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Answering All Of Your Questions About Being An ILP Head Teacher

Posted by Abbey Krzymowski on 2/18/23 9:37 AM

ILP Mexico

Did you love your first ILP semester (and want to go again for free)? Get all the details about Head Teaching on your next semester abroad! 

This post is all about the details of being a Head Teacher for International Language Programs. If you've already volunteered with ILP, you know that each group includes someone who has already volunteered with ILP to help you during your semester — that's your Head Teacher!

This role has responsibilities that are a little different than what volunteers do, and it comes with some serious perks (a free or discounted program fee, plus a stipend). This not-so-secret secret is the deal that we have for you is almost too good to be true, but is totally real. 

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There are so many benefits of volunteering with ILP when you're looking at semester abroad programs. All ILP Programs include your roundtrip international airfare from the US, airport pick up + drop off, visa, housing, at-home meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), WiFi, Pre-Departure + In-Country training, and support throughout the entire experience, as well as language and cultural experiences! As a volunteer, it's a pretty sweet deal ... but things get even sweeter as a Head Teacher. 

HTs get their program fee totally waived (or discounted), along with a stipend that you can spend on vacations or souvenir shopping or whatever you want (seriously). If you're interested in volunteering more than once, twice, or even ten times and want to do it on a budget, Head Teaching may be what you're looking for!

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! ILP volunteers pay a program fee that covers a long list of things to make your semester a cinch, but HTs get a steep discount, or even get their entire fee waived. 

Exchange Programs: The program fee is totally waived for programs in Mexico, Poland, and Thailand. Seriously! There's a $0.00 program fee for Head Teachers.
Humanitarian + Hybrid Programs: For Costa Rica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic,  Vanuatu, Peru, and India the HT program fee is $1,000. For Uganda and Romania the HT program fee is $1,500.


Head Teachers also receive a stipend to help cover some of the additional costs of traveling and your personal expenses. While the exact amount differs 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 discounted program fee (it's either $1,000 - $1,500, depending on the country). Your other personal costs will 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 (more on that in a minute), but planning lesson plans and directly teaching the kids are not on your to-do list. You may have days where you step in and help teach classes if one of the volunteers is taking a sick day, and you'll definitely still get to know the kids while you're supporting your teachers, but your responsibilities look different as a Head Teacher.

ILP Costa Rica

What A Head Teacher Actually Does

That list of perks doesn't come without some hard work! Head Teachers do more behind the scenes than the volunteers in their group may be aware of. As an HT you'll attend a unique training, but here's a summary of responsibilities to double check you'd be a great fit: 

Act As The Middleman Between The School And ILP

Each Head Teacher works closely with the local coordinator to help ensure that the program is running as expected and to manage any potential problems or miscommunications. As an HT, you'll be working with the ILP office staff about updates, schedules, concerns, and any issues with the school. 

Look Over Lesson Plans 

Head Teachers are responsible for reviewing the lesson plans that each volunteer submits for the week. Head Teachers 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.

Conduct In-Country Training For Volunteers

Head Teachers also hold a short training meeting each week that targets a specific area of teaching. While ILP provides initial training before all volunteers depart, Head Teachers continue to offer training and support throughout the semester.

These training meetings should help your volunteers with the questions that come up when you actually start teaching. While teaching young kids will always have its challenges, ongoing training and support from Head Teachers helps combat those challenges.

*The one exception: Since our orphanage program in Romania doesn't include teaching using the ILP method, Romania HTs 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, physical illness, and other challenges while abroad. The HT is someone volunteers should feel comfortable talking to help manage these concerns (with help from ILP office staff, of course). 

In the Romania program specifically, the volunteers have unique challenges as the kids they care for may have medical complications during the semester, and Head Teachers are often needed for emotional support.

While the HT is not trained on how to deal with and treat every situation, they are the first person who should be told about any of these struggles. They can then get the information required for these needs to be addressed and helped. 

HTs are also responsible for assisting volunteers with any teaching challenges they may deal with. Head Teachers are also very involved in their group's trip planning and vacation approval.

In a quick nutshell, the HT has to be ready to assist at all times, both in and out of the classroom. 

ILP Adventure

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 the directors developed the ILP program, they 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 help create a safer experience overall. Head Teachers help us maintain these aspects of the program that the majority of our volunteers value. They have the responsibility to set a good example and to respond to situations when rules are broken.

