In the August edition of the Teach Away Telegram, we discuss whether or not international teaching is a feasible long-term career option. We also have a look at a very exciting teaching program that recently launched in the Republic of Georgia. And finally, one teacher shares what he learned while teaching in the United Arab Emirates – and why he is going back this fall!
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Happy reading! – The Teach Away Team
In this issue:
Teaching overseas for a year is often considered something one does after graduating university. Let’s face it, if you’re a native English speaker, possess a Bachelor’s degree, and you are open to new countries and cultures, teaching English abroad for a year is one of the best ways to get some of that desperately needed experience – and money – after university.
As the emphasis on English language learning extends to more and more countries around the world, the need for English teachers grows in unison. Many governments have recognized that in order to develop as a nation, communication in English is key. Because of this, these governments have initiated education reforms – the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia are two countries that come to mind – focusing on introducing English to their youth, and in some cases, through immersion with other subjects like Science and Math. Private organizations have also used these government initiatives to develop their own English schools to not only teach English to children, but also to adults.
All this growth is great, but can you teach overseas and still raise children, stay connected with friends and family, or even save a substantial amount of money? Is a long-term career overseas feasible?
In short, yes.
Since the need for teachers is always growing, many international teaching programs now offer longer-term renewable contracts, as well as family allowances in order to attract a larger pool of qualified teachers. Opportunities allowing family visa sponsorship and comfortable accommodations are becoming more common; some also subsidize schooling for children.
Staying connected with family and friends back home shouldn’t be much of a concern, especially considering the technological era in which we live. An internet connection and a webcam, along with some well-timed scheduling, are all it takes to see and talk to those you miss.
Now, after considering family and friends, many people think about finances. Initially, teaching overseas may not seem to be the most lucrative option, but the cost of living is much lower in many countries, and this can add up to substantial savings for teachers. With the appropriate credentials and experience, more lucrative programs with salaries approaching $6,000 US/month are also accessible.
Let’s think about all of this for a second:
Teaching overseas provides you the chance to travel and experience another culture, learn a new language, build upon your resume, earn a steady income, live comfortably, bring a family in some opportunities, and still stay connected with family and friends. And of course, you’ll be able to meet new people, many of whom are teaching overseas and connecting via social networking pages like Teach Away’s Facebook page. So, what may have once been considered as a quick stint to build some experience and earn some money after graduation has quickly blossomed into a very feasible career option. Adventure and stability now co-exist teaching overseas.
Have you heard of Georgia? No, not the US State home to Coca-Cola’s headquarters, CNN, or any one of Ted Turner’s moustache-sporting enterprises; but Georgia, the country positioned at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
Ever since prying itself free from Soviet reign in 1918, the country has been trying to re-establish itself as the world power it once was during the reign of the Roman Empire. The country’s economy has recently experienced a major shift since the government announced an initiative to focus on building English language skills through the Teach and Learn with Georgia Program (TLG).
This program, aimed at public schools from the primary to secondary levels, allows native English speakers from Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa to work alongside a local Georgian teacher to teach English. As education is a priority to the Georgian government, resources and support for teachers in this program are on the rise. In fact, Georgia’s Ministry of Education has given so much attention and funding to the program that at present, 75% of all classrooms now have computers and high-speed internet.
But the focus is not only on classes and student success. Teachers are being supported as much as possible as well. Foreign teachers are provided the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Georgian culture by staying with a host-family, traveling to famous areas including the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains via organized tours, and dining on delicacies including khachapuri (cheese bread) and khinkali (a Georgian take on dumplings).
With 6-month and 12-month teaching contracts available that offer stipends equal to what many local Georgians earn per month, this is a great way for anyone with the minimum of 2 years of post-secondary education to travel, teach, and experience life overseas.
This month, we spoke to Milad Mazaheritaghizadeh, who recently finished a 2 year contract in the United Arab Emirates. Milad taught grade 2 in Al Sameeh, Al Rahba, about 30 minutes from the city of Abu Dhabi. While Milad is currently enjoying some time in North America with friends and family, he is gearing up to return to teaching in Abu Dhabi this fall.
When we asked Milad why he applied to teach overseas 2 years ago, he cited the need for a new challenge as his primary reason. “My friends were talking about this opportunity in the Middle East. After some time, I thought why not?” He had been teaching in Toronto for 2 years and the drastic change of pace the United Arab Emirates seemed to offer appealed to him; he was ready to try something new.
Despite being ready for a change, Milad admits, “The UAE was not what I expected. I thought it would be more traditional, because it’s a Muslim country. It was much more Westernized than I expected, and it definitely caters to expats. In terms of the actual classroom experience, I didn’t know what to expect.”
As it turns out, Milad suggests the best attitude is to expect the unexpected. When he first started teaching in the UAE, the education reform project in Abu Dhabi had just launched. Resources were scarce and most classrooms were bare. Now, schools are improving the number of resources available to students and teachers, and there is an increasing amount of support available to staff.
“The worst thing a teacher can do, in my opinion, is expect teaching in the UAE to be like teaching in Canada or in the US. There is definitely a different way of life, and you learn to adapt to it. You learn to go with the flow. Don’t ask why the little things are the way they are; you’re just there to do the best job you can do. You have to see it for the great opportunity it is.”
While many teachers make the move to the UAE for the lucrative tax-free salary, in order to gain more teaching experience, and to experience teaching in a different setting, Milad says that teaching overseas can definitely advance one’s career. “Teaching in the UAE allowed me to experience new things, grow as a person, experience different teaching styles and different education systems, and develop my adaptability as an educator.”
When asked why he will be returning to the UAE this fall, Milad talks about the best part of the job: improving student achievement. “It’s a great feeling to see an actual change. You see a substantial change in the kids, whereas in North America, results aren’t that dramatic. You’ll see kids make huge strides in their language ability level, and that’s the best part.”