So you teach English? -Well, Not Quite.

Don’t get me wrong, I started my international education career as an ESL teacher in Asia ten years ago. In fact, one can make a fulfilling life-long career teaching ESL/EAL both at home and abroad. It was the joy of this experience that catapulted me into taking the steps I needed to become a qualified classroom teacher.

I want to acknowledge there is a level of grit, heart, and time all teachers give. With that being said, there are many teachers that specialize and invest in their craft, with a nod to the knowledge, skill, time, money, and ongoing development that requires. I know firsthand that there is a difference in teaching ESL abroad at a language academy and teaching Language Arts in a classroom at an international school. None the less, the standard response to when I say that I am a teacher abroad is, “So you teach English?”, to which I reply – “Well, not quite.” 

“I am a teacher who teaches in English. I’m a teacher just like you would find back home. I just do it in really amazing schools, in places I’ve always dreamt of going to.”


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Simply, many people are unaware that there is a culture of international education that caters specifically to the American curriculum. That the work I do abroad as a teacher isn’t unlike what I did in my classroom back in California. 

This article will provide a beginners overview of international schools teaching an American curriculum, common benefits, and ways to find teaching jobs abroad.

International schools tend to be private institutions in cities all over the world, though some may have non-profit status. International schools are accredited by agencies depending on their region (such as MSA or NEASC) and must meet certain standards to maintain accreditation. One such standard is hiring qualified and certified teachers. Usually, a valid certification from your home country will do, however, in some cases, exceptions can be made depending on experience.

Many schools operate with English as the primary language of instruction and teacher-facing business, although this doesn’t mean students and staff are not free to speak their native language when they wish to. Most student bodies are diverse and have many nationalities represented within a single class.

For teachers who are seeking to transition from ESL to the classroom, having an EL background can be advantageous. Having know-how in how to support second or third language learners and scaffold your instruction will come in handy in an international setting.

A classroom abroad might not look as foreign as you’d think

Education jobs can be principals, administration, school psychologists, counselors, specialists, coaches, teachers, associate teachers, EAL and learning support roles.  Teachers must meet certain requirements and qualifications to be hired, just like back home. The qualifications are different between institutions in the same country but must meet the country’s standards for issuing visas for educators.

Most commonly international hires are from countries where English is the primary language. Many schools have dynamic campuses, ample resources, extracurricular activities, committees and community service initiatives.

The salaries for jobs can vary between and within countries. When the local cost of living is taken into account can be very competitive. Most international schools offer extra perks for teaching abroad including moving and travel allowances, paid housing, contract completion bonuses and resigning bonuses. Most contracts at top international schools are for two years initially and then one-year increments after. 

Teaching abroad brought back the love of my craft. It gave me a space to focus on what I really love to do, teach

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People can decide to teach abroad for both personal and professional reasons. For many, it is a desire to travel and see the world, to pay off student loans, or to save money. Many educators want a better work-life balance.

Teaching abroad brought back the love of my craft. It gave me a space to focus on what I really love to do, teach. School culture tends to be fun, family-oriented, and student-focused. Teachers abroad tend to have generous vacation time. Travel is both accessible and affordable. Weekends are typically spent in beautiful places with an inclusive and friendly community of like-minded educators.

Although teaching abroad means leaving some things behind or increasing the distance between loved ones. There are some things that I was happy to leave behind, such as an over-dependence on standardized testing, especially for teacher evaluation.

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Each school culture is different. Your experience, like your own happiness in any job is a mix of your mindset and finding an organization that is a good culture fit.

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You may be wondering where one can find international teaching jobs?

You can find jobs online, attend job fairs, join membership sites, or work with recruiters.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

It is possible to find international jobs online, but can be risky.

Membership sites are a good option for narrowing down your options. When deciding on a membership site to access jobs keep in mind some sites are working to meet a bottom-line and try to fill positions as quickly as possible. Many require hefty fees to join and not all sites vet jobs for quality.

Many schools hire at job fairs. Job fairs can be a great way to network and expand your opportunities. Job fairs can feel a bit like speed dating with high stakes and high decision fatigue. At job fairs, you get to meet a representative from the school, but they may not be a person that reflects the actual department you may be working in. One must typically accept an offer at fairs very quickly without the reflection that’s really needed to take such a big leap. Some teachers have reported being denied attending preferred job fairs in their network because of company policies or demands placed on their recruiters.

Job fairs can feel a bit like speed dating with high stakes and high decision fatigue.

However, schools typically want to hire the best educators that are driven to teach in line with the mission of their school. With the right timing and application, you can bypass job fairs altogether.

Teaching internationally is the professional development experience of a lifetime. I founded Teach All Over the World with other experienced educators to help make that experience more accessible.

Samantha Peiffer

Teach All Over the World was created to connect curious teachers to really great jobs abroad, jobs are hand-curated by experienced educators like me. We post jobs at schools that inspire us, in places we would like to go ourselves. We put the power in the educator’s hands to find a position at a school with a mission they can get behind. You can live chat with “ed-experts” that have been through this process successfully many times to answer any questions you may have. There is a resource center to enhance your application, bring clarity and insight into the hiring process, as well as grow as a professional educator.

We offer the best value membership on the market to bring high-quality international jobs to educators daily. Find out more at Teach All Over the World.

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Contributing Author: S. Peiffer

Founder of Teach All Over the World: Samantha Peiffer

Samantha Peiffer

Founder at :

Teach All Over the World

Educational Consultant

Elementary Educator- Over 10 years of education experience in diverse roles in Japan, Taiwan, Nicaragua, Guatemala, USA, and currently in Spain.