Should I teach overseas? 10 crucial questions to ask yourself

Published on 24th November, 2016 by Andrew Wigford. Published in For Candidates / TIC News

Are you thinking about teaching overseas? If so, ask yourself these 10 questions to see if you’re ready to go

1. Am I ok about leaving my family and friends back home?

Times have changed with communication and technology so no need to for smoke signals or an inability to stay in touch when you’re living abroad! You can choose from many types of social media, Skype, FaceTime, What’s App, email….  All of which are easy, immediate, cheap or even free to use. Most international teachers say they stay in touch very well with family and friends thanks to Skype and FaceTime these days.  And don’t forget, you also have the old ways too: telephone and even the postal system! Some international schools include annual flights home within your package. And if you’re teaching somewhere exciting, you’ll become a popular holiday destination for your family and friends. You may even get to see everyone more than you do now!

2. Who can give me the help and expert advice that I need?

It’s so important to find a recruitment company that will support you through the process of applying for teaching jobs overseas. Research possible recruitment agencies in depth. Look for those that share helpful advice, work with you to find the right school for your preference and needs, communicate well through the process, and make you feel like an individual. Some agencies will charge you fees, but reputable ones do not – there are lots of good ones and you can find out more here.

3. Do I have the qualifications and experience necessary?

Two or three years of experience teaching the National Curriculum of England, an American style curriculum, or the International Baccalaureate (IB) are ideally what you need before most international schools will consider you for a teaching job. A few accredited British Schools Overseas are now supporting NQTs, and some schools will consider you with one year of experience. But you’ll have more options if you have some experience. For many international schools, attitude is just as important as experience. Enthusiasm, flexibility, resilience and patience are equally as important ‘qualifications’. Also, teachers who can lead extra-curricular activities and show true commitment to the school and to the children outside the classroom.

4. What are my motivations for leaving, and will the reality be able to meet that?

There may be a number of reasons why you have decided to teach overseas. Think hard about making that move. It’s a big jump across the water and not a decision to be made lightly. The reasons for teaching in an international school should be positive ones. Don’t just go overseas because you’re running away from a problem such as a broken relationship. Really think about why you are choosing to work in an international school. You’ll be a long way from home and family, and working in a very different environment to your local school. And if you’re expecting a lot of money, easy work, no pressures, and lots of time on the beach, then you’re wrong! But if you are choosing to work overseas to enhance your career, work with skilled teachers from other countries, develop international teaching skills and experiences, and see the world, then working in an international school will be a great opportunity for you.

5. Am I willing to work with teachers from different countries with different learning and teaching skills?

By choosing to work in an international school and living in another country, you will be teaching children and working with staff from cultures different to your own.  The best international teachers are willing and eager to adapt, and to embrace new circumstances and unexpected challenges. Almost all teachers who have worked internationally say that this helps their own professional development as they are acquiring best practice from teachers from all over the world.

6. Do I have the personal qualities that living abroad requires?

You need to view the world as one; where no culture, country or people are any more or less significant. This means you need to appreciate, accept and be sensitive to the expectations and approaches of people from other countries and cultures. If you have that embracing approach to international mindedness, then you’ll be a great international teacher.

7. Is this TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) or something different?

It’s something completely different. International schools are schools that teach all subjects in English, often following the National Curriculum of England, and they employ fully qualified teachers, many from the UK, Canada, US, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and South Africa.

8. Will I need to be able to speak the local language?

You don’t have to be fluent or even competent in another language when teaching overseas. All the international schools we work with are English-medium. This means that the majority of subjects, if not all of them, are taught in English and most school leaders are English-first-language speakers.

9. Will working abroad benefit my career?

Because many international school teachers move from one country to another every few years, positions within international schools can change often and opportunities for promotion can occur frequently.  Developing the skills of working with English-second-language children, with international curricula, and alongside a cohort of skilled teachers from a range of countries is highly valued by all international schools. These skills are also valued by national schools when you return home. Most national schools now recognise the many qualities that a former international school teacher can bring to their school.

10. Will teaching abroad give me the chance to travel and really experience different cultures or will I be working all the time?

There are usually plenty of travel possibilities when teaching in an international school. Most teachers who have worked internationally talk about travelling extensively during weekends and in the holidays; it’s part of the international school culture to take advantage of the location that you’re in. Most international schools have longer holidays than national schools which is great for travelling and for time to experience the environment.

Now, ask yourself again: Should I teach overseas?

If the answer is ‘YES’ or you have some more questions, check-out some of our blogs, teachers’ stories, or advice for teachers. And hurry, there’s still time to register for The TIC International Careers Day in London on Saturday 26 November.

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Andrew Wigford

Andrew is Managing Director of TIC. He has been involved in international education both as a teacher and Headteacher for over 25 years and has worked in Germany, Colombia and Austria. He set up TIC recruitment in 2005 to help teachers find great jobs in great international schools.