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Teaching English Abroad: The Recession-Proof Employment Option

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The current economic crisis sweeping the globe is raising questions around our planet about the continued viability of many careers that were once considered stable. One profession that will always persist, regardless of the economic situation, is that of the teacher. Education is a prerequisite to almost any field of endeavor and teaching abroad is an increasingly viable option for educators. The primary characteristics a successful applicant will possess are the heart and dedication required by the profession, as well as the ability to meet a given country’s requirements for employment.

Opportunities Abroad

Teachers have a myriad of opportunities to work abroad. These include teaching English only, teaching K-12 in immersion programs, and teaching at the university level. The dominance of English as the language of business and commerce worldwide has increased the need for people to learn the language and the subsequent demand for English teachers. A shortage of teachers for primary, secondary, and special schools, particularly for math and science subjects, is also being experienced in several markets around the world. Scotland, for instance, needs approximately 25,000 teachers by 2010 due to expected retirements and staff turnover. In the U.S., there is a high demand for ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers due to the increasing migrant population, an aging workforce and the government’s No Child Left Behind program.

Teaching Certifications

Some foreign schools accept applications for English teachers even from new graduates or those who have bachelor’s degrees but lack special skills and/or teaching certificates. However, highly qualified applicants, such as those with a Master’s Degree in TEFL, usually are offered better-paying positions. Teaching K-12 requires that an applicant have the corresponding teacher’s certificate, while a Ph.D. or an advanced professional degree is needed when planning to teach at the university level.

There are several teacher-training courses currently available for those who want to obtain teaching certificates prior to applying abroad. The TESOL and the RSA/CELTA Certificates are two of the most widely recognized certifications. Some countries, including the U.S., have other certification requirements that vary per state or city aside from the TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA. One such certificate is the “Passport to Teaching” certificate program under the US government that is specifically designed for primary and high school teachers of science, English, math, and other general subjects. Certification courses are currently available from various training centers that only take one to two months to complete. These centers offer additional benefits and choices such as one-on-one lessons, group classes, formulation of personal teaching materials and exposure to young and adult learners (TEFL International, 2004). The applicant need only make sure that the training center is accredited or recognized internationally.

Choosing the Right Teaching Position

Finding the right teaching position abroad depends upon the applicant’s objectives and personal requirements. Generally speaking, public schools offer lower salaries compared to other institutions, thus, the applicant who is not overly concerned with financial returns may find rewarding employment in these educational institutions. Personal limitations or preferences, like having the benefit of bringing the entire family to the country of assignment, should be considered in choosing a position. Moreover, requirements for teachers, working and living conditions vary from country to country.  Given this information, it is imperative that the applicant choose where he or she wants to work and try to find as much information about teaching in these locations as possible. This task is made easier by searching through the Internet and accessing helpful sites such as the TotalESL.com, TESall.com, and ESLjobfeed.com. In addition, there are very helpful “Teaching Abroad” articles referenced in the conclusion which are more specific to various regions around the world with regards to visa requirements and working/living conditions.

Writing the Teacher’s Resume/CV

The teacher’s resume should communicate to school principals and other hiring authorities the qualifications and experiences of the applicant. Unlike other job resumes, which simply narrate previous work experiences and personal information, the teacher’s resume should show that the applicant is or has the potential to be a good teacher. It has to clearly indicate the applicant’s level of educational attainment, including the corresponding school, course major and minor, and date of matriculation. Applicants should also include certifications and endorsements received; previous teaching experiences, and other related experiences that may help establish the applicant’s capabilities, honors, citations, or awards that were received especially if these can be related to teaching. Finally, the applicant should list any other special skills such as languages spoken or knowledge in computers. Candidates also have the option of including a school transcript of records and letters of recommendation with their resume or may just bring these documents for the interview.

Preparing for the Interview

The interview is similar to making an oral presentation in front of an audience. A person scheduled for a teacher’s interview should prepare for the event by trying to answer some common interview questions before the actual meeting. It may be helpful to write down one’s answers to practice how to deliver these responses fluently and with confidence. Some of the most common questions asked by interviewers are general information about the applicants; why the applicant wants to be a teacher; how the applicant plans to manage the class, and examples of effective lessons prepared and delivered by the applicant. In addition, you may be asked about your teaching philosophy. A teaching portfolio may also be presented during the interview to showcase what the applicant has already accomplished.

Preparing for the First Day of Class

The first day of class is important because it sets the direction and general atmosphere that the class will take during the entire term. The teacher must be familiar with the course and school policies. This includes a verification of supplies, equipment, books, and other materials available for the students’ use. Complete reliance on experiences from previous schools is usually a mistake because there may be differences between the syllabus and rules in different schools. Copies of the course outline and other pertinent information should be prepared for distribution before class starts so that students can be properly guided throughout the course. It is also imperative for the teacher to have his/her own set of resource books for lessons and teaching English grammar. Examples of these are Jespersen’s "Essentials of English Grammar" and Harmer’s “How To Teach English (Book with DVD)

Conclusion

Teaching is not the highest-paying profession in the world but it gives one the opportunity to impart one’s knowledge to others and contribute to the shaping of our future generations. Teaching English, for instance, helps people from different backgrounds to communicate and understand others better. In the process, teachers get the chance to visit other countries and learn about different cultures which they can then impart to their students.  

For the Visa and Working/Living Conditions of various regions and countries around the world, please see the following articles which break down job opportunities for teaching abroad:

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