You may feel excited to get your first job teaching English overseas, but don’t let excitement keep you from taking a hard look at your TEFL contract and making sure that the terms are fair. Take a look at these nine common issues that may become sticking points between you and your overseas employer.
Rate of Pay
You may be so eager to get started in your new position that you’re willing to accept any rate of pay. However, it’s only fair to you and to the teachers who will come after you that you negotiate a reasonable salary. Oxford Seminars publishes an interactive map that allows TEFL teachers to view standard rates of pay in each country. If you have an MA in TEFL or you’ve completed extensive graduate coursework in TEFL, you can leverage your education to negotiate a higher rate of pay. Make sure to research the cost of living in your country and know the exchange rate so that you know you can cover your living expenses.
Prep Time and Extracurriculars
Many TEFL teachers have arrived at their classrooms only to discover that they were also expected to oversee unpaid extracurricular activities. They have also discovered that the school allotted them no daily prep time. Make sure to clarify whether you’ll have a daily prep period and whether you’ll have to facilitate clubs or other activities outside of class time.
Transportation to Your New Home
Make sure to ask whether the school will reimburse you for your airfare to the new country, and ask whether they provide transportation from the airport to where you’ll be staying. If the school doesn’t offer to reimburse airfare and pick you up at the airport, ask them to reconsider.
Many employers pay for your housing in addition to providing you with a teaching stipend. Find out where you’ll be staying and whether you’ll need to bring supplies like linens, dishes and other sundries. If the employer doesn’t arrange for housing for you, then make sure to ask for a higher rate of pay in return. Don’t work for someone that skimps on wages and refuses to provide adequate housing.
Transportation to and From Work
In your new home, if you don’t live near your classroom, you’ll have to make sure you can get to and from work. Ask your employer how people usually travel between their homes and the school, and find out whether or not public transportation will be available.
Paid and Unpaid Holidays
You may receive paid time off for holidays that are celebrated in your new country, and you can ask for paid time off so that you can take vacation days here and there. Just make sure you know whether you’re paid for time off so that you can budget accordingly.
Sick Time and Health Care
Because health care costs can mount up quickly, it’s crucial to establish in writing who pays for your health care. Also, before you’re sick or injured, you need to clarify whether you’ll receive paid or unpaid sick leave.
On one hand, it’s expected that TEFL teachers to pitch in and put in a few extra hours here and there. However, you need safeguards built into your contract to make sure that you’re not always giving away uncompensated effort. Establish how many hours you’ll be teaching each week, and establish how you’ll be paid for any extra hours. In addition to writing down how you’ll handle overtime, set firm boundaries once you’re actually in the classroom.
Split Shifts and Weekend Work
If you’re teaching English to adults, you may be asked to work split shifts or weekends to accommodate learners’ work schedules, so research the workweek norms in your destination country. Put your schedule in writing, and decide whether or not you’re willing to accept split shift or weekend work. If everyone in the country works weekends, you may have to just deal with it.
Decide ahead of time which sticking points are negotiable and which aren’t, and be willing to be flexible as long as you don’t compromise on your values. As your career progresses, you’ll get better at negotiating TEFL contracts. Expect to make mistakes at first; just don’t repeat those mistakes in future negotiations.