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Teaching Abroad as a Single Parent

Teaching English Abroad as a Single Parent

Navigating the journey of teaching English abroad as a single parent

Single parents sometimes think that they need to limit their dreams and their potential, but it is possible to teach abroad as a lone parent. Of course, parents have different considerations to keep in mind from a couple or a childless traveller, but with planning and research, teaching English abroad is accessible to single parents and this article will aim to give some pointers for this.

Why consider teaching English abroad as a single parent?

Parents are, of course, conscious of their children's needs and this will be foremost in their minds when making a decision to live and work somewhere else in the world. There are benefits for children. Children who grow up abroad will probably be bilingual and the benefits of bilingualism are well-documented, including faster cognitive development, improved emotional intelligence and better career prospects. A child who is immersed in another language and another culture is likely to find that they can be at home anywhere in the world and this opens up lots of possibilities for them. Some single parents may also move abroad because they'd like to live in a country that's safer and quieter than life in big cities in the UK, the US or South Africa.

Challenges and Considerations for Single Parents Teaching Abroad

Time is a significant issue for all working parents and even more so for a single parent, needing to balance the demands of a job with childrearing responsibilities. One advantage of teaching over other professions is that a full-time teaching timetable generally consists of approximately 20 to 25 contact hours. Of course there is lots of time besides this needed for planning and administrative work, but this can usually be done at flexible times. Teaching hours can often be the same as or similar to a child's school hours, which is a real advantage, but be careful because there are many teaching jobs in language academies etc where teaching hours are mainly in the evening teaching students after school and adults after work. Make sure you clarify this before taking up a job.

You also need to think about your child's education and choose whether to send them to a local school with other children from the country or to find an international school. There are advantages to putting your child into a local school where they'll learn the language of your new country quickly, though this transition from one language and system to another can be jarring for a child, so this is a decision that will have to be taken with care. Most big cities will have international schools, often with lessons in English and will have other students who have moved there from abroad. This can be an easier option in terms of adapting to life abroad and making new friends, though it can be expensive and it doesn't offer the same experience in terms of immersion in a new language and culture as a non-English speaking school does.

Finally, it's essential to build a network or community when you move abroad, especially with a child, as you don't want either you or your child to feel isolated and because you could need help with childminding, as well as navigating medical and educational services and options for your child. You can start building this community before you leave your home country. Join Facebook groups for expats, foreigners and parents in the city or country you're moving to, look up Reddit groups and forums for advice and contacts. Of course, your workplace can also be a valuable source of links and potential friendships. You could ask to be put in touch with colleagues before moving abroad to start forging relationships as early as possible.

Will International Schools Employ Single Parents?

Yes, international schools in many countries will employ single parents. However, there are some more conservative countries where this isn't the case and it's important to do your research. International schools will sometimes have different expectations from language academies and English centres and you may find that while a CELTA is all you need to teach in the latter, some international schools will also expect a teaching diploma like a PGCE or even a Masters qualification, so do your research carefully.

Tips for Teaching English Abroad as a Single Parent

Research is the key! If you want to move abroad with a child as a single parent, you need to research thoroughly. As mentioned earlier, this can start with going on deep dives on Reddit and YouTube to find as many real experiences as possible and joining Facebook groups to speak to real people about their experiences. If you can, travel to the city before signing a contract, see what's realistic in terms of accommodation, childcare and cost of living, as well as visiting potential employers. The more research you do, the more confident you can be in your decision to move. You also need to consider affordability and salaries, as some destinations pay a lot better than others.

Check your contract. A job that offers flights, visas, medical insurance and accommodation might only offer these perks for the employee and it's important to find out what exactly the policies are for dependents.

Finally, think about how you will prepare your child. Having your life uprooted can be traumatic for a child, but there are strategies to prepare them. Research the country with your child and learn about it together. Have fun learning new facts and tidbits about your new home together. Make sure that life doesn't change completely - ensure that family routines and traditions that were maintained while you were at home are carried over to your new life overseas. And think about how you can use your new network, your workplace and your child's school to build friendship groups for them and make the transition easier.

A real teacher's story

Claire was tired of her life in the UK, exhausted by the demands of life as a teacher in a London school and she took the leap and moved to China with her young daughter.

The support network I found in this international community has been invaluable. We've connected with other single parents who have faced similar challenges and triumphs. We've formed a tight-knit group that offers support, advice, and a sense of belonging that I never expected to find.
As I watch Emily chase butterflies in our garden, I can't help but feel grateful for the decision to teach overseas. The change was challenging at first, and there were moments of doubt and homesickness. But over time, those feelings have faded, replaced by a sense of belonging and fulfilment.

Moving abroad to teach English always has challenges as well as rewards, and these challenges can seem even bigger to a single parent. However, with the right support and good planning, it really is possible!

Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.

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