- How many teaching hours will I have?
This may not be as important a question if you’re working in an established school, as their hours tend to be rather uniform, but in a learning center, hours can fluctuate like crazy. You’ll want to know if you’ll have guaranteed hours if you’ll be paid hourly or how many you’ll be teaching a week. If you are prepping your own classes then you won’t want to teach much more than 20 hours but if they have their own curriculum and minor prep is needed on your part then around 30 should be fine. I teach 30 a week now at a company that has all the lessons prepped and I’m head teacher and I still haven’t lost my sanity, so it’s doable.
- Will I need to prep my own classes?
The follow up to that question will be whether or not you’ll have to prep your own classes. If you’re teaching six separate classes a day at all different levels and having to prepare and create all your own material, you might as well give up now. Although there is freedom and good experience in prepping your own classes, you want to make sure that the work load will balance out.
- What’s the dress code?
This is a mistake I made. Learn from me! I didn’t ask about dress code and showed up to Hong Kong with a bunch of dress pants and nice blouses and shoes. To my chagrin, my company is hella casual; I’m talking shorts and sandals. I have not once put on those black pants and my dress clothes go unworn. I’m a light packer and to know that I left at home a lovely casual wardrobe all because I didn’t ask makes me squirm! Be sure to ask so you don’t also show up with a half useless wardrobe.
- What will be the age of my students?
A lot of ESL jobs say you’ll be teaching all ages but be sure to ask anyway. When I interviewed with my company they were very straight forward about the 3-13 year old age group. There were no surprises for me although some people who came in afterward said they were never told they’d be teaching such young students. I don’t know what got lost in translation or who was at fault in that situation, but needless to say they are not the happiest of campers due to their dislike of young children. Also, if you happen to have a preference of a specific age group, be sure to let your company know. You won’t be guaranteed that age at all times but I’m sure they’ll try and work with you to give you a nice work environment. Besides, there’s most likely another teacher who feels the polar opposite of you.
- Can I leave the accommodation provided?
Oh, the drama of accommodation. Many teaching jobs come with accommodation, whether paid or not. It’s important to know what the stipulations are on how you can leave the provided housing or not. Whether it is bad housemates, poor location, or making friends once you’re in country, there are many reason why you may choose to vacate the premises. You need to know if it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg or if it’s just a matter of a month’s notice. Also ask about transportation allowance if you end up being placed farther from your school than desired.