Taking a Year Off

A year gap on your resume can be an unwanted stain that’s sure to prompt an interviewing school Director to ask for an explanation:  Were you just hanging out? Traveling? Did an emotional overload dictate a break? Is there an ailing parent in the picture? How did you keep up your teaching skills? Are you sure you’re still interested in International education? Or, maybe you’re in some type of legal or financial trouble?

If you have been forced to spend a year away from International Teaching because Covid wiped out your position, or you autonomously decided to stay/go home and play it safe, there should be little worry about this explainable gap in your resume. However, ISR definitely does recommend you document your explanation with a letter from your previous school explaining the consequences of the Covid Virus on your previous school and position.

Do, and we encourage you, be prepared for this next question:  How did you spend your year off? Killing time vegging in front of YouTube isn’t going to win you stature as a candidate. On the other hand, cultural experiences, personal development or an addition to your credentials will paint a much better image of you and say something positive about what you’ll contribute to the school atmosphere. Again, documentation is important and helps a school Director choose the best candidate.

If YOU decided to take a year off due to the Covid crisis, or your school decided for you, ISR invites you to ask Questions about and Share thoughts on how YOU will incorporate this gap into your resume.  Of equal interest is your impressions on how a year away during the Covid crisis may affect future job seeking efforts and how YOU show you utilized the time to make yourself a better and more desirable International Education candidate.

Please scroll down to participate in this Discussion

29 thoughts on “Taking a Year Off

  1. I am one of a number who will be taking a year off after a number of years teaching successfully. I am currently loving just having some space to just take a breath frankly but am planning to do an MSc so that I make good use of this time. Having been international on and off for a while, I think that this is going to be a most useful use of my time whilst rebalancing my own life and don’t find the use of language such as ‘stain’ against my career as helpful. I feel that I will be far more effective following this next year if I am NOT under constant pressure and being criticised at every avenue. Just a thought!


  2. I took a year off then was hired by an embassy school. I think it is a misperception to categorize a year off as a “stain”. This is common practice, a sabbatical in Universities…as we all know
    and if a school has that perception..of this :stain” then perhaps that may not be such a supportive program..For a teacher with 20 years to take a year off is not a stain.. even with 10 years of experience. The minute we as teachers let these schools devalue us and use that word “stain”. I am mortified by the use of that word stain..It has horrible connotations..just explain yourself..good directors will understand.. If you are a young teacher..with less experience..well than, yes..getting back in may be a bit tougher. Quality teachers are just that. many of us are IB examiners during our sabbatical..


    1. Agreed a million percent. You are in control of your life. Taking time off should be embraced. Why people are made to feel that they have to show an unbroken continuous work life is ridiculous. I would suggest it serves as a screening tool. I’d like to see an employer show a list of expereinced teachers who lost their skills from taking a year off. We are professionals here. If it comes up, then turning it into an interesting chit chat could be beneficial. The employer may simply see that you are a vibrant and worldly person. But an employer who probes too much might not be worth working for. One should not have to feel they have to justify their actions to an unacceptable extent. Nor should one have to produce evidence. If you want to vege in front of youtube….do it. Maybe choose your words carefully though. otherwise it’s all a huge hipocracy about balance, lifelong learning, well being and all that other stuff schools are professing to be doing or supporting or championing in their staff. It’s not nice been screened out simply because of that one year regardless what it was for.


    2. I concur with everything Elizabeth says. I took a gap year at 47 to go travelling & again at 60. I resume my international career this September. With 34 years experience, I recommend you go travelling whilst you still have the spirit of adventure. As a maths teacher i know there will always be jobs available!!!


    3. Absolutely wonderful to have a year off! What a pleasure, as for stain? People that think of it like this have obviously got very little work/life balance. I am a great teacher and even better for having wonderful life experiences to share. I am convinced this outlook makes us more vibrant and positive educators! I took a year off after 20 years it was the best thing ever! Some study, travel and lots of swimming walking and cycling. I felt wonderful when I returned to teaching. Would you really want to work for someone who thought of this great time as a stain? Life is too short!


