Adventures In TEFL Contracts (Finally, The Finale)

If you got to the end of my posts on contracts, you found out there’s more where that came from. When I hear of an EFL teacher in a fix, I almost naturally think: “could it have been avoided?” Often the answer is yes. But the better question is “would the average person have been able to avoid it?” Maybe – but don’t be too sure.

Check out a few of my adventures with contracts:

I signed a contract some time ago in the month of June – not in person, but with a reputable school I knew and had dealt with previously – so I could count on the job in September. The year started great. There were regular seminars and good academic support. Then in October there were several meetings dedicated to the necessity of changing the contract due the school’s dire financial outlook, which they attributed to change in student “demographics” (more early morning and evening students, fewer in the day).

I do believe that this was the real reason…I don’t think anyone had made a conscious effort to mislead the teachers earlier in the year. They also made an effort to give the teachers as a group a voice in some of the issues, but of course it was the school that set the tone and options for negotiation. The whole structure of the contract changed, and without going into great detail, I think in several substantial ways. So the terms that most teachers had taken the job under were no long applicable. One option was not to sign the new contract, and to part amicably.. and go find a new job in the middle of the year. They would give a reference of course, but that was only useful if a potential school would still consider the teacher after realizing they had left in the middle of the year.

In another school, it transpired before I even saw the contract that the time presented as two or three weeks paid holiday at Christmas actually included the obligation to “make up” those hours at other points in the year. It’s not really something I would think to ask about, and it’s quite likely the contract was worded in a way to fit with that. How did I find out? By getting in contact with past teachers. For the record, this wouldn’t necessarily have been a deal breaker, but I use it as an example that there are many different things that you may not even think to ask about. Have a look at’s Job Information Journal to get a taste of the complex contract structure at one well-known school for some other examples.

Neither of these situations were the end of the world. In fact they were relatively minor things. Maybe the more important point is that – while a contract will obviously provide some protection for you, especially in the case that the school is law-abiding (which I like to think most are) – focusing only on the contract is not the solution. In some cases and in some countries it seems that it is almost routine for schools to disregard the contract.

So what to do instead? Advice here and also here.