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Is teaching abroad worth it?

Take control of your life

IT may come to you on the way home from your part-time job, or in the middle of a leisurely stroll through campus on the way to your next class. Perhaps a friend suggested it countless times? Or you've known it since you were in Grade 9, sifting eagerly through the pages of Julius CaesarThe decision to become a teacher is something most of us make for one reason or another and at very specific times. Like a sudden revelation.

Once decided, we propel ourselves to panicked - at times - fulfilment of volunteering hours with students of various ages. We polish our Philosophies of Education and ultimately send our applications to a number of 'Teacher Colleges'. Learning the art of teaching itself within the walls of these colleges and universities is another topic altogether. However, the final diploma and subsequent certification to teach in whatever provinces, states or countries is the lasting achievement of all your hard work. But where to go from there?

There is no need to repeat or even mention the difficulties in securing a long-term teaching job in some parts of the western world. It is a topic and issue trodden upon far too many times. Explained, reiterated and complained about. The point is that teaching is a changed profession, in more ways than one.

Gone are the days of being offered an immediate full-time position in a school in your city of choice and preferred school board straight out of Teacher's College. Many teachers, potentially great teachers, see this as a solely negative situation. It's frustrating, especially since many educators want to be close to friends and family, or just love the city they live in back home. Many teachers start despising the profession or, worse yet, quit altogether. Yet, there are many ways to overcome this with patience, perseverance and a lot of luck. Teaching does not need to be viewed in such a limited way.

Teaching is such a versatile, challenging and rewarding career. There are so many other ways to approach it and grow professionally and personally. The truly hard part is the beginning of the journey. How do you earn those precious first years of experience that will unlock your future long-term goals? Many choose to wait at home and spend several years re-applying to bloated school boards, even just to supply teach. They end up working part-time jobs, getting by, while time passes and, with it, all the enriching experiences, knowledge and skills you learned in Teacher's College and during your memorable practicums actually working with real students. I know, I did it for almost two years.

Your teaching skills start to dull and rust, and by the time you do get an interview, your confidence and comfort in the classroom may be lost. Memories of your practicum will not help you then. The question, "What have you been doing since you graduated and finished your student teaching?" will surely come up.

Why not start doing what you spent your whole undergrad and post grad preparing for now? Think outside the boundaries and restricted box at home. Be strong, take that leap worth daring and think globally.

It doesn't have to be teaching ESL, even though that is a fantastic way to start as well. Personally, when I made the decision to teach in London, England - coming from Canada - there was no hesitancy. I wanted to teach, whether that was Grade 7 English, Grade 10 Math or Grade 12 History. I wanted to start my life now. London provided that experience without the handcuffs that public schools thrust upon you back home. Your resumes/CVs can be sent to individual schools directly. You do not need to be on "the list" just to be able to supply teach. You arrive in a great city and can be in the classroom in no time at all, teaching bright, challenging and wonderful students of all ages and levels.

The first day I supply taught, I remember sitting in the classroom, watching the students work and thinking: "How many years would it have taken for me to be in this position, standing here and discussing the impact of 'Star Wars' on tourism in Tunisia with 30 students back in Canada?" Afterwards, you can always go back home and give it another go when you feel ready. Simply don't limit yourself.

The key is to start somewhere. When someone tells you, "Oh, you have time, don't rush or worry about it," why waste that time when you can start doing what you love right now?

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