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Some cold, hard facts about teaching in Poland for newbies


delphiandomine 88 | 18,475
17 Feb 2011 #1
I've had enough of seeing all the nonsense posted on here, so I'm going to post some things that might be of interest to any budding teachers here. This isn't relevant to Warsaw, but relevant to everywhere else for a newbie teacher.

1) The most important - salaries.

There is so much rubbish written about this online. Everywhere I turn, people are quoting incredibly unrealistic figures - both too low and too high. The reality?

An inexperienced teacher should bank on getting around 30zl an hour net. That's from a school which offers a stable amount of hours, with a contract that's actually worth something and with good working conditions. Of course, more is possible - but a pragmatic, realistic wage to aim for is to get 30zl an hour net in the very beginning. It's poor, I know - but if you're coming to Poland with no life experience, just a degree and some sort of teaching certificate, then it's about what you can hope for. At the end of the month, you should be aiming to have worked at least 80 hours. That's 2400zl net.

It is possible that you can be offered a fixed contract for less money - I've seen one for 2000zl a month guaranteed, regardless of holidays. Such a thing is a good choice for a new teacher - the money isn't great, but it will be stable and reliable. Again though - these are mostly seen in small towns where attracting a native is difficult.

Final thing : don't expect any sort of return airfare included. You might, in a small town, be able to convince the school to pay for some sort of accomodation - but this is generally not advisable.

2) Working hours.

These can either be heaven or hell, depending on your perspective. A new teacher probably won't have the clout to demand great hours, but working 2 hours in the morning and 4 in the evening Monday-Thursday is realistic. Any reputable school should be able to offer you at least 20 hours a week - though expect it to be more like 30 hours in the beginning and then down to 15 at the end of the year. Either way, you should be able to average at least 20 hours a week between September and June.

Depending on the school, you might be asked to sign a non-compete clause. These are quite common in small towns, but these should only be agreed to if you're guaranteed a stable income. Do not, under any circumstance, sign a non-compete clause if the hours aren't guaranteed in the contract.

3) Private classes.

These can either be easy to obtain or exceptionally difficult. I don't know the magic formula myself - but the golden rule is advertising, advertising and more advertising. As for what you can earn - my advice is never to go lower than 40zl an hour. Anything less, and people simply will not respect you for what you are - a serious professional. Equally so, there is no higher limit - you should charge what you feel you can get away with.

4) Cost of living.

This can be as high or as low as you want it. Generally speaking, for a newbie teacher in a city, I'd recommend sharing a flat with others. For this, you'll be looking at somewhere between 400-800zl a month, depending on location. If you want your own apartment, then it's possible to get somewhere for about 1000zl a month. Expect however, that any such flat won't be particularly big.

As for living costs - food is cheap if you can cook and prepare meals from scratch. If I was so inclined, I could probably feed two people for as little as 10zl a day. Likewise, public transportation is cheap - between 70-100zl for a monthly pass. Even for a newbie teacher, drinking can be cheap - 5/6zl beer is about normal if you avoid the "nice" places and drink in studentish bars. Generally speaking, if you live as if you would back home as someone living in a new city on one salary, then Poland is affordable.

There is a but. A big but. The price of many things are actually higher in Poland than elsewhere. For instance, clothes and electronics are more expensive in Poland than in the UK or USA.

5) Social life.

In a university cities, you'll find friends easily if you try. A lot of young people speak English and will be more than happy to take a foreigner under their wing - you can use websites such as couchsurfing to find new people to hang out with.

Outside of the university cities, it might be more difficult. Don't be surprised if your fellow teachers aren't interested in socialising - the mentality in small towns is rather different. But of course, you can always try and create a social life for yourself. But - be warned - it can be very mind-numbingly lonely if you aren't extroverted enough to find company.

6) After the first year?

Expect that work will dry up in about late May, early June. So, you'll probably want to go home for a few months. If you do, plan wisely, use your experience and your salary can go up dramatically. Someone motivated enough to do so can easily take home well over 3000zl net in their second year. Being pragmatic, outside of Warsaw, you can make 4000zl a month net with a bit of effort.

Any questions? :)
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,839
17 Feb 2011 #2
Haven't you got any lessons to prepare?
Wroclaw Boy
17 Feb 2011 #3
Any questions? :)

Yeh, whats the deal with broad strokes?

These can either be heaven or hell,

This can be as high or as low as you want it.

These can either be easy to obtain or exceptionally difficult.

jonni 16 | 2,485
17 Feb 2011 #4
I'd pretty well go along with what Delphi has said, but add that in Warsaw both earnings and cost of living are much higher than in the provinces.

