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Am I too old to TEFL abroad?

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If you’re looking for the short answer, it’s – no.

That said, teaching abroad as a more mature adult doesn’t come without its challenges, but to be fair there are challenges facing every age group teaching abroad so it’s a case of identifying what they might in your case and working out how to overcome them. This is a very common question with lots of factors to consider so it’s important to explore it in depth.

Unfortunately, in certain countries, age will be a restricting factor. It might be due to cultural norms, it might be due to mandatory retirement ages. Whatever the reason, it’s a reality so you just have to accept that. Luckily, there are plenty of other countries where you will be welcomed as a mature English teacher.

Being an older English teacher is not a barrier to having a successful and fulfilling career. You just have to bear in mind that the opportunities open to you won’t mirror those of recent graduates and younger teachers.Click To Tweet

How can I strengthen my position as a potential candidate for a role?

The first and most important thing is to make sure that you are properly qualified and that you’ve achieved this through a reputable company. The minimum requirement is the 120 hrs TEFL qualification. Do not be tempted to cut corners and go with a cheaper company simply because it’s cheaper because these outfits are usually not recognised by employers because they lack the appropriate accreditation. If you go with one of those courses then you might as well give up completely.

If you’re a mature student, brand new to the teaching world, and studying for your TEFL qualification then make sure you prepare yourself for in-depth learning and quite intensive training; things like:

  • Class discussions among multiple students
  • Completing and submitting assignments
  • Completing tests
  • Be prepared to concentrate during long lessons

Then consider your TEFL course options carefully to work out whether you want to study full-time or part-time. The latter usually takes 8-10 weeks whereas the former can be completed in 4 weeks. But it/s important to bear in mind that full-time studying is quite a challenge and there’s nothing wrong with taking it at a slower pace, you aren’t going to miss out, in fact, if anything, it might be beneficial because it will allow your brain the time and space to properly process and understand the subject matter. If you choose part-time it also gives you the opportunity to read around the subject and study aspects of it that you won’t necessarily cover on the course. Alternatively, you might try to get some volunteer work in an educational setting – this will definitely boost your chances of becoming successfully employed as an English teacher abroad. If you’re unsure then there will be course advisors that you can discuss your options with.

Be open-minded

There are countries where age restrictions apply – in both a cultural way and on an administrative level. For example, there are mandatory retirement ages of 55-60 years old in some Asian countries, so it will be exponentially more difficult to find work there as a more mature teacher. Unfortunately, these countries are also more prone to being very narrow-minded about what constitutes the ‘perfect teacher’ which is basically youth. Or youth is a very large component of it anyway. Therefore, the older teachers – and even minorities – will suffer trying to find employment as a teacher there.

Choose your country carefully.

Even with the Asian countries probably ruled out, it’s important to choose where you want to teach carefully because some countries have distinct advantages over others. For example, Latin America is a good bet because they have a preference for older teachers. Age is seen as a positive factor as it often brings the experience, a good work ethic, and stronger authority in the classroom that young teachers might lack. Mexico, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica also have excellent job markets for more mature teachers. Plus they have warm weather, beautiful sceneries, fascinating cities, a low cost of living and basically no age restrictions – ideal!

Be persistent.

If you fail at the first, fourth or twentieth interview you get up, dust your down and carry on applying. Park any disappointment as it has no place in the positive thinking that you need to be doing. Persistence is also one of the key features of being an English teacher!

Flexibility

Whilst you may not have a young family to consider or sizeable debts to pay off like the 20-somethings probably do, you still need to have a degree of flexibility in your working life. You need to decide what your ideal is and see how far you’re prepared to compromise. Which age group of students would you like to teach? What sort of timetable do you want? Would you prefer a city teaching post or somewhere more rural? You will have all of these options so stay open-minded and realistic. Some things just may not pan out so don’t be disheartened if this happens to you.

Positive thinking

You should really focus on the positives of your age – because there are plenty. Life experience, for one. Once you’ve secured an interview then take some time to make sure that your potential employer recognises the benefits of your age:

  • Enhanced professional skills
  • Being serious about committing and settling down in a new country, rather than a recent graduate who might just be looking for a way to earn some money so they can move on. Passion about teaching is a must and that should come over in your interview.
  • You’ll have the maturity and experience that someone straight out of college might not have. These are things that can’t taught, you have to learn them along the way through life and that makes them very valuable skills.

Additionally, if you have any background in education or teaching then that’s going to be a bonus and something to focus on and will definitely strengthen your position.

Conclusion

Being an older English teacher is not a barrier to having a successful and fulfilling career. You just have to bear in mind that the opportunities open to you won’t mirror those of recent graduates and younger teachers. But that doesn’t matter because you still have plenty of options open to you and the chances are that you’ll be able to find your dream job in a country that you love.

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