What if I am not young, white, thin, blonde, native-speaking, straight, or ?
The reality is that it is common in this business for some schools to want to hire blond, blue-eyed, young, thin and straight native-speakers. But, you will find a very wide variety of people in this occupation. Schools often have an “ideal” candidate – a stereotype if you will – in mind. And while not nice, this practice is legal in many countries, so we might as well be aware of it and create a strategy to deal with it.
That bland stereotype is often the one language schools try to sell to their customers (students or parents of students) of what they think an American, Aussie or Brit or someone else – looks like. I don’t mean to leave out the Kiwis, South Africans, Irish, Welsh, Scots, Californians or . . .
An even better reality is that there is just not enough native-speaking EFL teachers in the world to meet the demand, and even those racist, lookist, ageist, whatever-ist schools often find themselves very happy (and lucky!) to hire those of us who don’t fit their stereotype.
What if I am over 30, 40 or even 60 years of age?
I started teaching English in Korea at age 41, one month before my 42nd birthday. And, I had grayish hair and a white beard at the time. Right now, at age 58 and with thinning white hair, I still wouldn’t have much trouble finding a good job. I have worked with people over 60 years old and even met a teacher over 70!
Don’t allow your age to limit your goals. Luckily, us older folks aren’t usually asked to teach kindergarten (thank God!). If you are older, your broader life and work experience will often work to your advantage – don’t be afraid to use it.
What if I am not “white”?
Most countries are beginning to realize that the UK, Australia, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa – and other countries that speak English as their first language are nations of immigrants – and not “lily white” countries.
While teaching in Korea in 2005, I saw Chinese-Canadians, Hispanic-Americans, Black-Americans and just about every other kind of “ethnic mix” you might think of.
While it might take you just a bit longer to find the right employer, you really don’t want to work for the narrow-minded employers who would rule you out anyway. Persist and you will find the job you want. There are decent employers out there.
What about gay or lesbian or other “non-straight” people?
Many cultures are bit more reserved than Western countries about sexuality issues. While alternative lifestyles, preferences, etc. certainly exist, they are often hidden and not openly talked about. Many people find they need to exercise some discretion while working overseas. But, this is not always true.
Discussion boards can help you find out the best approach for where you want to go. Generally speaking, it won’t come up, unless you bring it up, so it shouldn’t get in the way of landing or keeping a good English teaching job overseas.
What if I am fluent in English, but not from a “native-speaking” country?
This can be a problem as some countries have a list of countries from which you must have a passport if you wish to legally teach English. Two countries that I am aware of that have such lists, at the current time, are South Korea and Indonesia. In some countries where they don’t have a list, there is often the mis-founded belief that you can’t be fluent in English without being a native of certain countries.
If you are fluent, then the best strategy seems to be to go directly to the country and interview in person, thereby proving on the spot that you have the requisite fluency for the position. Many countries are quite flexible and in my opinion, Thailand is one of the best at accepting non-native speakers as English teachers.
BTW, this direct interview approach also works well for us older teachers. If you directly interview with the school, they can see that you may not meet their stereotype of a cranky and tired old person. This same tack can also help other “non-standard” (whatever that is) people land jobs.
Often the #1 hiring criteria is that someone be friendly and easy to get along with. A personal meeting is almost always the easiest way to prove that characteristic.
The whole point of this page is to say that anything about you that you might be concerned about, should not really be a worry. But . . . do ask on the discussion boards about possible difficulties. Generally, you’ll find people very encouraging and you’ll often hear from others just like you.
TED’s Tips™ #1: Don’t let anything get in the way of your dream of a life overseas.
It is out there if you want it. Life often checks to see just how much you want something and won’t give it to you if you don’t persist.
TED’s Tips™ #2: A personal interview often overcomes barriers.
Certainly in Asia where “getting along with people” and being friendly are top criteria for many jobs, it is worth applying and interviewing in person.
A great and fun blog to check out is The Black ESL Teacher.
Please suggest others and I will post them. The blog above makes me think of doing The Old ESL Teacher . . .