About TEFL - What to expect in a TEFL job
The first few weeks in your first TEFL job can be both exciting and terrifying. You’re probably in a new country, a different culture, and it’s the first time since your training that you’ve been thrown in front of a group of students. You will probably start thinking “My training didn’t prepare me for this…”
In developing countries there is often quite a network of support from the school and other teachers. Someone will probably meet you at the airport, show you around the city or area, go with you to the supermarket the first time, take you to the police station to stamp forms, send someone to fix your burst pipes, all the time dealing with language barriers for you along the way.
If the school provides accommodation you will be able to just walk in the door and unpack, rather than arriving in a city and spending days searching for an apartment. You may also be living with other teachers, often very near the school, which provides an extra measure of support, as well as a feeling that you are all in the same boat.
In English speaking countries and most of Western Europe you will most likely be expected to sort things out for yourself in terms of getting to the country, finding accommodation and sorting out a lot of the paperwork and visa necessities. The type of support network mentioned above is often much less evident. The experience will probably be more like starting a new job in your own country – away from the job itself you’re pretty much on your own, although other expat teachers are very good sources of information, advice and support.
With luck you will be eased into a full teaching schedule gradually and given plenty of support from other teachers and your Director of Studies. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – remember that everyone was once in your shoes.
Get to know the school, spend some time looking at the teaching resources available. The schools’ library of resource books can save you a lot of time planning classes. Above all, remember, as with any new situation, it gets easier very quickly.
Most schools provide some kind of programme of induction training, where you will meet the staff, have a tour of the school, learn about the curriculum and types of courses you will be teaching, the course books used, administrative tasks, methods of assessing students and so on. There may also be some training workshops, particularly if the school follows its own methodology.
A teaching day is rarely 9-5. Most business people and students can only study in the early morning, at lunch time, or after school or work. Consequently, teaching is often split shift – a couple of classes in the morning, for example, followed by a long break, and then a couple more classes in the evening. Some schools open on Saturdays too. These types of hours can be difficult to get used to, but eventually you fall into a rhythm and accept it as part of the job. And it could mean that one day you finish teaching for the day at 11am!
Many schools, but not all, provide a programme of ongoing training throughout your contract. This can include observations of your classes by the Director of Studies or a senior teacher, and seminars and workshops on teaching theory and practice.
TEFL salaries vary greatly from country to country. In developing countries you can generally expect your salary to be high compared to the local average, which will give you enough to live very comfortably on, but not to save large amounts to take home with you. In developed countries salaries are often similar, but of course with a much higher cost of living to deal with.
Many schools pay a monthly salary, usually based on an average number of hours teaching per week or per month, with extra for overtime. Others pay by the hour that you teach. The hourly rate can be pretty good, but remember that you are being paid for contact hours (usually 20 to 25 a week), not for a 40 hour week. If you want to make a lot of money then TEFL is probably not the profession for you.
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