The Teaching Environment and Job Market in Europe
Many teachers dream of afternoon strolls through the Piazza San Marco, walks over the Charle’s Bridge, coffee in Parisian cafes, sun reflecting off the cobblestones of Krakow, and tours of the Hermitage. The chance to meander Europe enchants millions including scores of teachers. When the sun sets on the Sagrada Familia, however, it times to get to work, so let’s take an honest look at the European job market.
What about France? Can you really live your Bohemian dreams? Are the French really as resistant to English as you see in the movies?
Unless you are working in the French education system teaching kids, you will must likely be teaching adults. Most of your adult students will have a very focused reason for learning English (most likely professional) and are usually funded by an employer. Hence, the big carrot for many French students is financial gain or a potential promotion. It’s also important to note that this leads to smaller groups or individual lessons. This can create the double-edged sword of a loose curriculum, but also a sharp demand for quick results.
The market in Paris is beyond jammed-packed, so it can be best to look outside of the capital, which is not a bad proposition for many Francophiles. Teachers report working up to 25 hours a week but having to do a lot of travel to corporate centers or other training facilities. Do not expect to work 9-5, and you should be rather flexible. Perhaps you will have to work in the morning, finish at night, and have a huge gap in the afternoon.
What is more, many teachers in French talk of short-term contracts, and having very little job security. You will also usually be required to have a university degree and a TEFL certificate and look presentable.
One other thing to consider is a home stay. This will give you a great chance to learn French better and to get to know the culture thoroughly. Finally, EU citizens will most likely be given preference over EU citizens, but it is unclear how the so-called Brexit political movement will change the landscape.
Neighboring Spain is also a much sought after option for many teachers. Popular options involve doing your CELTA in Spain or Barcelona and then trying to get a foot in the door whilst completing your certification. Other popular destinations include Seville and Valencia. TEFL or certified teachers can usually find a monthly salary, benefits, and some vacation time. As with France, your biggest obstacle may just be getting the proper permission to work in the country.
Teachers also report a monthly salary of approximately 1,000 to 1,800 Euros and claim that the work load is not overly taxing. The general consensus seems to be that once you have landed a job and have found a way to work legally, the overall food, atmosphere, culture and social opportunities more than make up for the lack of overall savings. However, the more you plan ahead, the more you research your school, and the more savings you bring to start, the better off you should be. One common note is that it is very hard to find decent housing. Do your best to secure housing, find a company that can help you, or be prepared to spend a lot of time and money finding a decent flat.
Moving over to Central Europe we find the lovely Czech Republic. The Czech Republic is small, and has a reputation for housing intellectuals such as Kafka. The beer, cars and pens are world famous, but how is the teaching market? There are many advantages to this jewel of a nation. The demand is high, and once you obtain legal status you can freelance and work as many or as few hours as you deem appropriate. The vast and overwhelming reports of teachers in the Czech Republic are that they feel free living there, the expat community is stellar, and they have enough free time to work on creative projects, develop a skill or to explore the rest of Central Europe. Capitals such as Vienna and the beauty of Southern Germany are easy day trips. In short, teachers seem quite satisfied.
Moving north we find the Czech Republic’s neighbor, Poland, which stretches from the mountainous Silesian Ridge on the Czech border to the Baltic Sea in the North. After centuries of war and chaos, Poland has entered a golden age of stability and joining the EU has increased demand for English. Many teachers stay in Poland for a number of years and report that it is advisable to start in a smaller city before moving on up to Warsaw or Krakow. Qualified teachers working at private international schools can make up to $2,000 a month, and may get help with accommodation and visa support. Those working at private language schools may receive less cash, but work less hours. Unlike Spain or France, many Westerners report not having grown up with dreams of living in Poland, but often find a nice environment there and many even become so-called lifers. Teachers also report a low cost of living, and good selection of fresh produce, meat, and fish. One last note: Whereas the Czech Republic has become a mostly secular society, Poland is still very Catholic so please be cautious if you discuss religion in the classroom.
Finally, we have Mother Russia. Unlike the aforementioned European Union members, Russia is very different on many levels. Firstly, you need a very difficult visa, and hence you will not be able to enter the country first and have a nose around unless you have a large budget to enter as a tourist, leave, and re-enter.
Next, it is paramount that you follow the rules in Russia. No private students means no private students, and no helping with charities, NGO’s or proselytizing religious groups. Also, it’s best to keep your passport on you at all times or a copy of your dokumenty. This may all sound rather serious but it is reality. Also, the sheer size and scale can be overwhelming to many teachers, especially if from smaller countries like Scotland or New Zealand.
If you have managed to find a good job (the market is currently rather robust) and a decent flat, you should enjoy your time. Often Russian students are very dedicated, and after getting through the initial detente, you will most likely enjoy a vivid social life. One other thing to note is that there is a subculture of Russian Studies folks who are seemingly obsessed with the language, culture and the FSU (former Soviet Union). This group can be very passionate and showing you new things, or spoil every trip to the pub with political rants.
Unlike EU nations, you can manage to save some cash, but not on the level of Asia or the Middle East. Once you get into the swing of things with your classes and get to know your schedule, then things usually dramatically improve. Also be aware that the Russian winter is just not propaganda. Bring a warm coat!
Often Westerners are slightly shocked by Russia and find it to be a nation of wild extremes. The key for many is to identify cultural norms and use them as leverage. For example, teachers who honor Russian holidays and bring flowers or chocolates to students and the administrators usually wind up with the choicest schedules and get repaid with fine attendance and smiles. It is also a good idea to check the accommodation before you arrive. For example, if you are moving to Moscow, you will want to know how close you will be living to the center, and if you will be having any flatmates. In places like Moscow, the quality and location of your flat can truly affect your life.
Europe is tempting. The hardest part for many is not allowing their romantic visions to obfuscate reality. You want to dream big but also plan thoroughly. C’est la vie.