Is Teaching Abroad Only For Young People?

No, I don’t think so.

You see, one of the many things I’ve learned through years of teaching, training and leading workshops is that teaching involves much more than imparting knowledge about a subject.

Your students see you as a role model. Once trust is established they will come to you with their personal and professional problems, headaches and queries. They value your wisdom and experience even if you’ve lived a different life in a different culture simply because you’re now in the position of guiding them.

Consequently I actually believe that older, more mature men and women aged 30+ make better teachers.

A graduate with several years work experience prepares to take his English speaking exam as part of a self-development programme. He’s 29 years old.  Would he want to be taught by a 22 year old?

Young people in their 20’s fresh out of university still have something to offer, but perhaps not much in the way of life experience. They’re also more likely to see teaching abroad as a chance for an extended holiday before returning to their own countries, settling down and getting a real job.

The problem with this is that they often don’t take their role as teachers seriously. At that age and with no immediate parental overseeing, the parties, clubs and general social scene in a new environment can be irresistible, which would be okay if they didn’t have class to teach at 8:30am the next morning.

As a result the children receive a teacher who is only partially mentally there and who’s likely to hand out yet another wordsearch in order to keep the class quiet until his or her hangover subsides.

This means that eventually our work as foreign teachers becomes undervalued and we’re seen as little more than time fillers.

University undergrads wait for an English speaking presentation to begin.

Older teachers are less likely to succumb to the lure of the bright lights of party town. We’ve been there, done that and worn the t-shirt. On the occasions that we do go out we’re much more likely to be responsible about it, in other words, our jobs come first.

Another point is that young people generally don’t have any teaching experience. They know nothing of classroom management or lesson planning. They don’t know how to run ice-breakers or of ways to motivate bored or shy students. They have no idea how to use a textbook effectively, create extension activities or even accurately grade their pupils.

But yet they leave home, fly a few thousand miles across the world, perhaps complete a two day training course and feel that they are ready for the demands of the classroom.

Could you handle a room like this?

Naturally I’m generalising.

Of course there are some very dedicated and skilled young teachers who bring vibrancy and enthusiasm to their classes and are loved by their students. In addition there are older tutors who still like to party to the detriment of their work. But if a young person asked me about teaching abroad for a year, after ascertaining their motives, I might advise them to try something else.

There are many options for living and working abroad which don’t involve standing in front of a room full of people or children wanting to speak English like native speakers, yet knowing you can’t help them because you only had two hours sleep, you’re three sheets to the wind, or you’re just too inexperienced.

Click on this link for some great ideas about what else you could do to earn a living abroad.


2 thoughts on “Is Teaching Abroad Only For Young People?

  1. As a young teacher, I agree with most of these points. I think another reason why there are more young people in the ESL field rather than more qualified teachers is because those older, more qualified teachers are more reluctant to make a decision to pack up everything and go abroad. Private teaching companies abroad, especially in China target recent college grads because they are readily available. Sadly, we get some teachers who don’t really care about students they are teaching. In college I didn’t want to be a teacher but all my pursuits ended up leading me to it. I actually do see myself as a role model to these students which is why I take my job seriously, but I do know what you mean about some who treat this job as some vacation or more like “transition” into a real job.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting. You make some really good points, especially about older folk not wanting or being able to leave a settle life.


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