As with all professions, international teaching has various types and levels of professional qualifications and professional standards that must be met and maintained. Unfortunately, there are times when these standards are met in name only because of visa purposes, without the intended knowledge and skills being passed along as well. As teachers, we hold an important duty to our students to be effective in our work. As international teachers this duty is compounded because we can oftentimes be our students’ first or only window into other parts of the world. It is compounded again because we are often representatives of our countries of origin to the people around us when we are in new countries. We are educators and ambassadors, and these responsibilities should not be taken lightly.
It only takes a short Google search to come across blog posts and articles about teachers in certain countries who are only qualified because of their country of origin or skin color, with no other teaching education or abilities. It is highly disrespectful to the students and people of the host country for one to not take the time to learn about the subject they intend to teach and being an effective teacher in general. If anything, one should hold themselves to an even higher standard when international teaching because of the cross cultural and globalized nature of the profession.
This is not to disparage those who go to other countries to volunteer or spend a gap year experience teaching, these programs and opportunities serve a very effective and beneficial purpose. However, the majority of these programs offer training prior to arrival. This post is intended to address those who view international teaching as a way to slack off, be lazy, and bring no true benefit to the students or society in which they live. Having the opportunity to be an international teacher and teach around the world while earning a good living is something to be respected and thankful for, not something to be taken advantage of.
I challenge each international teacher to participate in some form of professional development and make and effort to stay on top of recent research and studies regarding the industry or subject in which you teach. There are plenty of opportunities for professional development and self-growth year-round, both online and in person, and they should be used to become more effective. As international teachers we have unique lifestyle, professional, and personal opportunities that are not to be taken for granted, and we should hold ourselves to the highest standards we can, regardless of whether others hold us to them or not.
Africa has probably the most diverse state of the ESL industry out of all of the regions in the world. In the North African nations there are relatively large opportunities for teachers, the same goes for the nations of Nigeria and South Africa, but in many Sub-Saharan African nations there are only volunteer opportunities available. In the Sub-Saharan African nations there are many opportunities for traveling for months or a year (or longer) to volunteer one’s time, and these positions often require the teacher to finance their travel to their place of employment and their living expenses during their stay.
Countries of Interest
Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt
These three North African nations are destinations for ESL teachers to consider. They offer the chance to live in the African continent, experience living in nations ruled by Islam, and do so in relative stability (excluding Egypt’s period flare ups). The ESL industries are relatively new, but have not faced the setbacks that some Middle Eastern nations or their neighbor Libya has faced. Because of this it is quite easy for a teacher to get a job in these nations with minimal experience, but in most cases a degree will be required. The pay is not substantially large, but due to low costs of living teachers should be able to live quite well, especially if they can find an employer that will provide them with accommodation.
Nigeria and South Africa
Nigeria and South Africa have English as their official languages, so the vast majority of ESL jobs will be taken by local native citizens. The situation is somewhat similar to that of western Europe. However, for those who are able to find a place of employment, the pay is typically good due to the low cost of living. As these nations expand economically in the world stage, there may be more opportunities coming in future years, but at this time the majority of positions will not be available to expats, except for those that operate in a volunteer capacity in more rural or impoverished nations, similar to the other Sub-Saharan nations.
The ESL industry in the Asia Pacific probably presents the most opportunities in the world. The industry itself is very stable, and is only growing as the years go by and the nations in the Asia Pacific grow in economic power and influence. There is a great disparity between economic advantages in the countries, depending on each country’s cost of living. However, in general the jobs are more stable, reliable, and pleasant than most other regions in the world.
Countries and Territories of Interest
In Mainland China alone there are more English language learners than there are people in the entire United States of America. In order to teach in the major cities such as Beijing or Shanghai a degree, certification, and some experience is required. However, if a teacher is willing to fully immerse themselves in native China and be in a smaller village or town one can find a job with just a bachelor'sl. The industry and jobs are very reliable for the most part, and many westerners have actually opened up their own institutes and schools for teaching English. There is an overwhelming need for ESL teachers in China, and jobs are plentiful. The salaries provided are somewhat lower than average, but they are still very high relative to the cost of living. Many state the China is the “hot spot” for teaching English.
Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea
These five countries and territories have very successful and robust ESL industries as well. However, since they offer more attractive salaries, they require higher qualifications. A degree is always required, and in some cases it is difficult to get a job without a certification and some experience. However, many teachers are able to save a lot of money while they are teaching because of the low cost of living that complements the high pay and benefits such as free accommodation.
Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos
These four countries are examples of the other type of jobs available in the Asia Pacific. They have substantially lower salaries and requirements for employment than the four named above, but they offer many opportunities to live in beautiful regions of the world for stable contracts with extremely low cost of living. Typically a degree is required in any subject as long as one is a native speaker in order to secure employment in these nations. Especially Indonesia is needing teachers being a nation almost to the same population as the United States, and also the largest Muslim nation in the world. However, unlike the nations in the Middle East, Indonesian law does not revolve around the Quran, so for the most part there is not a large change as far as rights go.
Central America & South America
In Central and South America the ESL industry is quite robust. Across the board there are opportunities for teachers to go and teach with a degree. However, for some places such as Brazil a teaching qualification will be required as well. In the stable nations there is a great need for ESL teachers, and many opportunities are available. The industries are reliable and established, and will often also involve teaching adults just as much as children, since the majority of the ESL industry exists in tandem with government schools instead of being part of them. In the Caribbean nations, the standard language of instruction is often English, so there is not much need for expat ESL teachers. The cost of living and salaries are lower, but many teachers desire to teach there for the high quality of life that teaching can afford them there.
Countries of Interest
Costa Rica has one of the largest ESL industries in the western hemisphere. It has long been a place that many teachers from the United States have desired to go to and teach. In the majo rcities there are great opportunities for teaching, and typically the schools are well run and reliable. However, in the more rural areas teaching opportunities still exist. The salaries are very low for teachers, but so is the cost of living. Teachers can expect to live quite well while teaching in Costa Rica, both economically and experientially.
Brazil, Chile, and Argentina
The above named three countries are the most economically and politically stable in South America. They provide great opportunities to get involved in the growing economies of the future. As they modernize and evolve their business sectors, there is a big demand for the teaching of English. Interestingly enough, in Brazil the main place that teachers can readily find work is in teaching business English to company employees or those who want to expand their resume. However, for these positions more than just a degree will be required, certification and prior experience are a must. Work can also be found in government run public schools and institutes for children. Although employment can mostly be found in the large cities like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, there are opportunities to volunteer and to teach in more rural areas as well. However, it must be noted that the pay and school quality differences between working in the large cities and rural communities will be substantially different, similar to China.
The ESL industry in Eastern Europe mirrors that of Central and South America. There are great opportunities, and many of the countries do not have high enough salaries to attract most of the EU native teachers. Therefore it is easier than in western Europe for a teacher to find employment. Excluding certain nations such as the Ukraine, these places typically have stable ESL markets. However, these markets are often times not very broadly developed, so they do not have the plethora of opportunities that the Asia Pacific does. The salaries are lower than in Western Europe, but the cost of living is significantly lower as well almost across the board.
Countries of Interest
The most significant country in Eastern Europe by population, influence, power, economics, and really any other factor is Russia. Russia has a large ESL industry and is always on the lookout for new teachers. The majority of positions do not require any experience to get started, but they will require a degree and some type of ESL certification. The industry itself is quite stable, as is the nation itself. It is also one of the only places teachers can go to experience living in a society that is primarily influenced by Orthodox Christianity. The salaries in Russia in general are lower than in western Europe, but the cost of living is lower as well.
The ESL industry in Western Europe is an interesting one. While the only native English speaking nations are England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, the vast majority of the populations of the surrounding nations speak English already to one level or another. Because of this, many of the nations are able to hire EU citizens to teach English in their schools. Also, it is very difficult for a non-EU citizen to get a work visa in an EU country when competing against EU natives for the same job. Most of the ESL industry revolves around the education of children in elementary and secondary schools.
