I had set up four interviews in Teaching English as a Foreign Language before I left. One of my TEFL teachers said to never accept the first job you’re offered. Looking at the rundown of each job’s conditions below, I can see why.
Interview 1 – Formaland, 18/06/10
This school was just outside of Paris (surprising), but teachers get sent to companies in Paris to run courses. Each course is 20 hours split into 1.5 hour classes twice a week – no materials are provided to the teachers, so the teachers need to create the whole 20-hour course from scratch based on the results of the students’ initial placement tests. Already this is unappealing – although I have a good knowledge of English and have a TEFL qualification, I don’t have any real teaching experience, so I don’t think I would be capable of doing this.
A teacher would only start with one contract (so two 1.5 hour sessions a week), and then get more contracts based on student feedback – this means it could be a while until this job would cover my living expenses. The pay is 25 Euros (I don’t remember whether this was an hour or a class) for one-on-one lessons and 30 Euros for group lessons (the groups get up to 4 or 5 students). There would be no paid preparation time which, considering the amount of preparation time required in the job, greatly lessens the hourly rate.
They wanted to hire me. I don’t want to work for them. I haven’t gotten back to them yet, as I’d like to hear from some of my other interviews first, but I don’t think I’ll accept this even if I get nothing else – I just don’t think I’m capable.
Interview 2 – Transfer, 21/06/10
This school was in one of Paris’s main shopping areas (the Opera district, down the road from Printemps and not far from the Galleries Lafayette), so it’s probably a good thing that we get sent to schools, as working in this area would not be good for my budget.
Materials are provided but it’s up to me to choose how I use them, so I have freedom over my lesson plans. Students are automatically given levels based on their initial test results. In busy times I could expect 6 hour days at 18.21 an hour, in slower periods I’d only be working 3 hour days. In slower periods I can negotiate more work on the side.
Class sizes are usually 5-6 (10 students at the most), and 50% of your travel expenses are covered in central Paris.
Downside? There wasn’t actually a job available; they just wanted to meet me for future reference.
Interview 3 – BTL, 22/06/10
I received an email for this job when I was between France and Australia, asking if I’d be able to do an interview on the 16th and start immediately, assuming things went well. I tried to call on the 15th and the 16th, but Renée (the interviewer) was in meetings. I then emailed, and she suggested an initial phone interview on the 22nd. Don’t ask me why there was so much urgency in the original email.
So I originally rang up for the phone interview using Skype, but because the internet connection is really bad where I’m living for the moment (more details next email), I ended up disconnecting a couple of times. As I didn’t have a French sim card yet, Renée, the interviewer, called me back on my Aussie phone, which charges me when I receive calls over here. My credit ran out in 5 minutes (I’ve learned my lesson – I bought a French sim as soon as the call was dropped).
Interview 3; take two – BTL, 23/06/10
I waited in reception for 10 minutes, during which time I was referred to as ‘the Jolie girl’ (I know – I already have a reputation. One of the girls in the office was the one on reception the day before when I was calling for the interview).
In this job materials are provided and they offer a lot of assistance to new teachers – you meet with a coordinator every week to get feedback on lesson plans and there are regular out-of-hours training sessions. All of the teachers use the same series of books, which helps course quality remain consistent, reduces preparation time, and makes it easier if you’re new.
The pay is 16 Euros an hour, 60% of your lunch is covered, 50% of your travel expenses are covered and you get paid holiday leave, which is calculated pro-rata (12% of the time you’ve been teaching). They also give free French lessons starting in October – 1.5 hours a day.
Classes range from individual to 6 or 7, and in busy times I could expect 20-25 hours a week.
So far this has been the most appealing position. However, I may have messed up the interview. We were getting along really well just talking about my background and the job details, and then she decided to quiz me on some class room situations – one was how I’d teach the present perfect tense, another was how I’d use an article in a classroom setting, and I don’t remember the third. I crashed and burned – generally I started well, but ran out of steam after one or two examples. The problem is that I did my TEFL course in the second half of last year, starting in July/August and finishing in early November. For anyone else considering doing this – do your course in the few months before you travel, or revise before you leave.
The interviewer actually made a comment that this is why BTL is weary of online courses (my course consisted of 100 hours online and 20 hours in person). Trinity and Cambridge seem to be respected here. I did i-to-i, thinking that because it’s the one STA Travel organises (though I went directly to the company) it must be a good one. Although the course was good, it didn’t provide teaching experience, so going to Asia first to get some experience may have been more sensible than coming straight to France.
Interview 4 – ICB Europe, 23/06/10
My fourth interview was a two-hour group interview with ICB. The school’s office was in a great little area, right near the Rue Montorgueil.
There were seven of us in the group – four girls and three guys, and I was the only one not from the UK. All of us either had a TEFL qualification, or had tutoring experience. We should find out the results of the interview next week, at which point the successful candidates will get a one-on-one interview.
This school has a training department where everyone gets a 3 hour session before they start to determine whether they need some more training or whether they are ready to go out to companies.
Classes, as with all the other schools, are based in companies and teachers can expect 25 hours a week. Unfortunately we don’t get to find out any details about payment until the second interview.
I performed much better in this interview. We started with a general introduction to the school, then had two written tests – one on grammar (ten sets of questions, each starting with a sentence that you had to correct, then explain what the problem was, how you fixed it and why you fixed it) and one on financial services terms (I knew about half of them and made up the other half – argh, if only it had been a year ago when I was in London reading finance articles for work!) – then a general discussion. This morning’s interview’s discussions about classroom activities had given me some examples I could use, so I plagiarised them and think I did quite well :p