Vetting TEFL Employers Abroad: Tips to Avoid Scams and Land the Teaching Job You Want
By Jennifer Collis
Once you are TEFL certified and start browsing TEFL jobs, 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 five 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 a 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 or perhaps corporate clients who take English classes at the school, for another perspective.
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. An Internet search can pull up blog posts, personal reviews, news articles or complaints filed against a prospective school.
4. Ask the school about the curriculum they use and about details like discipline policies, or how they assess/place students in different class levels. These are great questions 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. Quality schools have assessment measures in place for both in-taking new students and evaluating 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. 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, the job may not be what it seems.
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!
About the Author: Jennifer Collis
Jennifer is from Tampa and graduated from the University of South Florida with bachelor’s degrees in English and psychology. After some time working in the field of social work, she gave in to wanderlust and became TEFL certified, going on to teach in Costa Rica and Morocco. She also enjoys volunteering, and has worked with ESL students in San Francisco, foster kids in Costa Rica, and rescued donkeys in Spain. She has been with BridgeTEFL since 2011, where she is now the Content Manager.