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experienced teacher new at TEFL
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Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 11534
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the only thing stopping me at this point is my own personal fears. i someone who always play it safe. being female and moving across the world alone to a country where i know not one soul is very scary for me and i know you are right in saying that i cannot believe in all the negativity.

and lastly wrote:
at this point i'm not trying to make a career out of it since i do love my teaching job here. i'm looking to do it for maybe two years and get some world experience from it and live in a totally different country. being a female who is perhaps not too street smart is giving me some fears. safety is my number one concern. i dont need to be in a big city. i just want to be somewhere where there will be a large expat community and i can get by with only english. i guess i should do my research in american schools then and try to apply directly to the schools. however, my concern is just not knowing the neighborhood and community of the school beforehand.

Frankly, overseas employers want teachers who are flexible, focused, and culturally aware and not travel newbies requiring handholding.

I've served on hiring committees for some time, and nomadsoul (as usual) has a very valid point here. As employers, we really don't want to find ourselves lumbered with a newbie who requires hand-holding; we have far too many other priorities. Schools will generally help people sort out legal paperwork and possibly to find housing; beyond that, your daily life is entirely up to you. Along with the challenges of getting accustomed to a VERY new teaching/work situation, this can be a real stretch (even for those of us who are experienced), but it's simply part of the package of teaching abroad.

The 'large expat community' you seek will likely be somewhat more willing to help out with (or at least give you tips on) daily living sort of stuff; for a while. However, we've all known the needy, all-at-sea newbie who starts off as a bit of an amusement (and we can help out at that stage) but who escalates into a Needy Nelly whom everyone quickly learns to avoid like the plague. Those ones who are unable to do their shopping or go out or to travel in-country on their own for fear of having to interact in a foreign language with a local or two, who might have little patience with them.

I would agree with ns that some of the repeated language throughout this thread would raise red flags for me as an employer.

'Tolerance of ambiguity' is an absolutely necessary quality for a language learner; and even more so for a teacher in a foreign country. It wouldn't be a bad idea to do some advance travelling to see whether this is a quality you can develop before committing yourself and a school to a year-long contract which could turn into a nightmare for all concerned.

P.S. As I considered this further, the issue of housing also seemed important enough to be worth elaborating. Finding an employer who will provide housing is one thing - but will that housing be acceptable to the new teacher? In some cases, provided housing is really just crap for one reason or another - but I've also known quite a few teachers who couldn't accept the local norms in terms of housing.
For example, I'm in what would be considered a fairly developed part of the world, but those machines to wash dishes and dry laundry aren't standard household accoutrements, nor is air conditioning. Accomodations here are normally very small by western standards and are often located on the outskirts; commutation by public transit is standard.

The 'norm' for housing obviously differs considerably by region, but definitely not worthwhile to expect something that will meet US standards in most cases!
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nomad soul

Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 11454
Location: The real world

PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

joeysu wrote:
i may sound like a broken record stuck on naivete on a topic that i am just starting research on. you can make judgements on my lack of knowledge on this topic and i will agree with you. that is why i am seeking help from others who are more experienced. however, my naivete on obtaining a teaching job and housing in a foreign country has nothing to do with my ability to lead a classroom. year after year my students score top scores in a near 900 school and these kids are in a title 1 school. my focused dedication and confidence in my job is why i love teaching so much. however, loving my job in the US does not mean that i would not love it in a foreign country. Nor does it mean that i should just be satisfied with it and not explore anything else.

Thankfully my repetitive posts have brought me much information from many people who have given me a wealth of resources.

May the new year bring you much happiness Nomad Soul, seems like you really need it. Then maybe in ten years from now you'll be ready to take the first step in being nice instead of crabby.

I'm not crabby; I'm simply being very frank because I'm not one to sugar coat things. However, I found it odd that nearly each time someone has given you a useful tip about jobs or answered your question, you enthusiastically thanked them, but then went on about how much you loved your current job and wanted to share your love of teaching, but as a lone female, were hesitant to go to overseas to some strange foreign environment. Hmm... We get that you love your current job---that's great. Kudos to you. But if you continue to bring it up while dwelling on how scary going overseas can be, then you come across as indecisive, unfocused, and naive instead of someone who claims she wants to move forward. Honesty is one thing but...

