It’s no secret that teaching can be one of the most rewarding and the most challenging jobs out there. Time spent on lesson planning, grading assignments and tests, writing report cards, and dealing with difficult students and their parents can be exhausting and far exceed the standard 9-5 work week. While teaching abroad will be just as rewarding as teaching at home, if not more, it will also present a new set of challenges that most teachers have never experienced in their classroom at home.
So, what are the differences between teaching abroad versus teaching at home?
The most significant difference between teaching at home and teaching abroad is, of course, the English level of your students. At home, your class might consist of 5-10% ESL students, but abroad your class will consist of mostly, if not all, non-native English speaking students. Teaching subjects like Math or Science can be difficult enough, but try explaining complicated concepts to students who don’t have a strong grasp of the English language! In addition, the level of your students’ English can vary significantly in a single class. It will be important for you to keep this in mind when planning lessons and class activities to ensure that your lessons meet the needs of your students and can be understood by everyone.
Some parts of the world may place a higher importance on education than what you’re used to at home. If this is the case, you will find that your students are more motivated and encouraged more at home to work hard in school. This typically yields good student behaviour, which will allow you to focus on their education and academics, instead of behavioural issues. You may find, however, that parents are more involved in their children’s schooling and have higher expectations of you as a teacher.
Relationships with Colleagues
When you first arrive to your new school and country, you’ll rely on your colleagues to show you the ropes and help you get settled in your new home. While it may seem easier to bond with the other foreign teachers in your school, it’s important to make an effort to create relationships with the local teachers as well. They will be great resources for you and could be the difference between a fulfilling teaching experience abroad and an early flight home.
Salary and Benefits
One of the biggest appeals of teaching abroad is the salary and benefits package that many schools offer, which can include a tax-free salary, free accommodation and airfare, health insurance and more. While you might be earning a similar salary to what you’re used to at home, your living expenses will decrease significantly, giving you more disposable income!
Teaching abroad can be one of the best career decisions you make, but it’s necessary for even seasoned educators to prepare for the new challenges they’re bound to face. Realizing the differences between teaching abroad versus teaching at home, and taking steps to adequately prepare will be pivotal to your success as an international educator and mentor to your (majority) foreign language students. A TEFL certification will help you anticipate these challenges and create strategies to overcome them.