Wanting to teach English in Poland? It’s has taught me a lot. Yep, being a teacher taught me things.

Firstly, what skills does it take to be a teacher? I’d spent the last 10 years as a welder. Do I have the skills to teach English abroad, let alone in Poland?

Click here to take the same online TEFL course I took. It’s all I needed to get qualified to teach!

But now, after doing it for nearly 2 years, I see how little I knew about the English language. Sorry to any of my students that read this, but it’s true.

Looking back at it, I don’t feel that I’ve ever actually learned English. I can’t really remember ever sitting down, even in primary school, and learning the rules of the English language. Past present, present continuous, these had no association to English to me.

Prior to teaching, I never knew the rules. I just…knew.

For example, why do we get on the train but we get in the car? Many of my students have made that mistake – I correct them, but I have no honest answer why it’s like that.

How can I teach English if I’ve never learnt English?

I had very little teaching experience prior to moving here. I did though, have a passion for words, reading and using the language in general.

As a kid, most of my friends would wake up and eat their breakfast while watching morning cartoons. I, on the other hand, ate my weet-bix while reading the encyclopedia. I remember asking my mum how a suspension bridge works while she was frantically packing my lunch for school that day.

teaching english in poland booksMost kids had cheez tv, I had this. (image: 

Throughout high school, I had always excelled in English, too. I was one of the few kids who read the books we had to read and understood what questions were being asked.

‘Write a 300-word essay explaining why the author decided to use era-specific language and a regional dialect’. Done.

‘Explain why American English is different from Traditional British English’. Easy.

I’ve always felt like one of my natural skills was my ability to analyze and use English, as well as the stories it tells. I have always admired my teachers, too. Even the ones that kept me after class for whatever reason, I admired the fact that they wanted to help little humans improve themselves.

To help myself out, I sat and studied a few online courses about teaching English – even one specifically designed to Teach English in Poland.

If you’re interested in taking the same course, click here to get started!

I figured this would at least expose me to the idea of teaching English and teaching English abroad, and give me some kind of formal background.

teaching english in poland qualifications

One of my many illustrious qualifications.

That wasn’t too challenging. It exposed me to some fundamental principles, the idea of planning lessons and what parts of the English language more non-native speakers struggle with.

I then took to helping my 11-year-old step sister with her English homework, every chance I got.

So when I decided to move here and realized that I was to teach English in Poland, (a career I’d probably just fall into through convenience) I was in 2 minds about it.

Did I have the knowledge of the English language enough to teach it?

Did I have the life skills to help someone improve (what is for Europeans) an essential life skill?

Another question I asked myself – if I wanted to teach English in Poland, what role would Poland play? How do Poles take to English?

I’ve met more teachers here in Warsaw that I have in my entire life. Being an English teacher is quite a common job in Poland. Perhaps it’s because it’s a skill that’s naturally acquired by the younger generation?

Perhaps it’s because there’s so much demand.

Curious what the salary is for teaching English abroad? Or what the average salary is in Poland? Well knowing how Victorian teachers are paid, I’m probably earning the same amount as them!

As a native English speaker, teaching English is just something I naturally fell in to.

How I came to teach English in Poland

I’ve met more teachers here in Warsaw that I have in my entire life. Being an English teacher is quite a common job in Poland. Perhaps it’s because it’s a skill that’s naturally acquired by the younger generation? Perhaps it’s because there’s so much demand. As a native English speaker, teaching English is just something I naturally fell in to.

First things first – It was important to know what I was teaching. I’m teaching English, obviously. But American, or British English?

Teaching english in poland american british

I’ll be deep in the cold cold ground before I call it a flashlight. 

If I was to teach English in Poland, what do Poles want to learn? Colour Color? Theatre or theater? ‘Do you have a problem’ or ‘have you got a problem?’ Knowledge of these things and their differences would make take from ‘a guy that spoke English’ to ‘somewhat of an English teacher’. This was to be my job and I wouldn’t do it half-assed.

While still in Australia, I was lucky enough to come across the Polonization blog, run by the lovely Leah. I read her blog about getting a karta pobytu (that’s a story for another day) and emailed her, telling her it really taught me a lot. She asked me when I was moving here and if I had work lined up. Sure enough, I didn’t and she offered me a job teaching for her English school, Talkback.

When I got here, I had my first class on Skype.

Nearly every person I’ve taught English to since that first lesson has been incredibly nervous. But on that first lesson, I was the nervous one. I sat in the same position I am now with a notebook and introduced myself. I took notes about the person I was talking to in the hope that I’d use it to stir up the conversation in the future. I wrote down e.v.e.r.y. l.i.t.t.l.e t.h.i.n.g they said wrong and then corrected them on it.

teaching english in poland planMy usual lesson notes. Remember, nothing will ever go as planned. 

It didn’t take me long to see a few things amongst Poles and their English.

  • They’re all shy and nervous.
  • They all make similar mistakes (eg, ‘I made a photo’ because ‘zrobiłem zdęcja’ instead of ‘I took a photo’)
  • They lose all motivation when you correct every little thing they say.

I soon understood that all those things applied to me and my Polish, too – especially the 3rd point.

