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

Should I teach Adults or Kids?
Companies or Schools? 
Freelance or One Employer?

How should I sort out my options?

corporate classroom in China

As a "newbie" it is probably a good idea to think about your personal preferences as well as options that may be offered to you.

Kids, Adults, Freelance, Companies, Schools, a Primary Employer . . .
What to do?  

Kids or Adults?

Kids: I think are more difficult to teach and take a lot of energy (I am an older person).  But many new EFL teachers prefer teaching kids as they don't have to worry as much about being judged, nor do they have to be concerned about having a depth of knowledge about the language that more highly skilled adults might require.  Some people just enjoy kids more too.

Adults: My preference but not for everyone.  Younger teachers may have difficulty getting the respect of older students.  Many parts of the world attach great respect to age and a 25-year-old teaching fifty-year-old business executives is not a good match.  That same young teacher might do much better teaching high school students. 

Adult students often have much better language skills and can ask difficult grammar questions - you'd better be ready for them!

Companies or Schools?

Company jobs: Teaching adults, might be better for older teachers.  New, younger teachers might find these types of classes more daunting.  I've often found this type of work more interesting - with students who have interesting careers that they enjoy talking about.  And, having some business background myself, I am able to understand, empathize with and encourage their discussion.  Newbie teachers with business backgrounds may find these types of classes more interesting. 

Schools: Provide such a wide variety of options that you might end up teaching a company class for a language school.  Generally though, a school setting will have you teaching younger students - generally a better option for newbie and young teachers.

Freelance or a Primary Employer?

You will often, online, read stories of people claiming incredible wages working only for themselves.  Take such claims with a grain of salt.  Or many grains of salt.  I don't doubt that there are a few people doing very well for themselves freelancing. 

But, know that it is a difficult path to take with frequent cancellations, unreliable income, and usually lots of travel time from place to place for classes.  And, the big negative - it is usually illegal work.

Work Permits

Work permits are usually tied to one employer and to one location.  If you are solely freelance - you will typically be on a tourist visa - and therefore working illegally and subject to arrest, detention, large fines, and deportation.  Period.  Immigration police typically don't argue or negotiate and you will have minimal (if any) rights.

Freelance Reality

But, people do teach a lot of freelance classes (sometimes called "private classes") - and I have done many of these myself.  A very nice, if risky way, to supplement your income from your primary job.  It depends a lot on the country in which you are working AND your employer's general attitude towards "working on the side."

Do yourself a favor.  If you do teach private classes, keep it quiet and you will tend to have fewer problems with your employer and/or immigration. 


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