Teaching English as a second language to children or adults both online and in classroom is a great way to become a digital nomad or live in any part of the world. I moved to Spain in 2011 where I began teaching English to adults. I moved to Italy in 2015 where I continued teaching online and for schools before starting my own freelance business. Teaching ESL can provide you with the freedom to travel and make your own schedule, or it can be a nightmare. Here are 4 tips you must consider before moving abroad as a teacher.
1. You must be qualified.
Long gone are the days when being a mere “native speaker” of English was enough. Although you can still find teaching jobs without any formal qualifications, they will probably low-paid jobs with bad conditions or illegal work involved. Most reputable schools in Europe look for a valid university or college degree as well as a recognized TEFL certificate or a CELTA. You may be able to find a great position without a degree, but the teaching certificate will be necessary. Be careful about the cheap 120 hour online TEFL certificates that may not be recognized by well-established schools. The British Council, CIEE TEFL, and your local university can offer the best programs. (If you are Canadian, the University of Toronto has a great online program available).
2. You must be able to complete a high quality demo lesson.
Before making the final decision about a teacher, a school will usually ask you to carry out a demo lesson in a “mock classroom”. This may be anything from a Business English lesson to a grammar explanation. Remember that teaching English is not just having a chat in your language. Although some positions might be looking for a conversation teacher, most jobs require you to have a profound knowledge of English grammar. Are you able to explain the difference between the perfect English tenses? Conditionals? Modal verbs? If you don’t any of these terms, it’s time to start studying.
3. You won’t be paid much in most countries.
Although teaching English may provide you with a decent salary in some countries, in Italy and Spain you are looking at an average of (1000-1400 euros a month) at a school with a legal contract and about 20-25 hours per week. If the school is offering to pay you in cash or does not offer you a contract signed by both parties, do not take the job. There are a lot of scams and terrible schools that try to take advantage of foreigners and young people who are not familiar with local laws. If you have a legal contract but do not receive your payment on time, leave. I am fluent in both Spanish and Italian, therefore I was able to register with the local tax office as a freelance/self-employed ESL teacher. This means I can set my own rates (much higher than what schools are willing to pay) and my own schedule. This may be ideal for you if you have a good command of the language and have been living in the country for a few years.
4. Choose your specialization.
ESL for Young Learners, Business English for companies, and Exam Prep (IELTS/TOEFL/CAE) are all great areas to focus on during your teaching career. I have personally dedicated my focus on preparing students for IELTS (International Language Testing System) exam. My students are usually 25-45 years old and are looking to complete the exam in order to immigrate to Canada, Australia, and the U.K.