Yes. A teaching job is just a job, it's not like joining the military where you can get arrested if you leave without permission. If you don't like a job simply quit and leave. Just try to be as professional about it as possible when you get out of your teaching contract.
The vast majority of Americans who teach English abroad do fulfill their contract (and approximately 50% renew) and enjoy the international experience of a lifetime. However, as in most fields, people teaching English abroad leave their jobs early for any number of reasons, whether it be a family emergency back home, displeasure with their working arrangements, or any change in family or personal circumstances that necessitates leaving their job.
Just like a contract for positions in the United States, or your home country, a contract is a written or spoken agreement between you and your employer defining your job responsibilities and payment.
Consequences of Breaking Your Teaching Abroad Contract
You are able to break your teaching contract, just as you would working in your home country, however, depending on the terms of your contract for teaching English abroad you may incur some penalties.
If your contract provided return airfare to your home country upon completion of your contract, you will not receive that airfare if you leave early. You also may be obligated to the employer to pay back your free flight money (or a portion of it) typically until the first 6 months. It would probably come out of your last paycheck.
If you are on a work visa, your ability to live and work in that country legally are typically contingent on your employment by the school that sponsored you. If this is the case you typically have only a few days to leave the country as you are no longer employed and your visa will likely be revoked. Read more about different visas in this article.
That said, it is best to follow the professional courtesies and protocols for leaving your position early if it is necessary such as providing appropriate notice to your employer that you will be leaving your job.
Employers hire you for an expected period of time, and it is best to fulfill the agreed-upon contract length unless there are necessary circumstances that require you to cancel your contract and leave.
In Latin America or Europe many contracts exist to determine the number of hours you will work per week for your school and the rate of pay for teaching English on hourly basis. As many English teachers in these regions never receive work visas and are never officially entered into the labor force, they aren't working on a legally binding contract at all. Because most teachers are teaching English on a freelance/hourly wage rather than a salary you are generally not obligated to your language school or employer for anything other than teaching the hours you are scheduled to work. There are usually no penalties for leaving these types of contracts early.
In Asia and the Middle East, English teachers typically work on legal full-time contracts that provide benefits such as a salary, paid vacation, flights and housing. (Request a free Country Comparison Chart with over 50 top English teaching countries) For these types of English teaching jobs it is standard that you will sign a written contract that outlines all of the details of your employment, pay, benefits and consequences for breach of contract.
It is important to note that International TEFL Academy and our commitment to providing accurate pre-enrollment advice and lifetime Job Search Guidance serves to prepare you for your transition abroad, and to ensure you know the in’s and out’s of any particular job market to end up with an English teaching job you want, not just “a job”
At the end of the day, a job teaching English abroad is just like any other job. If it's good for you, stay, if it's not, feel free to look for another job or move on. 99% of teachers leave at some point, either at the end of their contract or early, don't let the end keep you from getting to the beginning of an adventure.