Given the uncertain tone of your posts, there's a crucial element that needs to be addressed---one that no one can give you 'knowledge' about. Spiral has already offered some sage advice, so I'm adding my 2 cents' worth. Since you've obviously never traveled outside the US, you need to do some heavy-duty soul-searching as to whether you can handle uncertainty and ambiguity, especially when living and working within a different culture and different way of doing things. Do you possess the patience, flexibility, determination, and adaptability required to work and live overseas? Are you able to lower your expectations so that you're not disappointed when situations and conditions not common in the US don't go as you'd hoped? And what if you end up not loving that overseas job and find yourself stuck because you signed a two-year contract?

Here's a suggestion (or resolution) for 2013: If you have the summer off, consider hooking up with an NGO or US charitable organization that needs volunteers for various humanitarian projects in some developing country; I'm sure you can find a situation involving education. Get your passport and your shots, then head overseas and get your hands dirty, eat the local food, hang out with the locals, learn some of the language... But mostly, do something rewarding by teaching others who don't have the opportunities your US students have. Challenge yourself and you'll learn more about yourself. Am I being preachy? Yes, but definitely not crabby. My point is, see if you can hack it in a short-term living/working situation in a foreign environment, and if so, you should be okay taking a two-year teaching job in whatever overseas city you choose.
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Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 11061
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is all good advice. And this is high praise indeed, as I'm certainly very, very crabby today. The New Year celebrations are just wearing off, and I'm coming to again...
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Joined: 11 Mar 2003
Posts: 156
Location: The 7th level of hell

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The OP has traveled in Asia and made several trips to China AND speaks Cantonese so I think there's some misunderstanding about her posts. She actually has traveled a fair amount in some difficult places and is fluent in a difficult foreign language.

The reason I sympathise is that I first went overseas was as a 17 year old h.s. student then studied language in another country during college and worked again in Europe as an au pair at age 19. I speak a couple of languages natively and a few more badly and one I forgot but was fluent. Yet was unprepared for teaching overseas.

Right after college before becoming a "real" teacher (i.e. credentialed/experienced) I taught in Asia. I had a lot of travel experience. I was frozen with fear before leaving and survived a not so great experiences.

Well, a few years later after being a teacher in the US I accepted my first American school position in a 3rd world country. I had lots of experience at this point and I was still just as scared and unsure as the OP. Some people are more anxious. I questioned everything and was so scared.
Some of it was valid-lack of teaching supplies for teaching a class of 6 year olds 7 hours a day-nightmare, some of it was silly-local housing was gorgeous. Some of it I hadn't known to ask and should have-virtually no medical care.

I went and hit the ground running. There were good and very bad things (one of the most corrupt countries in the world) so I think the OP will be fine. She's just never worked in another country and that's vastly different from traveling or just living (without work)
I think her questions are valid, and I hear my same brand of anxiety in her posts Smile and I think she'll do well. It's better to ask too many questions than not enough.
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Joined: 04 Nov 2008
Posts: 875
Location: the world

PostPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2013 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

joeysu wrote:
my 2nd option would be to go take a TEFL course in another country so that i can be there already and find a job when i complete my TEFL certificate. the scary thing about that choice is that i will be leaving my well paid job to go across the world by myself without any safety assurances such a job and housing set up beforehand.

i just want to be somewhere where there will be a large expat community and i can get by with only English

i'm trying to save money this school year so that when i do leave in july 2013 i dont have to worry about bills here and i hope to be able to find a teaching job in thailand that pays enough for my living expenses there with enough money to travel during my off time. i will be able to bring enough money with me to last about two months to give myself that time to find a school and sign a contract. i really want to teach abroad in hopes that i will experience another culture and do what i love here in another country.

I didnít see anything in the OPís posts about fluency in another language or travel in Asia so perhaps this was learnt via pm.

I think the issue picked up on by other posters is the need for a large expat community and getting by only in English. Thatís possible in some places, but if you really want to experience life in another culture, that does mean being willing to accept difference, confusing situations and sometimes difficult experiences. If you go overseas essentially wanting a place to be more or less like (an exotic) home, then oneís definition of a great experience teaching abroad is likely to be doomed to failure from the outset unless you can adapt.

