How do you go about teaching English overseas?

Trip Start Feb 25, 2013
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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, March 14, 2013

I have been asked that question almost as much as, "What are you doing? That is just crazy." 

Well the internet is a good place to start. It is filled with all kinds of information that when all gathered in the same place can be very helpful. A quick Google search will probably turn up more than necessary and getting though chaff can be particularly grinding. What questions do you even start with? Ask a friend or relative to come observe their class, before you make a decision. If you think you can handle that then start with the general requirements.

In general there are two major qualifications necessary.

1)   Be a native English speaker. From USA, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, or Canada.

2)   Have a bachelor's degree in just about anything. That’s about it.

Common questions I got when I told people I was leaving because they were incredulous that those were really the only two real requirements:

Speaking the language in country you want to teach in? – Helpful but not necessary.  

Teaching degree? – Will get you a higher paying job but the jobs will also be harder to find.

TESOL/TEFL/CELTA certifications? – Really depends on the country and the job. They are a good idea because not everyone will have a certification and they can set you apart from other candidates.

How well do I have to know English? - Brushing up on your grammar will be worthwhile but being a native English speaker is the most important part. However having a complete lack of basic English command will set you up for failure.

Once you have decided that you want to teach English overseas my advice would be to start with paperwork gathering. Every country is a little bit different and you maybe required to submit anything and everything from an FBI background check to college transcripts. This is also where the requirements are little bit different for every single country.

Here is a recommended paperwork list to get started with:
1)            Diploma (make lots of copies)
2)            Transcripts from college/univsersity
3)            ESL/EFL certificate
4)            Immunization record
5)            Passport / Copies of your passport
6)            Recent passport photos
7)            Cover Letter about why you want to teach English
8)            Updated resume with references
9)            A really nice portrait
10)          International Driver License

For Korea and some countries in the Middle East specifically you also need an FBI criminal background check (CBC). This is a whole different animal than most of the documents you will be required to gather for a job application at an English school. This requires a visit to your local sheriff’s department or police station to get a "10 card" done which is every finger and some of your palm. Then you send this off with a form (make sure you mark the form for “apostille”) to FBI and in about 6 to 8 weeks you will get your FBI background check.

The self portrait is an interesting item because in America this is not a typical item that would be included in a CV. However for many countries it is very important and plays a major role in the hiring phase of the job search. A professional portrait will go a long way to set you apart.

A couple other things I would recommend before an interview. All the interviews will be totally different. Japan has very formal interviews with personality tests. Korea goes through lots of recruiting companies and the interviews are purely academic. I got questions like, “Do you like kids?” and, “Are you a patient person?” I would prepare yourself for the interviews by making sure that you speak very clearly and slowly and memorizing a couple children’s songs in case you are put on the spot about working with children.

In any case be prepared to spend hours reading snarky comments on message boards and articles written in peoples blogs to find out if where you're going is what you want. Ultimately the situation will be what you make of it when you get there.

Here are some links that will be helpful if you are looking at teaching English overseas.
http://www.eslcafe.com/ - Really complete message board with lots of job listings. You can find pretty much everything you need from here using the message board as a hub

http://www.tesoltraining.net/ - This is who Shana and I went through to get our TESOL certificate. There are many like this one. Find one that fits in your budget and isn't completely ripped to shreds on message boards.

http://www.esljobsworld.com/ - There are many websites like this that you can create a profile and companies will reach out to and you can browse job listings. Very popular countries like China, Korea and Japan will have country specific websites. Pick a place and register.

www.google.com - Seriously. There is no better tool to find out tidbits of information about where you are looking at teaching and schools.  
 
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