So you're thinking of packing up your life back home? You want a life of travel, adventure and new experiences? You want to make a difference in the world and make the most of your time? If you answered YES to any of the questions you're on the right path to becoming a teacher abroad. However, these questions could fit to anyone looking to see more of the world. What does teaching have to do with it? Here 5 questions to ask yourself before deciding if becoming a teacher abroad is for you:
1. Can I see myself being a teacher?
You need to think seriously about what being a teacher will mean for you. When I first thought about becoming a teacher I thought I'd be having fun all day painting and singing - but let me just tell you, its not for the faint hearted and there's a lot more involved than painting and singing. I honestly love being a teacher and to be honest, ESL teaching here in Vietnam is a lot easier than other teaching jobs I've had. My first year of teaching, and even some days now, was exhausting. Teaching can be tough and you need to remember that its still a job. You're going to be spending a lot of time doing it if you decide to make this change. Make this decision consciously. You don't want this to turn into something you dislike just as much as your old job back home.
2. Do I enjoy interacting with children, adults or other people in general?
This was a big one for me. One I didn't even think about until my first practical as a student teacher back home. I see teaching as a constant giving of yourself. You are constantly communicating and listening, there are a number of students who constantly need you at multiple times throughout your class. Do you think this constant interaction would be something you'd enjoy, or would you rather have a calmer and less social job? I have no problem interacting with others but am an introvert at heart, so after a day of teaching I need a lot of quiet time to recharge. Luckily I've learnt this about myself over the years.
3. Am I willing to take my work seriously?
Many people tend to choose teaching abroad as something to do to fund their travelling or to save for a certain lifestyle - which it is great for! However, you need to understand that your students are paying for your services and you owe it to them to do a good job. Plan your lessons, get to class on time and make sure your students are learning in an active and engaging way.
4. Can I commit to my contact time?
Contracts are usually drawn up for one year, but there are others out there for shorter or longer time periods. Many international schools or language centres have a quick turnover rate of teachers as many just decide a few months in that this "teaching abroad" experience isn't for them, or they just don't like their school or living conditions. I think its important to accept responsibility for your own actions and choices. Remember that no one is making you do anything, so when you sign a contract for a year you should stick to that commitment as far as possible. Obviously it can be difficult to know what a school is really like, so research and trust your gut. I often use my Skype interview as a test for my employer rather than the other way around, and usually can tell if the school is going to be a good fit for me at the end of the call. Completing your contract will not only be more beneficial to your students who won't be getting a new teacher every few months and be totally thrown every time, but it will also benefit you in getting a good reputation and a good reference for future jobs.
5. Are you ready for a life changing experience?
Teaching in itself is a challenge, teaching abroad takes it to a whole other level. Your students and the community that you live in will creep into your heart and you'll carry them around with you always. I have the fondest memories of my Bhutanese and Costa Rican "families" and I'm sure it will be the same for the family I have acquired here in Vietnam once I leave. I've seen and experienced things that I never even dreamed of and in most instances I was able to because of my connection with the community as a teacher, many of these experiences would not have been possible if I were merely a traveller. I always like to think that although I am a teacher, these experiences have taught me so much about myself and about life.