A Practical Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Frank and Friendly Advice written by a Retired Teacher-Trainer, Experienced EFL Teacher
& Former Peace Corps Volunteer Living & Working Abroad since 1989

What if I am not young, white, thin, blonde, native-speaking, straight, or ?

What if I am not the "standard" person?

Yes, it is common in this business for some schools to want to hire blond, blue-eyed, young, thin and straight native-speakers.  But, you will find a very wide variety of people in this occupation.  Schools often have an "ideal" candidate - a stereotype if you will - in mind. 

The reality is that there is just not enough native-speaking EFL teachers in the world to meet the demand, and they find themselves very happy (and lucky!) to hire those of us who don't fit the stereotype.

What if I am over 30, 40 or even 60 years of age?

I started teaching English in Korea at age 41, one month before my 42nd birthday.  And, I had grayish hair and a white beard at the time.  Right now, at age 58 and with thinning white hair, I still wouldn't have trouble finding a good job.  I have worked with people over 60 years old and even met a teacher over 70! 

The more you vary from the standard stereotype though, the more you may need to adapt your job search strategies.

Don't allow your age to limit your goals.  Luckily, us older folks aren't usually asked to teach kindergarten (thank God!).  If you are older, your broader life and work experience will often work to your advantage - don't be afraid to use it.

What if I am not "white"?

Most countries are beginning to realize that the UK, Australia, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa - and other countries that speak English as their first language are nations of immigrants - and not "lily white" countries.  In Korea in 2005, I saw Chinese-Canadians, Hispanic-Americans, Black-Americans and just about every other kind of "ethnic mix" you might think of. 

While it might take you just a bit longer to find the right employer - you really don't want to work for the narrow-minded employers who would rule you out anyway.  Persist and you will find the job you want.

What about gay or lesbian or other "non-straight" people?

Many cultures are bit more reserved than Western countries about sexuality issues.  While alternative lifestyles, preferences, etc. certainly exist - they are sometimes hidden and not openly talked about.  Most people find they need to be a little more discreet overseas than back home.  But, this is not always true. 

The discussion board at ELT World can help you find out the best approach where you want to go.  Generally speaking, it won't come up, unless you bring it up - so it shouldn't get in the way of landing, or keeping, a TEFL job overseas.

 Got it?

The whole point of this page is to say that anything about you that you might be concerned about - should not really be a worry.  But . . . do ask on the discussion boards about possible difficulties.  Generally, you'll find people very encouraging - and you'll often hear from others just like you.


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