Teachers find respect, opportunities overseas

Students in Taiwan

The students in Taiwan are remarkably bright and cherish the opportunity to learn English.

Teachers across America are finding themselves with the prospects of layoffs, due to State budget cuts. The problems faced by teachers in the United States aren’t just the recent budgetary dilemmas. In general, teachers have always experienced traditionally low wages, increasing class size, increasing workload, and a growing lack of respect. Currently, some teachers are relocating to look for work, or even taking on different jobs, such as selling insurance, or working for Wal-Mart. Even though things are looking bleak for teachers, there is a bright ray of hope for those fortunate enough to consider moving overseas to teach.

There are many countries where teachers who are native English speakers are highly-valued. In job fairs across America, there are representatives from schools all over the world hoping to find teachers willing to relocate for at least a year. Teachers, especially those with valid teaching certificates, are finding strong incentives to teach in Russia, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. They are being offered salaries of $20-40 per hour, and benefits, including health care, accommodations and even airfare. In most of these countries, the cost of living is much lower than in the USA, so the ability to save money is greater. There is also great value in the cultural and travel experiences, and teachers often develop connections that lead to many other opportunities. There are many online resources to find overseas teaching jobs before deciding on the move. People should be careful about the opportunities presented, and should never have to pay any fees out of their own pockets to be connected to a job.

Click for an online resource to find jobs teaching overseas: TeachAbroad.com.

Students at a Middle School in Taiwan.

Students at a Middle School in Taiwan draw posters for the children of Haiti.

As attractive as the opportunities may sound, most people wouldn’t consider moving overseas to teach. Everyone has different situations, and it may be difficult to adjust one’s life to move for a year or more. Owning and paying a mortgage on a home stops most people. Not being able to leave friends and family behind is another common obstacle. There are many fears that hold people back. For those who are able to overcome the fears, the rewards are waiting for them.

The choice is a matter of perspective. If people were offered a one-year trip around the world, where they were paid to travel and experience different cultures, many would choose to go. The experience of teaching overseas offers significant rewards to those who choose to go, and the teachers are usually surprised by the impact they have wherever they go and the ease of their experience.

With so many countries to choose from, it may be hard to make a choice. Taiwan is the preferred choice of many English-speaking teachers from the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. With the devolving job market for teachers in the United States, more American teachers are choosing Taiwan as a teaching destination, and are discovering why it is so popular for foreign teachers.

Students at an elementary school in Taiwan.

Students at an elementary school in Taiwan.

In many cultures, teachers are honored and traditionally treated with a very high level of respect and reverence. In Chinese culture, that is especially true. The Taiwanese people treat teachers, and Americans in general, with friendliness and respect. Taiwan in some sense has been the best place for Westerners to experience Eastern culture, because it has been a place for decades where East and West have collided and flourished. Taiwan is a democracy, the government is stable, the economy is relatively strong, healthcare is excellent and affordable, the cost of living is low, the quality of life is high, and the opportunities are many. Many Americans, especially those with teaching certificates, earn US $20-30 per hour. They don’t need to know any language but English, and their work is supported by other teaching staff. Many find themselves in situations where they are taken care of by a small community of people, and feel pampered and special. Because of the contrast with their experience back home, many teachers get comfortable very quickly and extend their stays for many years.

There are online resources to find job before traveling to Taiwan. Two of the resources are TeaLit.com and WorkInTaiwan.com.

Those who enjoy a cosmopolitan experience with great international communities and nightlife may consider the large cities of Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung. Others who enjoy a slower pace, have many smaller cities and towns to choose from. Often the schools in smaller places pay more money and offer more benefits. Often the quality of life and the cultural experiences in these smaller places are richer and more traditional.

With all of the stress and challenges faced in America right now, teachers can choose to wallow in their sorrows, or make lemonade from their lemons. One never know what rewards will be gained when they give up their comfort zone and experience the unknown. Teachers overseas, and especially in Taiwan, enjoy being ambassadors of the United States for people who love America and her people.

The writer, Tony, enjoy teaching in Taiwan.

The writer, Tony, enjoy teaching English in Taiwan part-time.

Tony Coolidge, the writer for this story, is an American businessman who moved his family to Taiwan in 2009, and he has experienced the pleasure of teaching English and making a difference for Taiwanese children. He has met many foreign teachers teaching English in Taiwan, and has noticed a surge in the number of Americans who have recently moved to there. Some of his best friends in Taiwan are Americans who have chosen to live in Taiwan for seven, ten, twelve or more years. They often say the experience of living in Taiwan is seductive for many reasons, and is hard to leave when you feel like you are put on a pedestal.

Click for this story on CNN iReport.

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