Look For These Qualities In A Good ESL Job7 min read

You need to know what to look for in a good ESL job. Not all jobs are created equal. Failure to understand the differences between a good ESL job and a potential nightmare can leave you stuck in a bad situation for the length of your contract.

What are the elements of a bad job?

Because different people are going to have different measuring standards for what makes a good job, let’s start off examining what you don’t want to come across when looking for an ESL teaching job. Most of the positive elements I will discuss below are going to be my own opinion or preference developed from years of working in the industry and what I have noticed as well as what I have gleaned from conversations with others. However, ALL of the negative elements I will list below will be definitive red flags that should let you know to run the other direction if you ever come across them in an ad listing or at any time before you sign a contract (and maybe even after for some of these).

  1. Your potential employer is asking you to work illegally for part of or the entire duration of your contract – this is the number one red flag right here that you should not take a job. I’m going to repeat that if your employer is asking you to work illegally or in this case without the proper documentation or visas then you absolutely should not take the job under any circumstance. These teachers found out the hard way that you shouldn’t be working illegally. Learn from their mistakes. It would be nice if we lived in a perfect world where employers were always fair and never shady but the fact is that we don’t. There are a large number of schools in many countries throughout the world that don’t follow proper procedure when hiring teachers either trying to save money or because the schools themselves don’t have the proper documentation to be operating. This can land you in a lot of trouble including a trip to prison and large fines before being banned from the country with a glaring stamp in your passport that could keep you from entering other countries as well. No one wants that. So, no matter how tempting the offer do not take any job that is asking you to work illegally. If you lack a degree or some other sort of qualification there are a number of countries where you can work without a degree and getting a TEFL certificate isn’t as hard as you may think.
  2. The employer seems to have no respect for your schedule – you are being hired to teach classes. No more and no less. So if there is a required number of hours in your contract, or during certain times, that is fine and is to be expected. However, you are not a slave and you should not be asked to work significant hours outside of what was agreed upon in your contract. This is generally going to be more of a problem with private schools than public schools since the school day is already set. Make sure that the school is upfront with you about the hours you will be working and whether or not there will ever be any overtime or outside hours expected. If the answers to this are vague then it might be a good idea to look for ESL teaching jobs at a different school.
  3. The school is asking for top credentials but only wants to pay the bare minimum to get it – this is another red flag that the position you are looking for isn’t for you. If the job application is listing a degree from a top university, a TEFL certification, 5 years of experience, a DELTA certification, a CELTA certification, a teaching certificate, etc. as their requirements but they are paying well below the average of what other schools are paying then this isn’t the job you are looking for. Don’t undervalue yourself. If you have all the credentials then there is no need to take a sub-par job when so many schools in various countries are willing to pay for top quality talent. You may have to do some shopping around and you may have to settle for a different country than what you originally wanted, however, in the end, you will be better off with the higher pay and better benefits.

What makes a good ESL teaching Job?

  1. You have clear guidance on what your job expectations are – you should be competent enough in creating lesson plans and guiding your own classroom. However, a good school that is running a quality ESL program will have at least some guidance on what is expected of you as a teacher and how you should work with the students. This isn’t just from an academic perspective but also from a disciplinary perspective. Good schools will not only have a policy but will also follow it. You should never be left in the dark about how to deal with troublesome students and the proper chain of command. Make sure to ask about these things during your interview and if the answers are clear then chances are you are the people running the school are competent and on the ball.
  2. Schools should be looking for a minimal level of qualifications – as mentioned above, though, they should be willing to pay for those qualifications. A school that is looking to hire qualified and properly certified teachers is one that puts stock in hiring the right people who are best for the job. While this isn’t always a guarantee that a school will be great to work at, it does show that they are trying to present a good image to parents by hiring well-qualified teachers. This also probably means they aren’t going to ask you to work illegally or do anything else that paints them in a bad light to the parents.
  3. The reviews left from other teachers who have worked at that school previously are good – this should be obvious. Always do your research about a school before accepting any offers. When you are looking at reviews you should see positive comments such as the school always paid employees on time, class sizes are manageable, the administration is easy to work with and provides clear guidance, etc. If you see comments contrary to this and especially if there are numerous comments pointing towards this such that a trend shows then chances are that trend isn’t going to be different for you. Look for schools that have left a legacy of satisfied teachers.

How does this help me?

There is a clear line between the good and the bad. As you can tell the biggest trend in what makes a bad school has to do with their willingness to hire teachers who lack qualifications as well as their cutting of corners on things like visas and work permits in order to save money or skirt below the radar. The good schools are looking to hire well-qualified teachers and provide clear guidance on what they expect. Don’t be willing to settle for a bad job at a school simply because it’s easy or convenient and don’t fall for bad advice that any of these bad schools may give you about working without permits. You don’t want to end up being another teacher with a horror, which can easily be found around the internet. Always remember during your hunt for an ESL teaching job that if any of the above red flags I mentioned are raised or any of the benefits I’ve listed aren’t present then chances are it isn’t the right job for you. Don’t undervalue yourself and certainly don’t add value to schools that are shady or less than scrupulous.

I want to help you find an awesome job in the ESL industry and then excel at it. I’m a TESOL certified teacher with over two years of experience working both online and offline. I have worked with students ranging from young learners to advanced level university speakers and have worked in recruiting and hiring, teacher training, and content creation. I’ve seen the good and bad of the ESL industry and I’m here to tell you about it.