Also, in-company work tends to pay more than language school classes and is more likely to go on through the summer. Though the work is more demanding and senior managers (you are not the first or even the fifth native speaker teacher some of them have had) don't usually want 25 year olds. Unless they're pretty or charismatic or exceptionally good at teaching. Ideally all three.

The market is changing fast in Poland right now, and not for the better. People have been saying this for years.
OP delphiandomine 88 | 18,475
17 Feb 2011 #5
Yeh, whats the deal with broad strokes?

Mainly because everyone has different expectations. Putting a few posters up with "koreptycje" isn't going to get you much, but getting a very well connected client can see your phone ringing constantly. Likewise with the working hours - split shifts can really drag you down in winter - but if you like a sleep in the afternoon, they're a pleasure. Same with the cost of living - sure, you can shell out 25zl for a glass of JD and coke, or you can pay 10zl and drink the local alternative that tastes exactly the same anyway.

I'd say Poland is very much exactly what you make of it - you can work 20 hours a week and have a pretty easy life, or you can work 40+ hours a week, half kill yourself and make a fortune.

Though the work is more demanding and senior managers (you are not the first or even the fifth native speaker teacher some of them have had) don't usually want 25 year olds. Unless they're pretty or charismatic or exceptionally good at teaching. Ideally all three.

The big issue with corporate clients is that (in my experience) - if you get them through a school, what the school (and HR) expects versus what the client expects are often two totally different things. I've lost count of the amount of times that I've been told "here are the objectives" - only to discover that the student actually thinks that the objectives and course book are rubbish and not worth bothering with.
jonni 16 | 2,485
17 Feb 2011 #6
The big issue with corporate clients is that (in my experience) - if you get them through a school, what the school (and HR) expects versus what the client expects are often two totally different things.

That seems to be the same around the western world. Which is why one of the key skills (and this isn't for amateurs of kids on some 'gig') is to reconcile those two and still be on top of the situation.

I'm sometimes irritated by threads on PF like "My girlfriend and I are plannin' on bummin' around Yoorup when we leave high school and wanna catch a gig teachin' for a few weeks. We only need to score enough money for food", Equally ones from people a bit more serious but haven't heard of the usual internet forum for EFL teachers (which after all, is pretty well known throughout the profession).

But your advice is as usual, sound.
Teffle 22 | 1,321
17 Feb 2011 #7
My instinct (and experience in Ireland) tells me that private lessons are the way to go for a number of reasons and from both the perspective of student and teacher - surprised that it can be "exceptionally difficult", relatively speaking, in Poland ?!

(Assuming a sensible approach to the thing that is: advertising, as Delphi said, well planned and researched lessons, flexibility etc - all common sense though I would have thought)
OP delphiandomine 88 | 18,475
18 Feb 2011 #8
My instinct (and experience in Ireland) tells me that private lessons are the way to go for a number of reasons and from both the perspective of student and teacher - surprised that it can be "exceptionally difficult", relatively speaking, in Poland ?!

It can be very difficult in terms of Polish clients reliability - frequent cancellations are normal. It's very rare that you'll have a week without any cancellations - looking at this week alone, I had two cancellations and (quite likely) another tomorrow because of the weather.

(Assuming a sensible approach to the thing that is: advertising, as Delphi said, well planned and researched lessons, flexibility etc - all common sense though I would have thought)

This is the interesting thing - I've managed to snatch quite a few clients through offering total flexibility. Most people don't even take advantage of it, but the fact that it's offered really does seem to help.

One interesting thing is never to make false promises.
Teffle 22 | 1,321
18 Feb 2011 #9
It can be very difficult in terms of Polish clients reliability - frequent cancellations are normal.

Oh jesus tell me about it.

It's weird because I had always considered Poles to be pretty conscientious regarding punctuality/etiquette and being upfront/direct etc generally - it doesn't apply with lessons though.

Cancelling lessons at very short notice without explanation, being suddenly uncontactable etc is common IME.

One interesting thing is never to make false promises.

Ironic then ; )
Harry
18 Feb 2011 #10
I'd say Poland is very much exactly what you make of it - you can work 20 hours a week and have a pretty easy life, or you can work 40+ hours a week, half kill yourself and make a fortune.

40 classes per week means 30 hours' work. Not exactly killing yourself!
mafketis 24 | 9,124
18 Feb 2011 #11
It can be very difficult in terms of Polish clients reliability - frequent cancellations are normal.

Which I often didn't mind. I always found private lessons to be completely exhausting mentally. With a larger group you can keep things going without losing to much energy but having to focus on one person for an hour with no breathing room took a lot out of me.

I finally stopped doing them when I realized I was going to each and every one hoping it would be cancelled.