Countries of Interest
Spain, France, and Germany
The states of the ESL industry in Spain, France, and Germany are all very similar. They have many opportunities, but as stated above, access to their ESL industries is an affair that will take some work. Spain is the only nation that offers opportunities for teachers with very little experience, but the rest of the nations offer opportunities for those with the proper credentials and experience. There will be massive competition for jobs with citizens from the native English speaking nations to the north. The salaries in these countries are high numerically, but the cost of living balances out to where teachers will typically be living in a similar situation as they would teaching in the United States, Canada, or Australia.
The ESL industry in the Middle Eastern nations is one that has two distinctly separate manifestations. On one end of the spectrum, there are nations such as Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. On the other, the Gulf Coast nations such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. The former are countries that are in states of turmoil, with times of high danger and low pay available for ESL teachers, and the latter are nations largely of stability and some of the most economically beneficial salaries any ESL teacher can receive. The heavy influence of Islam in this region makes it have some specific challenges for any ESL teacher that will not be found in many other places.
Countries of Interest
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman
These nations are stable Islamic states that over high pay, no taxes, and a great need for qualified teachers. Saudi Arabia and Oman are the only nations where a teacher can start with little to no experience. There is a great need for ESL teachers in these nations because of the vast amounts of wealth that their oil producing has created for the local populace. An issue that they all face, however, is convincing western teachers to make the massive cultural change that is required to live within their borders. They are conservative societies with substantially less freedom for women, an Islamic calendar and week structure, and no indulgences such as alcohol. Additionally, many teachers worry that they will constantly be targets for violent crimes in these nations, although reports from teachers who have been there show that this is not true at all. These nations have some of the highest salaries for teachers that are available and no income taxes.
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates
Bahrain and the U.A.E. have very similar situations for teachers as the four countries named above, but with one major difference. Especially in Bahrain, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, the rules of Islamic law are loosened greatly, especially for westerners. Although restricted, alcohol is permitted, women’s rights approach closer to those of men, and codes of dress and conduct are based on laws instead of the Quran. These two nations have a much easier time attracting western expats, and because of that they are able to require more qualifications from their teachers.
Israel, Iraq, and Syria
These three nations are all in varying levels of turmoil because of revolution, civil war, or constant unrest. While they all used to be destinations for ESL teachers in the past, now they typically are not. This is especially true for Syria and Iraq. The pay is low, the danger is high, and the state of a contract month to month may be uncertain. In the government protected areas of these nations where the more prosperous citizens live, there are occasionally positions that will become available that may seem more attractive to teachers, but for the most part these nations make up a region that most teachers will see need to be avoided until some type of stability is more assured.
The ESL industry in North America is substantially smaller than in other regions around the world. This is because the two largest countries (The United States and Canada) are already native English speaking nations. However, in both of these countries (and their outlying territories) the ESL industry does have a presence in order to teach English to immigrants and migrant workers so that they will more easily acclimate themselves into their respective societies. Mexico has the largest population of non-native English speakers in North America and therefore has the largest amount of opportunities for ESL teachers.
Countries of interest
The nation with the largest ESL industry presence is Mexico. In Mexico there are many opportunities for English language teachers. The jobs primarily will be located in and around the larger cities, especially Mexico City, which is the largest city by population in North America. The cost of living in Mexico is substantially lower than in the United States and Canada, and teaching will provide teachers with the ability to save some money if they live frugally. The qualifications required are in general a bachelor’s degree, with experience and an ESL certification being optional. In some regions there is a safety concern to be observed.
The ESL in Oceania is also quite small. This is primarily because of two factors. First, the largest nations by population in the region are Australia, Papa New Guinea and New Zealand, which are English speaking nations. Second, the populations of the nations in general in this region are quite small. The three nations listed above are the only ones with populations over one million people. In native speaking nations it is quite difficult for non-citizens to find a job teaching English, as the schools and institutions of the host country would prefer to hire local citizens.
Countries of interest
The most popular destination for ESL teachers in Oceania is the nation of Fiji. Most teaching opportunities in Fiji are in government run institutions at the elementary school level. This is very nice because citizens of most western nations are able to get a visitor’s visa for four months upon entry, and are able to easily get a work visa if they plan to be there longer than six months. The cost of living in Fiji is also quite low, and because of this teachers are able to live comfortable lives and even save some money if they live frugally. In Fiji the requirements for teaching are in general a bachelor’s degree, with experience and a TEFL certification being optional, but preferred.
