5 reasons not to teach English abroad

Teaching English abroad is a popular way to work and travel at the same time. Although, with that said, there is definitely more working than travelling. Despite this, there are many reasons not to teach English abroad.

If you have already exhausted working holidays in Australia and New Zealand, then it can be a good way to remain on the road and avoid the dreaded return home!

Teaching can be a rewarding experience, but that’s not to say it’s all plain sailing. The job can differ greatly depending on whether you’re teaching children or adults.

Unless you are teaching in places like Korea or the Gulf States, you are not going to be earning a shed-load of money. In some European countries, depending on your schedule, you earn enough to get by!

If you’re asking yourself whether teaching English abroad is a good idea, then I recommend you take a look at my 5 reasons for not teaching English abroad before you go ahead and commit to anything.

TEFL buddies

5 reasons not to teach English abroad

Children

Chances are if you decide to teach English abroad and you complete your TEFL course, that you will eventually end up teaching children at some point. As you can imagine, teaching children is a quite a bit different to teaching adults. Simply, adults are learning by choice, whereas children are not. Their parents will have made them take the classes in most cases.

This can lead to a few problems, lack of interest, bad behaviour and an unwillingness to learn. This all presents a challenge to the teacher,as you have to convince the students that learning English can be enjoyable. If you don’t like children, then this is one of the best reasons not to teach English abroad. It’s highly unlikely you’ll go through your TEFL career without teaching children at some point.

If you struggle to relate to children, it can be difficult teaching them. Children have short attention spans and get bored quickly. You have to be an entertainer as well as a teacher. I didn’t imagine that I would end up teaching children when I completed my TEFL course, and it was certainly difficult at first.

So make sure you decide beforehand if you want to teach children or not, because it is certainly a lot easier and less stressful teaching adults!

Money

Money is one of the main reasons not to teach English abroad! If you plan on getting rich from teaching English in a foreign country, then you might want to reconsider, as you are unlikely to get rich doing this job. Unless you work in places such as Korea or the Gulf states, then you are unlikely to make that much money. These countries also prefer to hire teachers who have at least two years teaching experience, so you have little chance of getting employment straight away.

In many cases, teachers make just about enough to get by, unless they are working ridiculous hours. Even then you will actually not be earning that much. Depending on where you work, well-paid jobs with top international schools can be hard to come by.

I work in Barcelona, where the city is saturated with English teachers, so finding a job is difficult. I have classes, but only 12-15 hours a week. Although that is enough to pay my rent every month and buy groceries, it doesn’t leave much to save! I seriously considered moving back home after a few months.

You can earn decent money teaching English, but this is normally after years of teaching. Even then a little bit of luck finding the right job is needed. If money is your primary motivating factor for work, then teaching English abroad may not be for you!

money, money, money

Preparing classes

This is perhaps the worst part of the job, and for a number of reasons. The first one is that it’s very time-consuming, you’re going to spend a lot of time preparing your classes. I don’t advise relying on worksheets and handouts, by the way, I tried that and it doesn’t work!

The second reason is that you don’t get paid for preparing your classes. You could spend 3 to 4 hours preparing your classes for the coming week, yet that time is not rewarded. This is a particular annoyance of mine, but that’s the way the industry works, unfortunately! This is one of the best reasons not to teach English abroad if you don’t like working and not getting paid for it.

You could come up with the best lesson plan ever, but you’re not going to get a penny for it. You only get paid for the hours that you have a class. Unless you are extremely lucky to have a contract at a school, then this is a grim fact of life as a TEFL teacher!

Preparing a TEFL class

Character

One thing that puts off a lot of people wanting to be a teacher is the thought of standing in front of a class. It can be a nerve-wracking thought and it certainly takes someone with the right character to be a teacher. I was petrified the first time I stood in front of a class to teach, but the more practice you get the better you get.

If this is an issue for you, then I would advise you to do a classroom based TEFL course instead of an online one. This way you will get practice of teaching in front of a class, which will help you prepare for the big, bad, world of teaching. A classroom course also has the benefit of being looked upon more favourably by employers!

If standing in front of people still gives you a fright, it may be best to look for another job! Teaching is certainly not for everyone. If you’re not comfortable being the centre of attention and answering awkward questions, then it’s not for you!

Unreliability

Unless you have a contract with a school or teach in-company classes, most of your classes will be private. This does depend on the country you are teaching in, as private classes are banned in South Korea for example. Private classes can be a lucrative option to add more hours and money to your schedule, but they can be unreliable.

Students are liable to cancel, so it’s best to ensure that you have a 24-hour cancellation policy, to avoid missing out on money. If a student doesn’t give you 24 hours when they miss a class they are obliged to pay!

If you are teaching adults, then it’s more likely that they will cancel as opposed to children. This is one of the primary benefits of teaching children. Unless they are ill, the parents will rarely cancel class. Adults, on the other hand, can be notoriously flaky. So bear this in mind, before you commit to teaching lots of private classes!

Life of a TEFL teacher

Doing a TEFL course was a great experience, it was something I had wanted to do for a while. Teaching wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be, but all of the above has made this discovery a little less great.

The life of a TEFL teacher is not as easy and plain sailing as it might seem. It’s worth considering these 5 reasons not to teach English abroad  before you start teaching English abroad!

Tom

Tom is a travel addict who first left England to spend a year Down Under. Not satisfied with this, he then went to New Zealand, about as far away from home as he could get. He is now planning his next adventures in Europe and Canada while maintaining this blog.

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5 Responses

  1. Hung Thai says:

    Very interesting perspective indeed – I guess if you really take time to think about it, teaching abroad can be more challenging than imagined. But I would think the challenge would be rewarded in some breakthroughs with students, right?

    • Tom says:

      It certainly hasn’t gone the way I imagined that’s for sure, but like you said, seeing a student progress and understand concepts, does make it worthwhile!

  2. Taylor says:

    I’m happy I saw this. I was actually thinking about writing something similar, because I also taught English abroad and I feel like a lot of people play it off as being so easy. It’s not, and it’s definitely not for everyone!

    • Tom says:

      It’s definitely not an easy job, planning a lesson is the worst part of the job, especially as you don’t get paid for this. I agree it’s definitely not for everyone, but it can be a rewarding job, and if you have great students, that makes it more fun!

  3. Sarah says:

    I loved this post! I was worried at first it would be a huge generalisation but it perfectly described the problems tefling can sometimes encounter! I’ve been teaching in Maldives and Italy, and onto Canary Islands in Sept if anyone’s interested in taking a gander!

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