Teaching English with the Communicative Approach has worked very well in Saudi Arabia. One good thing at my college here is that we are not required to limit ourselves to the standard textbook in our classrooms. Try thinking of the textbook as only a tool or a starting point. I use my imagination to improve the textbook with communicative lesson plans, and authentic materials that relate to the students’ own interests seem much more effective than old ESL textbooks.
My Saudi students remind me of people I have taught in the United States. There is no typical Saudi college student. You will find the more serious English student and the the inevitable class clown. As one would expect, there are many cultural differences. For instance, classes consist of all male or all female students. My students have already graduated from a two-year technical college program, in various disciplines; most thus fall in an age range of 22 to 24 years old.
There are numerous steps to follow before one’s quest to teach English in Saudi Arabia becomes a reality. Don’t be surprised if some of the biggest challenges are encountered during the job interview. All your prior leg-work may be for naught, if you stumble seriously at this all-important stage.
Most North American English teachers working in Saudi Arabia are paid rather well, compared to those teaching in other counties. Rather than salary level, some of the differences you may notice between various job offers are: grade level, location of the school, number of weekly classroom contact hours, and the time of day you would most likely be working.
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All schools in Saudi Arabia are limited to one gender or the other and students are taught by their respective gender. This reflects Saudi society at large: there is little or no social interaction between unrelated men and women here.
TESOL jobs in Saudi Arabia are generally excellent. School buildings are usually rather modern, and are most often well-maintained. (Pictured here is a wonderful open-air courtyard, contained within a classroom building at one Saudi college.) Rooms are generally swept out on a daily basis; this is actually a necessity because fine desert dust can blow in overnight through a less-than-tightly-sealed window.
Perhaps the best way to choose where to teach English in Saudi Arabia – in a physical sense – is to examine each of its regions individually: western, southern, eastern, and central. But first, an overview: the Arabian Peninsula is located in the extreme southwest corner of Asia, an area sometimes referred to as Asia Minor. Within the boundaries of Saudi Arabia, one finds about 80% of the Peninsula’s land mass.
The commercial or “visit” visa is designed for the businessman who might make multiple entries into Saudi Arabia over several months. It may be possible to teach in the Kingdom while carrying such a visa. However, you could find yourself crossing over into a neighboring country, every month or so, to keep your job and maintain your legal status.
If you intend to live and work in Saudi Arabia, the best alternative at the time of entry is the work visa, as it will eventually lead to the issuance of an Iqama, the rough Saudi equivalent of a “Green Card.” Once within the Kingdom, those of us who are not Saudi citizens require Iqamas to obtain almost any service we might have a hankering for. For example, if one wants to purchase private Internet service, you must first have an Iqama. A bank account? Show your Iqama. Need to transfer money back home? Iqama, please.
If you are looking for an online TEFL certification that is recognized in Saudi Arabia, take Ontesol’s 250-hour course with Practicum.