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The TEFL Job Interview

The 10 Most Important Questions to Ask

If you are a new teacher or even an experienced teacher who hasn't taught in a foreign setting before, there are certain things you need to know in order to gauge the desirability of a TEFL job.

1. How many teaching hours does the position involve? 21-24 hours a week in class is the high end of a full-time teaching position. Anything more than that will wipe you out. 15-20 hours a week is optimal in terms of sanity.

2. How many preps will I have? In other words, how many different courses will I be teaching? At the very least, you'll spend one hour of preparation time out of class for every hour in class (a 2:1 ratio is probably more likely, especially if you're a new teacher. Two preps is probably the ideal.

3. How big are the classes? Once a class size exceeds 15 the teacher's job starts to get really tough. It's just too hard to monitor and provide feedback for that many students, and you won't have time to properly review their out-of-class work either. Really small classes can be a challenge as well, since you'll want to have small group activities.

4. What textbook does the school use? The important thing isn't so much which particular book they use but to make sure there is one. You'll probably end up modifying a lot of textbook lessons and you'll create a lot of your lessons on your own, but it's always good to have a textbook to fall back on.

5. What sorts of audio-visual equipment are available? Having regular access to a good CD and cassette player is essential. Also, ask about video equipment, since you'll probably want to watch videos from time to time. And see if there’s a computer lab where you can take or send your students for writing projects, interactive CD-ROM activities, or Internet research.

6. What are the resources for teachers? You will want to know if the school has a library with a good supply of resource books and if there are computers with Internet access available for teachers to use since you'll want to find materials on the Web. You’ll need to be able to print documents from the computers. Copy machine access is also very important: you’ll create a lot of your own materials that you'll need to copy for your students.

7. Who are the students and why are they studying English? Students studying English at high schools or universities are usually doing so to fill a graduation requirement or because it's useful in their major. But language schools attract people from a variety of backgrounds and age groups with a variety of reasons for studying English. Adult professionals often come to language schools looking for business English instruction or other specialized courses. Also, many language schools cater heavily to children and function largely as an after-school program. If this is the case, keep in mind that kids generally don't sign up for classes after school of their own accord. Motivation and discipline can be issues when teaching kids.

8. What benefits does the school provide their teachers? It's not common but still possible that a school might offer things like medical benefits, paid vacations, and holiday bonuses. Some offer reimbursements for your travel expenses to and from their country. And most schools offer their teachers free classes in the local language and history or fun stuff like cooking and dancing instruction.

9. Does the school provide assistance with housing? Some schools have apartments for their teachers; if they don't, see if they can offer you some assistance in finding a place once you get there. Having a native speaker along to help negotiate can save you from getting ripped off by a greedy landlord.

10. What are the visa requirements for the job? If you're going to teach at a university or a primary or secondary school you'll likely be required to obtain a legal work visa. Find out what role the employer will do to help you get the visa and if they’ll pay the fees. Do they have a lawyer or university official who handles the paperwork? Immigration officials can be difficult to deal with, especially when there's a language barrier. Be sure to ask about what you’ll need to bring with you in order to get the visa. Some countries require that you apply for the visa at their embassy in your home country, so obviously you'd need to get that taken care of before leaving.

One final note: If for some reason the pay for the job wasn't included in the announcement or if you're interviewing for an unannounced position, expect it to be brought up by the interviewer. If that doesn't happen and you feel uncomfortable about bringing it up yourself, try a roundabout approach. Start asking questions about local rents, transportation fees, and food prices. This might cue the interviewer to bring up teacher salaries in relation to these figures.