Are you a teacher in your home country? Have you imagined teaching in another country? There has been plenty of discussion about teaching English / ESL abroad but another option for qualified teachers is to participate in a teacher exchange.
A teacher exchange is where qualified teachers can swap places with teachers in other countries, typically for a semester / year. It’s the perfect opportunity to share ideas and knowledge, as well as learn about educational practices from different countries. It’s also a wonderful way to truly appreciate the meaning of the phrase, “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes!”
These programs are meant for qualified teachers.Photo credits: Jirka Matousek.
The U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany, France, India, Mexico, South Korea
Varies from each country; some programs provide a stipend and assistance; check with your program for more information.
Required, and paperwork requirements vary. Most programs give you support. If you are from outside the U.S. looking to work here, you need to apply for a J-1 visa
What is a Teacher Exchange?
A teacher exchange is when teachers “exchange” with other education professionals in other countries from anywhere between 3 to 12 months. They work with local students and learn more about educational practices in other countries. When they return to their home countries, teachers put what they’ve learned to work in their own classrooms and schools. Usually, it’s a partnership between various schools and organizations in different countries.
When and Where to Look
Teacher exchange programs vary widely in terms of start dates and destinations. If you’re interested in participating in an exchange, you can ask your school or local department of education to see if there are any exchange programs and partnerships in place.
You may want to check with the specific program you are interested in for specific dates. Generally speaking, if you are looking for an exchange in the Northern Hemisphere, exchanges can start in September; in the Southern Hemisphere, exchanges start in January or February. You may want to start planning your exchange at least several months in advance. The great thing about exchanges is that some programs allow you to start any time during the course of the school year.
You are required to be a qualified, licensed teacher in your home country. If you are a teacher from outside the U.S. applying the for the J-1 visa, you are required to have at least 3 years’ worth of teaching or related professional experience, and that you are able to meet the standards of the state where you will be teaching, as well as be able to have sufficient proficiency in English.
For U.S. teachers, you have to have spent at least 50% of your time teaching or working directly with primary and secondary school-aged students. For a program like the Fulbright, they would prefer their teachers to have spent 5 years of professional teaching. Every program is different, so make certain you check with the program you want to apply to first and check the visa requirements.
Resources for American Teachers
The Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, and has been an active program for seven years. It’s a combination of studying abroad and a teacher exchange. Grantees of the award will audit at least two courses and conduct a project, as well as engage in teaching-related activities, such as team-teaching, observe classes, and conduct workshops in local schools in the other country. These are prestigious awards, and can be competitive. Destination countries change each year. You contact the Institute of International Education for further details.
While this may not be a teacher exchange program, Teaching Traveling is a fantastic resource for teachers who want to use their traveling experiences to benefit their teaching, or who actually teach abroad. This site is administered by Lillie Marshall, a teacher from outside of Boston, and it’s a very positive and welcoming environment to exchange stories, ideas, and resources. Another resource is the National Education Association, which provides a great list of programs for international study and overseas teaching resources.
Resources for British Teachers
In a partnership with the U.S. Department of State, the British Council runs the UK/US Fulbright Teacher Exchange Programme. There are also teacher exchange programs offered by the League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers. Their programs run from as little as three weeks to a year, and destination countries are diverse, including Canada and Australia.
Resources for Canadian Teachers
The best resource for Canadian teachers is the Canadian Education Exchange Foundation. They offer teaching exchanges domestically throughout the Canadian provinces, as well as internationally with countries such as the U.S., the U.K., Denmark, Australia, France, and Germany. While this particular teacher exchange last as long as a year, the Canadian Education Exchange Foundation also offers short-term exchanges for as little as two weeks.
Resources for Australian Teachers
This is a great resource from the New South Wales Government, as part of their Education and Communities department. For teachers that want to teach in rural in-country schools, the deadline seems to be in September; international exchanges can be accepted from December to June. The Independent Education Union is another fantastic resource for Australian teachers who want to participate on teacher exchanges.
They include very sensible tips about how to manage the maintenance of exchange household accommodations and paying bills while you are away. They also have volunteers called the Exchange Teachers League, which help teachers before and during the exchanges.
Resources for Other International Teachers
The Fulbright is also extended to international teachers from the current participating countries. They have to have decent TOEFL and/or IELTS test scores, and satisfy other eligibility requirements for international teachers. Another great resource for international teachers is the International Teacher Exchange Services for teachers who want to exchange with the United States. The Foreign Academic and Cultural Exchange Services (FACES) invites international teachers to teach in the U.S., more specifically South Carolina public schools.