When you start searching for that first TEFL teaching job, you are bound to come across the usual rumours and horror stories; agencies that demand fees and never give you the job they promised, schools that deduct strange fees from your wages, or refuse to pay you at all! Or institutions who work you to the bone for very little reward or thanks! Whilst many of these worrying tales are in fact just mindless rumours and gossip, there are still plenty of agencies and schools you’ll want to avoid at all costs, but with a little bit of research and common sense, it’s really not hard to sort the good job opportunities from the potential nightmares! Here are a few tips on how to do just that:
You may think you have a school sussed out, or you may be completely in the dark about what to expect from a potential school placement, however you are feeling, your job interview with the school is the perfect opportunity for you to find out if this really is the school/job for you!
The key to this is drawing up a list of questions to take into your interview; think long and hard, write down all your concerns, what realistic details would make the right job for you, and what do you expect, and then write down the questions you need to ask! You don’t have to turn it into the Spanish inquisition (although no one ever expects that!), nor do you need to omit serious questions or concerns for fear of asking too much (at least you are showing a keen interest in their job).
Here are a few sample questions you might want to use:
- Are the other teachers qualified and experienced? Do you employ other qualified TEFL teachers?
You may think you’ve found the dream job, but if they don’t seem interested in the qualifications and standards of their teachers then they are likely to show the same lack of interest and concern in the quality of the job they are offering, and school they are running.
- Will I be sticking strictly to a course book? Do students have copies of the course book? Or will I need to make lots of photocopies?
It’s easy to just assume schools have relevant course books, and teach structured lessons and courses, but you’d be surprised at how many bad schools just throw TEFL teachers into a room with no guidance, guidelines, syllabus, or even textbooks! Find out about the school’s policies and materials provided; some schools may be poor and have limited resources, some may even lack funding and knowledge and be genuinely relying on you to help structure their classes and course, whatever the case, workout where you stand from day one, and whether this is something you can, and are happy to do..
- How big are the classes? What ages are the children I will teach? How does the school test the students?
Find out about your students, their ages, and class sizes, it will give you a good idea of what to expect. And take note of how the school treats the students. If they don’t treat their students with care and respect, it’s likely that that won’t treat you with any either.
Make sure, that when you walk out of the door, all you concerns and questions have been answer satisfactorily. Negative problems and issue will only get worse once you start employment.
Your interview is also a good time to discuss and negotiate key parts of your contract:
- How much will I get paid? And how much will I then be taxed?
- Is there potential for other earnings (i.e. private teaching, covering for other teachers)?
- How long is the contract? And will I be paid for the school holidays?
- Will the school help with all my paper work and visa? And will they pay the fees?
- How many hours will I be teaching every week?
- Will you supply me with health insurance?
A good school will have all the answers at hand, and if they aren’t able to answer your questions give them a reasonable amount of time to get back to you, BUT don’t make a final decision until they do!
You may also want to know more about the city, town, village, or country you’ll be living in, don’t be afraid to ask about this in your interview, these are the people living there so who better to ask. And showing a serious interest in their job can only be a good thing!
Once you have your contract, read it carefully. Make sure everything you agreed on is in there, and that there are no nasty surprises. Don’t be afraid to ask them to explain anything you’re not sure about or just don’t understand (it’s not stupid to ask, it’s only stupid not to), and for anything that isn’t in your native language, be sure to ask for a translated copy of the contract. This is completely normal and should be expected.