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Answering All Of Your Questions About Being An ILP Head Teacher

Posted by Abbey Krzymowski on 1/28/20 9:37 AM

ILP Volunteers

There is one perk about volunteering with ILP that many people don't know about, but that can make it possible for you to afford to travel and live all over the world in your twenties! 

Are you thinking about spending a semester abroad as an English-teaching volunteer? Or better yet, have you already spent a semester as a volunteer with International Language Programs? Either way, you need to know about this not-so-secret secret that always surprises our volunteers when they hear about it, because this deal that we have for you is almost too good to be true! But it's totally real, folks. It totally is. 

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First off, there are so many benefits of volunteering with ILP. In fact, we've found from our own experiences that volunteering for just a semester can have a positive affect on your overall well-being. But, if you're interested in volunteering more than once, twice, or even ten times (like our volunteer, Kerry), then we have some really good news for you! 

Two words — HEAD TEACHING. It gives you the chance to spend multiple semesters abroad, without having to pay the additional full program fees. Here are all the details you need to know:

Major Perks Of Being A Head Teacher

Program Fee Discount

This is our favorite perk, and the one that keeps our head teachers coming back for multiple semesters! It allows our head teachers to spend even less on a semester abroad than they would spend during a semester of school. The program fee refers to the total cost that covers your housing, airfare, three meals a day, training, and your visa.

Exchange Programs: For Thailand, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Mexico, the program fee is totally waived! Seriously! $0.00 program fee.
Humanitarian + Hybrid Programs: For Costa Rica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic,  Vanuatu, and India the program fee is $1,000.

For Uganda and Romania the program fee is $1,500. This means you get to get for a fraction of the normal price. 
ILP Mexico


If you're a head teacher, ILP will also send you a stipend to cover some of the additional costs of traveling and personal expenses. While the exact amount does differ depending on the location, you'll get about half of the amount at the beginning of your semester, and the rest of the amount two months in.

Depending on how much you want to travel, eat out, and souvenir shop, this may not cover all of your personal costs, but it definitely makes a huge difference! 

For head teachers going to our humanitarian programs, you can actually choose to have this stipend go towards your $1,000 - $1,500 program fee. Then your other personal costs will just have to be covered by you. 

No Lesson Planning Or Teaching

This isn't necessarily a perk, but still worth mentioning. While the majority of our volunteers love building relationships with the kids at their school, many of them also admit that sometimes planning lessons every week and teaching the kids can be a bit of a challenge (especially at the beginning of the semester). Head teachers have plenty of responsibilities, but planning lesson plans and directly teaching the kids are not two of them. 


What A Head Teacher Actually Does

Head teachers do more behind the scenes than the volunteers in their group may even be aware of. They do receive a thorough training before departure, but here is a brief summary of some of the responsibilities included with this position. 

Act As The Middleman Between The School And ILP

Although we do have program managers at the ILP office who will be in regular contact with the local coordinators at each school, it is still the head teacher that is the present face of ILP for their school(s). It is the head teacher who works closely with the local coordinator to help ensure that the program is running as expected, and to manage any potential problems or miscommunications. 

Look Over Lesson Plans and Conduct In-Country Trainings For Volunteers

Every week (on a predetermined day) the volunteers will submit their completed lesson plans for the coming week to their head teacher. It is the head teacher's responsibility to look them over and make sure the activities and steps follow the ILP lesson structure. Head teachers may provide suggestions and feedback on how lessons could be improved or adjusted.

Head teachers will also hold a short training each week that targets a specific area of teaching. While ILP provides an initial training before volunteers depart, it's important to have continued training and support throughout the semester. The questions come when volunteers are actually out there teaching a class and running into real life problems! That's where head teachers come in — while teaching young kids will always have its challenges, head teachers giving on-going training and support helps combat those challenges.

*For our orphanage program in Romania — because volunteers do not teach using the ILP method in this really unique ILP program, Romania head teachers get to skip this part. Volunteers don't plan teaching lessons in Romania.

Provide Support For Volunteers

The head teacher is the go-to person for every volunteer in their group. It is pretty typical to experience homesickness, and maybe even some physical illness while abroad because of all the new things that volunteers have to adjust to. In the Romania program specifically, the volunteers have unique challenges  as kids they care for may have medical complications during the semester, and head teachers are often needed for emotional support. While the head teacher is not trained on how to deal with and treat every situation, they are the first person that should be told about any of these struggles. They can then get the information required for these needs to be addressed and helped. 

It is another one of their responsibilities to assist volunteers with any teaching challenges they may deal with. They are also very involved in their group's trip planning and vacation approval. The head teacher has to be ready to assist at all times, both in and out of the classroom. 

ILP Thailand

Ensure That Rules + Standards Are Maintained

ILP's Code of Conduct is the set of standards that all volunteers agree to follow during their semester. When developing the ILP program, the directors wanted to create an experience that left a positive impact on not only the volunteers and their group members, but on the community they lived in for that semester.

These standards also help create a safer experience overall. Head teachers help us maintain these aspects of the program that the majority of our volunteers really value. They have the responsibility to set a good example and to respond to situations when rules are broken.

Give Teaching Feedback

Weekly the head teacher will observe classes to help make sure that the curriculum is being followed and to give helpful feedback. It is a lot less intimidating and formal than it sounds, but is essential to keeping the program running correctly as well as to help teachers who have questions.

*For our orphanage program in Romania — because volunteers do not teach using the ILP method in this really unique ILP program, Romania head teachers get to skip this part. They're still present in the rooms with the volunteers, but do not give weekly feedback for improvements.

