What’s it like teaching overseas? “The same but different”.

Published on 22nd February, 2021 by Leisha Jones. Published in For Candidates / TIC News

How different is international teaching? Are you apprehensive about making the move overseas? We’ve put together this blog to show you what our teachers have to say about international teaching. The current pandemic is not deterring many from starting or continuing their great adventure teaching overseas. Every year TIC Recruitment helps many teachers find great jobs in reputable international schools. It’s important for new teachers to feel they are supported, so we keep in regular contact with them during their time teaching overseas. This blog shows you some of the amazing stories we have received!

It concludes with our Company Director, Andrew Wigford’s, expert advice and account of teaching overseas, having worked in the industry for over 25 years.

Neil at Saigon South said “There is a real diverse culture of both staff and students, which creates a great mix of ideas and discussions that you don’t get back in the UK. The smaller class sizes give you more freedom with learning styles and allow you to give greater individual attention”

Gemma at Harrow International School in Bangkok “Happy weather! Every day I wake up the warm weather boosts my mood – that is the greatest difference!”

Mohammed at Pearling Season International School “The best part is the attitude of the students, there’s no need to enthuse them as they already really want to learn and achieve. You’re getting the best of the best!”

Maggie at Doha International School “I feel very safe and go to lots of places alone.  I have a great social life, much better than where I came from!”

Gareth at Nazarbayev Intellectual School in Kazakhstan “The students and staff just want to get better and better! The students are like sponges, they take all that you give them”

Denise at the international School of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam “There are so many opportunities for me to develop as a teacher, including gaining experience teaching the International Baccalaureate (IB). This is something I would not have been able to achieve had I stayed in my home country!”

Adam Masheter, British School of Mexico “Do it! I would certainly recommend teaching overseas, especially for those who are feeling stressed-out or overworked.”

That sounds great, but what do international school teachers do in their spare time?

International school jobs provide amazing opportunities to travel, experience new cultures and to try things that you’ve never had the chance to do before. Here, a few examples about the amazing things our teachers have experienced in their spare time:

“I started Bermuda's first female flat-track roller derby team! I played roller derby for two years in Yorkshire and was sad to give up the sport when I moved away. Starting the team here, I've met so many wonderful people and have even been on TV promoting the sport. We train at a beautiful, outdoor skate rink by the sea.” Mhairi Flood-McCaw, at Somersfield Academy in Bermuda.

“I got married! I’d met a beautiful Chinese girl, Celine, in a Glasgow bar. She was coming to the end of her three years studying in the city and was soon to return to China. We missed each other immediately. This pushed me to finally start looking for a job teaching internationally. I’ll always remember the Skype call with Celine when I told her I was coming to live in China! We travelled back to her home town Shenzhen to get married. It was a wonderful experience.”  Ian Robertson, The British School of Guangzhou in China.

“I’m living a life of luxury! My living arrangements are fantastic. I have been given an allowance from school and have moved to a gorgeous apartment on the Pearl. It really is luxury living with a beautiful private pool area and gym. My balcony overlooks the Marina and then out to the Arabian Gulf. I'm living the dream and I feel extremely lucky!”  Janet Berg, Doha British School in Qatar.

“We've been to 19 countries since we started teaching overseas and have still managed to save money on top of that. Travel is so much cheaper here. Since working in Vietnam we've been to Cambodia and lots of places in Asia. There's so much opportunity for travel here.” Ronald Saw at ABC International School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

What does TIC Director, Andrew Wigford say?

Over the last 15 years as Director of TIC recruitment I have travelled the world visiting teachers in international schools. Many I met very kindly agreed to a recorded interview with me about their experiences. You can see some of these here https://www.youtube.com/user/Teachersoverseas/videos

I always used to ask them whether the teaching was different overseas to where they came from. The answer I got was generally the same each time - 'the teaching is same but different'.

They meant that many aspects of teaching in a different country are the same in any country but there are significant differences. Issues relating to language are often quoted. As most of the children do not have English as a mother tongue (and English is the language of instruction) this can often slow down the learning process. It also meant that teachers have to adapt their lessons and even the way they speak to the children in class. They have needed to make learning more visual and interactive and avoid too many cultural obscurities.
Teachers use interactive whiteboards to help them and constantly refer to vocabulary lists. They are supported by EAL professionals and ensure that work is correctly differentiated. This may sound very similar to your current situation in your home country, but these things can be exaggerated in a school in a different country where children are learning in their second or even third language. 

Resources can be an issue in many international schools. Due to their location some do not have as much access to suitable resources in English. Shipments from the UK or the US or Australia (etc) can take a long time and may be prohibitively expensive. But most teachers make do with what they have and can get very inventive in making their own. Human resources such as local therapists, Educational Psychology services, though, are a different matter.

Other things quoted as 'different' were to do with the school as a community. The strength of this community and its expectations differ from school to school, but all international schools expect teachers to take part in every aspect of school life not just in classroom. This means that teachers are expected to lead Extra Curricular activities and be involved in school productions and fund-raising events. 

Teachers working overseas can sometimes find themselves living in a small expat bubble. Sometimes living very close to the children they teach and their families. This can take some getting used to especially if you are living in a Condo or in a closed off compound. 

Some teachers are not used to working in the same school as their partner or even having their own children in the same school. They also may have never taught a colleague’s child before. However, most people get used to it very quickly some even forget what it was like before!

This just touches the surface as there are so many other differences and similarities. Feel free to write to us with your own experiences. Write to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and we will publish some on our website - they will all help teachers who follow in your footsteps (*please note we may have to edit them before publication)

These are just some of the great things that TIC teachers have told us over the years about their dream teaching jobs overseas. TIC not only works with you to help find the best international teaching job for you (all support is free of charge), but we also keep in touch and make sure things are going well. You can rely on the TIC team to be there for you at any step through your international school experience.

If you would like to teach overseas, register with TIC Recruitment here for free. It’s quick and easy and gives you access to many international school jobs in reputable, accredited international schools, some that are not advertised anywhere else. Despite these uncertain times, TIC Recruitment are still recruiting and supporting many international teachers.

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Leisha Jones