This article was written with the idea of teaching in China in mind, but it is relevant for teachers headed to many different countries.
When you begin your search for a teaching position abroad, whether this is your first or seventh time doing so, you’re probably thinking about a lot of different things. Where do you want to go? How will you make sure that the school is a good fit? What about your pet(s)?
It’s important to keep in mind your short- and long-term goals during your search to make sure that you’re happy with your new job.
Before applying to schools
Before you begin to apply, make a list of the most important things to you. These can range anywhere from “warm climate” to “tuition for my son.”
Think not just about practicalities of salary and benefits, but about the culture within the school as well. Are you looking for a particular type of professional development? Are you hoping to get experience in a new curriculum? Do you want the opportunity to learn the local language offered by the school? Make a list of all of these things and keep it in mind throughout the process.
While some of these items you may have to be flexible on ultimately, trading one thing for another, keep in mind which are deal-breakers. If you dislike the cold but the perfect position comes up in Harbin that offers the right curriculum and professional development as well as tuition for your kids, it’s worth considering packing a thicker jacket. But if a school isn’t going to offer tuition for your kids and that’s a deal-breaker for you, it’s probably not the right place to apply.
During the interview process
Make sure to ask questions during your interview with the school such as, “What type of professional development opportunities do you offer?” or “What’s the tuition remission situation for my dependents?”
It shows the schools that you’re taking the interview seriously, and it also gives you the opportunity to clarify some sticking points.
It’s also perfectly reasonable – and often, welcomed! – to ask questions about the culture of the school. “How would you describe the environment of your school?” is a good question to ask. For example, if it’s important to you to work collaboratively with other teachers, feel free to ask about the opportunities to work with your team.
Before signing a contract
Say you’ve gotten an offer – congratulations! The school seemed great during your interview, the administration has been welcoming and easy to communicate with, and your interviewer was friendly. Before signing on the dotted line, there are a few things you should do to make sure that the school is the right fit for you.
First, you should ask the school any questions you might have about the contract. If you want clarification on any points, this is the time to ask, not after signing. These questions can range from, “Will you assist with finding housing?” to “Can you clarify the holiday policy?”
Second, you should find out if the school can connect you with any current teachers who might be able to speak on their experience. Typically, they’ll give you a Wechat ID for someone who would be willing to speak with you, and this is where you can ask various questions to ensure that the school will be a good culture fit for you. These teachers will be candid and can give you a good view into what life is like at the school.
Oftentimes the school will give you a timeline for when you should respond to their offer, but if you need more time to decide, feel free to let them know that and ask if an extension would be possible.
Once you’ve gotten all the answers you need, you can make an informed decision you can feel sure about. Once you sign the contract, it’s time to focus on getting everything in order, not look for other opportunities.
If you have other questions about signing a teach abroad contract, contact your placement consultant and discuss your questions with them! We’re happy to look over a contract that you’ve received as well, just to ensure that everything looks legitimate.
Lastly, if you’re looking to teach in China, be sure you understand how release letters work before you sign a contract.