You have been offered a new teaching job in a new country. It’s exciting, but make sure you know what you’re getting into. Here are key questions you should ask before accepting the offer.
From the job description (and probably experience) you might know what to expect in terms of teaching duties. This includes preparation, teaching, assessing, marking, reports, parent/teacher communication and conferences, and homework. You need to ask about commitments that you should be aware of in addition your teaching routine. Do you need to submit lesson plans? Are you going to be observed? Any drop-ins? Will there be peer observation? Do you need to lead any after school activities? Do you need to organise class events? If so, how many and how often? Do you need to attend staff meetings? How often? What’s the purpose of such meetings?
Are there ready-made lessons which you just adapt to your class or do you have to come up with your own activities? Are there any online resources made available to teachers? What kind of assessments are you expected to conduct? Are they standardised? In some countries, assessments simply mirror a student’s performance, in other countries they are used to follow a child’s developmental journey. In the latter situation, parents are never told the scores- they’re merely informed of their children’s overall performance. How closely are you supposed to follow the given curriculum/syllabus? How are the lessons structured? What’s a typical timetable?
Professional development opportunities
What opportunities are there? Do you need to decide on what you would like to work on or is it decided for you? Some schools expect a proactive approach where you submit a plan of professional objectives and ways to reach them. Other schools design a plan for the whole school and teachers are expected to participate in the respective workshops, INSETTs or conferences.
Are you going to be observed? How often? Who carries out those observations? Is there peer observation? What are you expected to prepare for those observations? What’s the purpose of those observations? Do teachers hang out together after school? If you’re a parent, you might want to ask about life as a family. If you’re single, you might want to know how single-friendly is the country you’ll move to. At this point, the best and most honest feedback would come from fellow teachers. Ask if it is possible to speak with existing or former teachers in the same situation as yours.
Find out everything you can about the school from: their website, other school and teacher forums and even parents. Remember the saying ‘take care of your teachers and they’ll take care of your students’, schools where parents are happy is a good indicator that teachers are happy, too. Read all available school reports and school rankings and understand what they mean. Use a variety of sources to discover the big picture.
What are the policies on student behaviour and discipline? What’s the attendance policy? How does one report latecomers, motivated absentees? Internal and external communication policies? Child protection? School personnel code of conduct? This one is particularly important if you move to a country with a culture that is very new to you. You may need to take into consideration what to wear, what you can and cannot eat or drink, what topics to avoid teaching, topics to avoid discussing, gestures which might not be acceptable, etc. Is there a teachers’ union?
Is accommodation provided? What type? Can you change it? Can you have cash instead, so you can find a place on your own? In case the school does not provide accommodation, ask them what you could afford with the given allowance. How far is the school from the given accommodation and how long is the commute? How many days of holiday? Paid flights? Sick leave? Health insurance? Net salary? Is there a pay scale? What are the conditions for promotion? Tax policy? Pension scheme? Any family related benefits, such as school fees, accommodation types, local allowance, transportation? Will you receive help opening a bank account, setting up all essential house suppliers such as electricity, gas, water, internet/wifi, telephone? Who pays the bills? What about visas? Will the school support you with the logistics involved? Will they cover the costs?
Who are my students? What’s their general background? Do they speak English? Are they EAL/ ESL students? How many students in one class? For the ESL teachers, you might want to know if you’ll teach adult classes, kids classes or both. What’s the school tuition? What are their expectations? Any SEN students expected in classes? Can I choose which age group I’d like to teach? When/how often do children go to library, PE, music, drama and other specialised subjects?
Especially if you’re a newly qualified teacher, you’d like to know what support is available and who you need to speak with from the very beginning. A teacher mentoring scheme would help, if in place. When can you speak to the management team? Who from the management team should you speak with? Who’s the IT person to help you adjust or learn how to use the available technology? Are there special gatherings for newcomers to help teachers integrate easier and faster?
To all experienced teachers out there reading our list, what else would you add?