Checking your Potential TEFL Employer’s Reputation

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 care use amongst online buyers of medications 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.

Reasonable Expectations

As I have been a website hobbyist for years, people regularly contact me with questions about teaching English abroad.

The reason this section is titled “Reasonable Expectations” is because those same people often ask very unrealistic questions about working abroad. It is as if all practical reasoning as been abandoned.

Statements and questions I have been asked include:

“Of course the school will plan long paid vacations as they will want me to travel around their country.”

“I don’t need to wear a suit and tie, do I?” this from someone who will be teaching at a university.

“How will I negotiate my ‘relocation package’?” from someone headed to a country that does not pay airfare, accommodation or other “relocation” costs.

“Should I ask the students any questions?” from someone who will be teaching Conversational English.

“I won’t need any training as we will just chat, right?”

So . . . it is time to set the record STRAIGHT. Teaching English abroad is not about YOU. It is about a school that has students that need your help.

Sorry to say, they don’t plan long paid vacations for you so you can “tour” their country. Nor do they tend to offer “relocation packages” unless you have a graduate degree and lots of experience.

And, sadly, YES, they might like you to wear a suit and tie.

And . . . students need to talk in your class – they will not be satisfied to just listen to you jabber about yourself.

Most students pay what is for them a large amount of money to have a seat in your class. And they will have some expectations about what you are to provide.

WHY would you suspend all the knowledge you have about how to seek work and how to succeed at a new job, just because you are heading abroad?

I would recommend that you still dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Some people in some countries will come to work in ragged jeans and a t-shirt. Does that mean you should? No!

If your host country counter-parts are wearing a suit and tie, you should too (common for university jobs). If they are doing the same job you are, dress as they do, not as your fellow foreign teachers do.

About the, “Should I ask the students any questions?” issue – please know that students need to talk – to practice talking and to get more experience with it. Are you really so interesting that people would pay to sit in a class and listen to you talk about yourself? Sorry to tell you, but probably not. Actual talking experience is exactly how students learn to talk. A bit like learning to ride a bicycle, you need to get on it and RIDE, not just talk about it.

What I am suggesting is that you learn more about teaching English. TEFL eBooks is a good resource. And that you pursue your new career with the same diligence and attitude that you would a new career “back home”.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Dress for Success.
This is YOUR career – don’t dress and groom as other foreigners do. Dress as your local counterparts dress or even one notch up from there.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Arrive prepared to TEACH.
The days of “chatting up” a class are LONG gone. Arrive on the job – ready to teach – ready to impart new skills for your students. Learn how to teach BEFORE you arrive. It’s not rocket science and just a bit of preparation will make you a much better teacher.

Money: Teaching English

Everybody asks:

How much can I make Teaching English Abroad?


But . . . what you need to ask is, “How much money can I save teaching English overseas?”

These are two very different questions.

In some countries you may be provided a relatively modest wage. But with no income taxes, free accommodation, paid or reimbursed airfare, even sometimes subsidized utilities and very low cost of living . . . other than purchasing food – almost everything you are paid is “pocket money” or discretionary income.

The other side of the coin is teaching in some European countries with what might seem to be a very decent wage, but where you must pay for your accommodation, taxes take a huge bite out of your income, airfare is not paid, utilities and transportation are very expensive and the cost of living is very high – and you save nothing. Might even be out of pocket.

So we are going talk about savings, not earnings, here – because what people really want to know is:
Can I pay down my student loans?
Can I pay off my debts?
Can I save enough money to buy an apartment or house – or a car when I return home?

The answer is, “Yes, you can.” It depends only on where you go and your qualifications.

Let’s talk in generalities about regions of the world and specifics about some of the largest EFL markets (China, Korea, Japan, Thailand and more).

EFL Teachers in Korea and Taiwan, for example, typically can save as much as US$1,000 per month or more. Your lifestyle, of course, will affect your personal bottom line as well as how currencies go up and down – but the general idea is accurate. In both countries you will need a BA/BS degree.

TEFL professionals in the Middle East and particularly the Gulf States can sometimes triple the savings of Korea, but the ME will generally require advanced degrees and previous experience for the better positions and some cultural aspects of the region are not to everyone’s liking.

EFL Teachers in China report a good lifestyle on their wages – but that they are usually unable to save significant money, though US$100-200 a month are possible if one is careful.

Thailand and Mexico and many countries in Central and South America offer wages that afford a modest and comfortable living – but serious savings are difficult to come by.

So, as you ponder the decision about teaching English overseas, you’ll also need to consider your financial situation and that will affect what countries you want to look at for your TEFL career.

If you have student loans or other debts, consider only countries where your likelihood of success is great and the average teacher is able to comfortably save at least the amount of your obligations and enough to travel and enjoy the region (Primarily Korea, Japan, Taiwan and parts of the Middle East).


