Top 10 Questions New ESL Teachers Have

If you have decided to teach ESL abroad, there are bound to be a lot of questions running through your mind.  It is important to ask as many questions as you think are necessary, but some questions are more important than others.

Finger face with a questionWhether you are already getting to know your students or just applying for your visa, here are answers to some of the top questions that new ESL teachers have:

Will I have to prepare my own materials?

This doesn’t apply to all schools, but most schools have a curriculum and materials that are provided for you.

While you should expect to occasionally plan a special holiday lesson, or tailor the activities and games in the lesson plans to better suit your class, the majority of the legwork will be done for you.

Still, it’s better not to assume – this is a question that you should definitely ask of your school or recruiter before you accept a job.

Will I make enough money to live on?

This depends on a lot of factors, including your lifestyle, how many bills you have to pay back home, and where you decide to teach ESL. In general, though, thousands of teachers travel abroad each year and make it work.  Most do more than make it work, saving up pretty good sums of money to pay off student loans or fund their next adventure.  As long as you put some thought into managing your finances, you can absolutely make enough money to live on teaching English abroad.

Most do more than make it work, saving up pretty good sums of money to pay off student loans or fund their next adventure.  As long as you put some thought into managing your finances, you can absolutely make enough money to live on teaching English abroad.

Will I be safe?

You’ll be as safe as you would living in any other major city, or rural area.  You might be surprised to find that the crime rates where you are teaching English as lower or comparable to those in your home country. For example, Taiwan is one the top destinations for safety in the world.

Take care of yourself and use the same common sense safety principles that you would traveling or living anywhere else, and there is no reason to think that traveling to a foreign country to teach English is any more dangerous than visiting the next city over.

Check out more information here for teaching abroad as a woman.

Will my students speak any English at all?

In most cases, your students will have some background in English, whether it is very rudimentary or whether they have been studying it or years.  You’ll find that, even within a single class, the students’ pronunciation, vocabulary, and ability to communicate will all vary pretty drastically.  It’s certainly possibly that you will have students, or entire classes, that are total beginners.

It’s certainly possible that you will have students, or an entire class, that are total beginners.

How will I teach my students if they don’t speak any English at all?

With a lot of creativity and patience.  Some schools will have a co-teacher who can translate for you, especially for classes with total beginners.  Even if you are totally on your own, you’ll be amazed at how much you can communicate with tone, body language, and gestures.

If you do find yourself in a classroom of students with no English ability, there are plenty of great resources on the web, including this guide and series of lesson plans.

Will I be able to meet people and make friends?

If you are teaching in a major city, then it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll find like-minded expats and locals to spend time with.  If you decide to teach in a remote or rural area, you may have to stretch a little further outside of your comfort zone to establish close friendships.  You may find yourself among a very small group of English-speaking expats – or the only one – in the immediate vicinity.

As long as you go into your time abroad with the mindset that connections, friendships, and meaningful moments come in all forms, regardless of age, language, or culture, you will find that the people you meet and the relationships you form stay with you for a lifetime.

Will teaching abroad really help me get a job later/ look good on my resume?

There’s really no one answer to this one. Teaching ESL in and of itself won’t necessarily help or hurt you as far as getting a job goes.

It depends.

It depends on the job you are applying for, and it depends on what you made of your time abroad.  If you are asked about it in an interview, and all you have to say is that your apartment was really gross and the food smelled funny, then, yeah, it’s probably not going to help you get the job.

On the other hand, if you talk about how you learned to appreciate other cultures, how your experience managing a classroom and handling difficult students translates into working with adults, how you embraced teaching and living abroad as an opportunity to grow as a person and develop coping skills and people skills that most of your peers don’t have, then any potential employer will see it as a huge mark in your favor.

Have you been a teacher? Are you currently a new teacher reading this? Then we want to hear from you. Have you had any other burning questions you would add to this list? Let us know in the comment section below. 

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