As a teacher of the English language it is my goal to provide my students with the skills and abilities necessary to be able to read, write, speak, and understand English to a level of proficiency that enables them to utilize it in their lives on both a personal and a professional level. As a teacher it is also my job to motivate my students to cultivate successful language learning habits that can be applied to learning other languages as well. It is also critical to develop an atmosphere of community that gives students the freedom to comfortably learn the material, not feel embarrassed by mistakes, and be encouraged to grow from day to day on their educational journey. My teaching style will exemplify the motivation I feel to help students acquire a new skill that will help them on their journeys in their careers and around the world.
My motivations for teaching English are to be able to help students learn to speak the language that is quickly becoming a required skill for living and succeeding in an ever more connected and globalized world. I am driven to teaching English because I have seen how knowledge of the English language can expand students’ prospects for growth and expansion in their personal, professional, and academic lives, and as a native speaker of English I and uniquely positioned to help pass that knowledge on to those to whom it will be a foreign language. When teaching English I am also able to help mentor students in their intellectual growth on a variety of subjects because the skills needed to use a new language (reading, writing, interpreting, analyzing) are universally applicable to all realms of academia.
My personal interests in teaching English are for students in the late stages of secondary education, those in higher education, and those who wish to learn English for personal or professional reasons after their formal schooling has taken place. This desire does not come because of ability, but rather for usage of the instruction and application of the knowledge. As someone personally interested in economics, politics, and sociocultural issues, I am highly motivated to teach students who are learning for reasons that stem from within who will be able to apply their newly attained knowledge in a tangible way that will benefit their lives.
I personally will view my level of success in teaching English based on my students’ abilities to utilize their knowledge in useful ways. This includes (but is not limited to): face to face communication, conversation, and negotiation; comprehension of English language literature, academic writing, print media, and audio-visual media; real world application for travel, business, and entertainment purposes; and ability to be an asset to those around them personally and professionally in their everyday lives. I believe language learning should have a direct impact on the students’ lives outside of the classroom and should always aim to transcend the limitations of rote memorization and the ability to pass tests and exams.
Areas of Focus
There are two areas I will focus on for developing my students’ ability to use the English language both inside and outside of the classroom:
Listening & Speaking
Listening and speaking are the two most critical areas of learning a language in order to cause it to be useful in a student’s life beyond the classroom. In their personal and professional lives the student will find listening and speaking the English language to be most beneficial when interacting with other speakers of English face to face. The ability to speak proper English without the use of an interpreter will cause a student to be highly valued in their professional career. Additionally, it will enable a student to view many forms of media in a useful way. It will also assist learners in being able to pick up on the more subtle nuances of face to face interactions between people, such as sarcasm, that can be easily misinterpreted.
Reading & Writing
Reading and writing are also two very critical skills a student must learn. Although many
important documents or contracts that are written in one language will also have a translation into other languages, it is especially useful for a student to be able to read and write English since it is often times the first language that translations are available for. Additionally, being able to read and write in English will provide the student the option of enjoying English language literature, print media, subtitles during visual media, and academic works. It is also important for everyday usage when traveling to other countries. This is true in nations such as the United States and England where everything will be in English, but also in other nations as well since often times there will be an English translation below the native language on things such as road signs, menus, and map directions.
I believe it is important to know the motivations of why a student would like to learn the English language. Whether that is for personal curiosity, professional growth, government or familial requirements, or for any other reason, it is vital to know this to ensure that their specific wants and needs can be catered to. As a teacher, it is my job to be a mentor and guide as the student learns English no matter their age, skill level, or level of prior education outside of language learning. In order to do this I must be able to be more than just a face they interact with, but someone they trust and know to be invested in their future after leaving the classroom.
