What are the pitfalls to be aware of when going to work in another country? – an #ELTchat Summary

A PLN for ELT Professionals

What are the pitfalls to be aware of when going to work in another country? – an #ELTchat Summary

This summary was contributed by Sue Annan @sueannan on her blog and is reposted here with her kind permission.


This was the topic chosen for the evening #ELTchat of Wednesday 24th October 2012



Present , in order of comments, were: @Marisa_C, @Shaunwilden, @hartle, @ljp2010, @SueAnnan, @Wiktor_K, @teacherphili, @stephenburrows, @discovernlearn, @theteacherjames, @Noreen_Lam, @esolcourses, @vickyloras, @LozCrouch, @MarjorieRosenbe, @elleplus1, @andyscott55 and any number of lurkers, who are very welcome to join in the discussion on a future occasion.

We started by looking at some of the horror stories:

Passports: there are schools who insist on holding on to yours- this happened to Noreen_Lam in Saudi Arabia, and almost happened to @ljp in  South Korea.

Rescinded contracts: This is also a concern, where the bonus payable at the end of a contract doesn’t materialise because the contract is ended a few days before the due date.

Or how about the institution wanting control and changing the syllabus on a weekly basis?-@teacherphili- or the institution using the language provider to set up the syllabus, then doing it themselves?

Or using really outdated course books= @vickyloras

@Marisa_C also warned us about jobs offering large salaries, and asking the applicant for money up front.

ljp2010, teacherphili and theteacherjames had different views on working in South Korea. Much of it comes down to the fact that there are cowboy establishments everywhere, but not all of the schools belong on any such list.

Recruiters who are permanently looking for staff make@teacherphili wary,as he thinks the turnover rate could be very high on sites such as http://t.co/1O5LSdZp

Some sites which might help you avoid problems are mentioned below,( but be aware that they could be used by people with gripes against the institutions mentioned, so dig deeper if at all possible). Marisa’s advice would be to google the school and find out what people are saying about it.

teflteachingthe greylist.blogspot.com
Tefl Tradesman http://t.co/NafUVTua
http://t.co/IBrPuGLj ELT world discussion board



@Wiktor_K suggested asking some searching questions and @SueAnnan mentioned that inexperienced teachers don’t have the knowledge about what to ask. @Wiktor_K then suggested a checklist for inexperienced teachers to help them with their decisions. In fact the list is useful for anyone going to work abroad.



However, the first questions must be for yourself:

@Shaunwilden   Why do you want to go to the country? Have you done your homework about the school and the country?

@discovernlearn Are you ready to be flexible and expected the unexpected?

@elleplus1 made the point that you can discover yourself in a new way.

The checklist:


· How long is the contract?
· What are the hours? Are they on or off site? Is travel time included?
· What facilities are provided?
· Are language classes provided?
· Is an orientation programme available?
· What kind of city/town/place will I be living in?
· Are accommodation costs included?
· Is Health care included?
· What support is offered outside the school, particularly re cultural awareness?
· Are travel costs included?
· What about local tax laws?
· How does the tax system work re my contract?
· What is the cost of living relative to the salary?
· What will happen at the end of my contract?
· On average, how long do teachers stay at your school?
· How many of your teachers are Delta Qualified?
· Is there any scope for Professional Development:what is on offer?
· Will you support me if I want to do the Delta?
· Can I see the agenda for your last staff meeting?
· What are the biggest challenges for the school next year in terms of planning ahead and school strategy?
· Can I see the Teachers’ Handbook/Code of Conduct?
· How do the complaints/grievance procedures work?
· How motivated are the students? What is their reason for study?
· Would you mind me contacting the previous teachers?


Should teachers learn a bit of the language before going? English will get you by in many European countries, but if you are going to work further afield you have options: Hit the ground running, by being able to use numbers, money, directions and how to order a beer (or tea) depending on the country! Or, pick it up on the ground from the locals! The consensus was that you quickly learn to communicate with someone you don’t share a common language with.
There are difficult times ahead for some countries.

Be aware of the austerity measures in place and how they will affect the tax systems. Portugal is planning to tax everyone at 50%, making it less of an ideal place to workin 2013. In Poland, it is not unusual to find schools asking teachers to be self-employed in order not to have to pay taxes and insurance. In Austria the self-employed teacher has to pay 25% social security.


It is an amazing privilege to live in another country and spend as much time with the people as we can. Embrace it and enjoy it, is @theteacherjames’ advice.

There are many positives, but the key is to look at life from a different perspective @stevenburrows