1. One of the first things you’ll need to do is choose a location.
There are so many places in the world where you could teach ESL. For many this is basic, for others it could be daunting since there are so many choices. Here are a few basic questions to ask yourself to help you find a better place for you.
What are your interests? Such as surfing, snowboarding, hiking, clubbing, martial arts,etc.
Is there a language you want to learn? Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, etc.
What culture do I want to be immersed in?
Are you looking for an adventure or more like security and saving money?
What kind of environment (temperate, tropical, urban, rural, etc.) do you want to be in?
2.What level/age do you want to teach?
You can teach anywhere from kindergarteners to college and adults. The vast majority of schools (private) have been aimed at teaching kids (aged 8-13 or 14) this is primarily the age range that I taught in Korea and Taiwan. Generally speaking kids outside of the USA tend to be better behaved. Private adult schools exist as well though these are certainly less common.
Do you like kids? How about a classroom full of them? Kids can be loud.
How about the surging hormones of teenagers?
How about several months of paid vacation? University jobs are available in Korea-some can even get in without a teaching certificate- and are generally pretty cushy. In Japan and Taiwan the credentials needed (master’s degree) for these jobs are usually higher.
How many students do you want to teach in a class?-private language schools have fewer students (3-20) per class than public schools/universities (20-45)
3.Choosing a job.
Do you want to work in a public or private school?
-Public schools in Asia are entirely in uniform (the kids). Working in one of these schools would be more like one in America. These are longer hours usually 8:30-4:30, teaching about 4-5 hours a day with maybe at most a couple months paid vacation. Conditions vary. Usually in Korea you don’t need a teaching certificate to do so, most in Taiwan you do, Japan is mix. You can work as an ALT assistant teacher these are considered pretty good jobs, however there’s a longer process to get in to one of these programmes like the JET programme.
-Private schools called Hogwans(Korea), Buxibans(Taiwan), and Eikaiwa(Japan) are numerous.
Teaching hours are usually more but actual working hours are less. Franchises abound. After the kids finish public school they’re off to another school for a solid day of 12 hours+ of school. They are essentially “businesses”. Again conditions vary. Schools are opening and closing down all the time. Many teachers have felt that there duties sometimes can extend up and beyond the “normal” call of what they imagine a teacher to be. Some cater to parents wishes, parents who usually have no idea of what’s actually best for there kids’ level and/or don’t speak any English. Many schools directors don’t speak English either, so there can be communication problems. *Materials and curriculum vary and often they are subpar and/or at an inappropriate level for the students. This can lead to more preparation time and/or poor lessons, better materials are easier to prepare with and lead to better classes.
*What are the three best questions to ask when screening your employer?
A.Get references from past and current teachers. If they have nothing to hide then it shouldn’t be a problem. Schools will likely give you contacts of someone whom they had a good relationship with, so you may have to politely pry from the teacher to get the whole truth out; the school may be good but no school is perfect, something can always be improved upon.
B. Get photos of the housing– If you’re arranging a job from home then this applies. You can also ask the other teachers about it. Many teachers in Korea have found themselves in poor conditions.
C.What materials do they use? See above. If you haven’t taught before then you may have no idea, however you could ask them where their books are published. Often materials published in a non-English speaking country can be full of spelling/grammatical errors and will be somewhat foreign to you.
Lastly I’d suggest just going there, interview there, there’s nothing quite like seeing for yourself.
Ian Patrick Leahy has taught English in Taiwan and Korea. He currently lives in Busan, Korea