There are a number of blogs and reviews about teaching abroad on the internet but none really give the information that newbies need to know before heading out to teach ESL especially new university graduates who just want to travel and have no experience of teaching or traveling abroad. Many people whine and whinge about the culture and ways of the people which they are not used to, so showing that they are not able to adapt to others ways of life.
This article is mainly to get people to think if they are ready to make a change and learn in other ways and leave behind any preconceptions of what they think life will be like living abroad. To be open to understand how others think and assist them showing alternatives and sharing the workload so they do not have to worry. If it is not wanted then so be it and carry on teaching the way the school expects you to do and enjoy the experience of being in a different country.
When deciding to go abroad to teach first thing to do is find out everything about that country’s culture, history and language. Then ask yourself, will I be able to live in this kind of society? Asian culture is based on money, family and saving face. It needs to be understood that foreigners are just seen as guests in the country and treated as such, meaning their expectation is that you teach the children as asked and nothing else. That is unless you are asked by the school/ superior for input or assistance. When applying for teaching positions find out everything about the school, use reviews, find out if there are any current teachers at the school to get first hand information. At the interview stage have a list of questions ready that need to be answered.
The other thing that is not mentioned are the contracts that the schools send out when they offer a teaching position. Before even signing the contract make sure that it is understandable, if there are any discrepancies then contact the school and find out what they are asking of you. Get someone else you trust to read the contract also. If you think that there is no consistency between your interview, normally done via Skype, and the contract you have been sent then question it, and if you still feel that something is not right do not sign it. Do not take things at face value, this is where teachers fall into a trap and end up with a bad experience. When a teacher ends up in a terrible school due to the director deciding that the he/she does not want to adhere to what was written in the contract. Make sure that a signed copy with both signatures have been kept so it can be used to file concerns straight to the local Labour Board/ Employment Board if necessary.
As a teacher who has taught in different countries and learnt how each culture works and what the expectations of each of the schools I have picked up what is necessary to continue teaching. I never complained or had a go at any member of staff or superiors about the way they ran their schools or taught, that I did in the privacy of my own space and with people who are not in the same line of work as me. I assisted the schools by creating and giving resources, working and liaising with the Korean teachers who in turn communicate with the director and the student’s parents. I was lucky to have worked in good educational establishments and with superiors who were willing to work with me.
The information that is given in this article is mainly to help foreigners understand and give advice and not give a perception that all schools are good or bad. I am passing on what I have learnt and understood. It is up those whom wish to follow the path of teaching abroad to take advice or not.
I wish all whom take up the challenge of becoming an ESL teacher the best of luck and have a wonderful experience.