Congratulations! You have just received your certification to teach English as a second language (ESL) and been offered a contract. Before you sign your name on the dotted line, however, ask a few better-to-be-safe-than-sorry questions:
Is housing provided? If so, do you have to share accommodation? Ask to see photographs of the housing to give you an idea of what to expect before you get off the plane. “Housing” could mean three teachers sharing a rundown two-bedroom apartment.
Is there a bonus for finishing the contract? Some schools offer a financial incentive to encourage teachers not to bail out in the middle of the year.
Is there a guaranteed minimum salary? Some employers will lure you in by claiming that you can make “up to” a certain amount of money. When you get there, however, and students start cancelling classes, you may suddenly find yourself in a difficult financial situation.
Are you allowed to teach private students on the side? Ultimately, you will earn more teaching people privately than you will through a school or an agency. If your prospective employer considers teaching private students a conflict of interest, but isn’t able to provide a good reason, raise your antenna. There may be other things they may frown on as well.
How much support will they provide for getting your work visa? Some employers will walk through all the paperwork for you. Others will give you a letter of employment and expect you to wade through the bureaucracy on your own. This is particularly difficult when you don’t understand the language or don’t have the documents you need.
Will the school provide you with references from former employees? Ask for the name of an ESL teacher who is willing to talk on Skype or to answer e-mail questions about the school. If the administration can’t find anyone who is willing to vouch for the operation, take it as a warning sign.
About the author: Jody Hanson has taught ESL in Nigeria, China, Morocco and Chile. She currently lives in Buenos Aires, where she works as a full-time writer.
Add this article to your reading list