How to get a TEFL job in Prague

Updated 2011-06-14 12:07

Finding work in Prague is not as easy as it was 10 years ago. The jobs are still out there. These are tips that I personally give my TEFL students during their course in Prague. 

I figured I'd write my personal tips down and hopefully it will help a couple of new teachers make it in their new host country.

If you want to be successful abroad, you are going to have to work. If you don't have a solid work ethic, you most likely won't make it very far or stay very long abroad. That being said, enjoy the article in its original form.

I've personally trained and job coached about 1000 new TEFL teachers as a TEFL trainer for The Language House TEFL, so I think I have a pretty solid base to give some suggestions.

Here it goes

1. The Training is More Important than the Certificate you Receive
Yes a TEFL certificate will open doors for you and help you get interviews, but it's the training and what you bring to that interview or demo lesson that will get you the job. Learn as much as you can, practice as much as you can and continually try and improve your techniques.

2. Skills are More Important than your Grade
TEFL teaching is not based on a GPA. Whoever is interviewing/watching your demo will see in minutes if you are a skilled teacher, the same way that a basketball coach could assess a player's ability in minutes. Work on these skills, cultivate them. You are going to be competing against other people for the job. The school is most likely going to hire the teacher that performs the best.

3. Start Early!
Don't wait until after your course to start looking for work. You should be submitting CV's and going on interviews before the course ends. If you wait to long, you'll lose motivation and you may simply go back home.

4. Send Massive Amounts of CV's out Initially
This is probably the least efficient way, but it does help. Just get a list of schools from your TEFL course and send individual cover letters to every school you can find.

5. Make Sure Your CV is Written Correctly. Generally a page is enough. You may or may not put a picture on it. Make sure to have a full description of your course and its content. Make sure to have references from your trainers. Make sure to have a cover letter as well. Generally a page is fine. If you can get the name and a direct email to whoever is responsible for hiring or setting up interviews, that's a plus

6. Don't Stop There
This is where unfortunately a lot of TEFL teachers end. They send out an email, don't hear back from anyone and then give up. Don't be like this, it's a recipe for failure. Do you have any idea how many CVs a school gets a week or a month. Lots. It's extremely tedious to go through each one and call/email back each job applicant. The school doesn't do it. They'll email a few of the people and ignore the rest.
Follow this up with

A. A second email

B. A phone call

C. Actually stopping in and meeting the school in person

7. Get an Interview at all Costs
Call the school up and request an interview. Even if they say they don't have work available, ask them politely anyway if you can come in to do a demo lesson. Large schools (well practically all schools) go through TEFL teachers fast. Yes they might not have something now, but they will eventually. If you make a good impression, they'll remember you and contact you.
I can't tell you how many CVs I've received over a period of 7 years. However, I pretty much remember every single demo lesson that I ever sat in on. Even if we didn't have work at The Language House if a teacher made a good impression I always contacted them later when we did.

8. Good Quality Paper is a Must for CVs
If you turn in a CV, use nice paper. Whoever takes it is less likely to simply throw it away. Also if it's slightly off white, it will be easier to find in a stack of others. Seems basic but it works.

9. Network and Make Friends
The best way to get a job is through a recommendation. Find out if any teachers you know, knows someone that is leaving the city. The school will be looking for a replacement for them. If you can get a recommendation from a teacher that is already working at the school, you'll most likely get hired or at least be asked to come in.

10. Use your TEFL Provider's Job Assistance.
Most TEFL schools have a job assistance person working to help find trainees jobs. Use them. Ask them for help. Contact them before the course begins. Let them know what your looking for. Get a list of past graduates that you can contact for help. Ask them to write you personal recommendation or something like that.

11. Obviously Dress Nicely at the Interview
I can't tell you how many times I've had an interview and someone walks in with a T and pair of shorts. It just looks bad. You don't have to dress like a penguin, but semi formal - even a tie or a nice dress can't hurt.

12. Don't Wait for the Perfect Job
This one really annoys me. There's always that one guy that has a lot of job offers but is simply waiting for one specific school. What happens? All the jobs dry up and they're left with nothing. It's your first teaching job, take whatever hours you can get in the beginning. If you don't work relatively soon after your course, you are going to forget everything.
Besides pay and a few other things, the quality of your job will depend on your relationship with your students. Also, it's a lot easier to get more hours if you are currently working.

13. Don't Postpone Interviews
I don't care who is in town or what your plans were for that day. Go to the interview. If you don't someone else will and the job is gone. Schools don't take weeks looking for teachers. They take a day. If they find someone they like they will tell them right then and there usually. They won't wait to interview you a week later when you have the time. Letna Park beer garden can wait people.

