Want to work overseas? Here’s some down-to-earth advice…

She’s worked all over the world as a teacher, when she was single and as part of a teaching couple. Now she’s about to head off with her young family to take up a new teaching post in Panama. So we asked Michelle Massey for some basic advice for anyone just starting to think about working overseas for the first time – whether on their own, as a couple, or with a family.

What are some of the most basic things to consider when choosing where to teach?

I think people need to look very carefully into the country that they want to go to, and find out whether they could actually work in that environment. If you go to an English-speaking country such as America or Australia or Canada, for example, you haven’t nearly so many issues to deal with; you can easily explain what you want. But if you’re going somewhere that doesn’t speak English as a first language, you’ve got to be very competent, and have so much patience, finding different ways of asking for what you want.

How about destinations in terms of safety?

You really do need to check on the political state of the country, and therefore whether it is actually safe. There are some really good wesbites like the United Nations site, and the British government publish some really good websites where you can check on the status of every country in the world.

Be aware that things change regularly. So even somewhere as attractive as Indonesia, for example, has warnings out for certain areas at the moment, and advises British people not to go to because of bomb threats and threats of kidnapping – even killing of British citizens.  So you’ve got to check that side of things out.

What are some of the considerations around going as a couple

My partner John and I both applied for a job in Thailand ages ago. I landed one down in Pattaya, while he got one in Bangkok. So we then changed our CVs and actually described ourselves as “part of a teaching couple”; I had my photograph larger on one side, and a smaller photograph of John on the other side, and we did the equivalent for his.


We sent them off and said that we were a teaching couple and that we’d both be looking for positions.

Sometimes they wrote back and said – even though it was primary – that the specialist subjects that we’d got didn’t match (for example I got one in China, but John didn’t match up) so that was no good.

Now we’ve both been offered positions in a school in Panama. I’ve been offered a Key Stage co-ordinator’s role with a view to being made deputy next year. It’s a new school – part of the King’s Group based in Madrid; they’ve been invited by the Panamanian government to set up a school over there.

If you’re going as a couple and your partner’s not a teacher, than that throws up all kinds of things as well, depending on what kind of help the school might give you, in helping your partner settle in as well.


And how about taking a family overseas?

I became a lot more mercenary. I wanted to know what the school would offer us rather than what we were offering them. The majority of schools do offer free places for children, so if you’re a teaching couple and you’ve got two children then you normally get free places for both children. If you’re teaching and perhaps your spouse isn’t, then most schools offer at least one free place, some offer a subsidised second place – that might be a consideration.

A lot of places don’t offer flights for the children, nor medical care for the children either, so that’s a consideration – and it represents a chunk of the salary that you’ll need to think about and factor in.

Good luck with your new post in Panama, and please tell us all about it once you’ve had a chance to settle in!

Michelle will be offering further advice for teachers who have already accepted a post overseas and are about to depart, so watch out for that feature, coming up soon from Eteach.

Been there, done that? Great! So what are your tips for working overseas? Why not share with other Eteach readers. Just comment below or send us an email.

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