  3. The wife and I took a year off, because we wanted a break, and had no problem getting jobs at a very good school. Advice: If you take a year off, have something substantive to keep you busy.


  4. I think taking a year off can actually make you more interesting than someone who has been plugging away straight through forever. It’s all about what you did during that time.


  5. My husband and I were laid off from our jobs in China due to a drop in enrollment because of the border freeze. We had a choice to try to find another job in China or try and get a plane ticket back the the States. We chose to go back to the U.S. and take a year off for a couple of reasons. 1) Taking a new job in China would have meant signing a 2-year contract and we were already planning to leave China at the end of our second year with the original contract as we didn’t exactly vibe with the culture as much as we’d hoped. 2) Most schools in China right now are expecting their staff to avoid leaving the country due to the difficulty of getting back in. I couldn’t fathom two or more years of not being “allowed” to see my family in the midst of a global crisis.

    I don’t subscribe to the idea that you MUST use the year as productively as possible because I think the circumstances speak for themselves – and as far as I’m concerned, any school that does not view wanting to be close to your family during a deadly pandemic as a good enough reason to take a step back from international teaching for a year is not a school I would ever want to work for. These are unprecedented times. That being said, I have found plenty of ways to make this year worthwhile already. I’m working towards several personal goals that I normally don’t have time for, such as getting my yoga teaching certification and participating in NaNoWriMo. I also plan to start some Master’s courses and rework some of my curriculum so I will be more prepared for whatever role I step into next. I think having the break and feeling revitalized and ready for a new and desirable role is a lot better than jumping into a new contract out of panic just to avoid a resume gap…especially if it turns out to be a poor fit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The premise of the article is faulty in these times. An unprecedented number of International Teachers had to take time off for various reasons. If anything, this particular year will raise fewer concerns with a gap than any other year on a CV. The anonymous author from the IRS staff makes taking the gap year sound unreasonable. As a principal, I know I will certainly understand this year’s gap year as there were many countries besides China that imposed difficult visa return policies and such during the pandemic.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. I am considering using the year to return to school nearly full time and add some endorsements. My other option is to teach in the states. I do have a job offer, but I would only want to stay 1 year. Would it be better to take a year off of teaching to add to my education or work at a school for just one year? I could also take the classes while teaching. Side note: I already have moved around a lot though it was not performance related, I was not let go. But I want my school to be longer term. So I just don’t know which would look better.


    1. I think either would be fine. This year is going to be a wash for everyone, so I think you could sell anything. Honestly, I think you could sell learning to skateboard for the year. I wish I was adding more, but as my departure date keeps moving around, I can’t really commit to anything.


  7. I was already in the process of job hunting before Covid hit, and considered just staying home in the US and avoiding the international scene for a few years. But so far, it looks like my visa will go through and my new school is a place I am excited to join. It is so hard to know what to do in these circumstances because we have never been in these circumstances. It is also hard to consider staying “home” in the US, when it hasn’t been my home for many years. Where would I want to live? Where would I even work? Would I want to try and join the public school system? Look for a job in a US international school? I missed the opportunity to find those jobs this year. Good luck to everyone – we can only look forward.


  8. I took a year off and had no problem finding a job (before Covid). I feel like if you have a good resume and good recommendations from your previous schools, it shouldn’t be difficult to get back in – schools are looking for good educators, and being somewhere for 25years does not equate that you are one… My current school in fact looked very positively at my choosing to take a year out, and I had really good conversations around it.
    With covid, especially if the school decided to cut your position, I think it should be even less of a concern.
    I wouldn’t want to be in a place where the administrators are seriously under an impression that you’d be willing to pass up good income so you could “veggie in front of YouTube” and not consider personal safety and being close to family being your priority during this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My position was cut to part time in June so I decided to return to the US to teach at a public school. At this time I am unsure if I will be looking for something for 2021-2022 or wait an additional year. Hopefully things will stabilize soon.


