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Joyjobs: Pam and Igor


Importing Educators

Causes and Consequences of International Teacher Recruitment

American Federation of Teachers
International Affairs Department
555 New Jersey Ave NW
Washington DC 20001

 

Pam and Igor: Canadian students ask about teaching and living overseas –The Bridges Initiatives Inc.

joyjobs quotesHave you ever regretted being overseas because you were too homesick and too far away from your family? (Beth Marsh)

Pamela:

When you move from Vermont to Nevada, you are as far from (or just as close to) your former friends as when you go to Germany or Singapore. The difference is that if you move to Germany or Singapore, you will usually fly home for a few weeks every summer. Besides, the internet and Skype are everywhere, even in Central Africa.

The other important difference is that when you teach abroad you finally leave your couch and TV, and enter a whole new world of REAL people and places. What is there to regret? I’ve written a separate Web page about why I love teaching abroad: http://joyjobs.com/community/teaching.html

Igor:

There is always good and bad. But on the whole, nobody we have taught with overseas ever regretted this experience. Moreover, people feel fortunate to have found this opportunity.

We have received a couple of emails from some disappointed teachers. This typically happens when a person goes abroad unprepared or makes poor choices — just like any other job. The majority of our friends remain overseas; nobody really wants to return home. When you teach overseas the whole world becomes your home.

questionCan Canadians get jobs with the American Department of Defense Schools? If so, how? (Hazel J. Hewitt)

Igor:

Most international schools hire Canadian teachers. There are also Canadian international schools. However, to be employed by the U.S. Department of Defense, one must be a U.S. citizen.

questionHow much schooling have you guys had? (Tabitha Terry)

Igor:

Pam has a Masters degree in Elementary Education and also holds a BA in Fine Arts. I have a BA in English and German. Most international schools require a valid teaching certificate in the area of application (math, science, PE, art, music, etc.), in addition to a BA or MA degree.

questionI would like to know who you contact for overseas teaching positions. You mentioned international schools. Please respond with an address or email. Thanks! (Deborah Danyluk)

We post thousands of actual job vacancies on this website. Teachers, librarians, counselors and school administrators are hired routinely. The information and recruitment tools are plentiful and available. For direct assistance, you are welcome to email us.

Japan, Student, cranes, classroom,

questionI am currently teaching in Manitoba. I have two years of teaching experience. I would like to know what the minimum qualifications are for teaching in Australia. (Winnie Ferguson)

Igor:

We cover the K12 international schools, primarily. Most of these schools are located outside Australia, USA, UK, Canada and the other English speaking countries.

As far as the public schools in Australia are concerned, the present migration requirements for teachers are for an award, which is comparable to an Australian bachelor degree, plus at least a year of professional studies and teaching practice in education at a recognized institution.

Pamela:

There are many other important details. You should contact the nearest Australian embassy, high commission or consulate.

questionI would love to be an overseas teacher, as I have always wanted to travel and teach. I was wondering how I could become a teacher overseas, and how you felt about your teaching job? (Jessica Bond)

Igor:

It's a rewarding job. You only have to be a graduate from a university or teacher's college, and have certification from some state. It helps to have two years of teaching experience, but sometimes you will be hired if you have lived overseas for some time. The more teaching experience you have, the better — and make sure your grades and recommendations are top notch. Good luck!

questionWhat's it like to go places that you've never been before? (Jennifer)

Pamela:

Well, this is one of the reasons to live and travel overseas! It's terribly exciting, and it makes every day an adventure. If you love to experience new sensations, then each day becomes a treasure. You will undoubtedly see amazing people and situations, smell unusual smells, and taste food combinations you never thought imaginable.

It's also very exciting to go to a place that one has only read about or seen in pictures. Even the most famous historic landmarks and buildings are amazing when seen in reality.

questionWhat's child care like overseas? (April Gruetzmacher)

Igor:

This depends on the country. If we had stayed in Bulgaria, we could have probably hired a nanny and cook to help us with the baby (and still have saved money). I think children are loved the world over, sometimes to the point of being spoiled — it's not something I would have worried over.

Actually, in most other countries children are toilet trained at a much younger age. Our son was out of diapers at home when he was just over one year old. Other countries have more practical solutions to problems than finding a more absorbent diaper. Child care is free in Europe, as is a college education.

questionWhy did you decide to teach overseas? Did you do it so you could travel the world? (Ludy R.)

Pamela:

Absolutely! I was looking for a job which would offer me flexibility, creativity and a chance to see the world. It was a great decision. I hope one day to work my way around the world (I'm already halfway there!)

questionIs there an upper limit on the age of people who can teach overseas? (Elaine Bauman)

Pamela:

We have taught with people of all ages. If you are in good health, you will be able to teach overseas. Maturity is important because it shows that you will be able to weather the changes of living in a new environment. Those who have seen more in their lives are more adaptable.