My personal experience is that I started in TEFL with very little in the way of assets – and over the period from 1992 to 2005 was able to buy several rental properties in the USA and pay them off (see TED’s Tips™ below). All the while teaching in four different countries and traveling to many others.

Overall, for me anyway, it was an excellent lifestyle combined with an ability to save. But, it is not all roses and happy faces. I would always prefer to work in a country like Thailand and sit on a beach – but I have had to make some choices and spend some serious time in countries like Saudi Arabia where earnings and net savings can be very high.

TEFL was a real career for me and I needed to make sure I had sufficient funds for retirement (I am now retired at the young age of only 58 – and enjoying that beach!).

TED’s Tips™ #1: In TEFL you are essentially working for yourself, responsible for yourself. Plan for your future carefully.

Working overseas, you might never be paying into a pension fund and if American, you won’t be paying into Social Security. You must plan income for your later years if you intend to stay abroad for a long period of time – or forever. Ignore this tip at your own peril. I’ve have actually seen a destitute old foreigner (Caucasian Westerner) digging through garbage cans, just 100 meters from a beautiful tropical beach. Very sad.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Do you research. Check and double check SAVINGS – not Earnings.

Ask on forums, ask me, ask others: be sure you know before you go.


Why Teach English?

WHY go abroad to teach English in a foreign land?

Why not!

Why not indeed. When you can live a dream of traveling and seeing the world, learning of new cultures and all the things that our schools forgot to teach us!

Why not, when some people are saving up to US$1000 and more, paying off student loans and paying off debts – ALL while literally seeing the real world out here.

Teaching English is the path that many people take when they want to travel the world and still earn enough money to live well and support themselves without drawing on savings.

WHY go abroad to teach English in a foreign land?

Why not!

Why not indeed.  When you can live a dream of traveling and seeing the world, learning of new cultures and all the things that our schools forgot to teach us!

Why not, when some people are saving up to US$1000 and more, paying off student loans and paying off debts – ALL while literally seeing the real world out here.

Teaching English is the path that many people take when they want to travel the world and still earn enough money to live well and support themselves without drawing on savings.

And, you really can have a great time and enjoy this work as you experience the greater world and its cultures.

Tens of thousands of teachers of English ply their trade around the world to support their travel habit and their desire to experience, learn about and understand the greater world at hand. A year abroad is like another four-year degree!

TEFL Newbie supports the idea and wants you to help you make good decisions about it.  Is teaching English abroad the right thing for you?  Is it the right time for you?  Can you meet your goals by heading overseas?  Do you have realistic ideas about what living abroad is like?  Do you understand the stresses and problems involved while working in a culture with different ideals and expectations?

Understand that life overseas offers a much more challenging (and rewarding!) environment than you are used to in your home country.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Beware, life abroad can be addictive!

I headed overseas 20+ years ago as a Peace Corps Volunteer and then as an English teacher and have enjoyed it so much that I don’t really ever intend to live in the USA again.  It is a great place to visit and I enjoy seeing my family – but I know what they are missing!

TED’s Tips™ #2:  Go TO something – don’t run AWAY from something.

People who have a goal of something they want to see and do, to accomplish – are far more likely to succeed overseas. People who “run away” from their problems always take them to their new location.  They are their problem – though they will never figure it out (of course!).

TED’s Tips™ #3:  Do your research.  Go abroad with realistic expectations.

It is important to know if this is the life for you.  And the only way to get a good handle on that is to have a reasonable idea of what the situation is on the ground at your desired destination.

More than a few nice people have contacted me over the years asking about jobs in luxury resorts, as I live on a tropical island with many luxury resorts on it.  These potential teachers are often  expecting that they can get free lodging in a nice five-star villa and eat free meals at the resorts fine restaurants and live a jet-set lifestyle.

Wow – sign me up!

Now .  . . resort teaching jobs can be some of the best English teaching jobs in the world, but I am sorry to tell you that they aren’t going to house you in a US$3000 a night villa while you work there.  Nor are they likely to start uncorking expensive champagnes as part of your “meals on the job” benefit.


Stay tuned, we will get to all of these issues and much much more.



Teach English Abroad

TEFL Newbie is your opportunity to learn about the world of Teaching English Overseas.

If you want to get started and are still back in  your home country, then this is the best place on the Internet for you.

If you already teach English abroad, but are still newish and would like to improve your situation, this blog is for you too.

We are offering a free eBook called Seven Secrets of Success Abroad and lots of free training and information about how to get yourself overseas – in a good job – Teaching English.  And how to succeed while you are busy experiencing the real world our here.

When does all that start?

Our first blogs will be released tomorrow.  Get ready!

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See you tomorrow.