The choice for aspiring ESL teachers is larger than ever and for some this is great news, but for many it presents a challenge…which school is right for me? Let’s face it, whether you’ve travelled abroad or not, a year commitment in a foreign country without knowing anyone or what its like when you get there is a risk. When you Skype with someone for an interview, you are giving your best side and invariably the teacher or school manager at the other end is doing the same…so do you really know what you’re getting yourself in for?
It gets worse when you go online and do some research. You type the name of your school into Google or Yahoo and you’ll get links to teacher forums that seem to be full of negative comments about these schools. When I first started looking, I got really frustrated because whenever I’d visit these forums and ask for recommendations, all I got was more complaints and “school black lists”. Where’s the white list?! It seems that NO ONE is having a good time teaching English…all the schools break your contracts, steal your passports, cause you to split up with your girlfriend, their water gives you polio, the classes are made up of the case from Lord of the Flies and your boss is from Lord of the Rings.
Let’s tackle the forums first. Remember, if you’re having the time of your life, you’ll tell your friends on Facebook, not broadcast anonymously on a public forums. This is a big reason why you don’t hear many pieces of good news on the forums. I’ve spent the past three years having a great time teaching in China, it’s been hard and at times frustrating…what job isn’t? But you’ll never hear about my experiences on Dave’s ESL Café, if you want to know what I do…be my friend and visit Facebook.
Now…choose the school that’s right for you.
Let’s get rid of some myths first of all:
1) Most schools will cheat you. Wrong.
2) You won’t have time to travel. Wrong.
3) You’ll live in a toilet being eaten by cockroaches. Wrong.
4) It’s easy teaching English in China. Wrong. (Well…it’s not all good news).
Five things I’ve experienced teaching English in China.
1) Schools honor contracts (if they didn’t they’d never be able to hire again)
2) I’ve travelled many places in and around China
3) My apartments have been clean and MOSTLY cockroach-free
4) My job is both very tough and very rewarding
5) I know exactly who will quit early and who will post about it online for everyone to read…and trust me, they only had themselves to blame.
…But bad things do happen, like in any country, employees can be mistreated and that prospect is scary when you don’t know the country, the legal system and you are dependent on the school for survival in the country.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself…
1) Make sure your contract is in ENGLISH
2) Make sure you can email other teachers that are working at the school
3) Ask the following questions during the interview stage;
– Is my salary pre or post tax?
– Can I see photos of the apartments?
– How many weeks of training do I get before I start teaching?
– What are the terms of my accommodation allowance?
– When do I receive my flight allowance?
– What health insurance do I receive?
– Who will meet me at the airport?
– Who will help me with banking and medical stuff?
The answers to all these questions can be verified if you email other foreign teachers that work there.
Above all, remember this…it’s easy to fly to China, it’s easy to fly back…if it doesn’t work out, home isn’t going anywhere!
Be brave…and you’ll be welcomed.