You have decided on being an ESL/EFL teacher so you are off on the job search. Aside from the obvious considerations such as what country to work in and what training/qualifications (TEFL/TESOL/CELTA/DELTA) to obtain; there are other things a teachers should consider when looking at potential job offers.
There are many factors a teacher considers which will affect whether they accept a teaching position. The most obvious factor would be the content of the position (i.e. what is going to be taught). What is the school asking of you as a teacher? You must ask yourself if the ESL/EFL job is interesting and fits into your career plans as a teacher. The person/ESL school you will be working for is also an important consideration so you must take the time to talk to them either via email or phone. It would also be beneficial to ask to speak to other teachers from the school to find out their impressions. Knowing what the job is and whom you will be working with are the first step in deciding whether to pursue it further.
Some may say that the most important consideration would be salary and benefits but these should be a secondary consideration to what you want to do and who you will be working with. Regardless of the salary paid, most people will not stay at a position where they feel unsatisfied or have no growth. In addition, the people you work with or for have an enormous impact on your job satisfaction. However, when considering salary and benefit s, do not fo cus as much on the starting salary but rather on the potential for growth and increases. Does the school have growth potential for you as a professional? Do they spell out cost-of-living increases and meritorious raises? Benefits are other areas that can supplement a position where the starting salary is not as good as you would have wished. Get a list of benefits from the company and formulate any questions you may have regarding them so that you can better discuss the position with management and other teachers at the school.
Another factor that may come into play with many teachers when evaluating a position is the ESL/EFL resources provided by the school for the teacher to prepare their lessons. Teachers spend a large majority of their time preparing for upcoming classes. This requires readily available resources such as teacher edition books, computer, printer, internet access, and preferably a reference library. In addition, there should be a work area set aside at the school for teachers to plan and prepare. Whether the school already has a set curriculum/syllabus for the class to be taught and ESL/EFL student books because the teacher may be asked to help to create these resources (i.e worksheets) for your school year if they are not provided. I have known many teachers that have felt the need to move on because of the demands of planning for a school year without adequate resources.
To help you find that perfect (or near perfect) ESL/EFL teaching job, you should ask these questions to all prospective employers/schools:
1. What is the salary?
2. How many months is the teaching contract?
3. Do/Can you sponsor me for all paperwork, including teacher's license, work permit, and visa extension?
4. How soon can you get this paperwork processed?
5. How many hours will I be teaching per week?
6. What kind of medical/travel insurance is on offer?
7. When are the starting and ending times for being at the school regardless of whether there is a class?
8. About how many school or community events a month are teachers required to attend outside normal working hours (teachers' meetings, parents' meetings, school festivals, seminars, etc.)?
9. Does the school have/provide ESL/EFL student books or will I be required to make my own worksheets? 10. Does the school have whiteboards or chalkboards?
11. Does the school provide all teaching materials needed? What are the items provided?
12. Does the school require that I attend/teach a summer camp?
13. Is there a discipline policy? What is it and how is it enforced?
14. What are the details of the teaching contract "extras" such as:
a. Resigning bonuses
b. Biannual or annual plane tickets to visit home
c. Housing allowances (if no housing allowance then ask about help finding accommodations along with cost in the area of the school)
d. Internet access both in and outside the school
e. Raise schedules
Searching for a teaching position is difficult. After spending many hours on a search, making a careful decision regarding a job offer is important. Getting a job offer does not necessarily mean you should take the job. Most schools will not expect you to make a decision on the spot. You will probably be given a few days to a week to make up your mind. If they are unable to provide you with the time to make a decision then you should not consider this teaching job as a viable position. On the other hand, if you decide to go with a school without finding out the proper information, don't blame the school when the position turns out not to be what you expected or wanted. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the job will help you make a more informed decision, rather than deciding on impulse.
When considering where in the world you want to teach, the big 3 for ESL/EFL jobs are:
Asia: Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are the popular spots because they have so many ESL jobs available but there are always positions coming up infrequently in places like Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia though you must be a qualified teacher to obtain these. You may even find positions for Cambodia and Laos but you should look at the reputation of employers carefully due to lack of a solid legal system for recourse.
Europe: Everyone dreams of teaching in Greece, Italy, France or Spain but unless you are an European Union (EU) citizen it is difficult to obtain these positions. The more frequent positions are available in Eastern Europe in places like Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine and Russia. These positions don’t pay very well but they provide lot’s of opportunity for travel while not teaching.
The Middle East: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE) are the most common with Bahrain, Yemen and Qatar occasionally having openings. Now there are also more teachng positions available in Iraq. The Middle East is popular for the money paid for teaching positions but don’t expect much of a social life due to cultural restraints.
Michael G. Hines is the Assistant Director of Bright Future International Training & Services, BFITS, in Bangkok, Thailand and founder of http://www.TotalESL.com- First Stop for Your Second Language Needs - a free ESL/EFL/TEFL teaching resource for all the needs of teachers, schools and students in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the world.