Igor: The work visa requirements differ from country to country and depend on the specific job as well as the overall employment situation. Some jobs are less sensitive to age than others. For example, school counselors. Many countries limit work visas to those under 60. However, if you are flexible about locations you can teach even after that. Check our Age Limits page for the specifics.

Kagoshima, Japan

questionIs there anywhere you wouldn't recommend working? (Suzanne Kiltille)

Pamela:

As a woman, I would think twice about working in a country which has repressive attitudes toward women, although it doesn't seem to bother other female teachers as the pay is often very high. I wouldn't want to work in a country with an unstable government.

Two good friends of mine are in Indonesia and it was scary last spring when the students were rioting and foreigners were scrambling to get out of the country, although they say that it is now safe and there are no problems. Because the local currency devalued so intensely the dollar is king and they are living like millionaires. We decided to leave Bulgaria finally because there was a water crisis and we had water rationing two out of three days. I wouldn't want to live in a country again where water was a problem.

Igor:

It's a free market out there, so there is all kind of entrepreneurial activity. Schools often follow money. You should be concerned with the integrity of your prospective school and its leadership above all. For example, many international schools have opened in Nigeria to accommodate the needs of the oil industry.

Company owned schools are not accredited by any independent international organization, so it's hard to know what's going on there.

The booming economies of Southeast Asia follow suit. Parents are paying top dollar for their kids' education but not all the startups are up to the mark. So the first thing to check is how old is your prospective school. Is it established, accredited and licensed?

People tend to think in terms of countries but it's always about a particular school. We post alerts on schools that have problems, as reported by teachers.

questionHow much can you make working overseas? (Janie Ahtila)

Pamela:

This depends entirely on your job, in which currency you are being paid and in which country you are working. In Spain, I wasn't able to save much money but I lived very well on my salary and traveled Spain extensively. Cafes and restaurants are abundant in Spain and most people spend very little time at home. Most of my friends would go home to nap or to sleep and that was about it. If housing is included in your contract you will be much better off financially.

Igor:

Salaries and benefits vary greatly from school to school, from $25,000 to $110,000 for teaching positions, and $45,000 to $180,000 for administrative jobs. The real question is not how much you are going to make, but how much you'll be able to save. You have free housing, no utility bills, no taxes, no car payments — and if the cost of living is low — even a modest salary overseas is still better than huge paychecks at home that have to cover these expenses. Initially, many foreigners are impressed by high salaries in North America. Their attitudes change when they find out how much of this income goes to cover your mortgage, private heath care, car and house insurances, taxes and credit card debt.

questionDo you teach all ages or can you choose the age of your students? (David Hill)

Pamela:

It depends on what sort of job you have. I was hired to teach first grade in Spain and then second grade in Bulgaria. If you teach at a language academy you will have to teach five or six classes per day, and you probably will not get to choose what age level you will teach. You may be able to ask for one group that is your preferred age.

And sometimes you can make a little extra money by teaching an after-school activity or sport, or by tutoring privately in town. Right now I teach English to students in grades two to five, which is nice because I interact with lots of kids.

questionDo you have to speak the language of the country you're teaching in? (Jonas Ethan)

Pamela:

No. When I taught in Spain it was actually an asset that I didn't speak Spanish because it forced me to speak English with my students. However, you will pick up the language while you live there. By the time I left Spain, I was conferencing with the parents in Spanish.

Igor:

In Bulgaria, the school community was truly international and the common language was English. We took lessons for two years while we lived there, but we never mastered the Bulgarian language. It makes everyday life a lot easier if you know the host country's language, but you don't need it at all to get a job overseas.

questionWhat's your favorite country? (Christian Todal)

Pamela:

My first foreign country was Germany, so it will always have a place in my heart. I grew to love Spain with its diversity and history. I traveled almost exclusively in Spain during the three years that I was there. Bulgaria was an amazing country to live in. It had changed from communism to a market economy just before I moved there, and I was able to witness many interesting changes (not all of them positive). I'm sure as you travel around the world, you will find the places that you love and will want to return to, as well as the places you will want to avoid in the future.

Igor:

I love medieval history and France has so much of it. (Check our my publications on Joan of Arc ). I am also captivated by Japan and its uniquness.

questionWhat are the best ways (or places) to get info on the good-paying opportunities that exist overseas (Paul Thomas)

Probably the best-paying jobs are with the international schools circuit. We post these vacancies daily and there are aslo recruiting fairs which look specifically for certified teachers and these jobs are high paying and very secure.

It used to be safer to be paid in U.S. dollars. As the global economy takes over, other currencies appear even more stable.

During our 2.5 years in Japan the Yen kept rising against the US dollar steadily. It was like an extra raise every month. Likewise, despite what you may hear in the media, the Euro has done exceedingly well in the recent decade.

There are many other advantages to working at an international school. For example, your school takes care of your housing expenses as well as your airfare to and from the job, along with a substantial amount of personal belongings. You are also entitled to a $97,000 exclusion on your taxable income (US citizens). And you travel and meet all kinds of people — it's an adventure every day.

