Many of us went to college to become teachers with the goal of working in a public school, or perhaps in our local private school. We wanted to make a difference and be involved in our communities. We may have been inspired by someone that taught us, or we may have had a family member that was a teacher. For most of us, teaching is an incredibly rewarding experience that we wouldn’t trade for anything. We love what we do and we want to continue doing it.
But, what happens when the thrill of where we work is gone? What about the frustrations of dealing with the sense that we’re simply teaching to help kids pass a test at the end of the year? What about the rising cost of living in an age when many districts have frozen teacher salaries? Or worse yet, teachers are being laid off in some places. How many of us would know what to do if we suddenly found ourselves seeking change in an unstable job market?
Four years ago I moved overseas to teach. I actually have to credit my wife a bit for that. She had lived abroad growing up and had always wanted to move overseas again. We spent some time looking at Department of Defense schools as an option, but cracking into DoDDS is pretty tough. You sometimes wait for people to die to leave positions available, and honestly that’s not how I’d like to get in the door. A fortuitous conversation started us looking at international schools – private schools that may or may not be affiliated with government entities – and we decided to take the plunge when we had the opportunity.
There are many reasons to move abroad. For one, the pay is highly competitive. Many international schools will pay comparable wages to what teachers make in the United States. They will oftentimes have tax advantages that U.S. teachers do not though. As of 2011, the foreign income exclusion for federal income taxes is $92,900 per person, so a teaching couple doubles that. Many international schools also provide housing and at least a portion of utilities, all of which are a part of the compensation package. There are great opportunities for personal and professional growth, and for those that want to advance in the ranks there are plenty of leadership opportunities.
It’s worth noting that not all international schools are created equal. A prospective international teacher should absolutely exercise due diligence and do some homework in advance of accepting an offer. Some schools operate for profit, and there is a strong chance that wages and resources will be substandard. Other schools have leaders that are tyrants – not that there are any of those in the U.S. Others still are in abysmal locations where you simply wouldn’t want to live. Again, do your homework! Talk to a teacher that already works overseas, or one that has been there. Get some insight on the schools and use your good friend Google to dig a bit.
So, when you decide you want to take that leap, keep a few things in mind. You need a spirit of adventure. It’s not for the faint of heart. Teaching overseas will expose you to different cultures and things you’d never dream you’d see. Not all of us get to teach in Europe, which is quite expensive by the way. You’ll make memories that will last a lifetime and you’ll see a lot more of the world. You will make wonderful friends and form relationships that will span the globe. You will work in exceptional schools with exceptional teachers and exceptional students. If you find yourself intrigued by the idea, feel free to email me at email@example.com. I hope someday to see you out there.
About the author: DK Hipkins is currently pursuing his Ed.S. in Educational Leadership at Regent University. He earned his B.S. in History and M.S. in Computers in Education at Shenandoah University. DK Hipkins is an international educator currently teaching at the American School of Doha in Qatar. He teaches technology and history, and is the coach of the ASD Robotics Team. Previously he spent ten years in Frederick County, Virginia, as a social studies teacher and an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher. Mr. Hipkins has been happily married to fellow Regent student Crystal Hipkins since 1996 and their first child is due in December. You may contact Mr. Hipkins via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his web site at http://www.dkhipkins.com.