Choosing the Right English Teaching Job in Canada (or the US)
Although many people enroll in TEFL/TESL programs to teach abroad, there are many people who choose to stay right here and begin their teaching careers. Likewise, a great deal of people after returning home from teaching English abroad, also choose to stay in this sector of education. You might not think it initially, but at home in Canada and the United States there is so much demand to learn English; thus there are so many opportunities to teach as well. Also like the job market abroad, not all schools are created equal. In fact, there may be a higher percentage of bad English school in North America, than there are abroad. As someone who is looking to teach English in their home country, how do you avoid working at one of these types of schools? This blog will take a look at some things to consider when starting you job search.
A couple things before I get into my suggestions about teaching English in North America, that I think are important to first mention are: 1) If you plan to teach in North America, make sure you are qualified to teach English at home before looking for a job (In Canada, you almost always need to be TESL Canada certified...please see www.tesl.ca for more info ) 2) I taught English to adults in Vancouver for 5 years and also worked as an Academic Manager at the same school, and now I manage TEFL programs at a University and often collaborate with the English Language Center here. I'm telling you this so you know where my advice is coming from. 3) In an ideal world everyone would be able to choose where they want to work, unfortunately many of us do not get that luxury and have to work wherever they can find a job.....HOWEVER....this advice can help you find the right English Teaching job and also save you from giant headaches in the future.
1. One of the best ways to start separating the good schools to work at from the bad is by checking the school's accreditations. You see in Canada and the US, English schools are monitored by outside agencies and institutes to make sure students are receiving a quality education and that schools are ripping them off. In Canada, ESL schools should be accredited by organizations like Languages Canada, the International Association of Language Centers, Imagine, EQA (in BC), ONTESOL (in Ontario) and so on. Being accredited means you are being watched to make sure the academic and business sides of a school are legit. Your curriculum, support services, students accommodations, etc. must be maintained and improved to keep your accreditation.
2. Do your research before applying. Nowadays it's very easy to find school reviews from students, teachers and staff on the internet. Websites like glassdoor.com, eslreview.org, the pienews.com, and even social media sites like Facebook and Instagram can provide a lot of info about schools in North America.
4. Is the school unionized? This is a tough one for me to write about. I have been in a teacher's union, I've been on the management side trying to work with a union, and I'm currently in a management union at the university I work at. Unions are great for protecting employees rights. In ESL schools, maybe more than any other industry, owners and administrators will try to push the boundaries of employee rights. Schools that are not unionized are notorious for violating employee rights, poor wages and wrongful terminations. Unions will fight for things like extended benefits, salary increases, vacation time, etc. Sounds great right...well not always. Unions also have a way of dividing a workplace. Divisions and strained relationships obviously will arise between teachers and management, but the same thing can happen between teachers. Seniority, wages, benefits are also major sources of division among teachers. It should be noted that not all unions create divisions. Some unions work beautifully in sync with management and unify teachers together...while some do the opposite. Overall, I think this is something you should look for when applying for a job, as most schools with unions will have the stuff together better than non-unionized schools.
5. Is the salary / vacation / benefits competitive with other schools? Again, this is something you should definitely research before applying. A simple way to do this is by comparing job postings. Also, if the school is unionized these benefits will most likely be competitive with the rest of the schools in your area.
6. University Jobs. If I had the choice of teaching position in Canada (or the US) I would want to work at a university. Universities often pay better than private schools, have better benefits, have stronger unions, well-developed curricula, and are just friendlier more professional places to work. Unfortunately, Uni jobs are probably the most difficult to come by. Keep you eyes open for these jobs when looking for work, as often these positions are often given to the person at the right place and right (although experience and higher education helps too).
There are some of my tips for finding the right job in Canada or the US. Please share your tips if you have some and any feedback or thoughts on my advice