A TEFL course such as CELTA or Cert TESOL can teach you how to teach, but it can’t give you career experience. Looking for a job in the world of TEFL can be both exciting and daunting and if you are going to teach at a school there are some things you will undoubtedly want to know before you take up a contract. So, what do you need to ask to ensure your TEFL job is a success?
Pay, hours, and contract
Rates of pay in the world of TEFL vary from country to country, and sometimes even school to school. The essential thing to check is that your pay is enough for you to live comfortably (taking in local prices, and exchange rates should you be paying off student loans etc. in your home country), and is comparable to salaries being offered at other local schools. You should also check the contracted working hours – contracts often stipulate as little as 25 hours a week, but this does not include lesson preparation time or administrative duties. You should also be aware of any overtime pay. Bear in mind, also, that your working week might not be a normal 9-5 job. You may be expected to work weekends (particularly at language schools) or evenings regularly. If this conflicts with your preference, you might want to keep on looking for that ideal TEFL position.
Getting to know a little about the other teachers working at the school will give you an insight into the atmosphere there. Are other foreigners working there? Are they similar in age to you? Crucially, how long have they been there? If the school has a lot of new recruits, it could be an indication that it is not the sort of place that people settle into.
Textbooks and facilities
If you are a schoolteacher, you will be expected to teach according to the curriculum that has been set for you. With this in mind, it is wise to ask about the textbooks that are used. When were they published? Are they credible? A late 19th century English grammar textbook could make your working life a living nightmare. Equally, you can rightfully inquire about what input you will have as to the choice of textbooks and lesson plans. Facilities fall under this category too. Will the resources that you require be available to you, such as a photocopier, internet access… even a white board? Teaching in basic conditions with nothing more than your imagination is possible, but it is easier to have a wealth of resources at your fingertips.
Your final stop should be the World Wide Web. A bit of research on sites such as Dave’s ESL Cafe and other TEFL forum sites might offer some first hand experiences of your potential employer.