There are many reasons you may want to teach English abroad. Perhaps you’re on a mission to give back to a community, or you want experience in the teaching field, or maybe you want a meaningful travel experience while you adventure around the world. Whatever your motive, if you haven’t yet signed up because of your fear of the contractual commitment, here are some short-term alternatives to teaching English abroad for you to consider.
Note: These three gigs are very difficult to arrange before traveling to your desired country. The hiring bodies will want to know you’re already there and ready to work.
1) English camps
When I went to Thailand on a whim the second time, I kept myself busy (and my pocket full) with working English camps. Many schools schedule camps for students as a way to reward them for good work and promote their continued study of the English language.
It’s different in every country, but the company I worked with often takes students to a resort outside of their hometown and spends three days alternating between games, lessons, sports, speech competitions and talent shows — all in English. It’s a fun time for all, and I had the freedom to pick and choose which camps I wanted to attend.
This situation was great for me because I could sign up last minute for a camp I knew I would be in town for, and if I decided to go to the beach instead of work, the company had no hard feelings. It’s a great way for a backpacker to earn a little cash on their way through Bangkok, plus all food, travel and accommodation are paid for while at camp.
Other countries, such as Taiwan for example, are big on longer, summer camps, usually one or two months. They hire teachers for the duration and the pay is worthwhile, plus everything is included and you get to explore the country on your weekends. These are easier to sign up for before you go.
PSST! After growing this blog, I started a TEFL agency specializing in short-term teach abroad programs (from 1-6 months) around the world. I’ll work with you to help you find the best program for you, based on your timeline, qualifications, desires, etc.
Some agencies like to keep a handful of substitutes available for when their full-time teachers are sick, on holiday or on a visa run. Substituting is a great way to experience a variety of schools and have your travel and hotel expenses paid for, on top of your daily wage. This is what I spent the last two months doing in Thailand, and the reason I was able to get a one-month gig in a private primary school, and a one-week position in Trat Preschool. However, there are also options for daily substitutions and long-term, on call positions if you’re based in one location for the majority of your time.
3) Private Tutoring
English language tutoring is often the most lucrative (and fun!) way to teach ESL. Depending on the country/ies you’re traveling to, students (or their parents) will pay high dollar for a one-hour private lesson. Most students will want you to be consistent in your offering for at least a few weeks to a few months, but this can be a great way to set your own schedule, make some money and experience teaching ESL. You could also consider doing a language swap, where you teach them English and learn their native language (for no fee, of course).
A good way to get started with tutoring would be to hang fliers in schools and businesses with your credentials, contact info and availability.
A great way to find any of these positions it so get in touch with bloggers (see this list of the best blogs about teaching abroad), teachers and/or friends currently living in your country of choice. Try searching for Facebook groups there. Most likely they have heard of something or know somebody to refer you to, and word of mouth spreads a lot faster than a resume sent via email in these types of positions. The companies/schools will want you to be in country already, so they know you’re serious and available, but this shouldn’t be a problem if your main objective is to travel.
If you’re looking for a more traditional experience teaching English abroad, but can only commit to short-term, listen up. The truth about most 1-year and 2-year contracts is they aren’t actually binding (though they might have perks like travel reimbursement that you’ll lose out on). I’m not advocating breaking your agreement by any means, but we all know life has a way of throwing us curve balls that require a change of course and, if that happens (like it did to me, when my face had an allergic reaction to China’s pollution/water and broke out in severe acne), it’s likely your school/agency will understand. They know most of us aren’t looking to make a career out of teaching English abroad, or at least not in one location.
But even if they’re not sympathetic, there’s very little anybody can do about it. Taking you to court would be an expensive and meaningless effort, as the school will still not have a teacher and you’ll likely already be out of the country anyway.
My advice: If you do encounter this decision, the least you can do is finish out the current term/semester (unless, of course, it’s an emergency situation) so you don’t affect your students any more than necessary. If you leave between terms, the school can determine how best to rearrange the schedule and the students won’t be left without a teacher.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to sign a contract with a plan to break it, but sometimes those of us who have a fear of commitment (read about my issues here), find it easier to overcome when we tell ourselves it’s not permanent.
To be honest, before I came to Thailand on only a five-month contract (see how you can teach English in Thailand on a short-term contract here), I told myself I would leave when I was ready. Another part of me desperately likes to finish what I start so I knew I probably wouldn’t quit early, but this thought process is what saved me from a panic attack when I signed my name in ink and faxed it in. I need to believe the choice was mine, and despite a seemingly serious and legal piece of paper, the choice really was mine. And it could be yours, too.
3 Short-term Alternatives to Teaching English Abroad