For young teachers, it is advisable to gain some overseas experience working at a local language academy or a small private school. Fullbright Teacher Exchange Program is also a good start for a recent college grad.

questionHave you ever been to England, if so what's it like? (Ethan)

Pamela:

I have been to England several times. My experiences there were very positive. My first trip to England was with a rail pass, so I travelled by train for several weeks before my school term began in Germany.

It's quite an expensive country. I found it very tidy and very much in order. London is one of the most amazing cities in the world. I travelled there several times from Spain and I found it extremely colorful, vibrant and exciting. I had some difficulty understanding the English spoken in Great Britain, especially in Scotland, but I remember laughing a lot because I couldn't make myself understood either. Write again if you have more specific questions about travel there and I'll be happy to answer.

Igor:

My personal recollection is that it has the best Indian food outside of India, if not better!

London is also the biggest recruitment hub for international schools worldwide. A lot of teacher recruiting is done in London

English

questionHi Pam and Igor, I have a student who is interested in teaching English as a second language but is unable to obtain education further than Grade 12 at this time (financial reasons). Is there any opportunity for someone without a teaching certificate? He has taught some people from Korea while they were here in Canada, so he does have some experience. (Jacquie Thom)

Pamela:

Sure. He could teach at any language academy. There are thousands of them all over the world. At my school in Spain there were dozens of academies, and most of the teachers filling the positions didn't have certification.

Actually, the more popular teachers were the younger ones who could share the American ways and customs. The academies cater to all sorts of locals from school kids to business professionals. Simply being a native speaker of English counts for a lot at a language academy. If he can narrow down a little bit where he wants to live, he can zero in on some academies in the area or city there and begin applying.

Igor:

The world is becoming more competitive so there are fewer opportunities for uncertified applicants. If he is serious he should get some professional training.

Teaching English for extra money is always an option. In Japan, cram schools and private tutors are very popular. Kids go to their regular day schools and then attend night classes for extra work. Asian students are incredibly hardworking and the society as a whole is obsessed with education.

Cram school Japan

questionI read your article that was published in CX. I myself am taking two foreign languages and hope that someday I will also be able to travel abroad. My plans for college are to major in foreign language (education) and international marketing. I had noticed that you had gone overseas to teach which interested me greatly. I was wondering if you might give me some hints as to how I could get started on such an endeavor. I speak German and Spanish. I'm eager to hear from you. Thanks again. (Brian Walk)

Our initial reaction is to suggest that you also take some TEFL classes or even some basic education classes when you are in school (maybe cut down on electives and fill in with education classes) so you will be certified to teach English to non-native speakers of the language. This may open more doors for you for teaching overseas and, quite possibly, get you into an international school in Germany or Spain or South America.

If you are certified to teach Spanish or German, you will have to rely on the schools overseas which offer those programs (my hunch is that French is offered more than the other languages). And usually a local person is hired (cheaper) to teach the host language to the students.

Teaching at an international school would be in English, however your language skills would be necessary outside of school or for helping the administration deal with the host country and local staff. Our friend Erik Richardson is a language wizard. He mastered Bulgarian quickly and is presently in South East Asia. The school sent him to an intensive one-on-one language course this summer to improve his language ability and he is instrumental around the school on a day-to-day basis.

questionWas it ever dangerous on your travels? (Beth Robertson)

Pamela:

I was only physically scared once or twice in all the time I was overseas.

Once was in Portugal while walking down a very narrow fish alley in a coastal town. Sharp and enormous filleting knives were being used on all sides, there were mounds of fresh fish to be prepared for market and there was barely room to turn around. I became claustrophobic in a big way and knew that an enormous arm was going to come out and haul me off into one of the closed doors.

The other time was when I attended a gypsy festival in the south of France. Heaven knows why we decided this would be fun. We were going to camp out on the beach and, luckily for us, we found a large hospice tent set up by a local church. I entered that tent on Friday night and didn't come out until Sunday when we were leaving. It was SCARY! I saw enough just sitting in the tent watching the people coming in and out to know that I really didn't want to see more of what was on the other side.

Igor:

Pam's first visit to Russia was in the fall of 1993, a few weeks after the government tanks fired shells at the parliament building. The walls were still charred as they were replacing the broken glass. We saw candles and flowers where over a hundred people had died. A passing woman swore at us: many people were convinced it was the US government who instigated the attack. It was an eerie scene. I felt uncomfortable.

Our house in Sofia was burglarized while we were at school. They took only Pam's jewelry and disappeared before the police arrived.

Keep in mind that the most crimes in the places where we lived were against property, not people.

In Japan, for example, any kind of violence is practically non-existent. Students as young as six walk to school and back home, all by themselves. (In case you wondered, face masks are not about pollution, Japan is clean. The Japanese wear masks out of respect to others.)

Japanese student, early years / kindergarten school

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