Q & A: How to Find a Job Teaching English as a Second Language Abroad

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Part two of a three-part online discussion panel on TEFL.

Last week, we discussed what qualities a successful English as a second language teacher should haves—and whether teaching English abroad should really be considered a fallback career.

In part two of our three-part panel discussion on TEFL, our online panelists give their advice on how to find the perfect teaching job overseas.

This month, our panel of travel experts includes:

Aimée Chow taught English as a Second Language to pre-schoolers and elementary school students in Seoul, South Korea from 2009 to 2011. Today, Aimée works in Career Services with Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she coaches university students from all over the world on managing their job search process, including resume development, networking strategy, practice interviews, and building an effective LinkedIn profile.

• A graduate of Carlton University in Ottawa, Joanna Lane first taught English as a Second Language in Taiwan eight years ago. Since then, her international career has spanned from Singapore to Toronto. She now resides in London, UK, where she works in publishing.

Aclipse recruits adventurous university graduates to teach English in Asia, primarily in Korea and China. All of Aclipse’s recruiters have years of experience and assist applicants throughout every step of the application process.

What is the best way to find a teaching job overseas?

Aclipse: The best way to find available teach abroad positions is either through university postings, job boards such as LinkedIn and Craigslist, or by Googling. If you are interested in teaching in China and Korea, you can read about our current job opportunities and read blogs written by current teachers abroad.

Aimée: The Internet is your friend. These days, schools and recruiters can be reviewed, so scour online resources for feedback from former teachers. Ask to speak with current or outgoing teachers at the school you’re considering. If you have friends already in the destination country, ask for their advice or ask them to poke around and do some reconnaissance on your school/recruiter of choice.

Joanna: Word of mouth! To be fair, what works for one person might not work for the next, but it's always safe to go with a school or a recruiter you are familiar with somewhat directly. If you can, don't sign a contract ahead of time. This has many benefits, including the security of knowing you have a job and a visa lined up and usually some kind of orientation when you arrive, but contracts can be hard to get out of if you find it's not actually a good fit.

What are the key questions a prospective teacher should ask before signing a contract?

Aimée: What extras does the school pay for, over and above my salary (utilities, rent, return flights, health benefits, etc.)? How big is the foreign (native English-speaking) teaching staff? What opportunity do I have to advance or earn extra money with your school? Can I speak to a current and outgoing teacher? How far is my apartment from the school? What amenities are nearby the school/my apartment? How much vacation do I get as part of my contract?

Aclipse: Before signing a contract, ask what type of training/materials are provided, expectations of teacher performance and anything that seems vague in the contract. Ask about housing and airfare and whether it is provided/paid for, or if you are responsible for dealing with it.

Joanna: Ask about what the repercussions are if you don’t fulfil the terms of your contract. Some contracts can be very strict—my school paid for my visa, my training and my first two weeks of accommodation, and if I were to have broken the contract (which I did, a full six days early) I would have been required to pay them back for all of this. I was lucky—they let me off.

Ask about guaranteed hours. ESL teachers are usually only paid for the hours they work, so finding out that you've actually only got three 90-minutes classes a week can be a bummer. Finally, ask if out-of-class work is paid or unpaid, as well as whether or not you will have a teacher’s assistant—sometimes there is quite a bit of lesson planning and marking required outside of your normal working hours, and this is usually not paid.

What are the pros and cons of online certification courses vs. in-class TESOL certification?

Aclipse: We don’t know of any schools that currently distinguish between in-class or online. In-class certification allows for collaborative work and idea building. Also, in-class certification often includes teaching hours. However with that being said, online certification is often more convenient and doable for people.

Joanna: I did my certification at the University of Toronto. It was time-consuming, but it was so much more engaging and I met some incredibly interesting people who I still keep in touch with today. Doing your cert in-class is the first step towards feeling part of a community of teachers worldwide and a network that will prove both useful and meaningful later on.

It’s also worth looking into exactly what qualifications are needed in the country you want to go to. In Taiwan, I didn’t need an actual TESOL qualification—just a passport from an English-speaking country and a university degree. In Sinapore, TESOL wasn’t enough—they wanted actual English teaches, not just ESL qualified teachers. Finally, some schools prefer teachers with North American accents, whereas others explicitly prefer teachers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.

Next week, our experts give their advice on how to excel as a teacher once you've landed your dream TEFL job. 

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Published in Editor's Desk
Jessica Lockhart

Contributing Editor

Although Jessica has travelled to more than 30 countries, her favorite place to throw down her bag is still her hometown of Cold Lake, Alberta. A freelance journalist, Jess has worked for international development organizations and tour operators. She’s conducted workshops in Vanuatu, perfected the use of a satellite phone in the jungles of Guyana and supervised teenage pool parties in the Dominican Republic. Although she's based in Toronto, Jess works remotely from all around the world.

Website: www.jesslockhart.com

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