If you want to teach English in Europe and are contemplating the beautiful mediaeval country of Poland, you’re not alone. Growing in popularity amongst TEFL teachers, check out TEFLer Danny’s typical day as a TEFL teacher in Poland, to see if it’s definitely something you want to do!
I usually have cereal and a fresh croissant from the local bread shop for breakfast. My Polish girlfriend goes for ham and cheese sandwiches, apparently cereal or toast is considered a posh treat here. We drink bottled water too, because she refuses to drink from the tap even though it tastes perfectly normal to me.
After breakfast and a quick shower, I find some chinos or trousers, never jeans, and a shirt and shoes, never trainers. I don’t usually wear a tie but some teachers do. Then I grab my files and head to the local primary school, a 5 minute walk away.
I teach three 40 minute lessons, which are a lot of fun: the students are 11 or 12 and their English is of varying quality. I get the last 20 minutes of each hour off to prepare for the next class and have a minute to myself. I structure each of the lessons the same, and can use the same lesson plan for each class. We play some games to warm up and get the kids speaking English (charades is a popular one with my classes!); then we work on the main bit of the lesson. For example, if I’m working on giving directions, I do a couple of exercises like giving the students maps of Krakow from the tourist information centre and role-playing tourists and locals. 40 minutes pass really quickly, and at the end I always try to finish with a game, so I might walk around the school with them telling me where to go or something.
I go home for lunch as we live round the corner from the school, and my girlfriend cooks Polish food like borscht (beetroot soup) with pierogi (dumplings).
After lunch I go to my evening school, a 10 minute walk away, and do some planning or marking for an hour or so. All my students in this school are advanced or upper intermediate, so the lessons are easier to plan.
I have two 1 hour classes. The first is usually a group of around ten 16-18 year olds who are studying for ‘Matura’, the equivalent of A-levels in England. We work through the book pretty much exercise by exercise, but I break it up with games and jokes. These classes take a lot less energy than the junior school, that’s for sure. It’s definitely nice having the chance to teach two different age groups as it tests your adaptability as a teacher.
My second lesson is usually adult conversation class: these students are all advanced, and many use English at work. They are fluent and just want practice with a little correction now and again. We talk about all sorts of things, ranging from eating disorders to Chinese culture and human rights issues. The students choose the topics, so I just read up on things and have a few conversation starter questions, and we have some lively discussions, and a lot of the students are really keen to talk about politics. They have quite conservative views on society, and are fascinated by my time in Japan. I write down some of the mistakes each of them make while we talk. Then, we go through a few of them as a class in the last 5 minutes, and I give them homework if they are making the same mistake a lot.
After my last lesson I stay and write a bit about each student in my class registers. The last Friday of the month I go and see the director of studies as it’s payday – I get paid by the lesson and have about 28 regular lessons a week, which works out at about 4000 zloty a month before tax, which is about $1,300. This might not sound like a lot but it’s so cheap here that I live pretty comfortably! (i-to-i interruption – There’s lots more information about TEFL salaries, teaching conditions etc. in our Poland guide!)
I like to keep busy on week-nights so I have rugby training on Wednesdays and we go to Salsa on Thursdays AND we still go out at least twice during the week. If we go out, we get ready and catch the number 10 tram into Krakow centre around 7pm.
Our favourite place is an Italian restaurant near Stare Miastro: we often meet my girlfriend’s brother, his wife and another couple who are both teachers in my primary school. A lovely meal and a few polish beers (Warka is my favourite) later, the bill arrives and it comes to 20 zloty for a meal and 5 for a beer. (Yep, you read that right! £4 for a main meal and £1 for a beer, bargain!)
After eating we go to a couple of bars near Sukiennice, play some pool and have a great evening.
Hometime. The last tram is around midnight so it’s bedtime to get my beauty sleep before another day as a TEFL teacher in Poland.
Thanks Danny (again)! Are you teaching in Poland? Or are you about to head out there? Let us know what you think!