  10. My wife and I took a year off after breaking contract. Finding another job was near impossible. We finally found a job through a principal we had worked with in East Asia who was not in South America. He found we had been black balled at ISS and new us and our work and could care less about the problem we had at our previous school. Even though the director had a “thing” for my wife and she ended up punching in the chest to finally get him to let her go…..we were the culpable part and he was above reproach. Taking the year off due to Covid is an entirely different situation. Any school that would not hire you due to a year off to stay safe is a school to avoid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Edited….taking a year off did not impact my career in the least. No one at my current position even asked why!


  11. After 15 years of this noise, I jumped off. All these years I have bounced from one country to the next, hoping that maybe, MAYBE, this next school will work out. Nope.

    Moving is exhausting. Teachers are underpaid. Administrators lie. I loved to work with young people but i just can’t anymore. COVID was not the ultimate reason I left, but it did solidify my decision.

    Nowadays I’ve found a job where I still get to help the world, but I get paid more than subsistence wages. Heck, I even get overtime. And everyone I work with is happy so long as the job gets done well.

    Education. We had a good run, but you broke my heart.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Would love to hear more. Not necessarily about your new gig (though definitely welcomed) but about your transferable skills?


    2. I had the same problem as you and I was only teaching in international schools for about half that time. After 5 countries failed to work out, I decided to start working for myself and now I teach exclusively online — not for a company, but totally solo. I miss the socialization that came with having coworkers and I miss having medical insurance (Not that it was usually very good at most of the cheap ass schools I worked for!) but I do not miss having zero support from admins, constantly dealing with problem parents, unpaid overtime, conflict with staff, and having to be at work at the crack of dawn every day. I also don’t miss having an idiot boss to answer to, or having to work set hours every week. I can take time off whenever I want it. I earn a lot less now but the cost of living is low here, and I’ve finally built up my clientele to the point that I can start saving. In another few months of adding students, I’ll be able to earn just as much as I did working for schools. Hopefully I will never have to go back.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Hi Thor. In response to your question, I work in disaster relief now, but there are tons of entities eager to hire teachers for our unique skill set. We show up on time. We work well even with difficult people. We are patient and kind. We are flexible when handed things that aren’t in the job description. We rise to the occasion to learn and help out. We know basic computer skills and don’t mind gaining new ones. I was surprised to learn how rare these things are in the working world outside of teaching.

      The job is 100% remote so I can work safely from home. The pay is equivalent, though there are some nice perks I did not get as a teacher. Great health insurance for example. Kind of a big deal in America. Flexible hours are super nice too.

      It did not come easy though. I decided in October ‘19 I was done with teaching, so I had a head start. I made a short list of not specific jobs but specific things I’d want from a job and started poking around LinkedIn Premium. Started conversations with professionals in different fields to learn more about their work and how they got it. Those conversations eventually evolved into offers. It was months of doors closing, but eventually the right one opened. It helped that I’d worked a temp job in a related field the previous summer (not as a career move at the time, but just to make some extra cash).

      Good luck with what’s ahead my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Well said! Back in 1998 international teachers were in high demand so they had to treat us right. Now the market is flooded with new graduates who are highly sought after by schools because they will work for a small salary. Previously, you weren’t even considered until you had at least 2 years of experience in your home country. Now the working conditions are mostly terrible, salaries have dropped across the boards compared to 1998, and teachers are viewed as disposable. Add to that border closures, COVID roller coaster, etc. You made a good decision.


    5. Am in similar situation- know I am at end of my teaching career, but would like to move into a career where I help people but not tied to classroom, student, parent or admin drama.

      I am curious – What career did u find that lets you help the world but have good wages??


    6. I appreciate reading your response to Thor … it makes me have even more questions. I am so intrigued by the possibility of working remotely as you are (in a meaningful job) as I want to live in the same place as my partner (currently I am in Canada). So far, a teaching job has not opened up for me in the schools that are in his city (Covid had an impact on that for sure!). If there would be a possibility to connect with you to ask more questions I would love to be able to do so. I could post my email or perhaps the moderator could send you my email.


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