Signs Of A Good School, Part 2

25.jpgFinding a non-dodgy school ranks high on the agenda of many TEFL job seekers. But how can you know if a school is “okay” or not? There’s general research – seeing what schools in a region tend to offer – and talking to past teachers – as well as just plain common sense. (You can also read the TEFL Logue’s Signs Of A Good School Part 1.) And of course there are degrees of “okay-ness” ; schools will not all fall easily into the categories of “good” and “bad”, and how good or bad may even vary from year to year.

Here are a variety of things I might look for when first meeting or visiting a school:

  • Before the first visit, I’d put some thought into what information they offer – on their website, in their job ad, when first speaking to you. How do they present themselves?
  • Do they provide materials and resources – and not just the class book to teach from?
  • Do they describe opportunities for development, such as seminars or workshops, without being pressed by you to explain them?
  • Do they appear to have a plan for how classes will “go” – in contrast to seeming to favor a “let’s wait and see” attitude?
  • That said, are they honest in representing that sometimes they don’t know and there are inevitable hitches? Don’t expect them to give you all the dirt on every possible problem, but it’s good if they present possible difficulties or ask how you will deal with them (“What do you think will be the most difficult thing about adapting to life here?”)
  • Are they relatively prompt in correspondence? Does what they say sounds like they are actually responding to questions you asked?
  • Do they seem have a good relationship with teachers? Do they deal with issues when they come up, even if they can’t always be resolved to perfection, and is there some level of trust between the teachers and the school, ie they don’t keep basic, every day resources under lock and key?

Certainly there are good schools and good places to work which may fall short in a couple of these areas; the point of this list is to give a general idea. Also if you are an experienced teacher and know you can hack it and look out for yourself, you are probably in more of a position to decide if you can compromise in one of these areas. While I value a school that provides a decent number of in print teaching resources, after three years of teaching I have a stock of my own photocopies and am comfortable using the internet and libraries such as the British Council; it’s nicer to have it all at your disposal but this moves down in importance for me.

Try to get a feel for what’s important to you and consider these criteria in light of those.