Please Don’t Teach Abroad

So you received your coveted TEFL certification, purchased a one-way plane ticket, and you’re now ready to spend the next few months educating the underprivileged youth of the world. But before you do, don’t. Please don’t teach abroad.

There are many reasons that people travel abroad to teach, but before you show up in an entirely new world, consider why you’re entering the teaching profession, and if what you’re doing is best for your students… not for you.


Please don’t teach abroad to fund your travels

As one of the most common reasons that people teach abroad, this may be one of the most selfish ones. There are many ways to make extra money while you’re on the road, but causally showing up in a classroom unprepared each day shouldn’t be the way that you stir up extra cash to keep you on the road. This promotes immense teacher turnover and decreases the validity of “foreign teachers,” because they are only expected to stay long enough to fund their next trip.

If you’re looking for ways to make money on the road (that do not affect the outcome of a developing child) check out this article about other ways to make money while traveling.

Please don’t teach abroad to serve the less fortunate or help the poor children

Please don’t be anyone’s “white savior.” If you went to Haiti for 5 days, taught an English class, and painted the wall of a house, your profile picture surrounded by children you don’t even know shouldn’t be serving your ego in any way.

Part of being an effective teacher is understanding where your students come from, and then educating them from an unbiased perspective. Can you imagine a teacher in the US constantly feeling bad for their kids; they’d never accomplish anything because they’d be worried about upsetting those “poor kids.”

[Side note…a child’s best ticket out of poverty is a solid and rigorous education NOT your sympathy and egocentric educational practices.]

Your students are your equals, and you shouldn’t be there to “rescue” them, because ultimately they’ll teach you more than anything you had lesson planned…

teach abroad


Please don’t teach abroad to find yourself

(Or at least don’t make this the principle reason for teaching in another country.) Like, I don’t want a doctor pre-op being ready to “find themselves” during surgery… I want them in the operating room because they’re well educated, prepared, and passionate about healing.

Teachers should be practicing the same thing (…and we should also be compared to doctors more often, because if you’re doing it right, you’re out here saving lives daily).

Teaching is a skill that requires time, practice, and a silly amount of patience. You’re not going to master it during your two-month stint at an English center—
Invest in it as you would any other career.

Please don’t teach abroad to fill a void in time

Teaching is not a gap-year activity. It’s literally shaping and helping children grow and learn. Don’t teach abroad so that you have something to do between “real jobs” or as filler after high school or college. This is a career that requires an investment, and a few months of your time isn’t serving anyone but yourself.

There are many wonderful reasons to travel the world and work as an educator in a foreign country. If teaching is your passion, your career, and a skill you possess (or are developing) then seriously consider teaching abroad, but if it’s just a stop-off and an insta-grammable opportunity, stay home.

teach abroad

Children’s time and development should be valued in any part of the world— and if your teaching isn’t 100 percent about the kids, you’re wasting everyone’s time.