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Would you help me evaluate my chances? (American, 37 yo)

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Joined: 02 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:20 pm    Post subject: Would you help me evaluate my chances? (American, 37 yo) Reply with quote

Hello, all. Another person interested in teaching EFL, and/or possibly uni?, in the Middle East. I’d love to hear your informed opinions on my chances of finding solid work there. Thank you! Smile

I am a 37-year-old American currently working in Japan. I have a BA in English (“English & American Literature & Language”) from a prestigious* U.S. university, an MA in Comparative Media Studies from another prestigious U.S. university (a humanities program with a technical component), and a CELTA from International House (earned in 2004).

I taught in France for one year as a “foreign language assistant” in public schools (a Ministry of Education program), for one year as a lecturer in English at a private multifaculty university, and, for the past three and a half years, in Japan as an “assistant language teacher” in a public high school on the government-sponsored JET Programme. If it matters, I also spent one summer teaching at a university English camp in China, and I am conversant in French, Spanish, and Italian.

If I apply to jobs in the Middle East, it will probably be for the school year starting in 2016 (or possibly, at the earliest, 2015), as I plan to stay in Japan for another year with my current employer, to make a total of five years here.

What do you think of my odds would be of finding work, with a reputable employer and decent salary, benefits and conditions? Also, I would love to teach at a university -- largely because I’ve found I really enjoy working with people in that age range (I personally prefer teaching adults/ young adults over children) -- but would my qualifications and experience level put me in the running for that kind of work?

Further specific questions, from someone relatively new to Middle Eastern culture:
- To what extent does my being female limit -- or open -- my job possibilities? My gender has never really limited my job possibilities before, but I understand that in the Middle East it shapes almost every aspect of professional as well as personal life.

- My priorities would be a) to experience a new culture, environment, and language; b) to pay off debt and save as much money as possible (an important priority); c) to maintain my sanity and well-being for the two or so years I think I could handle living there. In the service of the last, it looks pretty clear that I shouldn’t consider Saudi Arabia an option. From reading the other threads here, it looks as if recommended remaining possibilities might include UAE/ Dubai, Qatar, and Oman? Is that right?

- Most of my EFL teaching experience is as a “language assistant” in public schools, though I enjoyed my year of university teaching perhaps more than any of the “assistant” work. I currently design my own lesson plans, and design and grade my own tests, and can get good recommendations from colleagues and supervisors. But will this work be viewed as relevant to potential EFL and/or university employment, or will my one year of uni teaching be viewed as the only relevant period? I did also do some lecturing and section teaching during my graduate-school time, but that was almost ten years ago now.

- Would my age (37 now; 39 as of 2016) be seen as a problem? (I realize this isn't old by most standards. However, in Japan, where I currently work, it’s a) very strange for people to change jobs, much less countries, at a “mature” age, and b) extremely youth-oriented with regard to women, where the strong preference is for female “foreign” teachers to be girlish, i.e. under 28 or so. Anyway, I wondered if the ME has any similar issues.)

- Would the fact that I’m ethnically Jewish be an issue anywhere in the Middle East?

* - Although I feel sort of strange asking this: does the “prestige” value of a degree from a globally known university increase my chance/ carry any weight in ME-region hiring? I feel odd here, because I’m well aware that prestige is largely a manufactured and constructed illusion. On the other hand, the name of a well-known institution does have value to employers in some countries -- China, for instance -- partly because it has strong attractive value to potential students. If it matters, one of my degrees is from Harvard. The other is from another USNWR Top 10 institution, with a particular (global?) reputation for its strength in the sciences.

Thank you so much for your help. I’m most grateful, and looking forward to your replies. Smile And do please let me know if there’s any info I’ve left out. Thank you again!
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Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 1180

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You don't have the qualifications usually required for the tertiary level (relevant masters + 3 years post grad experience). Most are also looking for people with experience teaching the age group with emphasis on writing/reading as these are the weakest areas for GCC students.

Female is usually only relevant if (a) you're in Saudi or (b) teaching military or military related students (they will specify male only)

Don't tell anyone of your ethnicity. You will be asked what your religion is on many forms - just put in Christian. No one will be following you around to see if you're attending services.

Prestige or no, your degree is not directly relevant to what most employers ask for nor is your experience.

Should you still apply? Sure, people do get hired with your background but your odds are not great. Could your master's get you hired to teach content maybe? You'd probably increase your odds of getting hired if you went that route.

I'd suggest you do a search of the various tertiary institutions in the GCC for programs related to your master's degree.
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nomad soul

Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 2988
Location: Mesopotamia

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 2:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Helenl is spot on; your unrelated MA plus minimal experience with adult learners at the tertiary level will be a tough sell for the UAE and Qatar. However, you'd likely get hired for a uni-level English language teaching job in Saudi Arabia, especially since you hold a relevant BA. Ditto for Oman if the minimum requirement is a related bachelor's degree. Check TEFL jobs in these countries to see what requirements are expected.
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Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 15609
Location: USA

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 4:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One point that neither Helen nor Nomad covered was the age issue. Opposite of your current area of the world, the Middle East prefers more mature educators. I didn't arrive in the Gulf until I was 40... and I was one of the youngest teachers at my first job.

Your credentials wouldn't get you into the top jobs because of your non-related MA, but there are tertiary level jobs. For example, Oman has a group of small college/universities around the smaller cities and towns that don't require an MA at all - but most use a batch of contractors to employ their teachers. Check out the Oman board for lots of discussions on the good and bad of these jobs. You could save some money, but the conditions are certainly not the best in the Gulf.

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