Now that our world is so global, connecting with others in language is even more important than ever. Many countries are eager to learn to speak English as a second language which is why there are so many teaching opportunities around the world.
If you’ve grown tired of your current industry, want to do something different, or see more of the world, teaching abroad is an excellent choice. You’ll get paid quite well for your efforts and have liaisons helping you obtain any visas you need, set up your housing, and handle your airfare. However, there are some things you should be fully aware of before you sign up and commit to it.
1. It’s a real job
Teaching English abroad is a real job, and should be treated as such. While you will get plenty of free time to explore, it’s not a paid vacation all the time. You need to show up and do your best. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never taught before, but you should apply the same principles you would for any job like showing up on time and doing what is required of your job. It’s a commitment, one that you should show up and do with professionalism.
2. Teaching English in every country is different
In every country, you’ll notice a different teaching style. It’s very easy for you to adapt to it. And adapt you should because it’s much harder for students of any age to shift to your style. You can absolutely incorporate some of your culture into it and make it fun, but take some time to know how your students learn and line up with it for the best success.
3. Get to know the culture
This ties in with the last point. If you go to another country to teach English but you don’t take the time to get to know more about the culture, you’ll be missing out on what truly makes this opportunity so rewarding. Every country has something unique to experience. You don’t need to master the language, but do try to learn the basics. Find out what foods are considered the best, what people do for fun, and what things to avoid to keep from committing a faux pas.
4. Set goals for yourself
Some people move abroad to teach English to make more money. Others do it to broaden their horizons. And still others will do it for a combination of both things. Whatever your motivation, set your own personal goals. If you’re trying to earn enough money to come back home and start your life over, perhaps buying a new home, you’ll want to teach somewhere that allows you to earn enough salary. If you’re trying to branch out and do something different, think of what you want to accomplish and write down all your mini goals for the time you’ll spend teaching abroad. Examples could be mastering a new language, learning a new skill like cooking the cuisine from that country, and so on.
5. Know how to be spontaneous
Lesson plans are meant as a guide to help you cover the materials and topics you’ll need to teach during a year. You should use them to prepare for class, but be flexible when you need to be. Sometimes, you have a great lesson set up on your laptop but the network is down in your school which will force you to rely on a backup plan. Always be prepared for that!
6. Gain respect first
One thing you should know is that in some countries, the kids can be very rude to new teachers. In afterschool classes where parents are pushing their kids to learn more English after a full day of school, these kids are tired and often have many other activities (like practicing piano or violin for example) to balance. It’s a lot to live up to. Still, that doesn’t mean you need to allow disrespect. From the start, be fun yet tough. Smile, tell jokes, and if someone exhibits bad behavior, have a plan in place to punish it.
7. Build up your expat network
And finally, one of the most important things you should do when teaching English abroad is to forge friendships with your fellow expats. No matter how nice the school is to you, no matter how great your students are, no matter all the blessings you may find, there will be days that you will simply miss home and all the people you love there. It’s not always easy to adjust to another culture, especially when it’s so different from your own. When you have other expats in your network, they instantly get it. They’ve had bad days too, and when you stick together, you can lift each other up when you need to.
Teaching English abroad is a wonderful opportunity. Not every day will be a great one, but most days, you’ll find a new way of looking at the world. After a year of teaching abroad, you may even want to keep doing it. Or you may want to go home. But whichever you decide, you’ll be changed in the best of ways and have a brighter future waiting for you.