With so many opportunities available when teaching abroad, it’s little wonder that teachers young and old, new and experienced are taking the plunge and moving to more exotic climes. Teaching abroad offers so many experiences and opportunities that there is often little thought of what happens after it. For many reasons (contract expiry, homesickness or just need of a change), expat teachers returning home can be forgiven for feeling some uncertainty surrounding their career and even the lifestyle they can lead when home.
But it need not be this way. Below are just some of the things to consider when returning from teaching abroad, and how to guard against some of the most common problems.
Share and share alike
As technology and its importance expands into every aspect of our lives, it’s hard not to argue that social media has become indispensable for many. As the debate rages about mobile phone use in schools, technology needn’t be all negative. The prevalence of websites such as Twitter and LinkedIn over the past 10 years has continued to grow and in preparing to return home you could do a lot worse than use these sites to your advantage: job vacancies, advice, support, guidance, the latest research and approaches, policy information and networking opportunities are all available at the scroll of a news feed and will provide a vital, ever changing resource when preparing to return to Blighty.
Supply and Punishment
Like most returning expat teachers, you will first find work through supply teaching. The key here is acting early: returning home towards the end of the academic year will mean you will be in competition with teachers leaving existing roles and NQTs without September work. This could mean a wait of weeks before you’re offered work as you wait to register and complete vital paperwork. To mitigate against this, sign up with supply agencies in while still abroad to get started on obtaining the right documents and being fully screened. In some cases you need to obtain police checks before you leave. Make sure that you contact 3-5 agencies (fewer than 3 could mean minimal work, more than 5 could see you rejecting work and agencies will stop contacting you). In best case scenarios, you may well return to guaranteed work in September.
All play and no work?
The biggest change when moving from the UK to teach abroad is generally the change of workload, work/life balance and the overall pace of education. In the UK, we are used to being regularly observed, experiencing CPD twilight sessions, parent’s evenings, data and book scrutiny and a whole host of other monitoring exercises. This isn’t usually the case when abroad. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to limit workload on your return other than to prepare as best you can when abroad by…
One of the most attractive elements to working abroad is the opportunity to really experiment with lessons, try new approaches and take risks in the classroom. This doesn’t have to stop when returning to the UK however. In preparation for a probably increase in workload, why not being to make resources/ lessons for your return? This could be as simple as making a SOW for a half term in your last couple of months abroad or as sophisticated as creating PPTs and differentiated tasks for a topic or even an academic year (do as little as half an hour per school night). With a greater emphasis on work/ life balance when abroad, you will certainly have time and this will stand you in good stead on your return as you acclimatise to the differences you forgot existed.
Celebrating your uniqueness in CV and interview
It is sometimes said that school leaders can see working abroad as ‘deskilling’. It is vital to remember that this is only true if you let it happen. The unique experiences you’ve had abroad make you a much more experienced, and more effective practitioner. You’ve experienced surroundings and students that few have encountered and, depending on your international setting, you can now offer unique insight into teaching ESOL students (having worked exclusively with them). You have also worked within a different curriculum; prepped and planned for situations which simply do not happen in the UK and did all of this whilst acclimatising to a totally different culture. Use what you have done and learned – be proud of the impact on your teaching.
The last thing to remember is to make sure you don’t burn bridges when leaving your international setting. It may well be that, on returning to the UK, you pine for the life you had abroad and end up returning to your international setting.
About the author
Jonny Kay is Head of English and maths at Tyne Coast College. He has previously worked as an English teacher and Head of Department in KS3/4 and tweets @jonnykayteacher . He also regularly blogs at www.thereflectiveteacher.co.uk.