Sunday, December 28, 2003

Hoboteaching Options (Wander The World)!
by Skald

Teaching English is a terrific way to travel the world. For those hobopoets who are not independently wealthy (most of us), we must find some way to fund our international travels. For some that means making money at home while van living. But for others, that means funding their travels by teaching abroad.

If you are a native English speaker, it is very easy to see the world..... if you are willing to live simply and cheaply. There are many options. One option is to set up private classes on your own. We are hobopoets afterall, and take it from me... a job in a foreign country is just as miserable as a job at home.

The first step is to choose a country where English is in demand. This includes most of Asia and the Americas, most of the Middle East, and much of Africa. Step two is to move to that country. My advice is to go with at least 5 months living expenses (saved by van living or other means) in order to give yourself plenty of time to find students. Be sure to figure out the visa situation too. Every country is different in this regard.... so I can only give advice on Thailand. Its very easy to enter Thailand on a two month tourist visa. These can be extended for another month at the immigration office. You'll have to leave the country every three months to repeat this process-- a nice excuse to visit Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Another option, if you've got the funds, is to register at a Thai language school and study Thai.... which will make you eligible for a one year student visa. This is the option I chose. Lastly, you can get a job at a language school and they will sponsor you for a one year work visa.

Once the visa situation is taken care of, and you've gotten settled in, its time to find students. The easiest option is to get a part or full time job at a language school-- then let your students know that you offer "privates". Once you've built up your private classes, quit the job. Another option is to put up fliers at Universities and in the central business districts. Keep them VERY simple and include an email address. Most potential students will find it easier to write you than to talk to you in English on the phone. Another technique is to hang out on campuses and in coffee shops. You'll be amazed at how many folks will approach you in order to practice their English.

When setting up privates, I highly recommend small groups over one on one. To make a livable wage teaching one on one you must charge outrageous prices (which some people will indeed pay). But if you create a class of 4-8 people you can charge each one less and yet still make more money per hour. Everybody wins. And frankly, one on one classes are less interesting for the students and the teacher than are small groups.

If you don't have experience teaching, you'll need to figure out a teaching method and find some materials. If at a loss, check my sidebar links for hoboteaching. They lead to a number of very innovative and effective techniques, including "Total Physical Response" (great for beginners), "Total Physical Response Storytelling"(all levels), "Focal Skills Approach" (all levels). Also check out the ALG ("Automatic Language Growth") site for advice on using a long "silent period" in order to boost the effectiveness of your teaching techniques.

If you'd like some clear, structured materials, go to the TPR-S site and order their "Look I Can Talk" series of books. The TPR site also has some good books, including lesson plan books and general teaching guides. With these materials and a few weeks of experience, you should be able to provide students with solid English instruction. An added bonus of these methods is that they are all natural methods with a solid body of research behind them. They are also much more fun to teach, less stressful for the students, and more effective than traditional grammar-based methods.

A key factor for setting up classes is where to teach them. Don't teach classes in far flung locations. They aren't worth it as you'll spend far too much time and money commuting. Private classes are supposed to enhance your freedom and enjoyment, not become another monotonous and painful job. Teaching in your apartment is always an option, as long as you set it up like a class... with plenty of chairs, a small table, and a white board at minimum. Teaching in your student's apartments or offices is also a good option, as long as they are nearby.

Be sure to be VERY precise about your fee structure. Also, require students to pay for a month in advance. Most won't mind, as all language schools also require this. If you are paid up front you won't have to worry about students missing class-- its up to them. You also reduce the hassle of constantly collecting money. Print out a small flier, in VERY simple English, that explains your price structure and payment policy.

By following these guidelines you should have little trouble establishing yourself... though allow 5-10 months to really get going. You can work part time at a language school during this period if you need extra cash. Once established, you should be able to live comfortably by teaching only 2-4 hours per day,..... maybe less if you are a hard core hobopoet (and depending on the local economic conditions). And that's the point after all.... to live abroad, see the world, and have a great lifestyle..... all with an absolute minimum of work.

A final note: Hoboteaching Abroad is also an ideal technique for the part time hobopoet. This option is even easier than the above method..... because it is very easy to find lucrative jobs, especially in Asia. Korea in particular is a very easy place to get a teaching job, though most require a Bachelors degree (in any subject). Japan and Taiwan are also good locations. Without a degree its better to set up private classes or to go to less stringent countries. Check out the sidebar link to Dave's ESL Cafe.... that site has a large international job board.

The part time strategy is simple..... go to a country that pays well (Japan, Korea) and work full time for a year. These jobs typically provide a free apartment and free airfare, so you can easily save two-thirds of your salary or more. Many (most) of these jobs are not particularly pleasant.... they will work you like a dog and treat you like crap. But at the end of that year you'll have a big stash of cash. Leave the country and move to a country with cheap living expenses- such as India or any country in SE Asia (or Africa, Ecuador, etc...).

Most part time hobopoets should be able to manage a one to one ratio in this way.... that is, for every year of work they can live for a year without working.... just traveling around having a great time. I've done the PT hoboteaching option twice. The last time I managed to work only 6 months in Japan and then take a full year off (a 1 to 2 ratio). I did this by traveling in cheap countries (Thailand, Nepal, India, Malaysia) and by living in my van once I got back to the States (part of that money even paid for the van!).

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