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English teachers in Poland - why are they so unhappy?


Warsaw-fact.
25 Sep 2015 #1
As the old joke goes- what is the difference between life as an English teacher and a pizza. Answer- at least you could feed your family with a pizza...

Over the years I have met quite a number of English teachers in Poland - the main question I keep asking myself is why are they all so unhappy?

Could it be the irregular hours?
Could it be the lack of money in a saturated market.
Could it be lack of security, no fixed contract,health benefits or paid holidays- as in norm in most other industry.
Could it be, teaching the indigenous population a second language drives you to depression/anxiety.
Or as I have concluded myself, Poles have zero respect for teachers as a whole,they are one of the lowest paid sectors in the market. Unless the teaching is specialist for industry you would be better off with that - pizza...

Any teachers out there?
DominicB - | 2,709
25 Sep 2015 #2
None of the above. Not even close. Those are just aggravating circumstances.

The main reason is that they come either with unrealistic expectations, financial or romantic, or they come already loaded with social or psychological problems to start with, especially alcoholism.

A lot of the teachers teachers come with the expectation that they are going to strike it rich and that teaching in Poland is a viable career option, which it practically never is, especially for people in their twenties. Reality sets in and they are unhappy because they have to face returning to their home countries with nothing substantial to show for their time in Poland, either in their pockets or on their resumes. Even those more established teachers who have been here a while and often own their own businesses are having trouble making a go of it because of stagnating fees due to fierce competition.

A lot come expecting to find easy girls (or boys, to be fair, but it's usually boys coming for "easy pickings"), usually because they haven't been successful in their home countries. A good number come because they met a Polish "girlfriend"/"boyfriend" either in their home country or even on-line, and that they will be able to make a life together in Poland. Both end up disappointed when it turns out that there were usually very good reasons why they were so unsuccessful in love at home, and those reasons cannot be escaped simply by packing up and moving to a foreign country, or finding a supposedly naive partner.

Then there's the ones that are lured by the promise of cheap beer. Surprisingly, this is a pretty large group. Sadly, of the dozens of teachers from Ireland I met in my years in Poland, every single one was an alcoholic, in the clinical sense. They think they will make enough money to finance a party lifestyle, and will be able to get drunk practically every night without consequences. They don't last long, and give other teachers a bad reputation.

Of course, these three groups are not distinct and largely overlap.

Of course, there are those who come expecting nothing more than an interesting extended vacation or charity project, and they are generally quite happy, as long as they are not coming for escapist reasons and are able to adjust to the demands of the job.

Then there are the very few, generally older, teachers who came with viable business plans, and were able to set up their own successful businesses, often learning the language and marrying a local. They are a mixed bag. Some were wiped out or almost so by the increased competition for dwindling demand during the financial crisis. Some moved on to more lucrative fields. Some are clinging on to what little they have and trying to make a go of it, with varying degrees of success. But most have packed up and gone home after redoing the math. Those who were able to retool their business models to the new economy are generally doing well and are quite happy, though.
smurf 39 | 1,981
25 Sep 2015 #3
the main question I keep asking myself is why are they all so unhappy?

I wouldn't share the same experience.
Most teachers I've met are pretty happy with what they have here.
Some stay at it as a career, others use it as a stepping stone into other careers.

The money situation certainly doesn't help. It's terrible, but if you came here straight after college at 22/23 as a single person then you'd be fine on that money. It becomes a problem as you get older, find a partner, have kids etc. But there are ways around that. The longer you're here the more contacts you have and the better you are at running your own business.

Things like going to other countries to work as a teacher during the summer holidays can be a goldmine for people

Sadly, of the dozens of teachers from Ireland I met in my years in Poland, every single one was an alcoholic

Nice bit of racial stereotyping there Dom.

I remember the old friendly nice Dom, now he's just old.
lf99
25 Sep 2015 #4
I always enjoyed my time teaching in Poland.
DominicB - | 2,709
25 Sep 2015 #5
Nice bit of racial stereotyping there Dom.

