Teaching abroad provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become immersed in the culture and daily life of another nation. Americans teaching in the UK can be particularly effective educators as the language barrier is nearly nonexistent, allowing teachers to easily communicate with their students and the local community. Teaching in the UK allows educators to experience contemporary British culture while learning more about the country’s rich history and traditions. At the same time, becoming familiar with the different teaching methodologies employed in the UK is an excellent opportunity for professional growth and development.
The easiest way to find a job teaching in the UK is by applying to an international school. These institutions usually offer a generalized international curriculum (such as the International Baccalaureate curriculum) instead of the National Curriculum that is taught at UK state schools. There are several elite international schools located throughout England, Ireland and Wales. An Internet search of the phrase “international school” and the country of interest is a good way to find UK schools that may be looking for teachers from the United States.
An alternative option for teaching in the UK is through the British Council on Learning’s Fulbright Teacher Exchange Programme, which is operated in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State. Teachers from the UK and the United States trade positions for either a semester or a full academic year and receive a grant for travel expenses. Since each teacher’s salary is still paid by their current employer, this program is only open to employed teachers whose schools agree to participate in the exchange.
The UK has experienced substantial levels of immigration over the past few decades, particularly from countries that were once colonies and territories of the British Empire. This includes India, Pakistan, the Caribbean, South Africa and Hong Kong. Teaching in a diverse population like the UK’s requires respect, understanding and tolerance for different cultures and beliefs. Teachers who are visitors to the UK must also be flexible about trying different types of educational strategies without losing sight of the overall goal of helping children learn. Educators who are successful when teaching abroad work within the school system and stay grounded, even when confronted by the unfamiliar.
The geography of the UK more compact than the United States, allowing visiting teachers to explore many of the country’s major landmarks during weekend excursions. Transportation by train, bus and subway is available to take you anywhere you need to go, or you can learn how to drive on the other side of the road and explore the countryside by car! An added bonus is that you will be able to easily visit France, Italy and other parts of Europe from your home base in the UK.
Generally speaking, the English have a very positive attitude towards visitors from the United States. It’s usually easy to find help if you lose your way or have a question. People in shops and pubs will strike up friendly conversations when they realize from your accent that you’re American. In addition to providing an environment where English is the primary language, life in the UK has many things in common with life in the United States. Food and entertainment are similar, while at the same time being just different enough to be novel. One thing to be prepared for when visiting the UK is the higher cost of living. It’s important to learn the currency system early on and to keep the exchange rate in mind. Be sure to talk to locals about ways to save money on transportation, food and lodging. The good news is that admission to many London museums is free and there are beautiful parks throughout the city, so it’s possible to enjoy being a tourist on a shoestring budget.