Getting Ready To Teach English Abroad? Take My Advice

Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. The host for this month is ‘Maggie Attoe’, here you can find other similar articles. I’ll be posting a new ESL related article to this blog on the 5th of every month. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please get in touch with me at dean@reachtoteachrecruiting.com, and I’ll let you know how you can start participating!

I’m sure that we all have things that we would have done different when preparing to go away, because lets face it, we weren’t blessed with the gift of foresight and problems will always occur. Which is why we are here to share with you the things that we would have done differently to better prepare you the reader. Here are my top 3.

Dean Barnes Art and Craft

Preparation

Let me transport you back to a conversation I had with my 3 friends I taught in Bali with:

‘Guys, shall we go teach in Bali?’
‘Oh my god that’s a great idea’
‘Shall we start looking for a job now?’
‘Nah, let’s just show up and look there, at least we can enjoy the beach for a while’

So young, so naïve, so stupid!
OK so the conversation wasn’t quite like that, but that’s pretty much how it went. Four young university educated brains got together and decided to just head to a tiny Island and expect to land four teaching jobs at the same school within the 3 month landing visa time frame that we gave ourselves.

I sometimes astound myself.

Landing in a country and trying to find a teaching position is one of the worst ways to find a teaching job purely for the risk factor. You could land in a city that is swamped with teachers who all have better qualifications than you do putting you at the bottom of the picking for teachers. Or you could be heading into a country that prefers to hire teachers through certain avenues such as recruiters or people already working in the country. Or you could land in a country outside of its main hiring seasons. The odds are against you.

Now that I work in the ESL recruitment field I can see that what happened to us in Bali is totally unheard of. By absolute chance, god herself was smiling down upon us one day as four positions opened up at the same school, I think at the time we totally took for granted how lucky we were, and we were very lucky.

My advice would be to absolutely have a position ready for you before you go, check on teacher jobs boards, use a recruiter, and get yourself organized. You will find that things are made easier for you this way as many schools will help with things like flights, accommodation, orientations or airport pickups to name a few.

Experience

This next point isn’t such a huge deal, but is one that will definitely help your transition into teaching English abroad go a lot smoother. Bali was my first teaching position; I was fresh out of my TEFL course, super psyched and super ready, waving me ESL pom poms all the way to the airplane.

It was my first day teaching in a new school, I entered my first ESL class and the pom poms soon drooped to the floor as I took in what was actually happening. Holy hell I’m a teacher, I’m responsible somewhat for shaping these minds. There is a huge amount of expectation upon my shoulders. I can’t breath. Help!

After peeling myself up from the floor after suffering a mild panic attack I got on with the class, it didn’t go great, I went through all of my material at lightning speed and still had 30 minutes left to fill, which seemed like 3 hours.

Oh how I would have benefited from some classroom experience prior to going away. Anything would have done, contacting my old primary school or high school, asking to sit in on a TEFL class, or even speaking to my university professor for some tips. Some advice for those doing an online TEFL, do the 20 hour in class component, it’s a weekend of teaching in a class. You will benefit from it dividends and this is extremely desirable to employers.
(Parts of this point may have been elaborated for entertainment purposes)

Money money money

However crass a subject, it is still one that is highly important for somebody planning to live in another country for a year or more. I left to teach English in Taiwan with what I thought would be enough to survive on for the first 2 months, but boy was I wrong. You see the problem was that I had only budgeted for things such as food, travel and my hostel. If I had dug a little deeper into what I would need to pay for in my first month I would have discovered that I was a fool to think I had enough. The extra things such as paying for my health exam and paperwork costs for my visa as well as finding out your first payment on an apartment is usually 3 months’ rent really was an eye opener.

I would advise anybody going away to really research what costs you will incur, every country is different so don’t rely on what you hear, do the research yourself. Once you have the amount you think you will need, add another $1000USD to it, you never know what could happen, fate often throws things in our paths unexpectedly and should you need to go home in a hurry you will thank me for telling you to add that extra $1000USD (all thank you gifts and cards are welcome)

There are likely other things that I would have done differently prior to my big adventure away, however I feel these are the big ones that will be of the most use. And seriously, I take gifts in all shapes and sizes for that $1000USD point. 

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