Considering teaching abroad and actually doing it are two completely different things–as with anything! The wanderlust that inspires one to give up the comforts of home for a new life abroad might have you idealizing a life that just won’t be. Hundreds of participants have completed the TEFL program with Maximo Nivel and have begun their careers teaching English in countries like Guatemala, Peru, Costa Rica, and even as far away as China and Dubai. So, we spoke with a few of these teachers to learn the most common expectations that just didn’t make the cut to bring you the Top 5 Realities of Teaching English Abroad.
Yes, you really do have to teach
If you want to teach abroad in a city that has a bit of something for everyone, you will likely end up working in an ESL institute, private school or institution, which provide assessments to students to determine their level of learning. So, yes, you really have to teach.
You will likely be required to create and submit lesson plans, in addition to administering exams. Teaching a full-time schedule of up to 6 hours per day will require prep time to finalize lessons and grade assessments. Therefore, prepare to not only work classroom hours, but to also work office hours.
Exams typically include a writing and reading portion, listening, and speaking to ensure that each component is touched upon. Teachers are responsible for submitting the grades to administration, and sometimes into the school’s online database. Some teachers might have a caseload of over 100 students, so get ready to work!
Living on the Beach is Unlikely
Sure, we all love the image of chillaxin’ on the beach with a drink until it’s time to teach, and then sauntering into the classroom in flip flops–but that’s not the reality. English teachers are needed in the bigger cities where locals live, work, and study. In Costa Rica, most of teaching jobs are found in the capital, San Jose, where there aren’t any beaches. Luckily, the country’s small size makes it easy to take a weekend getaway to the Pacific or Caribbean coast where you can spend your days soaking up the sun, surfing waves, or exploring the nearby jungles. So, you won’t be living in the middle of paradise, but you won’t be far off, either.
Teaching Abroad is Not a Holiday
Related to the last point, English teachers might not live far from paradise, but they also don’t spend EVERY weekend jet-setting there. Teachers work when students attend school, and we have yet to come across a school that isn’t in session Monday-Friday. Therefore, routines you might be familiar to back home might become all too familiar in your new city, too.
For those who teach during the day, after work hours might include some socializing, fitness classes, and cooking dinner. Therefore, weekends are sometimes spent getting accustomed to the new city–and then living routinely once you’re settled; laundry, street fairs, movies, concerts, and more are all weekend activities that can fill your days. Remember, teaching is a job, not a vacation.
Don’t Forget Expenses
Free flights, accommodations, and paid holidays are all the rage with teach abroad opportunities. And yes, you might get reimbursed for a portion of your flight upon completion of a country, and sure, you might get a stipend for an apartment rental while you’re teaching–but the reality? Most schools don’t! You are responsible for your expenses. After all, they’re paying you, aren’t they?
Our suggestion? Save as much as you can before deciding to teach abroad. Lots of things don’t turn out as planned while you’re traveling and securing a teaching position is no different. The initial cost of moving anywhere will include housing deposits, and bedding (maybe furniture). In addition, you want to have pocket money for food, commuting, and supplies.
Native English Speakers Aren’t Guaranteed Positions
If you want to secure a position teaching English, you will need credentials! Read: A TEFL certificate, and in most cases, a Bachelor’s Degree. Without the proper credentials, you will find it hard to obtain employment in a real school setting anywhere. Relying on your native English language skills to help you obtain employment as an English teacher is setting yourself up for failure. Understanding teaching methodologies, effective lesson planning, and classroom conduct are so important for your success as an international English teacher.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language is a rewarding career that can bring about opportunities to see bits of the world you otherwise wouldn’t. You can develop skills that will contribute to your personal, academic, and professional growth. However, the job shouldn’t be taken lightly. This is why we put together this list, so you can be fully aware of the challenges and adventures that await across the oceans.