My advice is first read Michael's advice here to find out where the job posts are and how to get invited to the interview once you're in Asia. In Chiangmai, Thailand where I teach, usually you’ll have to teach a 20 to 30 minute unpaid teaching demo to demonstrate your ability to communicate with kids. I shouldn’t have to write this but I’ve seen MANY a young and hopeful future teacher pack nothing but two pairs of ripped shorts and three nasty old t-shirts before moving to a new country for a teaching job.
This is not the recommended outfit for visiting schools or for your teaching demo. For those of you looking for a decent teaching job and willing to go the boots on the ground method, looking presentable is mandatory for landing a job. Believe it or not, but one of the first things Western people learn when they land in a foreign country is that most cultures accept shorts and a T-shirt as beach wear, but not for everyday cruising around the city. Many Americans have adopted this uniform as a standard but it’s a huge departure from Latin America, where most guys and girls take more time to look good, and Asia, where people tend to be more modest and cover themselves up, even during hot summer months.
So when you drop off your resume at a school, or show up for a teaching demo, think business casual. Long pants (no matter how hot it is), a button up shirt, and a big smile on your face.
Cover up those tattoos. Shave and cut your hair. All of these things matter, especially in traditional societies in Asia and Latin America. For those of you with solid teaching experience, and if the school managers are Western then this tends to matters less.
This is one that is sure to ruffle some feathers among the foreign teaching community. In most English teaching markets in Asia, schools are looking for English teachers who have a “standard” accent. This of course is up to interpretation. Is there such thing as a standard accent? Is there such a thing as LACK of an accent? We can go down a rabbit hole with this debate, but that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to get you a teaching job abroad.
That being said, understand the paying customers for your services as an English teacher are the student’s parents. They are the “market” and they tend to insist on their kid’s English teacher having an accent like Kevin Costner in Robin Hood (1992, yes I’m old). They have seen Hollywood movies and listen to American pop songs, so in their mind, the “standard” English must be the North American accent (USA and Canada).
For better or worse, Americans and Canadians tend to have an easier time landing teaching gigs in Asia because of their neutral accent. That’s not to say an Englishman or Scotsman couldn’t get the same job. If you’re not American, then practice your best “neutral” accent (I dare not say American accent here). During the interview mention that you have a lot of American buddies so you’ve adopted this accent over time.
It’s not ideal but it will get you the job. Later on you can switch back to your native accent that you’re comfortable with.
Slam Dunk Your Teaching Demo
I’m guilty of this one. I’ve been the overconfident guy who walks into a teaching demo thinking my snappy, ironed shirt should be enough to get me the job. And boy was I wrong.
Recently I was invited to a teaching demo for a coveted adult teaching job and it was a disaster. I didn’t prepare and my lesson didn’t flow. I didn’t print the worksheet for the students beforehand. And I was nervous through the whole demo. It was painfully obvious that I hadn’t prepared ahead of time. So as you suspect, there was no call back after that train wreck of a demo.
To easily get through a teaching demo, all you need to do is take a few minutes and write down some notes on how your class will flow.
Separate the demo into five and ten minute time blocks.
Make it interactive so students get talking and you’re not lecturing them to death like my old English literature professor
Make it fun, but also remember to help students learnCorrect students as they make mistakes using positive reinforcementSpeak from your chest and project your voice across the roomSmile often
These tips have worked for me to sail through teaching demos. Incidentally they also work to teach successful lessons.
Sign the Dotted Line
This is another pitfall that I got burned on. With a little bit of reading I could have avoided a messy situation between myself and my employer. I decided to leave a job in the middle of the semester, breaking a teaching contract because I got a better offer at another school. When I did so the school docked one month’s pay, and little did I know it was in the contract I signed without reading it.
Many teaching contracts sneak in little clauses to protect the school and screw the teacher. Please do not fall for this, or even sign a contract with this clause inside. It’s illegal in most countries, and if it’s not illegal, don’t sign it anyway. It will likely come back to haunt you if you have to change jobs prematurely.
Remember basic supply and demand economics. English teachers are still very much in demand throughout Asia so there shouldn’t be a need to sign a contract that puts unfair demands on you as the teacher.