Who Gets Hired to Teach ESL in Europe?
You don’t necessarily need formal credentials or past teaching experience to find
employment teaching English in Eastern Europe.
There are plenty of people without credentials who get hired to teach because there are not enough prospective teachers to meet the demand. Though a teaching certificate, past experience, or a related degree will attract the attention of employers, it won’t necessarily guarantee you a job. Often, demonstrating desire, good communication skills, and an interest in the culture and language of your chosen country will be enough to get you hired.
As a general rule, the closer you get to the more popular, larger city destinations, like Budapest and Prague, the more likely it is that employers will expect you to possess a teaching certificate, teaching experience, or both. By the same token, the larger and better known the English school, the greater the possibility that applicants will be required to possess a TEFL certificate or a degree in education in order to even be considered.
Before Accepting a Job
Don’t necessarily accept the first job offer you receive. It will be worth your while to shop around, particularly if you are expected to sign a contract for longer than three months. You can prepare for the decision-making process before you even begin your job search, perhaps even before you leave. If you can, track down and talk to someone who has taught in your country of choice, or write ahead to a few schools to inquire about their hiring practices. Find out about work schedules and compensation terms.
Inquire about how much preparation time is necessary or expected outside the classroom. When you begin your job search, set up a checklist for every school you get information on or apply to. Include pay, size of classes, level of students, expected time commitment, and any benefits. Find out whether the school will help you get a work permit or find accommodations. If you are well organized in the early stages, you will be able to better assess your options before you make a final decision. Some of the most important questions to ask are:
- How long has the school been in existence, and how many students does it have? (You want to make certain that you’re not wasting your time with some fly-by-night, take-the-money-and-run business.)
- How many hours per week do most teachers work? What are the normal teaching hours? Are outside duties such as administrative tasks expected of you as a teacher? (You need to be able to plan you work time and know in advance if you’ll have enough time to pursue other activities.)
- How much and how often are teachers paid? Are there any other forms of compensation or assistance, such as subsidized accommodations, etc. (Most schools in Eastern Europe will only offer pay as compensation, but it’s worth asking about anyway.)
- What sort of assistance and materials are provided for teachers? (This will give you some indication of how committed the school is to teaching. Some are just in it for the money. You will appreciate working for someone who sincerely supports your effort.) Are teachers’ books provided? Does the school own class sets of any books? Does the school have an audio cassette tape player or VCR?
Word of Warning
In order to avoid any undue hassles, take note of the following precautions:
- Employers have no legal reason to hold onto your passport. Do not, under any circumstances, surrender your passport to anyone but the appropriate immigration authorities. It should be sufficient for someone to record your passport number, not to take it into their possession.
- Do not sign any contract or written agreement with an employer until you fully understand what will be required of you and what your compensation will be. Signing a contract is the final step in any negotiation. Beware of anyone who wants to rush you into signing a contract.
- Whether oral or written, be sure to clarify any part of an agreement that is vague or unclear to you. Don’t let someone make promises they can’t keep. And remember, any good business agreement can be (and should be) committed to paper.