In the classroom it is critical to create a space where students feel comfortable to learn English in a way that lets them feel free to ask questions, make mistakes, and grow without any judgment or ridicule. This is important to do in any classroom, but is especially important in countries and cultures where the concept of “saving face” is practiced. It is critical to ensure that the classroom as a whole (or group in more conversational settings) view their language learning journey as something they are all participating in, and that when a student makes a mistake they are not to be viewed as inferior or unintelligent. Also, it is very important to bring into the classroom a level of professionalism that will cause students to be motivated to learn, and to feel as though they are learning something useful because they want to, not because they have to.
My teaching methods will center on a combination of four central themes:
English Language Immersion
In my classroom I will establish an atmosphere where the only language used once the students cross the threshold into the room will be English. This is in order to require students to not only answer questions in the language they are learning, but to ask them, make corrections, and converse among each other and with me in English as well. This will push students to expand their usage of the language and enable them to start using the language more colloquially instead of only learning individual words and memorizing rules. It will also foster in the learners a feeling that their learning is directly applicable to their lives both in and out of the classroom.
The Direct Method
Along with English Language Immersion will be my usage of the Direct Method for teaching. This comes after considering that my target group to teach is adults instead of children. The Direct Method will help me focus on speaking and real language usage more so than learning grammar rules and other concepts that require rote memorization. In my classroom I would rather hear a student use the wrong tense or pronounce a word incorrectly in conversation to be corrected. than have them read the way to use it in a book and never have a chance to apply it except on a test.
n an auxiliary capacity, I will use the Audio-Lingual method along with the Direct Method. This will involve the usage of pre-designed dialogues for conversation in useful hypothetical situations that the students will encounter outside of the classroom. This will be useful in tailoring the direction of the classes for those learning English for academic reasons, personal growth and interest, or professional reasons. In the realm of teaching business English it will be especially useful in being able to utilize dialogues specific to the industry, or industries, that the students are employed in.
The Silent Way
This method will be utilized mostly in my classrooms that involve higher level English learners and in classes that have a specific orientation, such as business English classes. The Silent Way encourages there to be as little speaking done by me as possible, so that the learners participate with each other and learn things on their own. This is something to be applied at all levels of instruction, but is most critical in classrooms where emphasis will be on conversational usage of the language.
Methods of Assessment
In the cases where there is a specific curriculum to be used I will follow the program prescribed by my school’s administration. Also, in the cases of individual or small group tutoring (e.g. for a government exam) I will alter my assessment methods to suit what my students are attempting to learn. However, in a classroom where I am able to utilize my own teaching methods I will primarily use authentic and performance based assessment. This will include: class participation and attendance, oral reports to the class, mock situations such as interviews and negotiations, and similar activities. Additionally, for private tutoring, small groups, and business English teaching I will utilize portfolio assessment so that parents, employers, or whoever the student would like to provide documentation to, may see their progress.
Today I would like to talk about something that I believe needs to be addressed more professionally than it has been in the past. Thankfully, it is not a problem that is a problem for the majority of teachers, but it is one that has come to my attention on multiple times. That is the notion of teaching down to students based on their English ability or on cultural differences.
Of course, a class of beginners will need to be taught differently than a class of advanced students, but their English ability needs to be strongly considered and addressed as well. University students and adults can tell, regardless of their language ability, when you are using materials that are designed for kindergarteners or other small children.
In my teaching experiences, I have come across students who have thanked me for giving them assignments and subjects to discuss that reflect their age, and are genuinely useful to them. I strive for all of my courses to include aspects that will provide a reference for future success for my students and knowledge that is directly applicable to them in the real world. For example, teaching university level students the basics of Western business culture in a unit on public speaking. If a class typically includes dialogues, then that unit’s dialogues are converted to mock interviews. If the class typically includes some type of movie clip or other multimedia, then that unit’s multimedia can be example demonstrations taken from YouTube. There are hundreds of ways to do this, and the students will be thankful for it.
Also, cultural differences can give students the appearance through the teacher’s lenses of having a lack of maturity because their life experiences have been different than the teacher’s were up until that age. However, this is the wrong way to look at it. Yes, the experiences have been drastically different, but looking downward at the students because of this is not something a teacher should do. Within national and cultural bounds, teachers should strive to expand their students’ worldviews and experiences, regardless of where those worldviews and experiences being from as a starting point. Again, to teach downwardly to one’s students does both your students and yourself a great disservice.