School v freelance
A comparison of School and Freelance teaching.
|Most teachers will, at some time or another, teach in some sort of language school. The other usual way of teaching is as a freelance teacher.
In many ways working for a school has advantages especially for those who are new to the profession - but it also has its downsides and this article tries to weigh up the pros and cons. Somewhat ironically, the purpose of most language schools is not to teach languages. This often comes as a surprise to people new to the profession, but many of the actions of language schools can only be fully understood once this point has been grasped.
The purpose of most language schools is, naturally enough, to make money - and most of their activities are geared towards this primary goal. Teachers and their salaries are a necessary evil, and schools will do all they can to employ them minimum number of staff at the minimum possible salary. This may mean regularly changing teachers if the "old hands" start to realise their worth and demand more money. It also explains why some schools are keen on their students learning via computers. Computers don't need to be paid, take time off sick, get pregnant or need holidays. Whether they are the best solution for students is another matter.
|Working as a freelance teacher is the obvious alternative to working in a school. This article explores the positive and negative sides for teachers working freelance. It should be clear that this way of working is not for the faint-hearted, and is probably not the best course for inexperienced teachers. Nevertheless, for those who make a go of it, it can be a highly rewarding venture both in financial and emotional terms.
If you do not have an acceptable command of the native language then this is a difficult route to follow.
Your monthly/weekly salary should be guaranteed. Emphasis is on the "should" here, are there are many horror stories of teachers having to fight for their pay. So try to check out a school beforehand.
|If you chose the market segment properly then your potential hourly rate could be many times greater than the hourly rate paid by a school.
Your income will depend on the number of students you are able to find, your ability/reputation as a teacher, and local competition; it will not be guaranteed. You
|Many schools will give you a "bookend Schedule" - a schedule where you have to work from seven to ten in the morning, and then seven to ten in the evening. While at first it may seem pleasant to have your afternoons free, this type of schedule is very trying. It is impossible to have any sort of social life in the evening and get enough sleep.||In theory you should be able to create your own schedule, although in practice you will also be constrained by the needs of your students. If your classes are mostly in businesses then you can expect to have classes early in the morning, at lunchtime and after work. The definition of these time periods will depend on the society.
If your clients are mostly private individuals then things change somewhat and evening or weekend work is more likely.
|You won't have to find students but you have no control over the selection of the students you have to teach. If you don't like them or they don't like you there is not a lot you can do about it.||In theory you will only need to teach students you want to teach, although if there is a shortage of students your choices may not be quite so free. You will possibly have to learn a new skill: marketing. You will need to go out and find students - at least initially. It may take some time to build up a good clientèle.|
Holidays and sickness
|The school should give you paid holidays and sick leave. Check your contract thoroughly before commencing employment; see here.||You will not be paid for these. Look at insurance.|
|School||Students who are paying their own money for individual classes will usually be highly motivated. On the other hand they are also likely be highly demanding.|
|School||You will be accountable to nobody but your students for the quality or content of your classes. Naturally, this also means that you had better give good classes as your students will be free to vote with their feet whenever they like.|
|You will probably have little control over the coursebook chosen by the school. You may love it or hate it, but you (probably) won't be able to change it.||You will be able to decide whether or not to use a coursebook. At first, some students - especially if it's their first experience with a class outside of a language school - may feel uncomfortable about not having the "support" of a coursebook should you decide not to use one. This is likely to change as they come to realize the benefits of a more personalized approach to the learning process.|
|School||You will need to consider how to deal with cancellations. If your students have paid in advance than you may wish to be pretty ruthless about this, but on the other hand you will also want to keep the student and your reputation.
Typically teachers use a sliding system along the lines of:
(Times are illustrative only.)
|School||You may need to budget for travelling expenses and travelling time. You may have to spend a considerable period of time travelling between classes, although the same thing may sometimes happen if you are sent to work offsite by a school. You might be able to adjust individual fees to allow for travel distance.|
If you are reliant on your own vehicle, make sure that you have a replacement in the event of accident or breakdown.
Materials and equipment
|School||Unless you intend to follow a coursebook you will have to create your own topical classes, materials, handouts, listenings, etc.|
|School||If you are conducting lessons in your own premises, you will probably need liability insurance of some kind depending on local regulations.|
|Working for a school should give you the opportunity to make contact with other teachers of your nationality, start some networking and exchange opinions and class ideas in a social setting. If you are fortunate one of the "old hands" will be prepared to show you the ropes if you are a new teacher.||Your opportunities for social contact with other teachers may be reduced, as will the ongoing exchange of material and ideas. Partial solution: sign up with Teflpedia!|
|School||You will be responsible for things like your own invoicing and tax records.|
Location of classes
|School||If you are a good teacher your reputation should spread by word of mouth. You may, however, need some way to start things off.
Opinions vary over whether you should go for niche marketing and aim for a particular group, or go for the shotgun approach and claim that you are a specialist in "everything". If you decide to be more targeted, the method of marketing you use will depend on that market. For instance, if you are trying to "sell" yourself as somebody specialising in giving expensive classes to executives, your marketing literature will reflect this.
Try to maintain a list of satisfied past and present pupils who will agree to give you a (good) reference. Similarly, if possible and appropriate, keep in touch with ex pupils both to use as examples and to promote your teaching.
Your language ability
|Not knowing the local language is no big impediment if you are working in a school as the arrangements are made by the school authorities. Indeed, some schools maintain that they prefer their native English teachers not to know the local language as this means that they are obliged to use total immersion.||Unless you are confident in your ability to negotiate and explain things in the native language (or have somebody to do it for you) then you will have a lot of problems going down this route.|
|School||The price you charge for your classes will vary depending on the country in which you are working, the amount and nature of the competition (if any) and the sector you are targeting.
Some teachers like to charge private students in advance to reduce students' tendency to cancel classes.
|School||You may wish to obtain a PC and encourage your students to use one as well. For example students can also use memory sticks to record "homework" on if they are coming to you or are in a business environment. (You could even use the internet to conduct lessons.)|
If you are lucky the school will pay your lesson preparation time. Check this out beforehand.
Working for a school should give you the opportunity to make contact with other teachers of your nationality, start some networking and exchange opinions and class ideas in a social setting. If you are fortunate one of the "old hands" will be prepared to show you the ropes if you are a new teacher.
If you are new to the profession then working in a school should give you a lot of valuable experience of teaching a wide range of abilities, group sizes and ages. You may also get an opportunity to practice teaching English for specialised purposes.
The school should ensure that appropriate tax deductions are made.
These are the negative factors of working for a school.