No stereotyping or racism involved at all. Unfortunately, the profession does draw more than its fair share of alcoholics, from all countries, but especially from Ireland, for whatever reason. Definitely not saying that alcoholism is more prevalent among the Irish than among citizens of other countries, which it isn't. Just that it is more prevalent in the pool of English teachers from Ireland than in English teachers from other countries, although Brits come in a very close second. Much less common in English teachers from outside the EU (the US, Canada and Australia), who are far less likely to be attracted by the promise of cheap beer.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,846
25 Sep 2015 #6
Actually Dominic rates of alcoholism DO vary between countries, with it being more prevalent in Europe the further north you go.
So for example a Greek who drinks heavily has less chance of becoming an alcoholic than a person from Britain or Ireland, as we have only been drinking beer for a 1000 years or so, while wine has been drunk in Greece for millenia. So the Greek or Italian will be more immune to alcoholism.

native Americans and aboriginal Australians did not stand a chance when the white man brought 'fire water' over as they did not have alcohol at all.

Fascinating eh?
But back to the topic, I was perfectly happy to teach English in Poland ...:) and no I am NOT an alcoholic, thanks.
What happened to you Dom? You sound so bitter and sour and unpleasant these days.
DominicB - | 2,709
25 Sep 2015 #7
What happened to you Dom? You sound so bitter and sour and unpleasant these days.

Can't imagine why you would think that. I'm having the best time of my life, like I died and went to heaven. My biggest, and possibly only problem is that I cannot get durian where I live at the moment, and if you think alcohol is addictive, then you haven't tried durian.

But back to the topic, I was perfectly happy to teach English in Poland ...:) and no I am NOT an alcoholic, thanks.

Which agrees exactly with what I said. The alcoholics end up having a lousy time in Poland. You had a great time precisely because you were not an alcoholic.
Ironside 51 | 11,510
25 Sep 2015 #8
Not factual info roz, beer has been around for a very long time from the down of civilization.

Unfortunately, the profession does draw more than its fair share of alcoholics, from all countries

Money. Why would an English teacher transferring to Poland as in his own country he/she can make much more and have a career. Whereas in Poland he would be stuck.
Roger5 1 | 1,455
25 Sep 2015 #9
I've just sent out my invoices for September and I'm not unhappy. If you are serious about any career, you can make a go of it. If you are a backbacking tefl-drunk, you get out what you put in.
DominicB - | 2,709
25 Sep 2015 #10
Money.

Apparently, a lot of young people that come to Poland to teach have had considerable difficulty finding suitable work at home, and think that Poland is their lucky break. Alcoholics are over-represented in this group (who wants to hire a drunk), as are people without an education that enables them to be competitive on the job market (including some who have masters degrees in useless fields).

My advice to them has been to stay at home and resolve their personal problems, which is a lot easier to do at home than in Poland, and to reschool to acquire more salable qualifications. Like you imply, coming to Poland doesn't really help with either. At best, it postpones the inevitable. At worst, it hastens it.

it being more prevalent in Europe the further north you go.

So the Greek or Italian will be more immune to alcoholism.

Now that is a racial stereotype. The numbers for alcohol-attributable liver cirrhosis, cancer and injury deaths per 100 000 people is approximately the same in Norway and Sweden as in Greece, the lowest in the EU. It is substantially higher in Lithuania, Hungary and Romania, and is probably connected to poverty in multiple ways.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,846
25 Sep 2015 #11
Now that is a racial stereotype.

actually it is not, take a look at the WHO map.
DominicB - | 2,709
25 Sep 2015 #12
What ^is^ Durian Dom?

Durian is an Asian fruit that looks like an American football covered with spikes and stinks horrible to the uninitiated but tastes orgasmic. Like nothing you have ever tasted before. Even the best things you have eaten in your life pale in comparison. It's like a whole philharmonic symphony of discordant tastes exploding in your mouth in perfect harmony in a way that makes Beethoven seem like Justin Bieber.

Google it.

actually it is not, take a look at the WHO map.

That's exactly where I got my data. Figure 4 in this WHO report:

euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/190430/Status-Report-on-Alcohol-and-Health-in-35-European-Countries.pdf
Dougpol1 32 | 2,673
25 Sep 2015 #13
Could it be the lack of money in a saturated market.

Are you registered here? Why bother with such a silly post if you're too lazy to register.

A lot of English teachers have a few strings to their bow. Ever heard of ESP?
And actually, not meaning to do a "Wulkan", but a few times in the semester I do a 6 hour batch of work on a Saturday night which nets a 4 figure sum, net, so my voice and technical English give me a decent living on their own.

