We've talked in the past about the benefits of fully researching any job before you go there. It's pretty obvious that you need to do this research, but it's not always clear "how" to do it.
Is reading the Wikipedia page for that country enough? Is checking for complaints of schools in Google enough? Should you spend hours crawling through the corporate pages of large chain schools?
Let's narrow it all down and ask it more simply:
What do you need to know about the TEFL job, and where should you look?
Let's start at the beginning and assume that you've not yet decided which country you want to go to. Hopefully though, you'll have a shortlist of where you want to go, or at least a rough idea.
Choosing A Country/City
In order to get a better idea of which country is for you, and which area of that country, you need to research a few things. Wikipedia IS a good start, and will give you a loose idea of the country's history, culture, and other important information, but you need to do more specific research.
You're not going to be going there as a scholar, but as a teacher. Find out what life is like there for teachers.
The next thing you can do after initial Wiki research is to Google terms like "Teaching English in [country name]" or search for "Expat forum [country name]" and similar phrases.
You want to find out where the teachers who already live there are hanging out online, so you can get an idea of what life is like as an expat. You'll probably even find that others have asked the same questions you might have.
One thing to make sure of is that you always check multiple sources from multiple websites. A lot of the time when people write reviews or testimonials online, it's because they have a complaint to make. Whether or not the complaint is legitimate, this can distort your view on the country in question.
If you're still unsure, your gut feeling is going to serve you well.
This is another reason to apply via a recruitment agency such as us. We can inform you very well about the country/area that you're applying for. Your own additional research is always going to be a good thing as well though.
Choosing What You Want To Teach
A lot of people miss out on this point. It's easy to get excited about living abroad and just focus on location. One thing you need to consider though is what kind of teacher you might want to be. Do you want to teach children or adults? Do you mind teaching either? Would you prefer to teach business English or work in a high school?
How qualified are you?
If you have a teaching license such as a PGCE and can teach in a full-on international school, then you might not want to apply for local language school positions, and vice versa.
How flexible are you?
Being flexible is good not only for increasing your chances of finding your dream job, but also because you might not know what kind of experience is going to be most favorable to you.
Many teachers have approached a job thinking that they only want to teach adults (or children), only to discover that they prefer the alternative. It's great to have a solid idea in your mind, but it doesn't hurt to be flexible either.
Researching A School
This can be tricky, and a lot of the time your best bet is to research the school by asking them questions directly. Ask them about some of their policies, support systems, and some general questions about the teaching environment.
You want your school (especially if it's your first one) to have a decent support system in place (help finding housing, airport pickup, welfare officers and so on). That's the advantage of choosing a school with western management.
Another thing you want to check is whether they will sponsor you for a VISA and how much holiday they offer. You definitely need to look at the bigger picture when making your choices. Don't only focus on salary.
It's also a good idea to do some Google research on the school in question, however you MUST take some of the information you find with a pinch of salt. As touched upon earlier, people often only go online to leave defamatory comments and complaints rather than glowing reviews.
You might find a school that had one particularly bad manager several years ago, or an under-performing branch that has since closed, and decide that it is not a company you want to work with, simply because somebody left a bad review of it that tarred the whole school with the same brush.
It's rare, but it does happen online.
If possible, ask to be put in touch with a teacher who currently works at the school. They'll be able to give you a personal insight and wouldn't have any real reason to lie to you. It's also a good sign that a school has nothing to hide.
Of course, if there are a whole bunch of negative reviews, and no reasonable explanations for them, then it's definitely something you want to take note of. Even in this case you would want to do further research, or ask the school about those comments.
Remember to go with your gut instinct.
Things To Consider
As mentioned earlier, you need to look at the bigger picture. Here are a few things you should look for when researching your school:
- Does it have western management?
- Is it a large school?
- Does it have many branches?
- How long has it been established?
- What is the workload like?
- Benefits (holiday pay, airport pickup, flight reimbursement etc)
These are generally the most important things to look at.
Recruitment agencies like us only work with the best schools. This is because we want our teachers to be happy in their placements and we hang our reputation upon the schools we recruit for.
If you're really unsure which jobs are worth going for, or you want our help finding you one, then we can act as the 3rd party and give you the help you need. Get in touch here.
At the end of the day, the more research you do, and the more sources you use, the better informed you will be to make the right decision.