Everyone who has ever worked a TEFL job abroad knows one, or probably more, teachers who have quit their jobs overnight and simply disappeared. Some leave the country they’re teaching in completely, while others just move onto a so-called ‘better job’, but it happens so often it’s amazing some schools will hire any western teachers at all.
This way of quitting a TEFL job is known in the industry as “a midnight run”, and I could name at least 10 teachers I know in Thailand who have done it. it’s an extremely unprofessional way of resigning from a teaching position in almost every case. It causes problems for the school, the students the teacher was teaching, and even fellow teachers who suddenly have to pick up the slack and teach classes they weren’t prepared to teach.
That’s why, if you want to quit your TEFL job because it’s just not working out, there are far better and much more fair ways of doing it than pulling a midnight run.
Try to solve your problems – Sure, you’re in a foreign culture and you don’t always understand the local way of doing things. But, if you’re having problems at your TEFL teaching job in Korea, Thailand, Mexico, Argentina or Peru, the professional way of doing things is to try to solve your problems instead of running away from them.
Talk to the school director to get tips on how you can improve things in your classroom. Ask fellow western teachers who have been at the school longer than you for advice, or discuss the situation with your Korean/Japanese/Peruvian co-teacher. Too many western TEFL teachers abroad treat the people they are working with like ‘foreign idiots’ and don’t seem to understand most of them understand teaching in a foreign country can be difficult for you, and they’ll help wherever they can. If you ask.
If the problems are not able to be solved and your school is reasonable
Resign like an adult – If you’ve tried everything you can think of and the situation at that particular school is becoming intolerable, it really may be time to quit. If you do decide that’s what you want to do, however, you should do it in a professional way. Particularly if the school has always treated you well and you have a reasonable boss.
That means giving the school appropriate notice, whether they agree to accept it or not. Of course, whether the school acts as professionally is not something you can control. But you can leave the job knowing you did everything in your power to break the contract like an adult, and not slink off into the shadows like a cowardly child.
Repay any agreed upon costs – One of the main reasons TEFL teachers do a ‘midnight run’ is because they signed a contract that stated if they left the job early they would have to repay the school for things like airfares from their home country and visa fees.
You signed the contract, you agreed to pay and you are an adult. So, now that you’re wanting to quit the job early you must repay any costs you agreed to no matter how much of a financial hardship that places on you. If you don’t, and the school decides to file legal action against you, you will never be able to live or teach in that country again, and you’ll go back home feeling like the quitter that you are.
Unless your life is in danger, and I’ve never heard of that with any TEFL teacher’s job situation, man up and either pay the money you owe or stick to the contract and finish the job.
If the problems are not able to be solved and your school is horrendous
Although I say pulling a ‘midnight run’ is not the professional thing to do, I am also the first to admit there are definitely some cases that warrant it. Some TEFL schools are truly horrendous, some bosses are abusive, and some situations are so bad you may just slit your wrists if you don’t get out soon.
Make sure you get your paycheck first – If this situation is your situation, and be honest don’t lie, then you will need to make sure you get your paycheck before you quit.
One teacher I know who was new to Thailand managed to get herself in a situation where she was being paid peanuts by an abusive language school owner, was being lied to at every turn, had been told she would be ‘reported to the labor department’ if she quit (by a language school owner who was hiring her illegally – yep, I believe that one), and that she wouldn’t receive her last 2-week paycheck if she decided to resign.
In that regard, I advised her to get the last salary due to her and then walk out. That’s because a language school owner like that doesn’t deserve reasonable notice. Not if you’re going to give it and he’s not going to pay you.
Vacate your apartment – Some TEFL jobs, particularly in Korea and Japan, come with an apartment. If you have a vindictive, abusive boss and you’re planning on quitting, you should make sure you have moved all your belongings to another place and vacated your apartment before you do. If you don’t, that same vindictive, abusive boss could have your belongings lying out on the street by the time you get back home.
Contact the labor department – If you are teaching TEFL legally and you are being threatened by a boss, you can contact the labor department in the country you are teaching in and file a complaint. So many teachers think, because they’re living in a foreign country the labor laws don’t apply to them. As long as you are teaching legally, yes, they do and the labor department will usually go to bat for you.