Vetting TEFL Employers Abroad: Tips to Avoid Scams and Land the Teaching Job You Want
Once you are TEFL certified and start browsing job sites, it’s easy to see there’s no lack of teaching jobs worldwide. While it’s exciting to have so many options, it can also be overwhelming. When applying to jobs abroad, perhaps in a country you’ve never even visited, you may wonder how you can be sure a teaching job is “legitimate.” Will the school that hires you follow through on the terms of their contract, regarding benefits and pay?
As an experienced teacher who has worked in Africa, Central America and Europe, I can tell you that scams are much less common than you might fear, but it’s always a good idea to do your homework. To help you vet potential employers abroad before you sign on the dotted line, I offer the following 5 tips:
1. Check out the school’s website.
This is not a fail-proof way to vet a school, of course, since even a fraudulent school can create a website; however, it’s a good first step. You can check for an actual physical address and specific contact info for the school. Test these– there should always be someone you can reach! Also, see if the site has been updated recently and if you can you read about the school staff and actually contact them through the site. This is also where you can link to the school’s Facebook page, or look for professional affiliations or endorsements you can follow up on.
2. Ask for references.
A reputable school will be able to provide you with the names of both past and present teachers you can email or call. You can also ask to be connected with students who take English classes at the school or, if the school specializes in teaching business English, with corporate clients who send students to the school.
3. Google the school or check a teacher forum.
Teaching jobs can be just like any other “product” these days– people are happy to give online feedback and reviews of their experiences. A general Internet search can pull up blog posts, personal reviews, news articles or complaints filed against a prospective school. Teacher forums on sites like Dave's ESL Cafe can take your research a step further by providing a place where real EFL teachers have posted feedback on their experience. You can also use the forums to ask about a school yourself, if you're not finding any info.
4. Ask the school about the curriculum they use and other specifics.
Questions about the curriculum used at the school or other details, like discipline policies or how they assess and place students in different class levels, are great to ask during the interview, but they are also good ways to vet a school at any point before you go abroad. An established school will have a structured curriculum, and will probably use a textbook you can preview online if you aren’t already familiar with it. If the school does not have a set curriculum and textbook, this is often a red flag warning you that they are not an established or well-organized school. Quality schools also have assessment measures in place for both intaking new students and evaluating current students’ progress. Don’t be afraid to “interview” the school!
5. Trust your gut.
Does the job seem too good to be true? It probably is. To find out, keep researching jobs in the same city on sites like the BridgeTEFL job board, www.tefl.com, or www.eslbase.com. How do the salary and benefits offered by this school compare to other, similar jobs in the area? If you notice a drastic difference in what your job offers compared to the others, it definitely may not be what it seems. Also be wary of a school that is rushing you to make a decision for a position that starts immediately, or if they are asking you for money to process your visa or other paperwork.
My final advice?
Cross check a school using several of these resources, rather than just one, and if you run into one bad blog post about an overall well-reviewed school, take it with a grain of salt. Remember to go abroad with an open mind… but also take a return ticket and a bit of savings, and you’ll be ready for anything!