I still get asked occasionally but things'll have to get pretty grim before I go back to those.
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,443
18 Feb 2011 #12
It can be very difficult in terms of Polish clients reliability - frequent cancellations are normal. It's very rare that you'll have a week without any cancellations - looking at this week alone, I had two cancellations and (quite likely) another tomorrow because of the weather.

the only solution to that is to charge ahead and if the student misses the class you still get paid. Lay ahead the rules and they will know not to be late:). 24 hours notice works in most cases. One needs to train them a bit.

However, that is one of the reasons I do private lessons.

However, that is one of the reasons I do private lessons.

correction- that is the reason I don't do private lessons.
Harry
18 Feb 2011 #13
the only solution to that is to charge ahead and if the student misses the class you still get paid. Lay ahead the rules and they will know not to be late:). 24 hours notice works in most cases. One needs to train them a bit.

Get them to pay one lesson in advance and tell them that the cancellation rules are the same for you as for them, i.e. if you cancel within 24 hours of a lesson, their next lesson is free.
Trevek 26 | 1,702
18 Feb 2011 #15
I wonder about the 20 hours minimum for reputable schools.

There has been a big drop in numbers across the country and my school was not able to offer me 5 classes this year through sheer lack of numbers (and our school is the top one in town, our numbers as down less than others).

Another thing to consider is that some schools insist on long-term teachers opening their own firms (gets around them paying ZUS etc). While this is normal, as i understand it, they are now not allowed to make you sign an exclusivity clause if you have your own firm.
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,443
18 Feb 2011 #16
While this is normal, as i understand it, they are now not allowed to make you sign an exclusivity clause if you have your own firm.

that is correct:). I was told that that my school does not mind me working at another place, which I will not do since I have more hours then I can handle at the moment:), however, that might not be the case next school year.
ChrisPoland 2 | 123
18 Feb 2011 #17
40 classes per week means 30 hours' work. Not exactly killing yourself!

I guess it depends on how your classes are organized. For me, 40 hours of class time means about 60 hours of "out of the house" time. I have to drive from company to company, allow for traffic, park and from time to time eat something and even use the WC.
alexw68
18 Feb 2011 #18
I have to drive from company to company, allow for traffic, park and from time to time eat something and even use the WC.

Lightweight. Use a catheter like the rest of us :)
ChrisPoland 2 | 123
18 Feb 2011 #19
But with all the coffee I drink (brought to me by totally hot secretaries), where would I hide the enormous bag full of urine?
alexw68
18 Feb 2011 #20
where would I hide the enormous bag full of urine?

In that suspiciously healthy-looking pot plant beside the water cooler. (Having first checked that said plant is a real one and not the more usual plastic replica)
jonni 16 | 2,485
18 Feb 2011 #21
Empty it into the coffee machine like the rest of us do.
ChrisPoland 2 | 123
18 Feb 2011 #22
Good newbie advice ;)

PS. Pot plant is something different in American English. I won't tell you how and when I figured that out :)
Olaf 6 | 956
18 Feb 2011 #23
Come on! Real men have steel bladder tanks! You p1ss whan you want to, not when you need to. You tell that bladder of yours the nex tim... <went to restroom>
ChrisPoland 2 | 123
18 Feb 2011 #24
But real women such as myself tend to have teeny tiny bladders which need regular emptying usually at the most inconvenient of times. It is important for a newbie to scope out the WC facilities in all new places of employment.

PS. When a student offers you "cleansing soup" instead of coffee, say NO.
scottie1113 7 | 898
18 Feb 2011 #25
I have 5-6 private lessons a week. I charge 50zl an hour and I've never advertised. All my private students are referals and I won't have lessons with someone I don't want to work with. My "rules" are pretty simole. We either have lessons in my kitchen or in a coffee shop or pub, but pubs and coffee shops are only for daytime lessons. I don't ask them to pay in advance nor do I have a 24 hour in advance cancellation policy. Things happen in life unexpectedly, and if either one of us wakes up sick in the morning and can't make the lesson, we just notify each other. The one cardinal rule I have is that if they don't show up for a lesson and haven't notified me, they're no longer my student. This has happened only once in four years, and it happened on the first lesson. That's not a bad record, and it's why I prefer referals to advertising.
Teffle 22 | 1,321
18 Feb 2011 #26
Sounds like a nice set-up Scottie
Trevek 26 | 1,702
18 Feb 2011 #27
This is a useful thread. Any chance of making it a sticky?
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
18 Feb 2011 #28
40 classes per week means 30 hours' work. Not exactly killing yourself!

How much preparation should a beginner teacher be prepared to do for a 45 minute class?
JaneDoe 5 | 114
18 Feb 2011 #29
5 mins: Brush his teeth and apply hair gel.
Trevek 26 | 1,702
18 Feb 2011 #30
That's all the time he'd have because the female teacher has spent 45 minutes doing her make-up...


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