I'm in my fourth year teaching English and would love to apply for a job I've seen in The TES for an English teacher in Mexico. Is it too soon to consider such a move?

1st July 2005 at 01:00
Ted Wragg, emeritus professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own

Ted says

How long a teacher should stay in a school is not subject to any fixed rule. You could stay for life, or get out after a year, depending on circumstances. There are three aspects to be considered: the children you teach and the community in which you work; your own career and aspirations; and the job elsewhere.

After four years no one can say that you simply came and went. Between two and five years is a typical first appointment stint. Schools that take the profession seriously will spend a lot of time helping you groove in during your first year, so newly qualified teachers can regard their second year as payback time, when the fruits begin to show.

It helps the school and your pupils if you can avoid leaving in the middle of the year, though that may not be possible. Don't leave problems and unattended business for your successor to tidy up. If the children are sorry to see you go, remember to tell them, without too much syrup, that you will look back fondly on teaching them. If this is not the case then just crawl quietly away.

A spell abroad is not a bad career move at this stage. There is much to be learned in different cultures and you could be an even more interesting English teacher when you return. Ensure that you keep in touch with developments back home, as education changes rapidly. Today's initiative 39b will be in the bin and initiatives 40 to 99 will be in vogue when you apply for jobs here again.

Finally, ask yourself if the job in Mexico sounds interesting. If it does, go for it. You probably won't want to do it when you're 75.

You say

Go for it while you have the will

Once teachers have at least two or, even better, three years under their belt, they should go for it while they have the enthusiasm, the energy, and the determination it takes to get a job in a really good school abroad. It also takes all these qualities to settle happily in a strange culture that, though exotic and exciting, often pulls a person out of their comfort zone.

It can take up to a year (or sometimes more) to land the right job and the teacher must approach the task by every possible route: applying direct, going through agencies, reading job ads in appropriate papers, and taking out subscriptions to specialist websites and papers like ours!

Alexandra Broman, The International Educator newspaper and website (www.tieonline.com)

Don't dwell on what you're missing

There are many variables that can determine a successful career. It could be that your Mexican adventure is just one such "sliding door" moment. By being out of the picture professionally speaking, who knows what opportunities you might be missing? After four years at the chalkface this is precisely the time when you can start moving forward in career terms.

Foundations laid down at this stage can be a platform for real success later on.

But the point is that you (literally) won't know what you are missing out on domestically once you are abroad. And neither should you overly concern yourself in this regard. Yes, by going to Mexico you might lose out in the longer term. Equally, you might stay in the UK and get run over by a bus as you leave the interview that has secured your first managerial position.

Sue Cheal, West Sussex

You will grow, even if your CV doesn't

There is no such thing as a free lunch - even a free taco. The Mexican venture is, in effect, a career break, and you might well lose a bit of momentum. While your CV will not be terminally damaged, it could be put on hold. But it might be a price worth paying for a life-changing and truly developmental experience. It's just a matter of being realistic and accepting that you can't have it all.

Rod Pow, west London

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