Finding the right job and the right ESL school for you is tough. But finding the right job for yourself when you’re thousands of miles away is even tougher! There are so many ESL schools to choose from, but many leave much to be desired once you arrive. Just how do you go about finding the right one for you? Here we give you 7 things to look for in an ESL school!
1) A Fair Deal from an ESL School
Let’s start with the headline: money! You are going to be flying halfway around the world to go and teach in China. You will probably have spent hundreds of bucks on flights. You might have sold everything you own to start up somewhere new. After all that upheaval, the last thing you want to do is to sign a contract for a company that’s going to screw you financially and leave you destitute for the next 12 months.
Make sure that whatever their offer is it’s appropriate for the city. Living off 10,000RMB a month in a second or third tier city is fine. Living off 10,000 a month in Shanghai or Beijing? Not so much. Do your research for the city you want, and make sure you’ve asked about extras too. Housing allowances, end of contract bonuses, flight allowances, performance bonuses all add up and can count for a lot. A school which pays you 10,000RMB with none of those things might not be as good an option as a school which includes them but pays 8,500RMB.
2) Working Hours and Location
You also need to find out exactly how many hours you’re going to be teaching each week. 30 hours a week? Sounds great! But wait, is that 30 hours in the classroom? What about planning time? Am I timetabled to work 09:00 to 21:00 five (or god forbid, 6) days a week even though I’m only teaching for 30 hours? Is my timetable set in stone? Do I always work the same hours?
Definitely ask about where you’ll be teaching too. Some schools will have you teaching at local schools all over the city with classes of up to 60 students. The better ones should keep you at one location close to your apartment and teaching classes of less than 20 students at a time (hopefully close to 15).
3) A Working Visa
This is a biggie. Make absolutely sure that a prospective school is going to arrange a working visa for you. This is an essential part of living and working in China. Without the correct documentation you will count as an illegal immigrant and could be deported at any time. Finding out about the school’s visa application process is one thing you absolutely must check. Also ask who sorts that out for you, do you have to do it or will the school help? Do the school pay for it or reimburse you?
4) Teachers Contact Details
Make sure you ask a prospective employer for contact details of other teachers who currently work there. This is the litmus test. If the school has nothing to hide they shouldn’t have a problem with this. If they don’t want you to contact their teachers, ask yourself, what don’t they want me to know?
5) Free Chinese Classes
Every ESL school worth its salt should provide Chinese classes for free. What better way to help you get up and running in China than with linguistic confidence? Taking those first few steps towards communicating in your new city will make your start so much more enjoyable.
6) Teacher Training
Coming to China with a 120 hour TEFL qualification under your belt is a great start but will only get you so far. Sooner or later you’re going to need guidance, support, advice. This should start from your first day. You should get training, orientations and inductions. You should also get reassurances that you’re not going to be thrown in the deep end and asked to teach on your first (jet-lagged) day.
Then you need to think about the future. After a few weeks you’re going to need workshops and activity exchange seminars with other teachers. It’s the only way you’re going to develop as an ESL professional.
7) Privately owned, independently run, Western managed ESL school
There are a lot of franchised training schools in China. These are schools that pay to use the name, branding and materials of a larger, corporately-managed group. The problem is, these schools don’t always have the same standards and duty of care that their parent company has. Franchised schools in China have a reputation for being poorly run, badly equipped and profit driven.
Instead, look around for schools that are privately owned and ideally have western management. Finding a school that is run (not owned) by western staff is really important. It’s not a guarantee of teaching nirvana but it really helps. For starters there’ll be no language barrier. Secondly, you hopefully won’t experience any culture shock whilst at work. Try to find a school that has a foreigner conducting the interviews if possible. If nothing else, they were at least in your shoes once before.
Summing It Up
I hope these 7 things to look for in an ESL school have helped! At York English we give our teachers a fair deal:
1. A salary starting at 10,000 – 14,000 RMB
2. Free accommodation or housing allowance, flight allowance, end of contract bonus and performance bonuses each quarter.
3. An average of 18 hours teaching a week, with a few office hours for planning and training on top of that.
4. A working visa- paid for by the school, not you.
5. Want to speak to our teachers past or present? Just ask us!
6. Free Chinese classes every week
7. Extensive training and support including a two-week comprehensive orientation and ongoing professional development.
Thanks for reading!