Friday, July 22, 2011

Teaching Abroad: Shane's World Part 1

Today's blog post will actually be a series of Teaching Abroad topics. My former CS co-worker Shane is currently teaching in Thailand as has been for a year now. I've asked him to provide his advice and experience as a new grad teaching abroad and he kindly provided all of this information! These are his words of wisdom:
*insert Law and Order sound effects*

Should I use a recruiting agency?

First off there are a ton of recruiting agencies to choose from before you go abroad. Some of these places are pushy especially the ones recruiting for the UK (I still get emails from them even though I have requested to be taken off their list, Hannah also was receiving phone calls at 7AM). After looking at numerous agencies it became clear that the agencies did not have the best deals. For example the places we looked at in Thailand offered a salary of less than a quarter what we make. This is not the same for Korea or the UK but I’m still not sure I would have gone through an agency if I went in that direction. Agencies offer piece of mind and probably not much else, they don’t guarantee you end up at a great school. They hire you before you go and help set you up in an apartment and ensure you are ready for your first day of teaching. However, if you do some research yourself and choose a good school or education company they will do all of that. Our school was immensely helpful in helping us get through the transition period.

Should I wait to get hired before I go abroad?

Hannah and I waited to get hired before we went abroad. This took a lot of work on our part but made things easier once we got to Thailand. There was great piece of mind, and some important things (like applying for a visa if necessary) cannot be done once you are in the country.

However, those who are more adventuresome have a lot to gain from waiting to find a job once they arrive in the country. This is definitely the most popular method in Thailand. You can travel around and find an area you like and then apply to the schools in that area. If you choose this method I suggest you come a month or two before a new school term because this is when many companies get desperate looking for new people. Also ensure you have enough money to live without work for at least three months (including the costs of getting and setting up a new apartment). The chances you will get a job are in your favour but if you can’t wait around for one you will be racing against the clock.

What should I look for in a job?

There are a few things that I would suggest you look for in a job to make your experience the best possible.
Location – just because you are in the country of your dreams doesn’t mean you will be in the best location. You can end up teaching in somewhere very remote with no other English speakers and not many amenities. That can be a tough experience if that is not what you are interested in. If you choose a location for a specific amenity (for instance the beaches) make sure that where you are working is within travelling distance. We came to Thailand thinking that there were beaches everywhere and ended up teaching inland, several hours from the sea, this wasn’t really a deal-breaking factor but is something to consider. 
Salary – I would recommend being on salary. Many teachers get offered hourly rates but that can lead to problems (you may not get as many hours as promised, we have seen this many times). Your hours are not guaranteed and work can be inconsistent. You don’t want to be at your schools beck and call. Also make sure your salary is enough to get you by and maybe enough to travel and pay for a flight home.
Time off – Assuming you are teaching abroad to see the world and the country you are staying in you will probably want time to travel. Ask about holidays and how much time you get off. Just because you are a teacher doesn’t mean you get summers off.
Benefits –it is VERY important that you have a health plan where you are teaching. If the company you work for will not offer you health benefits (and they should) make SURE you sign up for a plan in Canada. Sometimes the benefits that come with your school may not be all inclusive, it may not be a bad idea to sign up for a travel insurance plan back in Canada even if you are offered one abroad. They are often not that expensive and we know of several instances where people have had to rely on their back-home coverage in big accidents. Some companies also help you find a place to live, pay for your flights or cover other expenses. Make sure to ask what kind of benefits you will receive. 

More teaching abroad topics by Shane continued here

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