - where we are going to try and explore the question: "what is an international school?" - going to be a good one!

In the meantime, get in touch with Yann with any questions and please see the contact information and links below.


Get in touch with Yann:


Links to other content referenced in this episode:

Warwick PGCEi (Postgraduate Certificate in Education International):

Organisations/individuals supporting reform to international school hiring practices:

  • International School Anti-Discrimination Taskforce: - an organisation with a vision for international schools to be truly diverse, inclusive, safe, equitable and welcoming for all students, staff and families by promoting practices that eliminate racism, implicit bias and discrimination of all kinds.

  • A platform for job seekers that is focused on inclusive and equitable processes for international school positions.

  • Dr. Liam Hammer: researcher looking specifically at international school hiring practices.

  • Kevin Sting Alburo: a head teacher working in Vietnam that is exploring international school hiring practices.

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instrumental, Malaysia