So you think you’re ready to take the plunge. You’ve got your crisp new passport with nary a visa inside. You’ve got a country chosen. You even managed to grasp the impenetrable depths of an online TEFL certification. Look at you, big shit, thinking you’re on top of the world. Hold your fuckin horses.
Have you done your research? I mean, really done it. Have you talked to teachers working at a school you’ve got your eye on? Have you talked to administrators? I’m not trying to scare you, I’m just watching your back to make sure you don’t fly to China only to end up bound and gagged in a tub of ice water with stitches where your kidneys used to be. Joking.
The world of ESL is littered with the remains of teachers who were chewed up and spit out by unscrupulous schools who said whatever you wanted to hear to get your dumbass into their classroom. Not a few of these scams, unsurprisingly, come from China where it’s not just products that are fake, but also classrooms and Apple stores along with the employees working inside. Not joking.
Generally, scams can be sniffed out by anyone with even a rudimentary bullshit detector. But I know you, dear Millenial. Perhaps the peach fuzz on your upper lip is keeping the sour stench of lies from reaching your nose. Well bust out the wax because we’re about to get raw.
Pertinent questions to ask:
- How many contact hours per week? How many hours are you required to be at the school?
- Is there homework and/or exams to be marked?
- Are lesson plans required for submission?
- What is the max class size?
- Can you see some pictures of the facilities?
- Does the school have a photocopier?
- How often do you get paid? What’s the tax rate and who’s responsible for paying it?
- How long are the lessons?
- What materials are provided for the lessons? Are there books or are you meant to design your own curriculum?
- Do you have access to a computer/projector in the classroom? How will you conduct listening lessons? On a tape deck? (If yes, fucking run).
- What benefits do you get for signing a year contract? Health insurance? Housing? Meals? Be specific.
- Can you talk to a teacher currently working at the school? (Tough to lie your way through this one.)
Finally. And this is really important so make sure it gets through your thick skull. Never, ever, forever never does the school ever need your fucking passport except to get you a visa. Don’t give it to them because they want it ‘just because’. If you’re getting a visa, fair enough. If it’s for any other reason, well, enjoy your ice bath.