What ****** us English teachers off? Maybe most of us are British, and we call it as we see it? Dunno.........
Crow 150 | 9,549
26 Sep 2015 #14
They are unhappy because they sense that is Polish language more important language in Poland then English. So they feel like failed missionaries.
Dougpol1 32 | 2,673
26 Sep 2015 #15
Poles have zero respect for teachers as a whole

The British have a good nose for the disgusting professions:

1. Estate agents/developers
2. Lawyers
3. Financial "experts"
4. Politicians
5. Police.

Teachers are well respected, and properly paid.

If you want a scum society, which historically has paid its' hospital staff and teachers shockingly, we know where to come. Amazing that the government haven't smashed the unions and the scum laws that reward doctors for 100 percent unnecessary hospital stays for example, and the awful pay of university lecturers.

Us English teachers do very well in comparison. Especially when we finally see the light and refuse to pay a zloty in ZUS payments:) I am loving it myself.

All totally legal:)
Crow 150 | 9,549
26 Sep 2015 #16
So they aren`t only unhappy but also feel stupid
Dougpol1 32 | 2,673
26 Sep 2015 #17
Polish language more important language in Poland then English. So they feel like failed missionaries.

Crow, that's a weird premise.There is good money to be earnt. But we teachers have to work hard. I started at 7 this morning, and in between times, finished at 8.30, and I haven't done all the form filling and emailing that goes with the job.... the pub won, as it should.

Before hitting the battle cruiser I just spent two hours with a chap who has an interview in 3 weeks, where he is a dead cert to get the job...if he doesn't give the sales director the false impression that he doesn't have an ounce of Anglo-Saxon humour in his body.........

Only he is culture-bound (too modest) and needs to learn the American style enthusiasm of "I am very good at what I do etc etc etc......." And he has no concept of the shock-jock interview from the sales director, after the nice initial chat, and then the HR interview.......

He has to write out the stock answers and paraphrase and learn them to fit his personality, and freely practice them - something that is VERY hard for an adult to do as a self-starter if they are taking the step from the public to the private sector.

That's where people like me come in, and I get well paid for it. It's hard work, and long hours, but he's a shoe-in, and it's bloody satisfying when he gets a result, because it's my result too.

Failed missionaries my foot :)
Crow 150 | 9,549
26 Sep 2015 #18
i just joking of course. English is my favorite archaic language
Dougpol1 32 | 2,673
26 Sep 2015 #19
English is my favorite archaic language

That's very good:) I hadn't noticed your sharp sense of humour before. Did you study English at college? You have a cultured turn of phrase; I couldn't write as eloquently as you do.

And no, I'm not being my usual sarcastic self:)
Crow 150 | 9,549
26 Sep 2015 #20
ah its far from that good but, i don`t care as long as people can understand me. Slavicized English is enough to me ;)

Anyway, i had perfect teacher of English language in my primary school. That lady finished the job. i cried but i was able to speak and write understandable English. Then comes the learning at secondary school and university. For all that time English in movies (before in Yugoslavia and now Serbia we uses solely subtitles for movies), for the practice. For some time already, books. Then English at work when travel to some trip, touristic necessities for English, PC, etc. One would actually expect that i`m expert but, well...
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,161
26 Sep 2015 #21
English teachers in Poland

Are they checked in any way ? Quite a few seem to be psychos.
Ironside 51 | 11,510
26 Sep 2015 #22
No, they are not! Some of them works with little kids.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455
26 Sep 2015 #23
Are they checked in any way ?

Any credible school (i.e. the vast majority of schools that aren't MEN-approved) don't do checks. It's a matter of time before something bad happens - and for what it's worth, I don't think anyone should be working with children without detailed background checks.

Good (non-MEN approved) employers will demand criminal checks, but they are few and far between.

No, they are not! Some of them works with little kids.

It gets worse, IS. I've heard of cases of people being given jobs with nothing more than a quick interview, and then being allowed to teach kids.

I could tell you about some very strange CV's that I've received in the past - including people with gaps in their life (one guy seemingly had just vanished for 3 years) story with no real explanation.

I don't want UK-levels of paranoia here, but it would be nice if a criminal check was required for every job that involves contact with kids alone.
Kosm - | 2
26 Sep 2015 #24
Sorry if I'm missing something but as I understand as an English teacher you normally recieve around 50zl per hour.

