What’s Life Like as an English Teacher?

Comments from English Teachers Living and Working Overseas

“Sometimes I pinch myself. I can’t believe that I’m here in Malaysia teaching English.” Tina, Durban

“Having lived in the United Arab Emirates for the last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over Europe from Tuscany and the South of France up through Germany and into Norway, Denmark and Sweden. I’ve been to Cyprus, Thailand, Oman and I’m off to Jordan next month. You’ve got to love the lifestyle.” Collette, Brisbane

“Abso-bloody-lutely (am I allowed to say that?) fantastic! I spent 4 months working in a school in South Africa. I’m home to finish my degree and then I’m going back.” Cass, Melbourne

“You know I think one of the things I enjoy most is the expat community here in Singapore . They are so supportive. When I was sick friends came over with meals for us and they looked after Jon and Will for us and took them to school and Kindy. I’ve made friends for life.” Sharon, Ottawa

Pluses of Life as an English Teacher

Life as an English teacher is not all champagne and roses, but there can be a lot of good times. Sometimes it’s magic. You’ll have opportunities to travel, live amongst different cultures and learn other languages. You’ll see your own culture in a new light, meet new friends and enjoy yourself.

The strangest events will open your eyes to things you took for granted. I bet you thought that going into a supermarket to buy shampoo and conditioner would be easy! Think again. It can be a real challenge in Hungary! Maybe you thought a speed limit of 120 meant you had to drive at or less than a 120 kilometres per hour, well, not so in the Arab Emirates where 120 means that the speed cameras are set to 160 and everyone knows this so that’s the general speed of the traffic. You may have seen traffic hazards on the road, but head to Fujairah and you’ll find camels ambling across the roads causing untold havoc when cars are whizzing by at 160 plus kilometres per hour. There is even the weird and wonderful roadside signage you’ll discover like ‘Beware of Road Surprises’ in Oman or a ‘SOTP’ sign in Abu Dhabi (at which you are expected to stop!).

You’ll become familiar with strange architecture and learn about the history of the country you’re in. You’ll be amazed by the supportive nature of so many expat communities where your friends are like family; they’ll be there for life. You’ll smell new smells, hear new sounds and see new sights.

The Downside of Life as an English Teacher

Your job as an English teacher can be exhausting and demanding. It’s an important job that requires thought and preparation. You need to be at work each day prepared and ready to teach. You need to consider how to best meet the demands of your students and keep track of those who are falling behind or struggling as well as those who are racing ahead. There is always something to learn and a different way to approach a problem and you may often wonder if a different approach could have resulted in a better outcome, but keeping on the ball is a good way of ensuring the quality of your teaching

You’ll experience tension between staff and sometimes between students. Like any other workplace you may find a terrible boss or unpleasant colleagues. There may be an undersupply of resources or support. There may be too many meetings or not enough. You may be expected to teach long hours with little time for lesson preparation. Your working conditions may not be those you were led to expect. This can happen anywhere and it is up to you to decide if you’ll make the best of it or if you’ll move on.

You’ll bring yourself with you. If you’re usually grumpy and negative, you’ll probably continue to be like that unless you make a huge effort. Luckily, a new place with new people gives you exactly that opportunity. You can reinvent yourself!

A Final Word from English Teachers

“It’s like being retired, but with something to keep me busy.” Jon, Hawaii

“Thailand is the most interesting place I’ve worked. Being a largely Buddhist country, the people have some interesting thoughts about life.” Sarah, Norfolk

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