As the number of language schools (and teachers) in many cities expands, the trend seems to be for schools to hire teachers on a freelance or hourly basis instead of on a salary. It may be because they need a lot of teachers at peak times only, or it may be that as fewer and fewer schools offer the benefits that usually accompany a salaried position, more and more schools find that they don’t need to provide these benefits to attract teachers.
Most teachers look at having a fixed salary as a good thing, and for good reason. Being salaried means that you can count on your income; if there are fewer classes one term, you won’t be paid less, and if one-to-one students cancel, your income isn’t affected. Salaried teachers very often also receive more traditional benefits like health insurance, housing and paid holiday time.
However, salaried teachers very often work to the upper limit of their teaching load, and many schools find ways to “make up for” weeks or months when there are fewer teaching hours…such as by requiring teachers to exceed their contracted maximum number of teaching hours if there is more demand later.
The main disadvantage of being paid by the hour (and this is by the teaching hour and doesn’t take preparation into account) is that you do not have a guaranteed income. How many hours you teach will depend on your situation; some schools don’t have any salaried teachers and pay all of their teachers on an hourly basis, so it’s quite possible you will have a full load. But if you don’t, your paycheck is smaller.
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Being paid hourly also gives you the freedom to turn down hours if you’d rather not teach any more. This “freedom” may not seem like such if you feel obligated to accept work out of financial need, but if you are happy to have more free time and scrimp a bit, being hourly can work out nicely.
I would also include in the advantages of being hourly the greater ease of drawing a line between what’s part of the job and what’s not. Schools can get away with requiring salaried teachers to get involved in all sorts of non-teaching work which does not translate into additional pay. As an hourly teacher, it is a bit easier to be “off the clock” and go home; preparation and grading the occasional exam are givens but aside from that, your time is your time…and if you do work in your time you get paid more.