Teaching English provides one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to travel the world, experience other cultures and learn new languages. Many prefer this option to volunteering or interning abroad because it is more affordable and even lucrative in some cases. Demand for native English speakers continues to rise throughout the world, and Americans can find jobs in any non-English speaking country, regardless of their undergraduate major.
Questions to consider
There are many important questions to ask before accepting a teaching position with a language school or working with an international placement organization. It’s important to go into the situation knowing what exactly you’re getting into and what everyone’s expectations are.
- Will your visa be sponsored, or will they help you obtain one?
- If you will be working illegally, this usually means lower pay, no health insurance, no holiday pay and no legal protection. At the very least, the school should provide guidance and cover the fee of obtaining a visa, if not completing the process for you.
- What benefits will you receive? Will you be provided with health insurance? Is the insurance policy global or national?
- Is housing paid for? Are you expected to find housing on your own? Is it shared housing or single housing? Can you see pictures of typical employee housing and are you able to contact current staff at the school?
- Is the school or placement organization a member of a language association?
- Associations usually have some kind of quality assurance guidelines, which can tell you about the quality and reputation of the school you'll be working for.
- Will you be provided with teaching materials? Is there a curriculum you must follow, or will it be up to you to decide what to teach?
- How will you be trained and evaluated?
- Schools should offer an orientation, class observations of experienced teachers and consistent feedback. Evaluations should be based on clear standards that should be laid out before you begin teaching. If these elements are lacking, it's a sign that the school is more interested in turning a profit than improving the experiences of its students or staff.
- Will you sign a contract? Is there an end-of-contract bonus?
- Your contract should answer all questions about hours, salary, days off, health care, class size, duration of employment and management expectations. You should receive this document by fax or email before you agree to employment. A school's refusal to give you one is a sure sign of a bad situation.
- How much and how often will you be paid? Will you be paid in the local currency? If you pay a program fee, how much is it and what does it include? What is the cost of living where you will be teaching?
- What is the composition of the student body and the staff of the school? What is the annual staff turnover rate at the school?
- What extracurricular activities are teachers responsible for? Will the school or organization provide cultural excursions?
- If you’re using an international placement organization, what kind of in-country support is offered? How do they vet the schools they work with, and what is their satisfaction and/or cancellation policy?
Teaching abroad opportunities
- International Schools Services: ISS helps teachers, administrators, librarians and counselors search for their dream job in international schools.
- Dave’s ESL Cafe: Job postings that include information on salary, qualifications and expected hours in different regions.
- Go Abroad: Comprehensive international education and alternative travel resource for studying, volunteering, interning or teaching abroad.
- Teach Abroad Blogs: Provides a sense of day-to-day life while teaching abroad.