At first glance it may seem very difficult but there are solutions to many of the problems and it has certainly been done before so it’s by no means impossible to do!
Assuming you have the qualifications and are now looking for work, there are a number of issues to consider before buying your tickets and heading off overseas to start a new life. Here we go through them one by one and in no particular order. Not all will apply to every single parent of course.
Note that most examples below assume you have one child; the issues will be similar but exaggerated with more than one child – but it still doesn’t make it impossible!
First off, you need to make sure that your child is ready for the move. If they are very young they won’t, of course, understand the implications but if they are older, especially teenaged, then they may well resent the idea of moving away from their friends and current school to a new life abroad.
Moving abroad is a major step and your first concern should be your child. Will they benefit from a new country? Are they ready for such a change? Are you willing to take the responsibility for moving them away?
Don’t get the idea though that it is always negative; teenage children can be very conservative at times and the idea of moving to a new country might well be frightening to them and they will show this in different ways. But even though they may well not like the idea, it may be just the right thing for them: a new environment, new friends, a new start. It could be the best thing you could ever do for them!
Do you (or your child) speak the language of the country you’re going to? This isn’t always as great an issue as you might imagine; often you will find that the younger your child, the easier they will pick it up and they will soon be chattering away in a foreign tongue – probably much better than you can!
But there are practical issues to be dealt with when you go which you’ll need to take care of: enrolling them in school, taking them to the dentist and so on. Although you don’t need to speak the local language to teach English, it will help a lot outside your work so it’s probably best for both you and your child to start learning a little of the local language before you go.
Incidentally, this will also be a good bonding time for you both and can also serve to help your child feel more involved in the process.
The pay for most TEFL jobs – especially entry level ones – isn’t high. It’s normally enough for one person to live on reasonably well but can be a bit of a push if you need to add in schooling, clothes and living expenses for a child as well. You will need to research well the country where you are teaching to make sure that your salary will cover all your expenses including childcare if this is needed.
Often teachers can supplement their income well with private TEFL lessons however occasionally you will find a school that will stipulate in your teaching contract that their teachers are exclusive to them and can’t do this. Depending on your own character here you will either ignore this part of the contract all together and take private students without the school knowing or be prepared to challenge this in the contract.
The other side of the coin is that some schools are happy to let you do private lessons and will actually help you find extra students!
Note that if you currently receive income support this is not usually transferable if you move abroad permanently. However, there are cases when you can still claim it for the first few weeks of your move. This will need to be checked with the department which issues your income support.
You will need to have your working hours clarified by the school before you start. Sometimes schools make their teachers work split shifts or very early in the morning or very late at night. Obviously you will want to arrange your hours around times when your child is at their school.
Some schools (especially in places like South Korea) like to organize and provide their teachers with accommodation, sometimes shared. Obviously this is unsuitable so make sure the job you take has either a decent size accommodation suitable for you and your child or will help you find your own place to live.
Your Child’s Schooling
In most countries there are international schools offering a curriculum often based on either American or British schools. Teaching is also done entirely in English and the school generally caters for the children of diplomats in the country and business people working there from abroad. They generally have classes for all ages and prepare children for university entrance back home.
However, these international schools are often very expensive – at least on a TEFL teacher’s salary!
This leaves local state schools. These, of course, vary from country to country and city to city and range from appalling to brilliant.
One concern of parents is that their child will have problems with the language at a state school. Most schools are aware of this and will arrange special lessons to help the child adapt but more often than not (especially with younger children) it takes just a very short while before the child is chatting away in the local language with the other children and you are the one left floundering!
Finally, if you are thinking of having your child in the same school where you work (either as daycare or even enrolling there to learn) then you should make sure that this is allowed; most schools will simply not allow this.
In some more conservative countries divorce is frowned upon and you may find yourself the subject of ugly rumors. Bear in mind that in larger cities this is less likely to happen so if you are worried about this kind of thing and the country you are going to is known to be ultra conservative, this is something you may want to consider.
Note that some single parents will actually imply to colleagues and neighbors, etc, that they are not divorced but that their former partner is deceased. Whether you do this or not is up to both your personality and where you are teaching.
There are several issues here.
In some cases, depending on your personal situation, you may need the permission of the other parent to take your child abroad. This needs to be checked as if you take the child without the permission of the other parent it can work out both very expensive and potentially attract criminal charges!
In most cases if it is required your school will help out getting your visas. Of course your child will need permission too, to stay in the country so you should check with the embassy to make sure that they will be included as a dependent on your visa.
In some countries you will need to head out on your own to organize things there before being allowed to bring your child over. You should therefore make sure you have someone reliable back home to care for your child whilst you are away.
Does your child have their own passport or are they on yours? This will have to be checked because it may be the case that they are written into the passport of the other parent and this will need to be changed well in advance of your going.
Most of this article is concerned with the issues involved in single parents working abroad as teachers with their children in tow. However there are many cases of this being done and working out well. It’s not all problems!
With the right attitude you can do it; it’s not going to be as easy as going alone, but it most certainly CAN be done.
And as one final suggestion, if you are still looking at getting qualified ICAL offer a part scholarship to single parents taking the ICAL TEFL Certificate Course – see our page on TEFL Course Scholarships for more on this.