Should I…can I teach abroad? 10 questions to ask yourself
Are you thinking about teaching overseas but wonder whether it’s the right choice for you? Ask yourself these 10 questions to help you make a decision:
Why do I want to teach overseas? Can the reality live up to my expectations?
Moving to teach overseas is a big decision. Ask yourself why you want to do it. Are the reasons positive? If you’re choosing to work overseas to develop your career, work alongside experienced teachers from other countries, gain skills, or see the world, then this will be a fantastic opportunity for you. If you’re escaping a broken relationship, expecting easy work, no pressures and lots of time on the beach, it might be a good idea to think harder before making the move.
Sean Clancy is a teacher from England currently teaching in Mexico: “I came to Mexico City because I was looking for a challenge,” he says. “I wanted to live and experience somewhere totally different from the UK. I didn't want to step out of England into another culture that was exactly the same. Living and working in Mexico City has been an amazing experience! In England, I was stuck in a box, stuck in a routine. Here I feel like I'm on a learning curve.”
Do I have the necessary qualifications and experience?
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 (BSOs) are now supporting NQTs, and some schools will consider you with one year of experience. But you’ll have more options if you have more experience.
Attitude is also vital. Enthusiasm, flexibility, resilience and patience are seen as just as important teaching qualifications. Teachers who can lead extra-curricular activities and show true commitment to the school and to the children outside the classroom are highly valued.
How do I feel about leaving family and friends behind?
Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp and email all make communicating with loved ones easy, cheap or even free. But there will still be times when you miss your friends and family so consider how you feel about leaving them behind.
Many international schools recognise the importance of being able to fly back and see family, and so include annual flights home with a salary and benefits package. If you’re teaching somewhere exciting, you may become a popular holiday destination and end up seeing family and friends more than you do now!
Who can help me find a position teaching overseas?
Finding a respected recruitment company that will support you through the entire process of applying for teaching jobs overseas is important.
Research possible 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.
Ron Saw and Ursula Inta are from New Zealand and currently teach at an international school in Vietnam: “The TIC staff personally support you through the process of applying for jobs, and go the extra mile to help you secure your dream job,” they said. “So many agencies charge fees to be a part of it, and give you half the quality of care. Even now, people from TIC will email us and ask how everything is going.”
Am I open-minded about living overseas?
To be a good international teacher, 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.
Am I prepared to work with teachers from different countries, backgrounds, and with different learning and teaching skills?
If you teach at an international school, you will be working alongside people from across the world, with cultures and learning approaches different to your own. 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.
The best international teachers are willing and eager to embrace new circumstances and unexpected challenges.
Brian Murphy is a teacher from Northern Ireland. He has taught in Chile and is now teaching in Hong Kong: “In Chile and Hong Kong I've had the opportunity to mix with a wide range of teachers who have taught at various levels in different schools all over the world. I've come into contact with teaching methods and ideas that I wouldn't have encountered, had I remained in the UK.”
Is teaching at an international school TEFL or something different?
Teaching overseas is completely different from TEFL. International schools are schools that teach all subjects in English, and follow a curriculum that is not the country’s national curriculum but instead, a recognised international curriculum; often the National Curriculum of England, or an American curriculum, or the International Baccalaureate.
International schools employ qualified teachers. The vast majority of international teachers are fully qualified and experienced teachers from the UK, Canada, US, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and South Africa.
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. Most international schools around the world are English-medium and all the schools that TIC works with teach in English.
Most international school teachers speak English as their first language or are totally fluent in English as this is the language they teach all subjects in.
Will working abroad benefit my career?
Teaching at an international school is a great way to develop your career. There are many opportunities for promotion as international school teachers often move from one country to another every few years, so jobs become vacant more frequently than in a state school back home.
Teaching in an international environment also gives you the opportunity to learn new curricula, develop the experience of working with students for who English is their second or third language, and learn new skills from your colleagues. Today, international school experience is looked upon favourably by national schools when you return home.
Will teaching abroad give me the chance to travel and really experience different cultures or will I be working all the time?
Most teachers who work internationally travel extensively during weekends and holidays; it’s part of the international school culture to take advantage of the location that you’re in. Most international schools also have longer holidays than state schools.
Richard Downs is from the UK. He is now teaching in Thailand: “I have a family of four and I have been on more holidays and mini-breaks in the last ten months than I had in ten years in the UK. We have world-class holiday resorts just 'down the road', and money to be able to enjoy them.”
Now, ask yourself again: Should I teach overseas?
If you have some more questions, check out some of our blogs, teachers’ stories, or advice for teachers. Or give us a call. We are a very friendly and helpful team who all know a huge amount about international schools and we can answer all your questions. You can reach us at +44 (0)2920 212083.
You might also be interested in these informative articles:
Teaching couple plus son: a great international school experience for us all
6 Tips to help you find a good international school
You’ve made your move. Now what?