It’s tempting to get carried away in the excitement of going to a new country and being accepted for a job is a great feeling – but before you start packing your suitcase, make sure you fully check the conditions of the job – they’ll make or break your experience of teaching abroad! Here are a number of things you should check before accepting a TEFL job:
Hours of work:
How many contact hours will you have to teach? – The average is 25 contact hours of teaching (when you are physically in the classroom with the students).
How many days will you be working over? 25 hours or less seems great… until you are expected to do them over 6/7 days.
What preparation will this involve? In order to determine this you will need to find out the size of your classes, the length of the lessons and how many different levels you should expect. Teaching 5 classes of which there are 3 different levels each for five hours a week is considerably less preparation time than teaching 5 different classes each day for an hour each.
How much marking will you have to do? Again, this is linked in with the amount of classes you have and class sizes. If you have a lot of students, this can really bump up the hours you’re working. Also take into consideration exams. How many will there be throughout the year?
What additional hours will you be expected to be at work? (Training days? Placement testing? Covering other teachers’ lessons).
When will you be teaching exactly? Most TEFL jobs are typically in the evening, which is to be expected as this is when most people are available (after work/school). Will you have to work split shifts? Some schools require you to work a few hours in the morning and a few in the evening: think about when you want to work (consider the habits of the country, do you want a siesta?).
Sickness pay & health insurance
When you are abroad and away from home this is especially important, as you don’t want to be ill, penniless and stuck in a foreign country! Some of the larger companies will pay you if you are sick and also supply you with free health insurance, but check what the policy covers before you go; but unfortunately, a lot of companies offer neither. In this situation it is sensible to have a bit of money saved for emergencies and to get health insurance before you go.
There’s no point in going to a country and having no time to explore . Ask how many holidays and public holidays you will be entitled to and how you can take them. Sometimes you cannot choose the dates, which can be a problem if you need to be back in the UK for that summer wedding you’ve already bought the shoes for. Also enquire about shift swaps, as these are a great way to extend weekends away.
If you’re serious about teaching or you’re simply a new teacher, then you need to look for a school that offers training. Doing a good job will make you happier in your work life and you’ll stress less about the teaching in your free time.
The school’s reputation
It’s worth Googling the school and looking at past teachers’ comments, as it will highlight things to look out for that you can ask your prospective employers about. It’s also a good idea to check with your embassy for warnings to travellers and expats – some countries may have a reputation for not sticking to contracts.
Pay and accommodation
Is the amount they have stated for your wage net or gross? Also, if they provide you with accommodation how much is it and how will you pay for bills? Bills should be in your name to avoid getting money deducted from your wage without your consent and more importantly to avoid being charged too much.
A lot of the above points may not be included in a contract, so it will be up to you to negotiate what you feel is a must. It’s always worth getting things agreed in writing, as it makes it easier to settle any disputes further down the line.
Remember that if you have been offered the job, the school wants you and doesn’t want to go through the recruitment process again. You are in a position to negotiate and if you don’t get what you want there are plenty of other jobs out there.