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Starting out as an English teacher in Poland - any pearls of wisdom for me?


don'tpanic
11 Feb 2011 #1
I am an EU citizen currently living in Krakow. I have my CELTA and have a little teaching experience. It's not a lot, but it is something!

What is the best way to find an English teaching job here? Should I walk into every school and hand in my CV (which I really hate doing!) or tailor each CV to fit the school and then email it?

What hours should I be expecting to work and what is the average starting salary? Do you have any particular tips for me? Any schools I should watch out for (such as Angol apparently :P )?

I notice a lot of people on these boards saying there is more money in proofreading, copy editing etc. How does one get into this area?

I am good at English and I actually know the difference between there, their and they're so I'm figuring I'm already a little ahead of some native speakers :P

Would really appreciate any advice. I don't want to be one of the unfortunate few who has to leave this beautiful city :(
jonni 16 | 2,485
11 Feb 2011 #2
or tailor each CV to fit the school and then email it?

Yes.

But don't bother tailoring it too much or making it too detailed - they get a lot of CVs, most of them too lengthy to read, most of them irrelevant. It should say what you want (lessons), why you can do it (Celta) and who you are (an EU citizen) - they can figure out the rest. As important as the CV (or more so, sometimes) is a schedule of when you're available for lessons. If you aren't doing many, fill in a few spaces in your timetable to look busier, making clear they are flexible and changeable and that you're happy to do cover classes without notice.

Should I walk into every school and hand in my CV (which I really hate doing!)

No. You'll probably only see the receptionist or some bod that doesn't hire or fire. But when you mail a CV. say you'd really like to call in sometime for a chat - they will remember you.

What hours should I be expecting to work and what is the average starting salary?

Bookends. Meaning in-company lessons at the start of the working day and open groups in the early evening. This is normal, though there are exceptions. For example I never did open groups, except when someone was away. In Warsaw, as a new teacher without experience you should get about 40zl per 45 mins, more if you're over about 35 and less if you're very young or non-native. If they contact you at short notice, haggle upwards, othereise don't bother. Krakow has an oversupply of teachers and the EFL market in PL is declining. Called in the industry 'the Venice effect'. At least by me.

Any schools I should watch out for

At risk of a chorus of approbrium, I'd say the ones owned by British people tend to be better and the ones owned by Poles tend to be worse. Though there are certainly exceptions.

I notice a lot of people on these boards saying there is more money in proofreading, copy editing etc. How does one get into this area?

With difficulty. Contacts though colleagues or (the right sort of) in-company clients usually.

I am good at English and I actually know the difference between there, their and they're so I'm figuring I'm already a little ahead of some native speakers

But not necessarily ahead of the ones who are teaching English, who have (or should have) the difference between a defining and a non-defining relative clause at their fingertips, and most importantly, know how to teach it. But don't be disheartened - the most important thing is how good you are at making sure your students learn. All the rest is incidental.

Would really appreciate any advice. I don't want to be one of the unfortunate few who has to leave this beautiful city :(

Don't give up. Keep on sending your CV. They throw them away/delete them and generally find they need a new teacher at awkward times. If they've met you, even once, they'll remember you. Keep going. A foot in the door, however mall, makes you feel better and invariably leads to more work.

Good luck.
Harry
11 Feb 2011 #3
I notice a lot of people on these boards saying there is more money in proofreading, copy editing etc. How does one get into this area?

There is indeed better money in it. As I've said before, it is a catch-22: you can't get the good work until you've done work at that level, but you can't get work at that level unless you've done work at that level. Nobody is going to pay you top money unless you can prove to them that you can do the work that commands that money.
dtaylor5632 18 | 2,007
11 Feb 2011 #4
Nobody is going to pay you top money unless you can prove to them that you can do the work that commands that money.

Better to stick with teaching first and build up ur contacts.
delphiandomine 85 | 18,260
11 Feb 2011 #5
Jonni's already given you a great answer, but here's my two pence...

What hours should I be expecting to work and what is the average starting salary?

Generally speaking, expect two hours in the morning and four in the afternoon Monday-Thursday. It can vary a lot, but that's a good idea to begin with. Once you've been here for a while, you can start to change things - for instance, I refuse to work after 7pm because I simply can't be bothered - and instead work 8 to around midday.

Average starting salary - it's impossible to say. I won't work for less than 50zl an hour, but I don't use any school facilities. I'd say to try and get 40zl an hour in the beginning, unless you know for certain that the school can afford much more.

What is the best way to find an English teaching job here? Should I walk into every school and hand in my CV (which I really hate doing!) or tailor each CV to fit the school and then email it?

It's really up to you. If you want to find a good lot of hours with one school, then I'd try and wangle your way into meeting the directors of schools. But I know nothing about this - I'm freelance and don't work for more than 4 hours a week with any one school.

Would really appreciate any advice. I don't want to be one of the unfortunate few who has to leave this beautiful city :(

Alas, it's the Krakow way. There's a lot of work out there in small cities/towns - but because Krakow is a nice place, everyone wants to be there. Same thing happened with Prague and Berlin - and you can see the prices rapidly fall. Heck, a friend of mine has a private native tutor in Berlin for 5 euro an hour - 20zl!

At risk of a chorus of approbrium, I'd say the ones owned by British people tend to be better and the ones owned by Poles tend to be worse. Though there are certainly exceptions.

The problem with Polish owned ones is that for beginners, you have the problem of not being able to judge how they're thinking. Some behaviour from Poles (such as the often-heard "someone has complained about you" bollocks) takes a while to get used to - though once you're used to it, it's easy enough to deal with.

Brits also tend to be much less hung up on things - Poles still have huge problems with being honest and admitting that it's all about money and client satisfaction. Brits on the other hand seem to be much more straightforward.

But I wouldn't worry too much as a beginner - just be prepared for all sorts of petty dramas.
Harry
11 Feb 2011 #6
Better to stick with teaching first and build up ur contacts.

Very much so. And use the teaching first to pay the rent while you learn how to proofread and copy edit and then to pay the rent when you don't have much work coming in (there are very very few full-time positions, so one is very likely to have to freelance).
don't panic
11 Feb 2011 #7
A good answer indeed Jonni, thank you for taking the time to write it. Same goes to all who answered so far. Very much appreciated... :)
smurf 39 | 1,981
11 Feb 2011 #8
You've had some very good answers already, I'd just like to add that you should try and get a good balance between working for groups in companies and the like and in schools.

Private language schools take a hell of a lot of holidays. I think since last September, I've only had one month where I've worked 4 straight weeks without a break.

Even since Xmas for example, obviously Xmas two weeks off then back for 2 weeks, then 2 weeks of winter break holidays (wtf they are I still don't know) then 2 weeks back and then next week 2 weeks off for term break.

Like, I'm ok coz I have enough company lessons & proofreading but beware that you should try and find a balance because totally depending on a language school will have you paddling up a creak.
jonni 16 | 2,485
11 Feb 2011 #9
totally depending on a language school will have you paddling up a creak.

This is true. One reason in-company work is good - they are less likely to take the summer off.

One quickie - collect written references from language schools you work for. They don't mean much in Poland - most EFL employers aren't generally interested, but some day you might find yourself working in a country where they are expected.
delphiandomine 85 | 18,260
11 Feb 2011 #10
Funnily enough, I've found that the smaller schools quite like to see them - especially if they're from companies.
johnny reb 28 | 4,427
20 Nov 2020 #11
What is the best way to find an English teaching job here?

Meet and talk with other NATIVE Polish teachers who have connections.


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