Posted on May 16, 2019 | By Alexa Randell
13th Apr 2019
Applying for any job can be a daunting experience, let alone a TEFL job that could be on the other side of the world! Where do you start? And how do you know the company you are applying for are a good company to work for? Below, we’re going to go through the top 7 things you should do before accepting a job in a school.
#1 Do your research
Before applying for a job teaching abroad, it’s worth doing a bit of investigating of the company. The easiest place to start is by checking out the company’s website. Almost every company seems to have a website nowadays, so the likeliness is that the school or agency you’re applying to will have a website or (at the very least) social media. What does the site look like? Is it professional? Is the company part of any teaching organisations or accredited by well-known establishments, such as Ofqual or Eaquals? Are they examination preparation centres for Cambridge, IELTs or Oxford? Any of these are good indicators that you’re applying to a good establishment. (You can also double-check that the school/company is accredited by searching the register of the awarding body that they claim to be accredited by or part of.) If they don’t have any of these on their website or the site looks badly designed, this could be a bad sign and it might be worth investigating the company further.
#2 Check out employee and student reviews
There are a few websites where people can review what it’s like to work for a specific company. Glassdoor is one of the most popular sites you can use. It gives you basic information regarding what the company does, the size of the company, and reviews by previous employees. This will give you a nice indication of whether they are a good employer or a bad one, sometimes even providing the pros and cons of working within the country.
Often on Facebook, there are groups which house TEFL communities such as TEFL teachers in Seville or Teaching English in Taiwan. These pages could be good places to ask the current local TEFL community if the company is a good place to work for, as you will probably find a few teachers who will have worked there before.
Students’ study experiences can also inform you on how the school is run or organised. If they only have bad things to say about the school and their experience there, it might be time to start questioning why. Student reviews can be found on school websites or by searching the school name on Google. Here, you should find a variety of pages that house reviews for that given school – just make sure that you have the correct school in the correct city or country!
#3 Ask lots of questions
So, you’ve made it to the interview – well done! During most interviews, you should get the opportunity to ask the employer some questions. Try asking them how often they recruit new TEFL teachers and look out for any sign that teachers frequently leave – or any sign that the employer is avoiding answering the question! The best schools will keep their TEFL teachers year after year – if they’re replacing teachers every year or sooner, it could be an indicator that the staff are not happy there.
Another way to spot if employers have issues with teachers leaving is if their adverts appear during the academic year and not at the start – this usually means that someone has left before the end of their contract. In the world of teaching overseas, many teachers do move every year, but if teachers are suddenly leaving mid-contract, it could be a red flag.
In addition, ask about further development in the school. Are you supported? Are there training sessions available? Most good schools will have a continual professional development framework in place for teachers to keep expanding their skills and to develop their career path. Are there options for future roles with more responsibility within the company, such as delivering in house training sessions, mentoring or coordinator roles? If they can’t give you an answer to this, it’s possible they don’t care about the development of their teachers and you might not get the career support you need.
#4 Keep an eye out for warning signs
A clear sign of a decent place to work is the environment. Do the teachers look happy? Are they motivated? Are they welcoming? If everyone is walking around looking sullen and moody, this is a clear red flag! If you get introduced to other TEFL teachers, have a look at how they treat the manager that is interviewing you. If they become subdued or look wary, it may be a sign that teachers don’t interact well with management. However, if they appear relaxed and greet their boss naturally with enthusiasm, this shows a good working relationship.
#5 Look out for disorganised schools
If you arrive at your interview and the Director of Studies is desperately trying to find a teacher to cover a lesson, students are not in their class when they should be, or teachers are running around like headless chickens, it’s a clear sign that the company isn’t very organised.
You can also get a good idea of how organised the school is by seeing how your interview is run. Good employers have a set number of questions they ask you, are well read on your experience and sometimes even have interview tasks related to teaching. If none of this happens in an interview, consider whether the school itself will be run in an organised manner?
#6 Be careful what you agree to
Most schools consider your teaching hours to be your set contracted hours, whereas some schools may expect you to do work outside of your contracted teaching hours. For example, some employers like their teachers arrive at work well in advance of their classes or to plan their lessons on site, meaning you’ll be in the workplace longer. Some expect you to do extracurricular activities that you won’t get paid for, such as Parents’ Evening or Christmas parties not within your hours. Schools with a good reputation will either pay you more for these activities or have them during your contracted hours – but a bad school may expect you to do a lot of work outside of your contracted hours. Find out what work and hours are expected of you as well as any other responsibilities you may have outside of your contracted hours.
#7 Read your contract carefully
Schools should provide you with a very clear written contract which states your contracted hours, pay, holiday and benefits clearly. Check the contract carefully and make sure to flag anything that sounds out of the ordinary. If you are new to Teaching English as a Foreign Language, it’s a good idea to ask someone with industry experience to take a second look at your contract too. And remember, there should always be an English version of your contract – never sign anything that you don’t understand!
In addition, watch out for zero-hour contracts. Though legal in many countries, these contracts don’t guarantee you a set number of hours and mean that your hours can be cut down significantly at any time without warning. This makes you easily disposable should the school no longer require your services.
Although it’s important to look out for warning signs, don’t let this overwhelm your TEFL job-hunting experience. There are plenty of positive, exciting things to look forward to as well! To get more advice on finding work Teaching English as a Second Language, check out our blog: How to find your first job teaching English abroad.