Life in Poland

Unravelling the Myths of Teaching Abroad

Business woman over the background with a different world langua

I used to think teaching English abroad was relatively easy. But after talking to colleagues who had taught in Korea, China and Dubai to name a few, I realized this was not the case. I have been teaching English in Poland for six months now, and I can clearly say teaching abroad is no duck walk. You basically have to work as hard as if you were working in your home country. If you’re considering teaching abroad, you may want to read on and find out the truth about some of the myths you may or may not have heard about.

1. Teaching English Overseas Means having conversations in English with the students. Definitely not the case. You have to plan lessons, be able to teach grammar points and vocabulary as well as listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. You have to prepare dynamic and engaging lessons that cater to different learning styles. You may be having conversations some of the time, but this is assuming the students’ proficiency level is high enough to do so. In short, teaching is way more than just having conversations with students. Conversations simply won’t cut it.

2. You don’t work a lot of hours. This depends on the country you are working in, but generally you can expect to teach 20-24 hours a week, plus lesson planning and administration. This can add up to 40 hours easily, which is pretty much a typical working schedule at home. Be prepared to spend a lot of hours in the school. If this is not what you were expecting, you should definitely reconsider it before embarking on a teaching position overseas.

3. Teaching isn’t all that difficult. You may be a native English speaker but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can teach it. Are you prepared to teach the differences between John has been to London versus John has gone to London? You will need to be clued up on grammar points before walking into a class. If you have never taught before, I would definitely recommend investing in taking a CELTA or TEFL course. Both will give you the tools you need to be able to teach grammar, vocabulary and receptive skills.

4. I will be able to save money. This is not the case. In fact, it’s a good idea to go to your chosen country with money saved up for initial expenses. You will find that you will be breaking even most of the time. With me, I find that I am breaking even because I like to spend my money on travel during my time off.

5. I will be able to live like a tourist and travel all the time. Living like a tourist, not really. You will have to go to work, pay bills, get sick, buy groceries, clean your apartment, etc. Life is life wherever you go, only this time you will be dealing with culture shock, language barrier and adjusting to different rules. As for travelling, this depends on where you are. If you are working in a place where it is super easy to travel around, then you will be able to travel. I am in a city 100 kilometers from Warsaw, which is not easy to get travel to other parts of Poland. I need at least four days off if I want to go up to Gdansk. However, I have been able to travel to other parts of Europe during my holidays. Speaking of holidays, you can use these to travel. And you can expect to have lots of holidays, especially if you are teaching in Europe.
So hopefully, this has cleared the air into some of the common myths about teaching English abroad. I am not by any means trying to put you off. I just think you should know what you are getting into. If you have realistic expectations and understand what teaching is all about, I’m sure you will have a great experience. It has been one of the best experiences I have done, even though it has been very challenging at the same time. Do your homework, get certified as a teacher, and understand that you will not get rich by teaching abroad. Also understand that you will have to work hard as a teacher and commit to your students.

Categories: Life in Poland | Tags: , , , , ,

Polish 101

img_0485

Hi! Thanks for visiting! As I am living in Poland, I’ve been teaching myself some Polish phrases. I use Duolingo to learn Polish everyday. It isn’t much, but it’s five minutes of learning and recycling new words. With my teaching schedule, I don’t have enough time to take language classes. But with constant exposure to the language, greeting my coworkers in Polish, as well as watching Polish TV, I’m learning and retaining new words all the time!

What does Polish look like? I would say it is similar to Russian since it is a Slavic language. It does require a learning curve and many Poles are aware of this. Here’s a crash course in Polish:

Dzień dobry (jEN dobree) – Good morning, good afternoon

Dziękuję (jEn-koo-yeh) – thank you

Dobry wieczór – good evening

Dobranoc – good night

Tak – yes

Nie – no

mleko – milk

chleb – bread

jablko – apple

kawa – coffee

piwo – beer

jeden (yeden) – one

dwa (dva) – two

trzy (tshi) – three

cztery (chteri) – four

pięć (p-yENch) – five

Pronunciation is harder than you think. Thankfully, Duolingo shows you how words are pronounced by native speakers. I’m inclined when it comes to learning languages; I speak Spanish and some German and French.

When Polish becomes tricky, I simple say “Nie mowię po polsku” (I don’t speak Polish). Poles really appreciate it when you try to speak their language, knowing very well it’s not the easiest language to learn. Luckily, when I go to Warsaw or Krakow, English is widely understood and spoken.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Like what you see? Know someone who is going to Poland soon? Share this post with your poison of choice!

Categories: Life in Poland | Tags: , , , ,

My First Month in Poland

img_0485

So as many of you know, I recently moved to Poland to teach English. It was a job I accepted many months ago, but if someone had told me a year ago today that I’d be teaching in Poland, I wouldn’t have believed it. I had always envisioned myself teaching in southern Europe, China or Mexico. However, now that I’ve been teaching nearly a month, I find the Polish context to be rewarding and challenging. I teach children, teenagers and adults, and because I haven’t taught kids before, this adds to the challenge.

I live in a small city near Warsaw off the tourist path, which many consider to be traditionally Polish. The language barrier can be an issue, but I feel as if I’m getting to know the real Poland. Because it is small, I don’t have to deal with long commutes to work everyday. Interesting fact about the city: it has a few McDonalds but there’s not a single Starbucks!

During my first month here, I’ve taken note of a few things I’ve noticed about the culture:

  • shopping at the local supermarkets can be challenging, especially at the big chains. Aisles are often crowded, and if you want something from the deli counter, be prepared for long lines. In Poland, supermarkets are closed on two Sundays of each month, so grocery shopping on Saturdays can be particularly challenging. I’ve found it’s best to get groceries before or after work.
  • highways in Poland aren’t what they are in North America; they are more like country roads, so a 60-mile journey often can take two hours!
  • public schools are referred to as numbers, rather than names. In other words, a student will often say they go to School Number 39.
  • Men will often come out on their balconies shamelessly in their underwear. Not a pretty sight for me as my apartment faces an eleven-storey block apartment, where this often is the case. Luckily the colder weather is settling in.
  • older women will often try and bud you in the line at the grocery store. They seem to resent the shift from tradition as well as the presence of foreigners in their country.
  • bookstores and small shops are open from ten in the morning until three in the afternoon on Saturdays in the city I live in. If you like hanging around a bookstore late in the evening, this can be frustrating.

As challenging as these things can be, I am enjoying the experience so far. I’ve always wanted to live and teach abroad, and now I’m doing it. When you live abroad, there are always challenges. I’m glad I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and embarked on this life-changing journey.

Thanks for reading this post!

Categories: Life in Poland | Tags: , , ,

Blog at WordPress.com.