It’s a common myth that teaching abroad is seen as a gap year by some teachers. In my opinion, these teachers are narrow and lack an appreciation for their own education.
We’ve all worked with and been taught by teachers that spend their careers pottering, delivering satisfactory lessons and getting the promotions they need to retire (quite) comfortably. However, we’ve all met teachers whose careers, by contrast, are truly inspirational!
Now, I am not saying that to be an inspirational teacher you have to teach abroad but I am saying you have to do inspiring things to learn and become an inspirational teacher. You have to mix things up a bit – such as teach in a challenging school, introduce a unique club to a school, take on a new role, lead an exciting trip and challenge yourself (and your pupils) to do something outside your comfort zone.
So what has this got to do with teaching overseas? Teaching overseas is just one of these things, and of course it’s not for everyone. But it certainly is not a ‘Gap Year’ as it’s a challenge both personally and professionally. Luckily more and more teachers worldwide are recognising the value of teaching abroad. You learn new ideas from your international co-workers. You get to travel to other schools in neighbouring countries for inspiring training courses on new curricula like the IB. (How can teaching the world’s most rigorous curriculum be a gap year?!) But most of all you push yourself into new situations and challenges – whether you’re having to explain what ADHD is to a concerned Chinese mother or asking the price of a mango in Swahili in your local market.
This is exactly what forward thinking educational leaders are looking for in teachers – inspiring people who are open minded, have plenty of initiative and are up for a challenge. So if you are a teacher who’s concerned that by teaching abroad you will struggle to get a job back home one day, highlight the value of the experiences you’ve had and how they make you a great teacher. This applies as much to writing covering letters and application form as it does to face to face interviews – if you are proud of all the things you’ve done, the mistakes you’ve made and what you’ve learnt along the way, you’ll give yourself the best chance of getting the job (and being an inspiring teaching for the students!) And if they look at you like you’re mad, then you can breathe a sigh of relief - and tell them you’re going to take another ‘Gap Year’…
Written by Alex Reynolds, founding partner and Director of Communications at Teacherhorizons.