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The Do's & Don'ts of Finding a Good ESL Job The Do's & Don'ts of Finding a Good ESL Job
Find the right school for you!
Eric
Jan 23rd, 2005

I am often asked, "How can I find a good school to work for?"

So here are some things to look for and what to look out for when choosing a school. If you follow these steps, your chances of finding the right match will be much improved. There are LOTS of good jobs out there!


1. The first thing you should do when considering a job is to ask the employer for some contact email addresses of their current teacher(s). If the employer has a reason for not supplying the addresses to you, this should be a red flag.

Once you have the email addresses, ask the teacher's how long they have been there, why they are leaving (if it is relevant), what's a typical day like, how they found the job, how is their relationship with the school's director, about the materials used and the materials provided by the school, are they paid on time, have they fulfilled their contract, etc...

If a school has problems you will almost certainly hear about it from the teachers. There is one situation that comes to mind where a teacher might not be up front with you and that is if you will be the teacher that is prematurely replacing them. That is why you ask them if they have fulfilled their contract or are they quitting early. There might be some cause for concern if they are quitting early.


2. If a school is willing to hire you without talking to you on the telephone (if you are out of the country) or in person (if you are in country), this should be a red flag. Make sure that they are interested in talking to you either by telephone or in person.


3. Never sign a contract after you arrive. You can sign a contract from abroad either by going through the mail or by receiving the contract via email and faxing/mailing the signed copy back to them. If an employer offers you airfare and says to sign the contract when you arrive, go somewhere else.


4. When you are talking to your potential employer on the phone here are some things that you need to ask about.
  • The curriculum, as in, do they have one? If they don't, that isn't necessarily a red flag but at least you will be prepared to create your own.

  • Along with curriculum is materials and textbooks. Do they have them? What are they using? How about flashcards, listening cassettes, tape/CD player, supplemental resource books, copy machine, computer, printer, etc... Now, if an employer doesn't have all of these that isn't necessarily a red flag, it's just good to be aware of before you land.

  • Teaching times and split shifts sometimes lead to frustrations and tension between the teachers and management. Make sure you are well aware of their schedule by talking to some of the current teachers. Additionally, many teachers have packed it in because they were required to do overtime. While the sweet 24hr/week contract looks great, make sure that is what you are really signing up for. See if overtime is mandatory or even available if you want to make some extra money. Also, check about weekend work. Do you mind working on Saturdays and Sundays?

  • Where does the teaching actually take place. In one place or many? I know a teacher who was asked to teach not only at her institute but also at 4 other places, some over an hour away. If the employer does say there is off-campus work, how far is it away and do you get traveling money and moeny for travel time? A 15 minute walk to school does not constitute travel compensation, but an hour long taxi/bus/train ride might.

  • How far is the school from western amenitites? If it's not important to you, skip it. Just remember, most contracts are 1 year and even the hardiest of travelers needs to escape back into their own culture every once in a while.

  • How far is housing from the school?

5. While not necessary, I would prefer to see pictures of the school I am considering. Ask if they have a website or if they can send you some photos. You could also ask the teachers for this, but the director should not have any problem doing this for you.


This is by no means a comprehensive list. Please feel free to add to it.

Happy Job Hunting
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  #1 (permalink)  
little sage on Feb 10th, 2005, 12:16 am
Default

Quote:
Quote Oreamnos

1. The first thing you should do when considering a job is to ask the employer for some contact email addresses of their current teacher(s). If the employer has a reason for not supplying the addresses to you, this should be a red flag.

Once you have the email addresses, ask the teacher's how long they have been there, why they are leaving (if it is relevant), what's a typical day like, how they found the job, how is their relationship with the school's director, about the materials used and the materials provided by the school, are they paid on time, have they fulfilled their contract, etc...
Thanks for the great list, Oreamnos. I wanted to add more specific questions to #1 because I think the MOST important part of the job search is talking to the current teacher(s). I think it's better to ask the teacher, because many of the people who do the hiring are not aware of what the teacher's job and life are really like. I personally much prefer to know this stuff in advance, than be surprised by it once I've signed up...

So, drumroll, here's my list of what to ask the foreign teacher at your prospective school:

1. What is the director of the school like? (helpful and personable, obsessively controlling, or somewhere in between)

2. How many English teachers are there and do they get along?

3. Do you have to work a split shift? (boy can this turn a 25 hour work-week into 40 hours!)

4. Do you ever have to work on Saturdays?

5. Are you always paid on time and paid for overtime?

6. Is overtime mandatory? Does it happen often?

7. Is housing provided by the school? If not, does the school pay a monthly stipend, or help you find housing?

8. If housing is provided, what is it like? Are there any serious problems there? If it's not to my liking, can I move out easily?

9. How far is the housing and what transportation do you use to get to work?

10. Is all the teaching done at one location?

11. What are the students like? Ages? Levels? General attitude? (some schools have a large population of kids returning from life abroad who want to keep up their near-native speaker level of fluency, some have students who currently attend prestigious middleschools where English study is competitive, some schools are cheap and English class is more like a babysitting service, some schools are mixed)

12. How many students per class?

13. What books do you use to teach and are they good?

14. Does the school provide the materials for class, or do I have to make them? (I once discovered after I started a new job, that the teachers were required to MAKE the cards for the kindergarten curriculum EVERY DAY. It took a couple of hours per week of copying, colouring, cutting and laminating)

15. Does the school have many supplemental materials (flashcards, activity books, resource files, professional development books, etc)?

16. Are there any extracurricular events that require work outside of class? (weekend camps or trips, sports events, etc)


These questions come from my experience in Korea, I wonder what different questions would apply in the rest of the world...

Last edited by little sage : Feb 10th, 2005 at 12:32 am.
  #2 (permalink)  
fishead soup on Apr 18th, 2005, 07:48 pm
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Don't ever sign a contract that makes you pay a fine for leaving the contract early. This is illegal.
  #3 (permalink)  
Globe Runner on Jan 31st, 2006, 01:28 pm
Default Re: The Do's & Don'ts of Finding a Good ESL Job

Yes it is. And dont ever sign a contract where you agree to work the odd extra time when asked either

Nick Dauphinee
Study in Canada
www.globerunner.ca
 


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