Give Teaching Feedback

Weekly, the HT 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 an essential step in the program running correctly as well as being helpful to teachers who have questions.

*In the orphanage Program in Romania, Head Teachers get to skip this part (volunteers aren't teaching in this location). Head Teachers are still present in the rooms with the volunteers but do not give weekly feedback for improvements.

Update Online Records 

Volunteers help by bringing a suitcase full of supplies, but HTs don't need to bring supplies — they're in charge of keeping records updated throughout their entire semester. Other records include supply lists, apartment inventory lists, 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.   

ILP Uganda

Qualification Requirements

We are looking for a couple of things when we're picking Head Teachers. There are far fewer HT positions than volunteer positions, and assignments are based on the qualifications of each applicant. If you fit these things, you're off to a great start!

Be A Peer-Age Leader Of The Group

Like our volunteers, HTs are typically 18-25 years old from the US and Canada.

Previous Experience

As a HT, parts of your role are to mentor the volunteers in the unique ILP teaching method, be a positive leader, and help each member of your group to have the best experience they can.

While having completed a previous ILP semester is not required, it is highly encouraged (first preference goes to ILP alumni). If you have not volunteered with ILP before but feel you would be a good HT candidate, email headteachers@ilp.org to chat more and see if you meet the requirements.

You do not have to be a Head Teacher in the same country where you first volunteered with ILP (but you can!). 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! 

If you volunteered in Romania where the service is not teaching-based, you may still apply to be a Head Teacher in a country where volunteers do teach. So for example, you can volunteer in Romania (where you're helping in the orphanage program) and then be a HT in India (where you're mentoring volunteers to use the ILP teaching method). There will just be additional training to get you up to speed.

You Loved Your ILP Semester

ILP is looking for candidates who enjoyed their semester, kept the rules they agreed to follow, did their best to be effective teachers, and followed through with their commitments. If you did well during your first semester as a volunteer, you are a great candidate to apply for a HT position!

Every semester has its ups and downs, but we are looking for Head Teachers who adapted despite those challenges so that they can help lead and support a group of volunteers.

We're also looking for HT candidates who worked well with their group. Each volunteer group is a unique combination of personalities and people. The HT can have a big impact on one of the group's dynamics, so being able to work well with a variety of people is a big plus. 

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


Are You Going With A Spouse?

Head Teaching is a fantastic opportunity if you've already volunteered before and want your spouse to come on an ILP semester, too! We have several resources to help you figure out where to go and what the costs will be.

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 that semester. Maybe we have a space available in the house that works for a group of males or a married couple, but males are already assigned to that room. 
You can check out where married couples can go with ILP here

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 also 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, depending on which locations you are serving in. 

ILP Married Couple

When To Apply To Be A Head Teacher

We open up applications about eighteen months in advance and you can apply anytime within that timeframe.

If you're currently volunteering and loving it so much that you're already planning your next ILP trip, we can't wait to talk to you about it! We do ask that you wait until halfway through your first semester before you send in your application — there are questions on the HT application that you'll be able to answer better after you have a couple of months abroad under your belt. It's best to wait until after your mid-semester visit (when someone from the ILP office comes to visit your group halfway through the experience to see how things are going).

The HT Application Process Is A Little Different

With volunteers, we always say that the earlier you apply, the more location options you'll have, and the more likely it is that you can avoid any potential waitlists and get your assignment right away. So, for volunteers, the quicker you apply, the better.

We handle things quite a bit differently with Head Teacher positions — it's more like a job application. Each country and program has unique challenges. We work hard to choose HTs that are going to be the best fit, while also keeping in mind that spots are limited. 

After you submit your application, your ILP representative will reach out to you to answer any questions you might have about Head Teaching and help you with the application process, which usually starts with an over-the-phone interview.

Have Questions?

In a nutshell, if you loved your ILP semester and would love to be a group leader for another semester, that's the first step to applying! Hopefully this post answered some questions about what the role involves, some of the qualifications, and other details, but we're here if you have more questions. Just reach out to headteachers@ilp.org

ILP Uganda

Ready to be a Head Teacher?

We're looking for the best fit for each of our unique ILP countries! If you think that's you, we'd love for you to complete the application so you can start dreaming about your next ILP adventure: 

Start My Application!



Topics: All About ILP + Volunteering

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We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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