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Teaching English in Poland

Poland, the home of musicians, writers, scientists, film directors, and inventors, is an old country with a wealth of history, but one with a new and different image in the world today. It is a beautiful country of contrasting landscapes from lakes and plains to mountains, forests, and the seashore. ESL teachers will find the best paying jobs in Warsaw, the capital, Krakow, Poznan, and Gdansk. Positions can be found at private language schools such as the Polish Association for Standards in English (PASE), business language schools, and public schools. There are many excellent universities where ESL teachers are needed including the University of Warsaw, the Jagiellionian University in Krakow, and the Catholic University (KUL) in Lublin. In addition to enhancing your teaching career, you'll find a huge variety of things to do in your leisure time with cultural options in music, film, theater, and art. Poland may not be among the countries who pay the most, or even appeal to the majority, but it does offer a rewarding and versatile experience in teaching ESL.

Credentials/ Qualifications/ Documentation / Hiring process

A 4-year degree and TEFL, TESL, or CELTA certification are the standard requirements, although some public schools will waive this requirement. Keep in mind though that having some type of TESOL certification and a year or more of teaching experience guarantees better pay and benefits. Schools do most of their hiring during the summer before school begins in September, and occasionally in January after Christmas break. A comprehensive CV should be submitted along with your credentials and any other documentation the school requires prior to the final face-to-face interview.

The hiring process for EU citizens is fairly straightforward since they can apply with a valid passport or ID card, the proper credentials, and a well-prepared CV, followed by an in-person interview. If you're from a non-EU country, however, considerable red tape is involved before hiring. Usually, your employer will assist and guide you through the process. You must obtain a visa from a Polish consulate, have a resident's permit, and a valid 9-12 month contract with the school to legally work in Poland. Visit learn4good for detailed information on obtaining the visa.

Contracts are usually for one year, with some employers paying an end-of-contract bonus. The contract should include the number of paid holidays, amount of paid vacation time, housing allowance or accommodations, as well as travel costs or reimbursement. The average vacation time for public and private schools is 10 weeks and two weeks at language centers.

Work Schedules & Salaries

Salaries for a 20-35-hour work schedule, plus preparation time, at public schools average $1,100-$1,500/month, after an income tax deduction of 18%-20%. Your contract must specify whether the salary quoted is before or after the tax deduction. This is not a huge amount, but enough to live comfortably even in Poland's major cities. Of course, you will always earn more money by teaching at universities or private schools.

Students range in age from kindergarten to adults, and class size varies from 20-35 students in public schools to a much smaller 10 to 15 in private schools. Many language schools only hold classes for adults after 4pm and on weekends. The majority of students are attentive and serious about learning English to improve their chances of success in a future career. Language schools may be closed from Jun-Sep, but you can supplement your teaching salary by working at their summer camps. Private tutoring at $16-$25/hour is another way to add to your income. Tutoring jobs can be found through local and regional newspaper classified ads and notices at supermarkets and other public places.

Advantages

The overall cost of living is lower than in any other European country, a big advantage to teaching ESL in Poland. It will be somewhat more expensive to live in Warsaw, as compared to Krakow and other cities. (See numbeo.com for detailed information.)

Many schools will provide housing or an allowance for it in your contract. Rent seems comparable or less than some cities in the U.S., with a 1-bedroom apartment in Warsaw at $600/month and a 3-bedroom at $1,100/month. Utilities average $170-$180/month, which includes electric, heat, water, and garbage. On the other hand, rent in Krakow will run about $200 less per month. Some ESL teachers will share accommodations to reduce their living expenses.

Food prices are reasonable, with the exception of some dairy products, if you shop at local markets and prepare your own meals. You can find markets in every town, usually open at least twice a week.

Transportation is not a problem in the city, with trams and buses available around the clock. A monthly bus pass will cost around $30. In addition to trams and the Metro, there are many inter-city connections by bus or railway.

Another significant advantage to living in Poland is the low crime rate; it is considered one of the safest countries in Europe.

Possible disadvantages (or things to remember)

Health care may or may not be paid for by the school. Non-EU citizens will have to purchase some type of health care insurance either from the National Health Fund for about $15/month, or from a private insurance carrier. However, free public health care is provided for EU citizens with a European Health Insurance Card and for citizens from Great Britain, Sweden, and Slovakia by international agreement.

Airfare may or may not be included, and you will need about $2,000 or more for the initial expenses of relocation and getting settled in your new assignment.

Job Outlook

There is an ongoing demand for ESL teachers in Poland since English is required for most jobs and career fields, but it will require persistence and lots of research to locate the best jobs. Online sources of job information and open forums include Dave's ESL Cafe, jobstefl, esl-jobs-forum, and tefl.com. Compare job requirements, salaries, and other basic information on Poland and other countries at internationaltefl.com. Check out the job boards and small guides for various countries at Quinn's World of TEFL.

Conclusion

Teaching ESL in Poland can be a worthwhile and exciting assignment in a country with an outstanding educational system and a fascinating blend of Eastern and Western cultures. Living and working among friendly people, visiting historical attractions, and enjoying outdoor recreation and entertainment venues are just some of the benefits to teaching ESL in Poland. Since the money you earn will go further here with the low cost of living, you'll have opportunities to travel throughout the country on the bus or train. Spend your vacation or leisure time by visiting other cities in Europe including Rome, Oslo, or Moscow, about two hours away by plane. Whether you are just beginning your teaching career and looking for a short-term overseas assignment, or have experience and are considering relocating for a longer term, you will find some excellent opportunities to teach ESL in Poland.

Sharon L Slayton

April 2014

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