Thinking about teaching English overseas? Here’s what you need to know.
In the current economic climate, many are considering their options. Teaching English overseas turns out to be an attractive possibility for anyone who enjoys traveling and learning about foreign cultures. Also, teaching English abroad can be tremendously rewarding. The people you meet, the moments shared with your students, and experiences lived (whether good or bad) are things you'll carry with you for the rest of your life.
Besides, it's not that hard to teach English abroad.
English is probably the easiest language to teach to foreigners; most English grammar and structures have clear cut rules, and none of the complications other languages have like plural or singular, masculine or feminine nouns and adjectives. In fact, teaching English as a second language will most likely be easier than learning a second language of your own!
However, there are a number of things you must know before you embark on this adventure that is teaching English overseas.
First, let’s consider the issue of qualifications and requirements.
There are requirements that are specific to each country, and naturally, these must be consulted, but besides these, there are some basic requirements that apply to all of those who wish to teach English abroad:
- You must be a native English speaker.
- You must have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline, not necessarily education.
- You must have TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certification.
Previous teaching experience is usually not a requirement, but it does come in handy. Having a teaching degree will also greatly improve your chances, and the better the degree the better your chances of getting a higher paid position. Keep in mind that there are places where English teachers are in high demand, and they may overlook some requirements, but most work visas are not issued without TESOL certification. All in all, these are the qualifications you need to look into for each country or school when you apply for a teaching position.
There are a number of TESOL certification courses, from intensive 4 week programs, to longer part time courses, as well as online or distance courses. Considering the wide variety of courses available, in countless locations, it’s very easy to find one that will suit your needs.
Most schools will accept any type of certification, while there may be others that require specific certificates. In any case, whether it is a requirement or not, any TESOL course will help you prepare and develop teaching skills that will be useful once you arrive to your foreign location. Also, many TESOL certification programs help you find a job teaching English overseas.
So, the best course of action is to decide where you want to teach English abroad and then take a look at their requirements.
The risks of teaching English overseas
Working conditions and salaries vary greatly from country to country, so you may encounter anything from what may be considered great pay to sheer exploitation. Keep in mind that the labor laws you are accustomed to in your country may not exist in a foreign place, or may not be applicable to foreigners. Fortunately, there are sites you can go to for consultation, like TEFL School Reviews or TEFL Blacklist, which list employers who have ignored contract provisions or provided negative working conditions.
This is a reality. Most teachers go overseas, filled with enthusiasm and bursting with excitement at the thought of living in an exotic location and getting paid to teach English to a group of rosy-cheeked grade schoolers. But there are those who come home after going through something that was more akin to a living nightmare than a rewarding teaching experience.
Some are lured by the sheer exoticness of the location, and jump at the first job offer they get.
Here are some of the questions you should ask your employer to ensure you’ll be signing a good contract, and not selling your soul to the devil:
- How many hours am I expected to teach on a daily or weekly basis?
- How many hours am I expected to spend at the school?
- Are there mandatory extracurricular activities, like excursions or field trips?
- Are teachers monitored, supervised, or even observed?
- Which days will I have off?
- What kind of training or orientation do you provide?
- How many days of sick leave do I have and are they paid?
- May I have some references from current teachers? (Request contact information.)
The last point is the most important and the one that may sway your decision one way or another. It is absolutely essential that you speak to foreigners who are working at the school you are considering. If this simple request is refused, it may give you an indication that this employer is keeping things from you. Moreover, they may not have been completely honest in answering your questions, so you must contact teachers who will either confirm the information they've supplied or fill you in on the real story.
Teacher forums are also a wonderful source of school reviews or opinions, great places to read about any problems teachers may have had with a particular school.
The best you can do is take your time to compare offers.
What can you expect when you teach English abroad?
Expectations vary depending on the country or region; the further away you go, the more difficult it may be for you to adapt to the culture and setting. So, it stands to reason that teaching English in Europe may be a little easier than in Asia, namely for cultural reasons.
If you're lucky enough to secure a teaching position with a good contract, you can expect to have a great time teaching English overseas. You can expect to be surprised and amazed by the warmth of the students you teach. You can expect to see and experience things you never imagined before. You can expect to live an experience you’ll remember and cherish for the rest of your life.
Have you ever done any teaching abroad? What was it like?
Please share your experience with us in the comments!