Instead of making folks email me about the questions I asked foreign teachers in Korea, I'll just post them! Save you all a little time and effort. These questions were originally posted on Daves ESL Cafe, but I've added additional ones as I've gone along.
QUESTIONS TO ASK FOREIGN TEACHERS
1 ) What are the working hours? (start time as in, the time you show up to school and the time you actually start teaching..also called "prep time" - stop time - how many breaks and how long, can you leave the school during breaks or not?).
2 ) How many classes per day, week, month are you expected to teach? Is it 30 classes a week or 6 classes a day? They can hammer out your schedule and have you teaching 9 classes in one day and then spread it out for the week...and you really don't want more than 6 classes a day, trust me!
3 ) Does your employer ALWAYS pay on time? (my Director has paid me late before, like a day or so because she forgot but in general, they should always pay on time and not have some crappy excuse. If they are lagging in payments, it's probably a bad sign...)
4 ) Does your employer pay you overtime wages earned or avoid it with creative book keeping? Yes = Red Flag
5 ) Do you get credit for classes on the national holidays or do you get the day off but still have to work your 120 hours before you get overtime?
6 ) When did your employer provide you with a health insurance card? This, along with your Alien Registration Card (ARC), should be provided within the first few days of arrival, NO EXCEPTIONS!!! Without your ARC, you are there illegally and immigration can cause all kinds of drama. Don't let your Directors give you the run around about getting it to you...it should be in your hands by day 3 or 4 at the latest.
7 ) Does your employer pay into pension? No = Red Flag (get clarification about this. You're supposed to contribute 4.5% of your monthly salary and your school is supposed to match it. So once your year is up, you have a nice little chunk of money. My school didn't pay into a pension but I've heard repeatedly that it's mandatory by law for ALL schools, public and private. I don't know what's true and what isnt. I say just ask...if they don't have it, you miss out on an extra $1000 after your year is up. If they do have it, be sure they're actually paying into and not just pocketing their portion)
8 ) Do you get paid vacation days (paid annual leave) stated in your contract? No = Red Flag (I got 10 days, which is standard)
9 ) When and how do you get your holidays? Do you get to select when you take vacation days or does the school tell you? (I chose mine, but I don't think this is normal)
10 ) What extra stuff do you really have to do mentioned or not in the contract? This includes things like staying a little later once in awhile, attending seminars/company gatherings in other cities, etc. These may not be included in your working hours, but you may be expected to do it.
11 ) Is the school having financial troubles? Yes = Don't work there...this was an issue with my school before. To tell if a school is struggling financially, you'll need to ask about the students...like, how many students have quit since you've been there? How many teachers have left? Do parents complain often? Have you always taught the same number of classes or has your class load been reduced dramatically? The answers to these types of questions can indicate if there's smoke...
12 ) Has any foreign teacher ever been fired in the 11th month? Yes = Don't work there
13 ) Does your employer have a history of being physically abusive or verbally abusive? Yes = Don't work there
14 ) Does your employer have a history of "pocketing " deductions for taxes, pension and medical insurance? Yes = Don't work there (My employer was clearly pocketing insurance deductions...not cool!)
15) What are the English speaking abilities of the Korean Teachers and your employer like? So important I think...my Directors spoke no damn English!!! It was very frustrating at times...my Korean coworkers were fine with English though.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE APARTMENT/SURROUNDING AREA:
(a) Did your employer provide you with the furnishings stated in your contract? Will you have a shared apartment or a studio?
(b) What were the overall conditions of the furnishings when you moved into your apartment?
(c) How far is your apartment from the school? Important to know if you'll be on a bus or train for an hour...makes a big difference. I walked to my school so I saved a lot of money.
(d) What is the average cost of expenses? Heating/air, water, food, etc? Ask how much they spend in a month. Let me tell you, my heating bill was off the chains. They were hustling me for like, 250,000 won or more a month. I lived in a "nice" apartment in the center of town so they added in all these "maintenance fees". I was livid. My other friends were paying like 13,000 won a month for heating and I was getting bent over backwards. Be careful.
17. What are the main attractions of the city the school is in? Nightlife? How close are you to big areas like Hongdae, Gangnam, and Itaewon? I'm a bit of a party girl and I didn't like being so far from Seoul, even though I was only about 45 mins. I can tell you right now that the subways close at 12am so consider that when you're choosing a location. Taking taxis late night every weekend can rack up so I'd usually end up partying till the subways reopened at 530am. Above all, it's important to be in an area where you're comfortable so ask as many questions as you can about the neighborhood.