English Teaching Jobs in Poland
Poles are very proud of their heritage, and historically they have valued education and all the attendant benefits of a high literacy rate. Linguistic ability is no exception. Now that English has become the foreign language of choice for young people, numerous public and private schools offer English-language courses. And because most of Poland is a less-popular destination for North American expatriates, the demand for English teachers is high. Though experienced and certified teachers are highly sought after, you don’t have to have a teaching certificate or experience to find a job.
Despite the fact that you may be able to get away without any substantial formal qualifications in Poland, it would be to your advantage to get a RSA or TEFL certificate if you are able. As time goes by, the job market will become more competitive so you’ll want to stand out from the teaching and tutoring rabble as best you can. One telling indicator of what the future bodes for English teaching in Poland is the international investment climate. Presently, big name multinational corporations are making huge inroads into Poland so the demand for Poles to learn English is ever increasing. As this escalates, the demand for teachers increases and competition between schools become more and more fierce. Though Poland may be behind Hungary and the Czech Republic in terms of establishing a broad network of private English schools, the demand is rapidly rising. More schools are popping up and more teachers are needed all the time.
Probably the main obstacle to finding a good, reliable teaching position is the Polish economy. Since the big turnover in 1989, both the electorate and the government have had trouble deciding where the country is going and who should be taking the helm. The economy has suffered as a result. Naturally, Poles are slightly more concerned about putting food on the table than coughing up enough zloty for their English classes. None of this should come as any surprise, however, to anyone familiar with the predicament that each of the Eastern European countries has confronted since the departure of the Soviets. If you get too caught up in the possibility that things might change quickly or that the situation in Eastern Europe should always be on the up-and-up, you probably don’t belong on the next flight to Poland, or anywhere else in the region for that matter. On the other hand, if you can appreciate a little uncertainty or simply don’t give a hoot about who the next Polish prime minister might be or what the rate of inflation is at any given moment, Poland could be just the place to chalk the chalkboard.
Whatever your approach, you should look forward to standing in front of a classroom full of eager Polish students. By most accounts, Poles are a friendly and gregarious lot who value education and respect their teachers. You can expect classroom discussions to be lively and open. And if you are able to befriend your students outside the classroom, you will find that the average conversation held over a beer or a cup of coffee often will progress beyond small talk. Don’t be surprised to find yourself discussing some big social or political issues, and arguing passionately as the evening progresses.
In Central and Eastern Europe, public and private schools operate in a similar fashion. And Poland is no exception. A broad curriculum is usually provided by the school, and each individual teacher is generally held responsible for making adaptations that fit the specific requirements of the class. Most schools realize that a certain level of standardization is beneficial, but that each teacher has an individual style, and perhaps even unique teaching methods. Consequently, teachers are expected to abide by certain guidelines that may involve using specific lesson plans provided by the school. Regardless of a school’s particular requirements, most devoted teachers spend time preparing for their classes, because no matter how experienced a teacher may be, improvising lessons is not easy. Teaching English anywhere demands patience and adaptability. Sufficient preparation allows you to focus your energies on the immediate needs of your students. As a teacher in Poland, much will be expected of you. So it’s best to develop a teaching strategy that makes room for advance preparation. Consider the needs of each individual class. After all, it’s difficult to answer a tough question on a sticky grammatical point if you’re trying to make things up as you go.
As in Hungary, depending on the level and age of your students, there is the possibility that you might teach in tandem with a Polish-speaking person who can translate the finer points of grammar and nuance when you can’t effectively communicate in rudimentary English. But because Polish is much less difficult than Hungarian, this happens with less frequency.
Even though Poles may prize education, Poland’s public school system is still lacking when it comes to English language instruction. English is still not widely available at the elementary level in many areas, which means that in most cases students can’t start to learn English in the classroom until much later in their schooling. Often, they must wait to reach the college or university level before English is offered. Though this may sound like a great opportunity given the demand for English language instruction, many areas still lack the resources to set up English language curricula in their public schools.
One thing is certain, the situation in Poland is changing rapidly and opportunities are being created at every turn, especially for optimistic, dedicated, and energetic prospective teachers. Unlike Hungary and the Czech Republic, you don’t necessarily need to have formal certification to find teaching positions, but you may need to be more resourceful in other ways. After all, Poland is a newer frontier for English language instruction, especially if you venture outside of either Warsaw or Krakow.