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Teaching English Abroad: What to Expect

April 3, 2019 | TeacherReady

Kelly Toole, TeacherReady Alumna
Kelly Toole, Overseas Teacher

This article will discuss what to do before accepting a job and we list characteristics of successful teachers overseas. Also, we contacted several teachers who are currently teaching abroad to share their insights, experiences and suggestions with you.

What Should You Do Before You Accept A Job?

1. Read your teaching contract to understand the school/district policies. Some important things to consider:

  • Leave of absence – sick leave, emergency leave, part time off, personal
  • Termination of teaching contract – financial obligations, other penalties
  • Staffing policy –  hiring process, dismissal procedures
  • Financial assistance – travel, accommodations, utilities
  • Standards of behavior – expectations of teachers on and off campus
  • Compensation and Benefits – medical, dental, vision, disability

2. Read your school teacher handbook and the school website. Some important policies and procedures to review:

  • Student and teacher dress codes
  • Behavior standards and discipline plans
  • Safety measures and classroom visitations
  • Schedules for duties, committees, special events and parent conferences
  • Teacher performance evaluation and professional development
  • Student grading and reporting standards
  • Curriculum standards, goals and objectives

What Does It Take To Successfully Teach Abroad?

  • Be patient with your students and yourself. You’re adjusting to a new country. To combat homesickness, stay busy, make friends and give yourself adjustment time.
  • Be adaptable to a new way of doing things and go with the flow.
  • Be sensitive to the needs of your students. Some of them may walk a long way to get to school and back. Knowing how they live helps you meet their individual needs.
  • Be a multi-tasker. Not only do you need to learn how to teach; you must also become familiar with the regional dos and don’ts which may vary greatly from culture to culture.
  • Be proactive in networking with peer teachers as you strive to make new friends.
  • Be resourceful. Some resources such as art supplies, flashcards, books and magazines may not be available to you. Decide what items you may have to buy with your own money.
  • Be flexible. Your school may have unconventional hours, class schedule changes, large classes and unannounced events and activities.
  • Be positive and realize that children are much the same regardless of where they’re from. Most want to make good grades, make parents happy, go to college and get a good job.
  • Be empathetic with parents who want the best for their children. They may be making a considerable financial investment to make sure their children learn English.
  • And last, but not least, be loving and establish caring relationships with your students. You are a role model and ambassador to them.

What Else Can You Do To Enjoy Teaching Abroad?

  • Seek advice from other teachers who have taught English abroad.
  • Use social media to find information about teaching abroad.
  • Try to learn the local language. Consider taking a course if one is offered.
  • Establish ties with the locals and get involved with the community.
  • Participate in extra-curricular school activities.
  • Find a mentor teacher and shadow other teachers at your school.
  • Speak slowly and use shorter sentences when teaching English.
  • Use a variety of methods and resources in your teaching and include pictures and power points.
  • Become friends with other English speaking teachers for social and emotional support.

What Advice Do Some Teachers Abroad Have to Share?

Jose Montalvo: English teacher for 25 years in Tokyo, Dubai, Czeck Republic, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Mexico

“ESL (English as a Second Language) is a small world. Be friendly with your colleagues as they have connections. If you know what country you want to live in, find a city and narrow down the schools. Post your resume on different websites. A short video of your instructing helps. Be prepared to deal with the 5 stages of culture shock. Have a support system with good local and teacher friends.”

“Traveling helps one grow emotionally and intellectually. With each student I teach, each country I travel to, or each country I live in, I am always growing both as a person and professionally. This is why I love living and working overseas.”

Kelly Toole: English teacher in an elementary school in Taiwan for the past several years

Every investment in learning the language is worthwhile. Knowing the language helps you in the classroom, with coworkers, in the supermarket – everywhere. The more language you know, the more confident independence you can really have. However don’t allow the fear of not having studied a language well beforehand keep you from making the decision to move overseas to teach. Go overseas for a full school year or more and resolve to make the most of your extended time there to study and use the language that you are immersed in.”

“Once people see that you have an interest in getting to know them, they are usually encouraged to want to share more with you – they may even express interest in getting to know about your culture too. No matter the circle of influence you have, you are an expert to them of your own culture and the English language.”

Kyle: English teacher currently in Korea

“The most important asset to acculturation is an open mind. Leave your preconceptions (along with any liquids over 100ml) with the TSA. Immerse yourself in the local culture (s). Eat where (and what) the locals eat. If you ever find yourself thinking that pickled cabbage is not a breakfast food, you need to eat more of it; when you visit home, you will miss it . . . unless you have brought some back with you.”

“Taking your first teaching position abroad does not have to be a crapshoot. Reviews can be useful, but it is often best to ask for the contact information of a current employee. With a little due diligence, you can avoid finding yourself in an inhospitable situation.”

High Demand and Vast Opportunity

English teachers who travel abroad are in high demand and have vast opportunities for employment. If you decide to embark on this journey, your international teaching career will become a valuable part of your life and your history. You will experience other cultures, explore exciting places and escape from the normalcy of everyday life. Your teaching abroad adventure will be as much of a learning experience for you as it is for your student. And, you will forever be changed for the better!