Before we go any further with this question, we first need to make an important distinction. Your number of teaching hours (known as contact hours) will not be the same as the number of hours you will be expected to actually be in school (known as contract hours). Most teaching jobs include admin duties on top of the actual teaching time.
We also need to make it clear that different types of ESL teaching jobs have different typical classroom hours. Here we look at the three most common types of jobs available.
Government and Private Schools
In the majority of cases, overseas schools work normal office hours. This means that you should expect to be in school, Monday to Friday, from around 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. This rough timetable adds up to around 40 hours per week. Of course, not all those hours will be spent actually teaching. A typical teaching job would require in the region of 20-25 hours per week in the classroom. Outside of these hours you might be expected to plan your upcoming lessons, mark your student's homework, or take care of a range of other administrative tasks laid out by the school.
With this type of job weekends are usually free, although many teachers choose to top up their main income by taking on a few private students in their spare time.
If you work for a government school you can expect to earn above the average monthly salary of the general population where you are located.
In some countries it is common to work as an ESL teacher for private corporations or businesses. In some cases your lessons will be delivered to staff members during their normal working hours, while in others the teaching will take place outside of the working day.
If your lessons are delivered outside the normal working day you will be in the classroom in one of the following time frames:
1) Early mornings before the staff start their regular work
2) During the lunch break
3) Evenings after the work day is finished
If you happen to be working for more than one company with different class hours it can lead to a very long working day. In some cases you might not start work until the evening, meaning you are free all day.
Private Language Schools
Language schools typically exist to provide additional lessons to school children or adults outside of normal school or work time. In this environment most lessons will be scheduled for the evenings and weekends.
It is often the case that if you work on the weekend you then only teach on odd or even weekdays. For example, Monday is day one, so odd weekdays are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while Tuesday and Thursday are even. An average working week would include around 25 hours of actual teaching, with another 10 or more hours set aside for planning lessons and other duties.
Some Cultural Aspects
When we talk about a normal working week, this might mean different things in different parts of the world.
Muslim countries (which are home to many very popular teaching destinations) might recognize the weekend to be Thursday and Friday, Friday and Saturday, or even Saturday and Sunday depending on the country.
If you find yourself teaching in Europe or Latin America, you might come across a midday break (siesta) which can shut down schools for up to 2 hours every day. This is more common in rural areas. It is also worth checking on the timetable if you are heading to China as midday breaks are not uncommon there.