Teaching English in Warsaw, Poland
Central Europe has not always been the destination of choice for holidays, let alone living and working. All that has changed since many Central European countries entered the European Union. Poland, a member since 2004, offers vast opportunities for native TEFL teachers who want to work in their major cities. And finding a job is not that difficult. Finding employment is possible once you have your EU passport or work visa. If you do not have the papers, recruiting companies and students seeking a TEFL certificate at a major organization can receive a teaching job placement.
In Poland, a university degree in any field and a certificate TEFL course are enough to land you a job that pays approximately 50 zloty per 60-minute lesson. Converting this to dollars or euros may leave you with a small sum, but if you want a decent standard of living during your stay abroad, Poland is the place for you. By working 20-30 hours per week, you can earn US$800-$1100+ per month, which is enough to cover rent, food, bills, and entertainment.
Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish only), one of Poland's major newspapers, offers weekly job pages. On Mondays, when the classifieds are complete, you can usually find ten or twenty job advertisements for qualified TEFL teachers, those with an English degree, and native speakers.
Advantages as a Native English Speaker Teaching English in Poland
Many students enjoy that they can speak with a native speaker and pick up accents and dialects, which they wouldn't do with a TEFL teacher from their own country.
English is now a prerequisite for most jobs and fields in Poland, which is why there is a demand for TEFL teachers between September and June. July and August can be relatively quiet, but that also allows you to enjoy the warm, sunny weather and take a break from running around the city teaching your native tongue.
The types of TEFL jobs include those based in primary and secondary schools. Students can be challenging, but if you only think about the job at hand, it's not a problem. There are also many language schools located in major cities like Warsaw, Poznan, Krakow, and Gdansk, among others, which offer positions usually in the morning or evening. Many schools also send their TEFL tutors to different companies around the city, so you have to commute to each company. You might get a few lessons within one company, allowing you to take on more classes and more money at the end of the month. To earn extra cash outside of business hours, some TEFL teachers advertise on notice boards and obtain private lessons, which you can charge at about US$15-US$25 per hour, depending on your experience and location.
Prepare Yourself for Work in Poland
No EU passport? Apply for a work permit through the Polish Embassy in your own country. EU citizens can live and work in Poland without a work permit or visa. [Editor's note: Alternatively, you can obtain a special freelance visa in Poland, in some ways similar to the digital nomad visa, which is becoming more common in Europe and worldwide. The visa opens up many options for longer-term stays and alternative sources of income. However, honestly, the current Ukrainian situation (wherein neighbor Poland has taken in millions of refugees) may make some hesitant in 2022-202x.]
Save up some money to get you started. You'll need at least one month's living expenses. About US$1,000 should be enough, but the more you have, the better. You will get paid monthly, so be prepared to avoid seeing income for a few weeks.
Get a TEFL qualification through a recognized institution. An introductory certificate course is usually enough if you seek employment. CELTA courses are welcome as well. Bring a copy of your qualifications to show to the school.
Check out the classified ads in the Monday paper if you're looking for work, or approach the schools directly by sending your resume/CV via email, calling them up, or visiting them in person. You might get lucky and land a job on the spot.
Organize your health insurance. As a native speaker, you won't be hired full-time, but as something called an "umowa odzielo," which means you will pay tax but won't be making retirement or health care payments. Visiting a doctor can set you back about US$20-25 per visit, so getting some health insurance is worth it.
Sharing accommodation with someone in the cities will be much cheaper than renting on your own and will allow you to meet people and get to know the locals. They may sometimes come across as snobby and rude, but they're usually friendly to foreigners.
Are you worried about competition? Don't be. At the moment, there are job opportunities for native English speakers. If you are friendly and can demonstrate that you can teach, then you won't have a problem getting a job. It is about more than being the best and the ability to teach and communicate with people.
Speaking Polish is optional. Many native speakers in the country have limited or non-existent knowledge of Polish, and they get by OK. Most of your classes involve teaching using the communicative method and deep immersion, which means only English will be required. Still, learning as much Polish as possible is always appreciated and respectful.
Katarzyna Radzka is a TEFL teacher and freelance writer currently based in Warsaw,