Update Online Records 

As already mentioned, the head teacher will be given access to online documents that include the supplies and teaching information specific to their school, as well as vacation tips and details about daily life in their area. It is their responsibility to update these documents throughout the semester to enable smooth transitions between each volunteer group.  

Organize Supply Lists

Before the semester even starts, head teachers will be given access to online documents and forms that include the information for what supplies are leftover at their school from past semesters, and what supplies are needed. The head teacher isn't required to bring a suitcase full of school supplies, but this is one of the areas they can help their group to know how to best get ready for the semester while they are collecting supplies and preparing for departure.

*For our orphanage program in Romania — because volunteers do not teach using the ILP method in this really unique ILP program, Romania head teachers get to skip this part. Volunteers are not required to bring teaching supplies.

ILP Ukraine

Qualification Requirements

Peer-Age Leader Of The Group

Since we send volunteers that are usually between 18-26, we look for head teachers who are going to be in that same age range. That way they can better relate to and hopefully develop a good friendship with each member of the group, which is a huge part of the ILP experience.  

Have Been On An ILP Semester Before

In order to understand ILP's unique curriculum and the structure of our program, it is essential that head teachers have already experienced at least one semester as an English-teaching volunteer through ILP. 

You do not have to be a head teacher in the same country where you first volunteered with ILP. We've had head teacher applicants who wanted to return to the same country because they loved it so much the first time, but many are excited to experience other parts of the world. Because the program fee is either waived or significantly reduced, many head teachers go on multiple semesters. You could volunteer in Mexico, and then be a head teacher in Thailand, Nicaragua, India, and Vanuatu! 

Oh —  because our teaching methodology is so unique, you must have volunteered with ILP at least once to qualify to be a head teacher (sorry, it doesn't work to Head Teach if you've volunteer abroad with another program). 

*Because our orphanage program in Romania does not give you experience with the ILP teaching method, volunteers in Romania need to volunteer in a teaching program before they can become a Head Teacher in a teaching program. On the flip side though, you do not need orphanage experience to be the Head Teacher in the Romania program. For example, you can be a volunteer teacher in Mexico and then be a head teacher in Romania. If you're a volunteer in Romania, you need to volunteer again in a teaching program like Mexico before you can be a head teacher in Vanuatu.  Make sense?

Had A Successful Semester When They Were  A Volunteer

Now, we're not looking for head teachers who had a perfect semester, were never homesick, or felt like everything was great 100% of the time. Every single semester has its ups and downs, because living abroad has its challenges! But we are looking for head teachers who adapted despite those challenges so that they can help lead and support a group of volunteers.

If you do well on your first semester as a volunteer, you are a good candidate to apply for a head teacher position. Like I mentioned, we don't expect perfection, but really are looking for volunteers who enjoyed their semester, kept the rules they agreed to follow, did their best to be effective teachers, and followed through with their commitments. 

We're also looking for head teachers who worked well with their group. Each volunteer group is a unique combination of personalities and people. Some group dynamics flow smoothly the entire semester, while others have to focus a little bit more to get along well with every member of their group. Since the head teacher always sets the tone for group dynamics, we are looking for leaders with exceptional interpersonal skills, who can work well with a variety of people. 

Heads Up: Here is some other information that might be helpful if you're wondering how to show that you are Head Teacher material! 

ILP Volunteers

Going With A Spouse

Available Countries

It is possible for a head teacher to volunteer with their spouse in a number of locations, but availability often depends on housing. Sometimes we won't have host families that can take a married couple, or we may already have boys assigned so we can't also send a couple (due to limited housing).

Figuring Out The Finances 

If one of you is going as a Head Teacher, there are some financial perks for certain countries (the program fee is totally waived for you, and your spouse!). In other situations, your spouse will receive a discount if you're the Head Teacher. 

We have a whole post about Head Teaching as a married couple here, with a breakdown on how that works if just one or both of you are Head Teaching, and which locations you are planning on serving in. 

ILP Mexico

When To Apply To Be A Head Teacher

During Your First Semester As A Volunteer

So, you're loving life as a volunteer, serving kids in another country, despite the challenges? We don't blame you for wanting more. Please wait until after your mid-semester visit from one of our directors or program managers. At this point we'll have a better idea of who you are and what your strengths are. Head teachers have a huge impact on the entire semester for their volunteer group, so we want to make sure we choose leaders who are likely to be a positive influence on the group dynamic. 

After Your First Semester As A Volunteer

This is when the majority of our potential head teachers send in their applications. Assignments for head teacher positions are not given on a first-come-first-serve like they are for volunteer positions. You'll submit your application and then when we're ready to start making assignments (usually about 4-6 months before a semester starts), an ILP director will reach out to you for an over-the-phone interview. 

Have Questions?

Since being a head teacher is such an involved position, it's totally understandable if you have other questions. Go ahead and reach out to our Head Teacher Coordinator by sending an email to headteachers@ilp.org

ILP Thailand

Ready to be a head teacher?

Keep in mind there are far fewer head teacher positions than volunteer positions and these assignments are given based on how applicants meet the qualifications. Head teacher positions are competitive, so applying early is a good idea. If you think you'd be a good fit, we'd love for you to complete the application. Click the button below to get started: 

Start My Application!



Topics: All About ILP + Volunteering


*Because of the worldwide pandemic, travel options are limited and frequently changing. You'll need to do additional research as resources + activities shared in this post may or may not be available at the time of your trip.

ILP volunteers — work closely with your Program Manager who can help you understand current country entrance requirements which will determine what countries you can visit during your semester. 



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