So, you’ve done the research, the applications, the phone interviews and have been rewarded with that fantastic TEFL job offer that, on paper, looks great. Great stuff. But, how do you ensure that you will have the time of your life teaching abroad and not having a breakdown from all that lesson planning?
It’s simple – ask lots of questions as many as you can think of. And preferably some of these, we’ve put together 7 questions to ask before starting your TEFL job.
1) Is Accommodation Provided?
Many TEFL teachers have high hopes, but are then faced with a dirty apartment complete with broken appliances, dodgy plumbing and peeling wallpaper. You’re not going to be living in a palace, granted, but you should definitely insist on a comfortable living standard. Agree what you’re happy with in advance and if you can, try to track down some pictures of your accommodation before taking the job. It’s also a good idea to determine with your employers how furnished your apartment will be. It’s not really ideal to move your sofa half way across the world. Another crucial thing you want to ask is how far your accommodation is from your school and how long is the commute going to be. You don’t want to be spending hours on the bus every day.
If your school doesn’t provide you with accommodation, you will need to ask how much it’s likely to cost before you accept the job. You won’t be able to have much fun if all your money’s going towards rent.
2) How Many Contact/Preparation Hours Will I Have?
‘What? I’m only working 15 hours a week? Sweet!’ Ahh, that’s until you find out that every single one of those contact hours is teaching a different ability level, requiring a totally different lesson plan. Before jumping to conclusions, work out how much time you’ll actually spend in the classroom, then how much time you’ll have to spend planning your lessons. The more ability levels you have to look after, the more time you’ll spend planning your classes. Ask questions too about when your hours are. You may not be working much, but those hours could be spread over 6 or 7 days. Oh, and don’t forget the time you will spend on the dreaded marking.
3) How Much Holiday Do I Get?
You didn’t fly half way around the world to only see the four walls of your classroom! Ask how many holidays and public holidays you will be entitled to and when you can take them. Sometimes you cannot choose the dates, which can be a problem if you need to be back home for that wedding you’ve already got the outfit for. Also enquire about shift swaps, a great way to extend weekends away, making sure you get to see everything you want to.
4) How and When Will I Be Paid?
Often when you start a new job you’ll have to work for a month or so before you’re paid. Make sure you know in advance when your first pay packet is coming so you can budget accordingly. It’s also worth having a bit of a back up in case it’s late for whatever reason.
5) Will I Get Sick Pay?
Depending on where you’re working, you may not be entitled to sick pay, so it’s definitely worth checking this out before hand. Make sure you have a back-up stash of cash if necessary, no one wants to be both penniless and sick in a foreign country. Also ensure that you have adequate medical insurance, some employers may offer this, but if they don’t it’s absolutely vital, so make sure you find out.
6) What’s Teacher Turnover Like?
If your school is only employing teachers for one semester, after which they leave, there might be a reason. If teachers were that happy, would they only be staying for a few months? On the flip-side, if teachers are hanging around for a couple of years, that’s a good sign that the school takes care of their employees.
7) Will I Have to Get Involved With Meetings/Extra Curricular Activities?
You’ll be amazed at the kinds of crazy stuff teachers end up doing. For example, Paul Dixon, who teaches in Japan, ended up taking part in his school’s sports day (https://www.i-to-i.com/tefl-chalkboard/pdixon/posts/1529-high-school-sports-festival) and many a teacher has been roped into running ‘English Corners’ (informal discussion groups) for their students. On the less fun end of the spectrum you may have to go to teacher meetings to discuss things like students’ direction and what you’re covering with your classes. These are all usually ‘extras’ which are on top of your usual duties, so make sure you’re not going to be bogged down with them.
Remember, if you’re not comfortable with the terms of your contract there are plenty more jobs out there. So if something doesn’t feel right, move on. It will feel even less right when you’re thousands of miles away from home and there is nothing you can do about it. So ask every question you can think of!
What do you think? What should you ask before accepting a TEFL job?
Photo Sourced – www.flickr.com/photos/eleaf/