Teach The World!

Retro camera on world map with word Travel on wooden table background
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

The ability to easily live and work overseas can be one of the greatest benefits of teaching ESL. For me, it was actually the reason I fell into the field!
If the travel bug has you, or if you’re just looking for new teaching experiences, there is a plethora of options for you out there (depending somewhat on citizenship, level of education, experience, etc.). Below is a quick breakdown of two common destinations for ESL teachers:

East Asia

China, Korea, and Japan are by far the most popular destinations for Canadian ESL teachers, especially for those with little or no experience. For many jobs, the only requirement is a bachelor’s degree, although having some kind of TESL certification will expand the number of jobs available (and your pay!)
Many employers will pay for a return flight ticket, as well as offering some kind of bonus for completing your contract (usually 1 year). South Korea can be the best choice for saving money, as the cost of living is low, and schools generally pay for your rent as well!
There is also the choice between private or public schools. Although I have had friends who had positive experiences in private schools, it is important to do research on the schools before signing any contract!
In the public schools, there is a lot less risk of being cheated out of pay, or experiencing other unpleasantness. As well, public teachers can get longer paid holidays (up to 2 or 3 months!), and sometimes higher pay.
For Korea, the public school program is called EPIK. In Japan, it’s JET, and in Hong Kong, it’s NET.
If you’re planning on returning to Canada and working in a private ESL school, East Asian work experience can be a plus on your resumé as many ESL students are from these countries.

The Middle East

The average pay for ESL teachers in the Middle East is quite high – many jobs pay $60,000+ – but the jobs also require high qualifications. A B.Ed., M.A., or many years’ experience are common requirements.
In some cases, not only will your employer pay for your flight and housing, but also for your children’s schooling, making it a tempting destination for those with families.
Each country offers a different culture, way of life, and living conditions – so it’s definitely a good idea to look into these things during your job search.

Where to look:

  • Of course, the TESL Ontario Job Board is a great place for job searches!
  •  My personal favourite is TEFL.com, which allows you to search by type of job, and by country.
  •  For sheer volume of postings, there’s the timeless Dave’s ESL Cafe, which also has discussion forums where you can ask other ESL teachers about their experiences with different schools and recruiters.

Bon Voyage!

Have you ever worked abroad? What advice can you offer to new teachers venturing out?

Hi! I’m Andrew Shedden. Like most people, I fell into ESL by accident. I was preparing to apply for my Master’s in history and decided I wanted to teach in Japan beforehand as a vacation. I got a CELTA degree so I would know what this teaching thing is all about, but one thing led to another and although I never actually made it to Japan as a teacher (or applied for a Master’s program), I’ve been teaching ESL ever since! I've been teaching EAP for over 10 years now... I love the focus on academic writing and English, since I can vicariously go back to university through my students. (I do miss it!) My other professional love is computers. I’ve been obsessed with them since I was 3, and I’m always trying to learn more about how to incorporate IT into my program and classes.


3 thoughts on “Teach The World!”

  1. I agree that intercultural adaptability benefits ESL instructors teaching overseas, and I would add that in developing this ability while abroad, instructors can learn to relate better to our newcomer learners in Canada. For instance, when we adjust to life in a foreign country, we gain insight into some of the everyday challenges newcomers face when settling in Canada, such as opening a bank account, learning to navigate a new public transit system or finding a doctor. Something we would normally take for granted such as reading a product label at the grocery store can quickly become a frustrating task when performed in a foreign language. Having just returned from South Korea where I taught EFL for two years, I can empathize with newcomer learners who may be feeling overwhelmed. My overseas experience has given me a new appreciation for our learners, respect for their courage and hopefully, some strategies to help them succeed.

  2. I taught for almost three years in Turkey, and I agree completely with Angela’s sentiments above. In fact, I clearly remember the process of having to set up a bank account, get my work visas, doctor, etc.

    My learners know that I can empathize with them. When I landed in Istanbul, the only Turkish I knew was “hello” and “Ataturk”. I started at the basics – survival Turkish. Numbers for pricing. Social interactions. Food. Language for transportation and travelling. Time. I learned a few Turkish pop songs to get a feel of the rhythm of the language (and still remember them today!)

    I am by no means fluent, but I can still stumble by in Turkish. I picked up a few habits that I still do in the classroom, like clicking my tongue and slightly tossing back my head to mean “no”. Students from the Middle East all know the gesture, but not everyone does!

    Total immersion greatly sped up my L2 acquisition. I also took basic Turkish language classes, but they were few and far between, and involved a lot of gap fills and writing verb lists. I suspect that’s why I structure my ESL classes today as project-based learning, still with grammar, but as it applies to the learners’ projects.

    Oh, and one final thought – about Dave’s ESL Cafe. Yes, it is a mainstay for ESL job seekers, but the forums are heavily moderated. His income is generated from language schools and this can result in particularly negative posts about a particular chain being removed. There used to be a section called “Job Information Journal” which was a priceless source of info for expats, but it was removed.

  3. I started teaching ESL in Japan and had no idea of what I was getting into when I left. I now know that it was one of the best decisions I ever made! For many years I taught a teacher training course to students who were planning to teach abroad. Of the hundreds of people that I taught who went abroad, very few regretted it. Living and working abroad is an exceptionally rewarding experience!

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