What should I ask the language schools during my interview?
It can be quite daunting to travel 6,000 miles to your next (or perhaps first) teaching position at a TEFL school half way around the world.
So what you don't want to do is end up at a school that doesn't fit you, wishing you were back home.
The best way to avoid a nightmare scenario is to thoroughly vet your potential schools, just as they'll vet you. The best way to do this is both before, and during the interview that you have with them.
First see what you can dig up on the internet. Is the school a a franchise of a large brand (e.g. Disney, English First?) or is it a small independent school?
Visit the school's website (they should really have one especially in this day and age!) How well made is it? How informative? Is it set up specifically with sections for teachers. Or is it just to try and sell courses to students?
Lastly, see if there's any information that you can find on the forums - although I would be careful and take most forums with a pinch of salt, as there are a lot of unreliable rants on them.
Right, once you've determined that the school appears to be reputable, it's time to get your questions ready for the interview.
The format of that most interviews take is that the interviewer will ask you most of the questions first, quizzing you about your previous experience and character, before allowing you the chance to ask any questions that you might have.
A good interviewer may have already covered several of the following questions, but if not, ber sure to ask so that you can be confident of arriving at a good school!
1. What kind of students do you have?
This is one that you'll probably know already, but if you don't, lead out with this one. Unless you really don't mind which age groups you'll be teaching! Even so, it's useful to know the age and what type - business students, 1-to-1 classes, university undergraduates, kindergarten, the more you know the better prepared you'll be.
2. What's the average class size?
Again, some schools try to ramp up the class size to 60 in China, but others have a policy of having very small, personal class sizes of 2-3 students. Make sure it's a size that you feel comfortable with.
3. Will I be based at one location, or be required to move around?
A very important question! Some ESL schools are known to 'farm out' teachers to other primary and middle schools, with no classes taking place on their actual premises. It's a sneaky thing to do, and requires a lot of extra commuting from the teachers.
Not all are this bad though, and some schools might have a contract with one or two government run schools that teachers are required to go to for one or two classes a week, with the bulk of the teaching being on their own premises.
4. What else is in the job description, apart from teaching?
Schools vary widely on this, with some schools requiring lots of extra administration work, and some letting you plan at home. Extra-curricular activities can also fall under this category, for example with student parties like Halloween and Christmas.
5. Is there a specific syllabus to follow?
Most schools do have a set curriculum to follow, but it's always nice to know if it's going to be one that you've followed before, or if it'll be a bespoke one.
If the school doesn't have a set curriculum, then you'll need to be aware that it'll require an awful lot more planning on your part!
6. What kinds of resources are available for teachers?
An obvious one, but it is an indicator of how well the school treats teachers. If you're going to a school that provides interactive whiteboards, wifi access, photocopiers, scanners, computers in the office and bookshelves of resource books, then it's likely they value their teaching staff.
7. What's the teacher turnover like?
If turnover is high, or teachers leave without re-signing contracts, or even leave before the end of their contract, then something fishy is going on. There are always one or two teachers that leave early, it seems, but for it to consistently happen means that something is probably not quite right with the school.