How do I check the reputation of a TEFL school employer?
This post is for Tricia – who asked the question in the “Request a Topic” section – I hope it helps answer her questions.
It’s important to check the reputation of your employer. You can ask directly on the Internet’s discussion boards, but there are at least two problems with that approach. First is that people with bad experiences tend to dominate the discussion boards.
Good for them, they want to warn you off of something that didn’t work for them. But there is an imbalance on the discussion forums – the happy people are out living their lives and enjoying themselves. The unhappy people are busy trying to burn a former employer.
This is not to say that there are not employers who should be “burned” – but understand the imbalance and what is going on with discussion boards.
Second, the Internet’s forums can’t know every school in the world.
So, bottom line, your best bet is to talk to the other foreign teachers at the school where you intend to work.
Ask! Be sure to ask more than one teacher at that school. Be aware that everyone has a different and very personal experience abroad and while one person loves the job and employer, others may not. Ask more than one person. Ask specifically what they like or don’t like about the employer. Interpret what they say as to what might bother – or not bother – you.
Wages and Salary: Some employers, in some countries, are well known for not paying on time, or paying less than was originally agreed to. Be sure to check this issue with the current employees. A very good friend of mine once worked for a school with these problems, but stayed for several years knowing – from talking to others and over time seeing it – that the employer always made good on amounts owing – at the end of the contract.
Problem? Yes, but she loved the job and the students, so she tolerated it knowing the money due was coming. And she was paid in full at the end of her employment there. It worked out just fine. And she saved an additional bundle courtesy of the employer holding back some of the funds.
Is a contract worth the paper it is written on?
In some parts of the world, particularly Asia, contracts are looked at as “flexible” instruments – quite a different understanding from how we view them in the West. Once again, ask the current employees if the contract is followed – and if not, why and how it is violated.
These issues should not always be the kiss of death for a potential job. Some small issues are not so important in the big picture if you really like a job, its location and what you will be doing and are getting paid.
TED’s Tips™ #1: My personal opinion is that too many people worry too much about “scams” and being hustled.
Yes, there are problems out here, but worrying about a “boogie man” behind every tree isn’t the solution either. People who worry too much, who are too suspicious NEVER leave home, never leave the confines of their safe, soft and boring worlds to get out and experience the bigger world out here.
I sometimes think that people who are overly concerned are really just looking for a reason to NOT go. That’s okay, they probably shouldn’t go as the real world out here is not the safe, cuddly and nurturing world they are looking for. It is a fantastic place – but by no means perfect.
TED’s Tips™ #2: Risk = Reward
Yeah, all this requires a leap of faith and much of your NEW experience will require that you kind of hold your breath and just hope it works out. And – 98% of the time it will. I can’t tell you the number of times I have signed blank contracts, forms written in a language I could not yet understand, even contracts that were different from my original one to “keep the authorities happy”.
I am NOT suggesting just signing anything that comes your way – I am suggesting that things often take a direction that we from the Western world are not familiar with and becoming outraged or going ballistic, leads to nowhere. Yes, you might end up at home and safe – but is that what you really wanted?
Know that probably 95% of schools pay on time, treat their employees fairly and follow the contracts that they have signed. You just don’t hear about them. Their happy employees are out enjoying their new world.