Jobs anyone can do abroad! I see that enticing title everywhere and the first item on every list is teaching English. All you need is a TEFL course you can find online and you’re set. I have recently started looking for some private students again as I miss teaching. All that got me thinking that there are certain things to consider before you embark on your English teaching adventure. Note that these myths are based on my own experiences and things I’ve heard from other English teachers. If you think I’m wrong, have experience or heard something different or just totally disagree let me know in the comments.
Myth Number 1: Teaching Is Easy
Teachers go through extensive training and teaching practice meanwhile most TEFL Courses require you to do 6 hours of observed teaching. So while you might not be a “real” teacher you need some awesome classroom management skills which you may or may not have ( I do not have, so I now stick to one on one classes which make me so happy). In many countries (Spain at least) you also get the pleasure of teaching children and teenagers on their lunch break or after school–times when you can imagine how much they want to be in school. That’s not to say that anyone can’t become a good teacher, but for those that are planning a gap year or similar it simply means that teaching is actually quite hard.
Myth Number 2: It’s An Opportunity To Travel And Learn A Language
Secondly, being an English teacher (or any teacher) is exhausting and being an English teacher means you occupy a weird space in foreign countries. You live there but are not fully integrated, in most cases. You’re naturally friends with people who do the same work as you, that is, other English Teachers. That said, I know people that did learn Spanish but it wasn’t a thing that just happened, it took a lot of work on their part. And even though you get ample time off, the wages don’t necessarily mean you can jet off every weekend (in Europe anyway, I have heard different stories about Asian countries). Still you get to live in another country and that is a rewarding experience in itself and if that’s what you’re after, go for it.
Myth Number 3:You Can Teach Anywhere
Thirdly, I find that there is a lot of misinformation about where you can teach. When I did my TEFL course in Spain there were a few illegal American’s there (some have since become legal) who suggested that it was both fine and easy to live there illegally. Well here’s the thing. It is certainly possible and quite easy to live in Spain illegally in the practical sense…if you’re white and North American. That’s where the problem lies. With countries like Canada and America becoming harder and harder to emigrate to it seems pretty arrogant to me to recommend that we go abroad illegally for fun. But even if you can live there without getting deported it’s still not an easy life. Spain has a growing black market economy anyway which means even many European workers are being given bad contracts, paid under the table or denied benefits. Working without papers means if you don’t get paid (surprisingly common), get a sudden wage cut, don’t get end of year benefits and so on you can’t do anything about it and employers know this. There are thousands of English teachers in Spain, the majority of which have an EU passport so there’s no job security, no continuity from year to year for students and absolutely no reason for an employer to go through the hassle of sponsoring you. There is also some extremely, at least in my opinion, backward thinking about who makes a good teacher. Some schools want only “native speakers” others some want you to have a certain accent. All of this is extremely unfair as English is a global language with millions of speakers and, as such, many different accents. Never mind the fact that sometimes non-native speakers make better teachers because they have a better understanding of the grammar as they learned it the same way their students will.
So should you teach English abroad? I don’t regret my year teaching abroad as I learned a lot and made good friends. Honestly, I only have good memories of living abroad. Of course there were hard times too but overall it was a good experience. I don’t recommend teaching or living abroad illegally but there are plenty of countries that offer visas and loads of information on the internet to help you out. I however, don’t suggest that you teach English abroad just for fun. You have an impact on people’s lives and with various abuses happening in English schools we should consider where we are working and what culture (education culture, that is) we are contributing too. If you have no interest in language, in people or in learning something new, please find another way to travel. But if you are sincerely interested it’s worth a try.