If you’ve never taught English before it can be very hard to guess what your teaching experience will be like. Some prospective English teachers might look forward to the excitement of moving to a foreign country, while others may dread starting an unknown job in a strange culture far away from friends and family. Will you enjoy your first experience teaching English abroad? Read to find out.
Everything is New
Starting a new job is exciting in itself, combine that with exploring a new country and you are unlikely to be bored anytime soon. For at least the first few months of teaching English you are going to have to learn a new job, get acquainted with new co-workers, interact with students of a different culture and improve your teaching skills. It can be stressful to start because there will be so much to learn, but that’s also what makes it interesting.
The same goes for arriving in a new country. You’ll have to get acquainted with your new apartment, neighbourhood, grocery stores, transportation system and countless other facets of your new life. Boring activities like paying bills and your daily commute will become exciting opportunities to discover how a new culture works. You will have the eyes of a young child exploring the world for the first time. Everything is interesting and an opportunity to explore.
Is Teaching English Fun?
In the beginning everything will be very new to you so I’m sure you’ll enjoy teaching English abroad immensely. However, I think there are different stages to teaching English and the enjoyment you get out of each stage will be up to you.
The Novice Teacher
Where you’re just starting to teach, every lesson, every student, and every day brings completely new and interesting experiences. Most teachers love their new jobs in the beginning. There is so much to learn and interacting with students of a different culture can be very rewarding.
Occasionally, the new job, combined with the culture shock of moving to a new country and the distance between close friends and family can be too much. Although the numbers are very low, there are some who do not thrive in a foreign culture and choose to quit their jobs and return home. What’s fun and exciting for some can be very traumatic for others.
If you’ve never been away from your family, never lived on your own and never had a full-time job, the changes can be difficult to deal with.
Another factor that you have to consider is how extroverted you are. Teaching English involves regular, close contact with many different students. If you are uncomfortable interacting with people, you might want to reconsider your choice to become a teacher. At the very least, test some local volunteer opportunities in your home city before accepting a job overseas.
Don’t let this frighten you, the vast majority of teachers, quickly adjust to their new cultures, make plenty of friends and enjoy exploring the new country.
The Intermediate Teacher
After several months at your new job, teaching will become much, much easier. Those lessons that once took a long time to prepare become second nature. Now you can focus on testing new teaching ideas and trying different approaches to your lessons to see what works.
You’re also probably settled in to your new living conditions and have figured out where the best places to shop are as well as found some favourite restaurants. You might even be gaining some proficiency in the local language. There is still a lot of the new city and country to explore, but you are definitely much more comfortable than when you first arrived. Life is good.
The Veteran Teacher
Once your work becomes routine and you’ve been away from your home country for a while, it’s easy to become jaded. You might start complaining about unpopular students, get bored with your lessons and start comparing how the new country is inferior to back home.
You are likely to encounter many experienced teachers with this attitude. They’ve stopped learning, they’ve stopped exploring and seem to complain about everything. Don’t get sucked into this way of thinking.
Every culture has it’s pros and cons. Enjoy the best of what your new home country has to offer and relish in the opportunity you have to live in a new country. Not many people get that chance.
Every job gets boring over time. The way to keep it fresh is to keep learning. Attend teacher conferences and meetups, take a TEFL course, read teaching blogs, connect with new teachers, and generally try to be the best teacher you can be. Make your own teaching materials, study the latest teaching methodologies, try different textbooks, and try new ideas as much as you possible.
How much you enjoy your work is completely up to you. Arrive late everyday with a negative attitude and I guarantee you’ll quickly learn to hate your job. Arrive every day with energy and enthusiasm and you’ll have a completely different experience. Always remember that you been given an opportunity to educate. English skills are invaluable to your students. You owe it to them and yourself to give your best.
Teaching English and living in a new country are incredibly rewarding, life-changing experiences. Those who put the most in, will definitely get the most out. Learn the local language, make friends with locals, explore as much as you can and strive to be a great teacher. If you can do all that, you are going to love teaching English abroad.