Just like starting any new career, when you decide to become a TEFL teacher abroad there are questions you need to ask your potential employer. As an American, your question priorities are a little different than the average TEFL teacher. Here are a few questions you need answers to before you say ‘yes’ to your new job abroad:
How many classes daily/weekly?
This is quite important to establish before you arrive- or you could be taken advantage of. A general rule of thumb: TEFL teachers average about 20 teaching hours weekly. Some countries offer lessons only in the early morning or late afternoon and evening; others need teachers for intensive weekend courses.
Tip: Teaching hours are the actual times in the classroom only, and they don’t include preparation time or homework correction time.
What are the average class lengths and sizes?
The time length of lessons will give you an idea of how much work will be involved for each. Lessons vary from 40 minutes to 90-minute blocks. When you’re adding up your time spent, you also need to include prep time and set up (if you’re using audio/video, for example).
Class sizes will also affect how you teach. The groups can be 8-20 students and upwards of 100 students for universities. The more students you have the less quality teacher time they get. Higher student numbers also multiplies preparation time.
What ‘help’ is provided to American teachers?
It depends on the school and the country, but it can be more involved to hire Americans. Visas and paperwork can be long and bureaucratic, with extra fees. Another aspect is whether or not they provide financial help for airfare and/or accommodation- North American teachers are treated well in some countries because they’re high in demand.
How does accommodation work?
Ask them if the school provides a place for you to stay/live or if you have to find your own. Some schools offer monthly pay packets to cover rent and utilities, while other schools provide accommodation on school property. Your accommodation could also tie in to your work visa. It’s essential to know where you’ll be laying your head for the next year before you go.
How is my teaching performance evaluated?
It might seem silly to ask this before you’ve even taught your first lesson, but there’s a reason for this question. The school might have a policy of strict lesson evaluations, where if you don’t meet their criteria you could lose your job. Leaving you stuck in a foreign country, jobless and without a good reference.
Are there fellow American teachers I can speak to?
Nobody will tell you how it really is like a fellow American. If the school has any American TEFL teachers, they should be more than happy for you to talk to each other. You can ask about culture shock, the school structure, typical students and the cost of living.
The answers to these questions can help you define and streamline your job choices as an American TEFL teacher. The better informed you are, the easier it will be for you to decide where to go on your TEFL adventure.