Teaching Traveling: Readers, if you want advice on teaching jobs abroad, you’ve come to the right interview! Greg, tell us about your background.
Greg: I was born in the Republic of Ireland and spent my childhood in both Ireland and Saudi Arabia where my father was (and still is) an English language teacher. My father has been an international teacher since he went to teach in Zambia back in the ‘70s! I went to high school and university in the USA, and got involved in international teacher recruitment one year after graduating from college. I have worked with teachers and employers in China, South Korea, Mexico, Egypt, UAE and many other countries around the world. After being exposed to the problems and frustrations that many employers and teachers experience with the teacher recruitment process, I started TeacherPort, with the goal of making it easier for teachers and new university graduates to find suitable teaching jobs abroad.
Having worked in international teacher placement for a number of years now, I thought it might be helpful to share some tips for teachers who are exploring the possibility of teaching abroad.
TT: Nice! Share some of your tips for teachers interested in teaching abroad.
G: Gladly! Here are my teaching abroad tips.
Tip Number 1: Understand your motivations for wanting to teach abroad. Whether you are making a long term career move, seeking new experiences after graduation, or just taking a short career break, it is important that you think through the reasons why you are leaving your home country to work overseas. There are great opportunities and life enhancing experiences to be had by teaching abroad, but like most new experiences, you will also encounter challenges. By always being able to understand why you made the decision to teach in a foreign country, you will find it much easier to treat challenges with a positive attitude.
Tip Number 2: Learn about the country/culture of where you are interested in teaching. Teachers and new university graduates now have a wide range of countries that offer suitable teaching jobs abroad. Countries in South America, Middle East and East Asia all offer teaching positions to teachers of various levels of experience and education background, so it’s important to narrow down your preference based on what countries might be most comfortable for you. For example, new university graduates might be better off focusing their search in South Korea, Thailand, or China (and recently, Singapore), whereas more experienced teachers may be interested in positions in the Middle East, North Africa and South America.
Tip Number 3: Research Potential Employers. We have seen a huge increase in the number of schools and language centres in developing countries who continue to have a high demand for teachers. While this is great news for teachers interested in working abroad, it can also make it difficult to figure out which employers are serious about their students’ education and the treatment of their staff, and which employers are not. While researching your potential employers, here are some questions that you might want the answers to in order to gauge the quality of the employer:
- How long have they been established (although this does not immediately rule out newly established schools, it just allows you to put their reputation into context)?
- How many current foreign teachers are working for them?
- Do they have a structured curriculum?
- How many students are in the school and what are class sizes?
*Many schools are now labelling themselves as ‘international schools’ when they are, in fact, ‘national schools’. This is not a problem in itself, but it is advisable for teachers to understand early on what the correct set up of the school actually is.
Tip Number 4: Review Your Contract And Ask The Right Questions. Reviewing and understanding your contract is the single most important aspect of the process in securing a teaching job abroad. Understanding your contract is what allows you to manage your expectations, and the fewer surprises you experience when you arrive at your new home abroad, the better. It is always important to stay open minded and flexible when accepting a teaching position abroad as not everything can be lined up perfectly, but it does help to have a clear understanding of the basic information included (or not included) in your contract. Some questions to get the answers to:
- What type of visa will I be employed under? Who is responsible for obtaining this visa and who is responsible for paying for this visa?
- What is the accommodation situation? If a housing allowance is provided, what is the cost of accommodation that current teachers have selected and is that accommodation shared or single?
- How many vacation days per year? Are these vacation days paid? Are these vacation days counted as calendar days or work days?
- If your contract includes return flights to your home country, will the employer pay for the flights upfront or will this be reimbursed to you.
*Employers offer very different employment contracts based on a large number of factors. It is important to understand your specific contract so you know what to expect from your employer when you start your new teaching position.
TT: Now, tell us more about your travels. What has been the most memorable trip you have taken?
G: I spent two weeks at the end of 2010 traveling from Beijing to Hong Kong, via Shanghai, with my brother who speaks Mandarin. We timed our trip to arrive in Hong Kong for New Years, which was fantastic, but I was really blown away by my time on mainland China. I have never felt so much electricity and buzz in a city like I did when I was in Beijing. The volume of people, the size of the city, the constant movement and the feeling of potential and optimism – I found it to be really inspiring. During my trip I was also able to meet with a number of international schools and language schools to understand their hiring needs and hear about the problems they have experienced in the past when hiring western teachers.
TT: How have your travels impacted you as a person?
G: I have moved around a lot in my life so travel has become an integral part of it, and of me. I really enjoy seeing new things, exploring new cultures and the challenge of adapting to new surroundings. I’m not sure how travel has impacted me as a person, since I’ve been doing it since I was so young, but I imagine it has contributed to me having a pretty open mind-set and being able to view things from different perspectives (not to say that wouldn’t be the case if I didn’t travel, but I’m sure it helped!).
For any teachers or new graduates who are exploring the possibility of teaching abroad, please feel free to come and check out TeacherPort where you can find and apply for a number of suitable teaching jobs abroad.
TT: Big thanks, Greg! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?