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Teaching abroad mistakes I won’t repeat 

April 27, 2024 5 Comments

Teaching abroad is an incredible adventure. You get to immerse yourself in a new culture, share your knowledge, and help students achieve their goals. But with all the excitement, it’s easy to overlook some potential pitfalls. Here are some common mistakes I made at the  start of my teaching abroad journey, and why I won’t be repeating them:

Being location specific

Most international teachers seem to choose their locations before looking for job offers. For example, it’s not uncommon for teachers to say “I want to work in Dubai” and then ONLY look for jobs in Dubai. There’s a few reasons that this is problematic such as the fact that you narrow down your options to places thousands of applicants apply to. When there’s a high demand for jobs, schools can offer less knowing that there are so many people willing to accept less. Opening up your options being job driven- rather than location driven- allows you to focus on your professional goals and receive the best package. While there’s nothing wrong with considering an entire region, I would discourage teachers from picking a specific city or place.  I wrote about this in more detail here.

Taking the first offer that appears

Repeat after me:

-There’s nothing wrong with signing up with different recruiters simultaneously 

-Interviewing at multiple schools in different places

-Turning down multiple offers

-Shopping around to find an offer that’s best for you 

You do not need to take the first offer that comes your way. Compare and contrast contracts/offer letters especially regarding holidays, taxes, and benefits. Just because you have an offer does not mean that you need to accept it. Every time I accepted the first offer that came my way, it ended up being some of the worst jobs I’ve done. 

Relying heavily on online reviews

Many teachers- new and seasoned- rely on websites like International Schools Review to form opinions on schools they are considering offers from. I do believe that this website- and similar ones- have their place and serve a purpose. However, international teaching is constantly evolving and staff turnover can be quite high. When key leaders of schools (directors and principals) leave, it can completely change the dynamics of an institution. Many reviews are obsolete and do not reflect current contexts. Furthermore, many reviews are focused on one particular school leader. While their tenure at a specific place might’ve reigned terror, people do grow and change as they move from school to school (or in most places country to country). I advise you to take these online reviews with a pinch of salt.

Not talking to current staff at the school

Don’t mistake my previous point for meaning that you shouldn’t research schools before considering their offers. In fact, I also advocate for interviewing schools in the same way they’re interviewing you. I discuss that more in this post. However, I think it’s more beneficial to talk to someone currently employed at the school rather than reading online reviews. There’s no harm in asking for this and being specific about the kind of person you want to talk to. For example if you’re going to teach high school English, ask to speak to another high school English teacher. You can also request to speak to a female or someone of your ethnicity (if they’re on hand). Talking to someone currently employed there means you can ask specific questions and have access to the current climate of the school.

If the school fails to put you in touch with someone or evades your request, that is an immediate red flag.

Teaching abroad is a chance to grow as a person and an educator. By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure a successful and enriching experience for yourself and your students. Now, go out there and make a world of difference – not just for students but also for your own personal growth!

If you liked this post, and are considering teaching abroad, you may also be interested in other related posts:

A step by step guide on how to find an international teaching job

Questions to ask when interviewing schools

Signs you’re choosing a good international school to work at

The racism of teaching abroad

What I wish I knew before teaching abroad

How to disrupt & resist grind culture for teachers

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5 Comments

  • Amanda Jane April 27, 2024 at 6:31 pm

    I think a common mistake is not asking enough questions or the right questions, which you eluded to in your section about “Not Talking to Current Staff at the School,” and you’ve talked specifically about in an entire blog post of its own.

    I honestly think your “Questions to Ask When Interviewing Schools” blog post is one of the most helpful and important for teachers to read and consider when they are approaching interviews with schools. You’ve definitely taught me to be incredibly thorough and to not hold back when it comes to asking questions and even asking for items that might seem like small details, but actually shape a lot of teachers’ day to day experiences.

    Brilliant!

    • expatpanda April 29, 2024 at 2:54 pm

      You raise an important point that sometimes we just don’t know what questions to ask. I am hoping by sharing more experiences, people will start to think about what information they need in order to make a decision before accepting an offer. You are right, even the smallest details can make a difference to a teacher’s daily schedule!

  • Victoria | QweenVic.com April 28, 2024 at 12:31 am

    You make a lot of great points. I always forget speaking to current staff is an option. Thanks for the insight.

    • expatpanda April 29, 2024 at 2:52 pm

      Many people don’t think they can ask to speak to current staff. But it should become more normalised because it provides great insights.

  • Barbara May 5, 2024 at 8:18 pm

    Great information. Thanks so much for sharing!

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