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Australia and New Zealand constitute a large geographic area encompassing a huge variety of climates, topography and environments. The most immediately striking thing to the visitor is that the seasons are the reverse of those experienced by the northern hemisphere. The other curiosity is that water goes down the plughole the other way around. That not the only thing that’s unusual ‘down under’. Indeed, one is dealing with an entirely new world, only recently populated by non-indigenous peoples. There is an enterprising air about the new world, as well as a ‘can do’ attitude. With this said, people never hesitate to set aside their work worries in favour of ripping the scab off a few tubes, and getting the barbeque going on the beach; and a jolly fine time can be had by all.
Given the long tradition of immigration, which continues whether the Immigration Department likes it or not, there is considerable and stable demand for English language tuition. The key to teaching in Australia or New Zealand is, though, in doing it legally, and the through the correct channels. There are plenty of options detailed below, but getting naturalised takes time, resourcefulness and persistence. Nevertheless, there are lots of options for suitably qualified people to do things the right way, and you don’t want to get deported for working illegally as you may never be let back in.
Private language institutes offer the best potential for aspirant teachers. There are many people from other parts of the world resident on placements who need to have their English in good order. Hence, business English and IT English may be interesting avenues to pursue.
In the past, TESOL teachers have been led to believe that finding work there is a difficult proposition without a considerable amount of experience or a formal teaching qualification. Until recently that was the case, but a recent change in Australian law has now made it much easier for inexperienced teachers to find work.
Previously you needed to be a qualified teacher or a graduate with a TESOL qualification and 800 hours teaching experience. The latter criterion has now been dropped, as there simply aren’t enough experienced teachers to meet an ever-increasing demand. Recent years have seen a huge influx of migrants to Australia (some with only a basic command of English), so this increase in work was inevitable.
Work tends to be offered on a casual basis rather than a contractual one, but rates of pay are generous. They are upheld by an ‘award scheme’ and newly qualified teachers get an hourly rate of A$31 or a daily rate of A$172. Working conditions and resources are of a high standard, as you might expect.
Be aware that many students will have been studying English for a number of years, and may have considerable awareness of grammar, such as tenses. Be on your metal, and prepare well. You don’t want to have your knowledge of tenses tested by your students, who learned them all by heart before they were ten! One often finds a disparity between knowledge and oral and written dexterity. For example, students may be quite unused to hearing English spoken by a native speaker. Conversely, some, from experience in the tourist industry, speak and comprehend with great dexterity, but perform poorly in writing.
Because of the huge variety of standards in education and experience you can expect a commensurately patchy student body. Some will have very little experience; however, others, with more experience in English, will have many years experience in studying English.
There are relatively friendly visa regulations in place for the suitably qualified. Much will depend on your country of origin, and you will need to plan in advance, and check with your local embassy to see what’s on offer. Patriarchy is something to consider. If you have a relative from a Commonwealth country then you may find that you automatically qualify for a work permit. Similarly graduate exchange programmes may be in place, on a reciprocal basis depending on your country of origin.
Visitors to Australia will be immediately confronted by how spread out things are. Australia is not a place to ‘do’ in a couple of weeks; nor a couple of months for that matter. Nevertheless, the population centres that rim the coastline offer everything from tropical rainforest with caster-sugar white beaches and turquoise sea, to the vibrant and very arty metropolises, such as Sydney. Pricilla, Queen of the Desert, is a movie to see before setting out, to give one a few ideas. At all times striking natural beauty is one of the things that naturally springs to mind.
And striking natural beauty is also the watchword for New Zeeland. The rugged South Island contrast with the lush north. Excellent skiing is oft overlooked, and out-door activities, including swimming with dolphins, is very much a way of life.
In both countries expect excellent produce and seafood and the quality of restaurants reflects this.
Look in the electronic Yellow Pages under ‘Language Schools’ and you will find a plethora of entries for your locale. Nevertheless, finding the right job for you may take a little application. One should interview the schools as much as be interviewed by them. A common issue is whether or not, or how many ‘privates’ you may be required to teach in addition to classroom teaching. In London, for example, the trend is towards classes at institutes, but privates at the home of the student. You can easily find yourself doing an awful lot of running around which you are not getting paid for!
Obvious questions for a potential school are class sizes, preparation time, materials, etc. Look for well-resourced schools, but be aware that you probably will not get paid for preparation time. Also be aware that you are in a market where there are a lot of people who ‘Teach English and...’ In other words a good part of the market is oriented to people who teach English part-time, whilst pursuing other goals in life.
Again, some modicum of specialization will help bump up your salary - for example, teaching IT English or Business English are a good areas in which to work. In addition to this building up a portfolio of your own ‘privates’ is an excellent mid-term goal, and is a method of greatly increasing your earning potential. It is also something that language schools expect - though they may get markedly unsympathetic if you start stealing their students!
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