Teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad is a dream for so many of us, regardless of which stage of our lives we are at. Teaching English abroad is suitable for young adults fresh out of school, 20-something graduates, and 30ish newlyweds. But that’s not all. Teaching English abroad might be just what you are looking for if you are forty and fabulous, or even more mature. While we can’t say that there are zero-age limits on teaching English as a Foreign Language, we can say that there are not many, and being older should not deter you from finding out more about the world of TEFL.
Why employers like mature teachers
Sure, when we imagine TEFL teachers, what usually comes to mind is the stereotypical image of youngish backpackers jumping around the classroom, inspiring their students with their boundless enthusiasm. But that’s only one possibility and if you walk into any EFL school around the world you’re sure to see a range of ages and teaching styles in the classrooms.
First of all, not all young teachers are overly energetic. Some of them are calmer and more serious. Their demeanour is no reflection of their teaching ability. Some teachers can be bouncing off the wall, singing from the top of their lungs and while they might be very nice people and lots of fun, they could be terrible teachers. The more serious teachers could be equally as bad, or brilliant.
By the same token, the age of a teacher is not an accurate gauge of their teaching ability. And any employer worth their salt knows this. Mature teachers bring with them life experience. Mature teachers are less likely to be a flight risk in a foreign country because they are able to handle the stress of living abroad better than someone doing it for the first time.
Mature teachers might already have their own families. This doesn’t really make a difference in other careers but when it comes to teaching and dealing with children on a daily basis, it’s a huge plus if you have had the experience of bringing up your own. Plus mature teachers might bring their families with them, which can make a huge difference to their state of mind.
Mature teachers have years of work experience. This might be in the classroom but it could be in any other field. This means that teaching English as a Foreign Language is not their first rodeo when it comes to employment. They know how to work with colleagues and be a team player, as well as how best to fit into a company. They also have a range of other skills they bring into the classroom, be it business experience, journalism experience, financial experience – experience in any field is a plus in the EFL classroom.
The difficulty in being a mature teacher
Sadly, some countries have unfortunate laws regarding age and work permits. In other words, you might not be allowed to apply for a work permit or visa if you are older than a certain age. This is often related to the retirement age for the country. So if, for example, the legal age of retirement is 55 for a country, they are not going to give a work permit to a 57-year old teacher, or even a 54-year old teacher for that matter.
Your age might also become an issue when it comes to health concerns. Older employees are more likely to take days off work or need medical attention than younger employees. Having said that, if you are a fit and healthy mature teacher, your employer wouldn’t expect you to fall ill just because of your age. If you take chronic medication, make sure it will be available to you wherever you plan to go. Also, make sure your travel and health insurance is up to date!
Clearly, the disadvantages of being a mature teacher are not enough to discourage you entirely from finding your feet in the TEFL classroom. Where there is a will, there’s a way, so if you’re keen to change your life, there’s no reason not to.
The only question is: where to?
The best TEFL destinations for mature teachers
You know what we’re going to say here: the world is your oyster! Because it is, but let’s look at a few destinations, in particular, that should be on your radar if you’re a mature teacher. These countries welcome older teachers with open arms because older teachers are respected for the gems that they are.
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Many Latin American countries are popular destinations for mature teachers not only for their teaching jobs but also for the easy lifestyle they are able to offer. Mexico, Nicaragua and Ecuador are popular options for older teachers as it is often easy to retire there later.
If you are eligible to work in the EU, you should have no problem finding a job regardless of your age. However, at a certain age, you may lose certain medical benefits in some countries. Germany, in particular, is known as a top destination for older TEFL teachers.
Eastern Europe is an ideal TEFL destination for many reasons, one of which being its lenient visa regulations. The Czech Republic and Russia especially are known as good options for TEFL teachers older than 40. Many teachers in the Czech Republic are independent teachers, so they find contracts with various companies, while in Russia it is common to be a governess or tutor, which is also a good option for a mature teacher.
Generally speaking, it can be difficult to find a job as an older teacher in Asia. The age of retirement in many Asian countries is as young as 55 or 60, so if you’re close to or older than that you may have trouble finding a job. It’s especially hard to find a job as an older teacher in China and South Korea. However, Japan is considered a good option for older teachers (40+) as they regularly hire for university positions that prefer more mature teachers or teachers with lots of experience.
In the Middle East, you are unlikely to find a job if you are over 60. However, because many Middle Eastern countries prefer teachers to have further qualifications or experience, many younger teachers don’t qualify. This is why Middle Eastern destinations like Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are good choices for teachers in their late 20s to 40s.
Teaching English online
And, of course, don’t forget about teaching English online. If you can’t seem to find a job that suits you, then why don’t you teach English online, where age really doesn’t matter. Teachers of all ages can teach English online. Many older EFL students prefer having more mature online teachers. If you’re worried about the technology, don’t be: most schools give you training and you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
If you’re an older teacher and you’re interested in teaching English abroad, don’t let a silly number trip you up! Get hold of us today and we’ll get you on your way to teaching English abroad.