Just as schools will want to interview you before offering you a contract to teach English abroad, you should also take the opportunity to screen them. Asking the following questions will help ease your mind about a school's reputation and identify any red flags! The best approach to signing a contract with a school abroad is cautious optimism. First and foremost, always be respectful of the way different cultures approach employment. At the same time, make sure you end up in a safe and supportive environment.
Without further adieu, here are 10 questions you should ask before signing a contract:
#1. Can I talk to a current teacher?
This is the most important advice we can give. Nothing beats talking to someone who's gone before you. Always ask if the school can put you in contact with a current or former teacher. Most schools are proud of their teaching environment and will be happy to put you in touch with a current teacher. If a school avoids putting you in touch with a current teacher, that is a very large red flag! Once you're in contact with someone, here are some questions to go over.
Does the school pay on time and in full?
Is there any hassle or bureaucracy in how payment is handled?
This last question may seem strange and out of the ordinary. How could a school not pay someone on time!? Certainly, most schools treat their teachers well and pay them on time. Make sure you're not one of the few teachers who end up at a bad school. Asking a current/former teacher will put your mind at ease quickly.
#2. Does your teaching schedule follow the contract?
Will the hours outlined in the contract follow what's expected once you arrive? Ask another teacher about their experience. Were they asked or expected to teach extra, unpaid hours? Are teachers paid for overtime?
It's important to keep in mind that some contracts will only outline how many hours you will spend in the classroom, not taking into account lesson planning time or office hours. Find out if your responsibilities will include any activities outside of the classroom, such as teacher meetings, school events, or leading group activities like sporting activities or field trips.
Finally, even if a contract clearly explains your hours, ask which days you will be teaching. Will you be expected to teach during the evening or on weekends? It is best to be clear about expectations from the beginning. Note: It is quite common to teach during evenings and/or weekends at many schools in Asia.
#3. How will I find housing?
If housing is provided, find out how far it is from the school. Are utilities included? If housing is not mentioned in your contract, you will probably have to find it on your own. Sometimes schools will help, so ask a current teacher how they found their apartment. Where will you stay when you first arrive in the country? Most schools will provide a "soft landing" and make sure you have a good support system upon arrival. If necessary, check out our Travel Resources page for tips on booking hostels.
#4. What kind of health insurance is provided?
Sometimes the employer will cover a portion (or all) of your medical insurance. Make sure you know what is covered, and what you need to take care of prior to arrival. If you're covered, you'll want to purchase private travel insurance before you arrive in the country. Again, you can visit our Travel Resources page for more information on reputable travel insurance providers. NOTE:Health insurance provided by schools can vary greatly from country to country. Take responsibility and make sure you research the norm in the country you accept a teaching abroad job in.
#5. Does the salary cover holidays?
Know exactly when you get time off and for how long. Are vacation days, national holidays, and sick/personal days paid? Be careful to consider the norms in the country in which you'll be teaching. If paid vacation/sick days aren't the norm, don't expect to be treated differently.
#6. How do I get a work visa?
Find out to what extent the school is facilitating the work visa process. Ask detailed questions about the documents you will need to prepare. If a school isn't willing to sponsor a work visa, find out why. For example, it's hard for someone who's not a European Union citizen to get a work visa in the EU. Some countries in Asia have extremely convoluted work visa laws. This may force the school to apply for your teaching visa in a roundabout manner. This may be more time consuming than you would like. Frustrated by the visa process? You're not alone! Working with governments is almost always a time consuming, frustrating experience. Take a step back before you judge. Ask a foreign friend how easy it is to get a work visa in the US/Canada/UK. It can often be MUCH more difficult! Like many things in life, everything is a matter of perspective.
#7. Will schools provide classroom materials?
Find out how well equipped the classroom is. Will you be using their books and materials, or do you need to bring your own? How much training will you receive? Some schools provide a lot of training for new teachers, others none at all. Many schools are small and have limited resources. In these situations, you should prepare ahead of time, train yourself, or take a TEFL course. This is also a good time to ask about lesson planning. Will you be following a structured curriculum or creating your own lesson plans from scratch?
#8. Is there strong support for foreign teachers?
Does the school provide any kind of training, workshops, or social activities for its teachers? After talking with someone who's worked there before, you should have a sense of whether there's a large effort from the school to support and be available for their employees. Also, find out how many fellow western teachers will be at your school. You may be fine with being the only Western English teacher at your school. Some teachers prefer to have the comfort of having other native English speakers around them. That is a factor worth considering as you decide where you want to teach English abroad.
#9. Can you see photos?
If a school has a website, be sure to scan their pictures to get a feel for what your teaching life will be like. If a school doesn't have a website, ask them to send you some pictures. Most schools will be happy to do so. If the school provides housing, you may want to ask to see pictures of the accommodation, as well.
#10. Am I ready for a teaching job abroad?
Teaching abroad is a huge responsibility. You represent yourself and your country. Whether you like it or not, people will be forming opinions of your entire country based on their interaction with you! Go out of your way to be patient and understanding. Don't sign a contract unless you are sure you can follow through on the commitment. Breaking your contract will affect a lot of people: Your students, their parents, your co-teachers, the school itself. If you aren't 100% sure you can finish your contract, think twice (and then a third time!).
For your security, Go Overseas recommends fully researching the school and the position before accepting. Go Overseas makes no claims to the validity of these ads, nor do the views in these ads necessarily reflect the views of Go Overseas.
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