Dreaming of teaching English overseas?
Perhaps you’ve been wondering what it’s like to be a TEFL teacher overseas? Have you been dreaming of having your days filled with fun, travel and giving back to your community as teacher and being paid for it? Well I know how it feels!! I am an avid traveler and a passionate teacher so I can relate. I will share my story about teaching in Bali for English First in 2014. It was still one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done, even up there with having a child. Why is that? Let’s see why together.
Choose a destination you love.
Making the decision to hop on a plane and leave a full-time corporate career was so easy for me. I love travelling, it’s so exhilarating wherever I go. But even better are working holidays!! I’ve lived and worked in Italy, England, Uruguay, Switzerland and Indonesia. There’s something special about being in the one palace and getting to know it, know the locals, the language and the culture. So, coming to teach in Bali was really like paradise!! When I chose to live in Switzerland for example, I knew it was going to be there during winter and I would be able to ski and have my first White Christmas. When I chose Italy, I knew it was that I wanted to see historic sites and beautiful beaches. So, my advice is to choose a destination that you’ve been to or really want to explore, as you will be living there for a year as teacher, potentially.
Is there a contract required when teaching overseas?
This will depend on how you teach, whether you choose to be a face-to-face classroom teacher or an online teacher. As an online teacher you are not restricted by where you teach, when you teach and how often. Most companies have a very minimal number of hours per week, for example 5 hours minimum.
As a classroom teacher most likely you will be signed into a contract for a year. The reason for this that visa requirements are normally for a year or more and secondly some companies pay for your flights over so for them to get a good return on investment they ask you to stay a year.
Are there any perks for staying a year or more?
When I was teaching for English First, they offered me a one month’s retention bonus for staying a complete year. I also received full reimbursement of my flights paid once I stay a full year. On top of this, the main perk for me was that I got to spend a whole year doing something I love, teaching students English.
How much free time do you get?
If you’re working online, you really can work from anywhere and choose the number of hours you would like. This gives you plenty of time to site see, lie on a beach or snow board. You will need to give 24-hour notice to cancel a pre-booked lesson unless it’s an emergency.
When I was teaching in Bali, we would start at 1 pm and finish at 8 or 9 pm. Yes, I had every morning free to be on island time!! Then I would also have 2 days a week off, mostly weekends. Also, I never had a full schedule, these hours included lesson preparation time, break time and usually one lesson off per session.
So, when you’re applying to different schools you can ask the question about your hours so you know exactly what you will be doing. You can ask if planning hours are included or if you will need to plan in your own time. Also, how many holidays will you receive and are public holidays included? I personally got public holidays paid and received 4 weeks holidays, but they preferred me to travel no more than 2 weeks at a time total.
Who and what will I teach?
This will depend on the English School that you are applying for. Personally, when I was working for English First, I was lucky as I was able to teach all age groups and levels. So literally, one day I would be teaching Kindergarten beginner English as my first lesson, then beginner teenagers next, then intermediate Adults the next session. Sometimes I would go off site to local business and teach Business English to companies like Bali Zoo, Hospital staff and Hospitality staff. Literally my schedule changed each day but was fixed with my own students in ten-week blocks.
How long are the English courses?
Students would sign-up for a ten-week course attending two times per week. There were two major assessments, mid and final. I would need to submit a daily lesson plan for each class I taught, but I it was simple, not lengthy.
What materials and books are provided?
Every English school you work for will vary with how much content they give you and what resources are there. I know whenever I teach Online, I find it easy as there are normally some pre-populated slides and then you just need to make them interactive and fun for your students.
When I taught for English First Bali, we had amazing curriculums already written. We had slides to follow in the classrooms on big screens. It wasn’t like teaching in some other locals Balinese schools that has old school blackboards. There were textbooks provided and check boxes to mark. The classes focused mostly on conversation, so there was minimal writing. The textbooks were grammar based. So, my job, like yours, or any teacher was to make the lessons engaging through use of body language and visual aids like props. The classroom was beautiful, with air-condition, business style seating arrangement, modern and super clean.
When I was teaching English in China as part of my degree, the classrooms in the local school had nothing there except a blackboard. So, every night the other teachers and I would make props together from cardboard. We would make themes for example “at the markets” or” travelling” and then we would rotate the props we made to save us time and to collaborate our lessons plans.
What is the salary and is housing included?
Your salary will most likely reflect the economy of the country that you choose. When I lived in Bali, I was earning the Rupiah, it was enough for Indonesia to live, eat and save a little but whenever I would return to Australia, I would barely have enough to buy a hot chocolate. By now the rate per month is most likely different but I would guess around $1000 per month would be realistic for Indonesia.
The school offered to find me accommodation for a cheap rate, however I chose to find my own mostly because I wanted to live at my favorite beach on Bali and not live near all the other teachers. I was lucky to have flexibility with this.
Do your research. If money is important to you, you could choose a country with a higher economy, like Japan or Russia. Or you could work online or as a freelancer and have a fixed rate wherever you are. I personally chose Bali as I love the island and the salary came second.
What was my favourite part?
I loved seeing my students face to face and getting to know them. I loved driving my motor scooter around, going surfing and hanging with the locals. It’s easy to say that I loved the whole experience of living the dream of working and travelling as an English teacher.
In summary when considering going to teach abroad, make sure you choose a place that you want to explore and get to know as you will be there a whole year. Remember to ask questions about your salary, contract and hours before you jump on the plane. Take lots of photos and videos of yourself teaching as they will be useful in years to come for your portfolio, just like the photos I’ve shared here. Please comment below if you would like to know more about teaching abroad.