I think the main issue is money because thatís what provides you with a sufficient cushion of safety to bail and look for something else if the situation is a bad one. This is especially true when going to a country without a job and accom already set up. Unless youíre confident that you have sufficient contacts or know (or can get to know) the local terrain well enough to pick up something else quickly, you need money to live on in between times (if they happen). The more you have, the more confident youíll feel.

I would suggest the OP aims for (July) 2014, not 2013, to have another year of saving and more time to look at job fairs and apply for specific schools - as other posters have suggested. If she decides on one country (eg., Thailand) then she could also start learning some basic language phrases. Arranging a TEFL course (with accom) in the country of destination would be a good introduction, too. All these things will help build confidence.
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Joined: 28 Nov 2012
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i dont mind people being honest and frank. i actually appreciate it. however, when assumptions are made about my ability to confidently lead in a US school and that i'm a traveling newbie based on the first 10 posts i've ever made in this forum is not only incorrect but unnecessary. i have been awarded teacher of the year, and have been awarded and recognized for my work with disabled children. i have traveled to over 10 countries in europe, over 15 cities in china, japan, thailand, and qatar in the UAE. i renewed my passport last year since the first one expired so i have that covered. i have ridden on a camel, an elephant and a yak. i have held a panda, a tiger and a lemur on my lap. i make it a point to eat local foods in every city i visit because i feel that food is a great representation of a specific culture. this may not seem impressive compared to your experience but to say that i "obviously never traveled outside the US" makes you obviously incorrect. visiting a country for a week or two is not the same as packing up your belonging and moving to live in another country.

i express fear because i am truly scared. i think it is a valid feeling to have when thinking of immersing myself in a totally new culture and land without knowing a single person or their language. as scared as i am, my excitement and determination to take on this adventure has led me here to this forum because i have decided to do this. i asked advice on how to do it. never once did i ask "should i do it?" i agree that no one can give me knowledge, but as teachers, we also understand that knowledge can be imparted to those who are willing and wanting to learn. confidence comes from experience and practice. so in the spirit of teaching, when you have people seeking that experience they should be given honest advice and asked tough questions(as present in many of the posts here) but they should not be discouraged. for those of you who have given solid advice and asked relevant questions, i thank you and appreciate your contribution to my journey. Nomad soul, your advice that i should stay in the US because i express love for my job and maybe in ten years from now i'll be ready to take that first step sounds more like someone who has no soul more than someone with a nomadic soul.

[Tolerance of ambiguity' is an absolutely necessary quality for a language learner; and even more so for a teacher in a foreign country.

i totally agree. very well stated. tolerance is an important character to have. what makes this world a wonderful place is that it is filled with ambiguity. that is what makes me want to embrace this experience wholeheartedly, even with fear.

thank you Ixchel for everything that you have said.[/quote]
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Joined: 30 Nov 2010
Posts: 590

PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Packing up your stuff and heading to a foreign land on a 1 year contract is a scary thing. I remember when I did it 12 and a half years ago. I discovered pretty quickly that I enjoyed the job and I am still doing it even though I could make more money back home. It was tough to do. All my stuff had to be stored, sold or in some cases I gave things to less fortunate relatives. It's a big decision when you have stuff and a life. Not so much for a recent graduate having a tough time getting started in life.

You sound really motivated. I doubt you''l be happy until you do this thing. You like Thailand? TTompatz (sp?) had good advice back on page 1. Naturegirl too.

I think Thailand is a good choice. It is very easy to visit other countries in the region and get a feel for this lifestyle.

It is an adventure. Discovering the world, being a modern day explorer of planet Earth is quite educational. If it's for you, you will be rewarded. It's an absolutely fascinating experience. The twin challenges of teaching and living in a foreign country. Even your own country will never be the same again. If you are lucky you will forever feel a part of humanity rather than or as well as just a member of a nation.

Hedge your bets where you can and give it a shot. Make sure you have an exit plan just in case. Read up on culture shock. Good luck. Very Happy
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