Look Before you Leap: Six Things to Consider Before Committing to an English-Teaching Job

photo: Peace Corps

Written by  Andrea Dinan July 5, 2013
Careful review of your contract can prevent unnecessary surprises at your new job overseas.

Reviewing a contract for that long-anticipated teaching gig is an exciting and often nerve-wracking time. This is your last chance to make sure everything is on the up-and-up before you take the plunge. Here are six ways to avoid some unfortunate surprises at your new job abroad.

  1. Review the schedule expectations. Is there a difference between the number of hours you will be expected to teach and the number of hours you are expected to be at work? If your contract states that you will teach 30 hrs per week and that you will be expected to be at the school from 7:30 am to 5 pm, ask what is expected of you during those extra hours.
  2. Pay attention to penalties for breaking your contract early. It’s understandable and not uncommon that you would be on the hook for your airfare and visa costs if you leave your job early, but you should not be required to pay a fine to the school.
  3. The devil's in the details. Be sure you understand what your contract says about things like accommodations, holidays, weekend work, minimum guaranteed teaching hours or having to travel to several schools to teach. These can quickly become sources of irritation if you were not anticipating them.
  4. Get a second opinion. Ask someone who is currently teaching or has taught English abroad to look over your contract. If you’ve completed a TEFL training program, ask an instructor from the training centre for their opinion. They may pick up things you’ve missed or be able to identify ambiguities that you will want to ask your prospective employer about.
  5. Straight from the horse’s mouth. Ask your prospective employer for email addresses of teachers currently working at the school. The school should be willing to provide this information and teachers are generally happy to share the pros and cons of working there.
  6. Go with your gut. If you’ve read through a contract carefully, gone through the above steps and are still left with a niggling sense that something’s not quite right, trust your instincts. You’ve no doubt applied for teaching positions at a several schools. Compare contracts, determine what seems to be standard and what is unique to each school and choose the best-fit option.
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