In my last post, I questioned the hourly rates for ESL teachers in intensive English programs. I looked at the rates themselves, which can be very low, and the practice of counting class-hours as the basis for the hourly rate, which neglects the time that teachers put in on preparation, grading, and other duties.
There is no simple solution to this, since institutions and programs vary in their expectations of teachers for out-of-class work, and teachers themselves spend very different amounts of time preparing and following up on their lessons. Early-career ESL teachers may burn themselves out with over-preparation (as I almost did), or impose time constraints on themselves (knowing that their salary doesn’t justify an enormous amount of preparation) – which can lead to greater spontaneity in the classroom and can therefore be a useful discipline to learn. Offering an hourly rate that teachers must work within may be the fairest and most workable way to manage all this variation.
Keep in mind, too, that proprietary English language schools are often the first stepping stone into a teaching career for newly-minted ESL teachers, who may have completed only a one-month certificate in addition to their bachelor’s degree. This is a low bar for entry into a teaching job, yet student satisfaction surveys indicate that such teachers can perform well, and the school can be seen as a kind of apprenticeship and nurturer of teaching talent. One teacher I employed did great work before deciding to complete his master’s degree and going on to become a business English professor at a prestigious English language program in Tokyo.
In the end, schools employing hourly-paid teachers should do their best for their teachers, providing resources and programs to develop the skills of their teachers, who may well leave for greener pastures when the time comes. Additionally, hourly-paid teachers should inform themselves about the ESL job market, understand what they are likely to be able to achieve career-wise, decide whether to earn further qualifications, and make good decisions for themselves.