After you’ve found a potential teaching position, you will be overwhelmed with excitement and ready to pack your bags. Before you sign a contract or buy a plane ticket, make sure you question your future employer about all of the following topics.
The Terms of Your Contract
Make sure you understand everything in your contract before you sign it. Ask about anything you are unsure of. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this step. Find out if it’s okay for you to tutor on the side for extra income, if you have a Christmas vacation, or if there’s a dress code.
Before you agree to getting paid a certain salary, make sure you have an estimate of how much it is going to cost you to live in that country. Also try to research what the standard salary for a foreign English teacher is in that country or city. Teaching English is a really great thing to do, but things can go downhill fast for you if you aren’t able to pay your bills.
Find out what kind of visa you will be getting and how you need to get it. Many developing countries will allow you to apply for a work visa from a neighboring country, but sometimes things are a little more complicated. Employers may ask you to work under the table and use tourist visas instead of work visas because they are much easier to obtain.
There are a few downsides to this for you, the teacher. The first is that you will most likely have to leave the country every couple months. If this is the case, make sure that the school is helping you fund these trips or are at least paying you enough so that you aren’t paying out of your savings. Secondly, governments usually frown upon working in their country with a tourist visa. It is unlikely you will get caught doing this, but you have to decide if you want to risk it. I worked two different jobs like this and never had a problem. It did make me a little nervous at first though.
Ask about your average class size. Find out the maximum number of students you potentially could be teaching. Take it from me; trying to control 30 twelve-year olds in a public school in Thailand, where they only understand about four percent of what you’re saying, can be more than exhausting. The smaller the class size, the happier you are going to be at the end of the day.
Also find out if there are going to be any other teachers teaching with you. This can be great if you are trying to control a classroom, but it can also make the actual teaching process more difficult sometimes, especially if that teacher isn’t a foreigner. In that situation they might speak to the students in their native tongue, which can defeat the purpose of even having you there.
Other Foreigners at the School
Ask how many other foreigners teach at the school. I know teaching abroad isn’t necessarily about meeting other foreigners, but about immersing yourself in the culture of one specific place on the globe. But here is the other side to the story, if you don’t have a support system, then you might crack. I lived for five months without much access to other foreigners and it was extremely hard on me emotionally. The locals in the area will be lovely, but being able to bond over the little things, like constantly being stared at, with another foreigner is key. You don’t need to teach at a school with a ton of foreigners, but a few will make your quality of life a little better.
Contact a Foreigner Teaching at that School
Before you agree to sign a contract, contact another foreigner at that school. Ask your interviewer for an email address of another foreigner teaching there. This is a good way to find out exactly what you are getting yourself into. Ideally you could get two email addresses, but some schools might find this offensive. Tell your contact that you are so excited to go teach there, but just want to make sure you are choosing the right school.
Ask them what their experience has been like, if they get along with their fellow teachers, and what a standard day or week is like for them. This is also a good time to ask questions about the city you will be living in. A great question to ask is whether or not the school pays you on time. Also ask how many people have left before their contract was up and what the circumstances were. This is a great way to find out whether or not other people like it there without directly asking.
You can also ask if there is anything you might not be able to buy or find in the country you are teaching in. The answer to this question will help you when you are packing. I will cover some of these key items in my next post.
This post was originally written for www.diwyy.com.