Tips For Interviews and Demo Lessons


Obvious ones

A. Don't be late - and I mean 1 minute late

B. Dress nicely

C. Bring in Lesson Plans - I tell my graduates to have 5-10 fully functional lesson plans. If you didn't keep yours from your course, you should have. Anyway, it's easy to create a few mock ones. Have the materials with you and make sure they cover a few different levels, perhaps a receptive skill, but definitely a few on grammar.
You want to show the school that you are trained, that you have ideas and that you can demonstrate that you know what you are doing. The more plans you can bring in the better

D. Be Charismatic and Speak Clearly.
When I'm interviewing someone, I'm thinking one thing - 'Is this person going to be able to engage a class for 90 minutes or more at a time?' Show a bit of energy (not too much) Show some enthusiasm. Speak clearly, have good eye contact...etc You're in Prague. It's your first year here - what more do you want? Show some excitement. Show a little passion. Don't worry you'll have years to develop into the stereotypical pissed off angst ridden Expat. This is your time to have fun now.

E. Don't Let the School Worry About You
For example this is what I honestly heard someone I was interviewing say

Me: So, why did you decide to come to Prague and teach English?

Them: ......mmmmm ...well.... it wasn't QUITE like I was RUNNING away from something, I just didn't have anything going on back hom-

Me in My Head: No freaking way

Schools don't want to babysit you, they don't want to worry about you, they don't want students to call them up and say your not there, they don't want you to have an anxiety attack in two weeks and move back home...etc

Demonstrate that you are confident. Show that you like the city, the culture and teaching. Make them see that you are not going to run away after week.

F. Ask Questions but Don't be too Demanding
It's your first job. Your going to get the schedule that they have. Don't turn it down because you don't like getting up in the morning. If it's unreasonable, then don't accept THAT class. That MIGHT be possible, but don't overdue it. There will be a time where you will learn to say NO. When you are experienced and your school is throwing classes down your throat, sure! Go ahead and say No! It feels good. However, not when you just started and not on your first job.

G Know your Grammar and Know your Course and Know TEFL
They will ask you questions about Grammar, TEFL and your course. You better have a good answer and it better sound smooth. Go over what you went over. Go over the tenses and other grammatical points. Go over TEFL techniques like lesson planning structure and all of that stuff. Know what training you received. If they ask you what you did on the course, you should be able to fire back with an accurate description

H. Don't BS an Answer and Don't Stall.
It looks horrible. If you don't know something, say so immediately. It's OK, people expect it. Just say you'd have to look that up. Nothing is worth than trying to stall or mumble your way out of a question.
I've seen it dozens of times. I ask what the 3rd conditional is and the person thinks while making strange sounds and guess like answers for 5 minutes before they say 'I don't know' Just say it in the beginning

I. Follow up the Interview with a Call
Leave your CV of course and call back if you didn't get a direct answer

Tips for Demo Lesson

Make it or Break it. It's that easy

The school will decide if they want to hire you based on 1. your demo lesson and 2. your looks (joking)

You should have one prepared. It should be practiced and ironed out. You should have already done it in front of a few people if not your trainers.

A. Practice it
B. Have a trainer look at it
C. Make sure you are doing what the school wants you do to.
Many schools will email what they want you to teach. Teach that, not something else
D. Make sure it's engaging
E. Make sure it has props and is really interactive
F. Make sure to error correct students (or whoever is pretending to be the student- usually the director)
G. Many schools follow an ESA/PPP format use that. Have a solid intro, lead in questions, studies, activation.
H. Know what's happening
Know what your target lexis is, grammar focus...etc

You most likely won't have to do the whole thing, but you should be able to stop and explain what comes next if needed. Don't be staring at your lesson plan reading things off. You should be able to kill this thing by this point.

What Comes Next?

If you've done those things correctly, usually a job! and all the fun that goes along with getting legal. The lines at the foreign police. The random stamps. The tape. Oh the fun we had, oh the way we were - but that's for another thread. Overall it's a pain, but the process is easier now than it was a few years ago so you'll be fine.

Let's get back to teaching

Make the effort to do a good job and constantly try to improve. If you are a worthless teacher, you and your students are going to be miserable. If you do a good job, you'll get more hours and will generally feel like a functioning person.

I will say this about TEFL teaching in Prague. You get in what you put in.
I honestly believe that the quality of your teaching has a direct correlation with the quality of time you spend abroad and in this city. I don't care if you don't plan on being an English teacher forever. You are one now. This is what you are doing. Why not make the most of it? Why not try to be as good as you can get.
Talent and intelligence or fluid things. You might be teaching students that are very powerful and influential people in their companies or in the city itself. They'll see the work, the talent and the effort and they will appreciate it. You might even be offered a non teaching job at their company. It does happen. My point is simple. Make the most of it.

What if I Didn't Get the Job?

Don't worry! Don't let it get you down. There are dozens if not a hundred schools in the city. Find another one and improve. If your skills, knowledge, charisma and technique are all good - You WILL get a job at some point. If the city is not working out for you and your unhappy - forget about it. Go somewhere else. That's the beauty of this profession. You don't change jobs you change continents

Best of luck,

Chris Westergaard
The Language House TEFL

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