The bottom line is that teaching English abroad is just a job like any other. If you are unhappy with your employer or things simply aren't going as you had hoped, you are free to quit and return home or look for another job at any time.
Table of Contents
Of the tens of thousands of ESL teachers working in countries all over the world, the vast majority do see out the length of their contract. However, there are always going to be some teachers who decide that the best course of action is to terminate their contract early. Whether it's due to an emergency at home, problems with work colleagues or poor working conditions, if you feel you have to leave you are perfectly at liberty to do so.
For teachers who are employed on an hourly contract there should be few consequences to worry about. This would apply to a large proportion of teachers across Latin America and Europe who are working without a work permit and are subsequently under no real obligation to their employer. However, for those who have signed a salaried contract that specifies pay and other benefits such as housing, airfares, and vacation pay, there are likely to be some consequences to think about before handing in your notice.
For many teachers working in countries across Asia and the Middle East, signing a written contract of one year or more that specifies salary and other benefits is standard practice. If you have to break your contract early you will not be eligible for return airfares or any other travel expenses that were specified, and if you leave within the first six months you might have to pay back the cost of your initial flight. Teachers on salaried contracts are also likely to be on a work visa that will be revoked once you quit your position. In this situation you generally only have a few days to leave the country so it is important to have your affairs in order before terminating your contract. In an ideal world it is best for both the teacher and the employer if work contracts are honored to the end, however, in reality unforeseen circumstances can arise. If you feel you have no choice, being professional and providing your employer with as much notice as possible will generally lead to a smooth and trouble free exit.