By my calculations that comes to roughly

25 hour week (what I have heard is the norm)
25 (hours) x 4 (weeks) x 50 = 5,000 per month
or
40 hour week
40 (hours) x 4 (weeks) x 50 = 8,000 per month

Even considering ZUS and tax it still seems pretty ok, maybe I'm missing something?

Should I be including travel time or prep time into my calculations?

If no, then I would say teachers earn a pretty decent wage for Poland.
Ironside 51 | 11,510
26 Sep 2015 #25
I don't want UK-levels of paranoia here, but it would be nice if a criminal check was required for every job that involves contact with kids alone.

It should be obvious to anyone but then school are looking for cheaper rather than checked.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455
26 Sep 2015 #26
Indeed, and it's a dreadful state of affairs. A check should be absolutely mandatory - I would be pretty angry if my child was being taught by someone that didn't even have a criminal records check. I wish I could say more...

Wasn't there a case a few years back (Harry will remember better than me, probably) with some British horse riding instructor in Kraków?
Lyzko 31 | 7,799
26 Sep 2015 #27
English instruction throughout much of Eastern Europe has never kept pace with the West, i.e. North, such as Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Scandinavia etc.. I agree to some extent with Dominic. While obviously tremendous strides have been made over the past decade or so, Polish friends and colleagues from major cities and towns, e.g. Warszawa, Rzeszów, Poznań, Kraków and Gdańsk., roughly around the same ages (mid-30's up through 40's), have all confirmed that lots of schools continue to struggle to get qualified, English aka American, Canadian, native-born/university trained teachers who are willing to work at salaries not as yet competitive with those back home for basically the same amount of work!

I know one former English teacher from Poland who fits handily into the above category and who is among other things a translator of Polish as well as adjunct Polish instructor in her native city of Poznań. She freely admits that, compared to when she grew up, more than the average person on the streets of her city considers themselves conversant, i.e fluent, in English on nearly any daily subject:-)
DominicB - | 2,709
26 Sep 2015 #28
Even considering ZUS and tax it still seems pretty ok, maybe I'm missing something?

Yes. Several things.

Should I be including travel time or prep time into my calculations?

That's one. It can take up more time than actual classroom time. Especially if you have lessons scattered all over the city, or beyond.

And then you are missing that you are paid for only 30 weeks out of the year. Nothing for holidays and often half pay during the summer, or more often nothing at all. That 22 weeks with no or little pay. And, of course, you have to deduct the cost of getting a certificate like CELTA, the cost of getting a residency permit, and the cost of travel to or from Poland.

If your giving private lessons, you have to deduct the cost to you of cancelled lessons. With many students, that reduces your earnings in half. And of course, travel time and cost.

So actually, calculated per hour per year for a full year, it comes out to substantially less that 50 PLN.
Lyzko 31 | 7,799
26 Sep 2015 #29
Then again, the issue remains English teacher in Poland - where?? At a well-known university/college, trade or technical college, grammar school or language institute, perhaps.? A person must really narrow down their point of departure or it could be a recipe for disaster!
Dougpol1 32 | 2,673
26 Sep 2015 #30
That 22 weeks with no or little pay

I don't usually call you up for being negative all the time on this Dom. The fact is that the only times I feel that my earning potential is denied me is on these ridiculous "religious holidays" that often fall in the middle of the week.

The establishment that decides that Three Kings aka 12th night, will be a Bank Holiday are all comfortable, and getting paid anyway. The rest of us, who are self-employed, are denied the right to work, because the Banks are closed............

I haven't even had a summer holiday, but Poles take so many of these long weekends (as most of them are owed days off etc etc...) leading from the middle of the week "Swieto" that I feel rested.

Could you explain where you get the 22 weeks figure from? You took it out of the air. Because you can't help but look down on teachers for some weird reason. I work long hours all year round, and so do others I know.

As to the continued discussion on "sad loser English teachers", some of the salaries that learners are on almost makes me want to waive my fees.

I wouldn't leave my bed for some of the silly money they are prepared to, or have to, work for. No amount of pension contributions, luncheon vouchers, or free fitness club membership would persuade me to take up some of the silly offers bandied around. And that's before taxes and that laughable extortion known as ZUS.


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