So here’s a tip – anyone planning to teach English in Poland, be gentle, don’t correct them straight away. Let them be nervous, comfort and assure them and when starting out, correct only their biggest mistakes.

Another tip if you plan to teach English in Poland. Buy yourself some of these:

teaching english in poland story cubes

Story cubes saved many a lesson for me.

 

Teaching English in Poland and interacting with non-Native speakers all day, every day has changed the way I speak, too. It hasn’t necessarily dulled my Aussie accent, but the way that I speak is slower and clearer. ‘Hey Johnno how ya garn, whatdja getup tana weekend?’ That simply doesn’t work here!

Slower, clearer yet still with an accent. When I spend time with my other Aussie friends (or even Kiwis and Americans), something in my head clicks, and I’m back into Australian mode!

The bad things about teaching English in Poland

Since I’m not a ‘career’ teacher, I struggled in a few areas with my role as a teacher. I had some students who had very little understanding of the English language. I couldn’t make small talk with them, and most of my classes were exactly that – conversation classes based on small talk. It’s hard to make small talk if your student says things like ‘We yesterday go to shopping and food buy’. I struggled with that kind of student. I really truly wanted to help them, but my skills and knowledge as a teacher just couldn’t. It didn’t take long for both student and teacher to realize that a better teacher was needed.

The other problem came at the other end of the scale. I was teaching a group of 3 people in their early 20’s in their work office. Their English was fantastic. They spoke with a slight accent but had no problem communicating and articulating their ideas in a variety of ways. We played a huge range of games to boost their confidence and increase their vocabulary. But I didn’t feel like I was teaching them. I felt like I was merely entertaining them.

teaching english in poland game

This DIY RPG was by far the most complex and fun game I’ve ever played – and I was the teacher.

This was frustrating in a way. Their English skills were fantastic, but not perfect. I wanted to help perfect it, but with only 2x 90-minute classes per week, how to help individuals reduce their accent? Sure, my girlfriend – who I’ve lived with for the last years – is developing a bit of an Australian accent, but with students for who you only have limited time, that’s tough.

So you can see, I struggled at both ends of the spectrum.

One struggle that I’ve faced is that being an Australian that’s teaching English, a lot of my students want me to talk. They want to hear my accent and hear how we ride kangaroos to work and how drop bears will tear your face off.

Like I explain in my previous post, Poles love Australia.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve had some students end regular lessons with me because they just don’t understand my accent – for example, the way I say ‘era’ and ‘error’ is exactly the same. 2 different words, 2 different meaning, pronounced 2 different ways by both British and Americans. But for me, nope – same sound.

Me (left) looking all professional.

To combat this, I’ve gotten into the habit of mentioning a reassuring disclaimer the first time I have a lesson with someone.

‘Most Poles are used to hearing an American or a British accent. An Australian accent can be weird and funny. If I say anything that you simply do not understand, please just say ‘Phil, what did you just say, I don’t understand’.

Little tricks like this help build confidence and trust between you and your scared English student.

The good things about teaching English in Poland

One incredibly huge upside of teaching is the bonds you build. I feel like most of my students have turned into genuine friends. When you go out of your way to spend time with each other, you cannot help but build a rapport and some kind of emotional investment in the other person.

Most of my classes with my students now are no longer build around a framework. Instead, we discuss what’s happening in their lives – and, to a less extent, my own. They talk to me about what’s happening in their lives and I intentionally encourage that.

Why? Because people learn when they don’t feel like they’re learning. If it’s fun and enjoyable, the skills are retained easier. I feel that my role is to provide a comfortable and encouraging environment, and the rest takes care of itself.

Teaching is great fun and very rewarding. You do, however, have to be upbeat, proactive and think on your toes. As a native speaker, your role is not so much to ‘teach’, but to communicate.

You need to be able to explain why ‘making a call’ means you calling someone, and ‘taking a call’ means you answering the phone. Little gems like this are things I never understood until teaching the language.

Just remember, if you’re teaching English while also learning Polish – well, you have it a lot harder than those who are learning English.

 

For those of you that are really wanting to teach English, I encourage you to get a qualification, and this is the qualification I now have.

It’s this that allowed me to get a job, a work permit, a residence permit and ultimately, my karta pobytu.

Go sign up and get qualified!

 

 


29 Comments

Adam Pickersgill · December 18, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Wow! This Blog was incredibly helpful. I have recently moved to Warsaw and found work teaching English in the New Year. Having no prior experience in teaching I have been stressing about lesson plans but I guess that’s normal judging by your post. Thanks for this Blog, it has given me a few ideas and calmed my nerves a bit.

    Phil Forbes · December 18, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Hey Adam, glad you liked it! If I were to tell you not to stress, that wouldn’t change anything :p There is a plethora of things to do in an English class, especially if playing games is part of the experience. Stuff like flash cards, hangman, taboo words, and charades can make a lesson so much fun!

      Burrunjor · July 14, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      Hi than you so much for this blog. I am wanting to do teaching in Poland, but I am unsure between Poland and China. I love both countries, their culture, their society, but Poland would obviously be easier in many ways (I live in the UK.) However China seems to offer jobs right away.

      How long did it take you to get a job in Poland? I don’t want to go through a long period of unemployment, for obvious reasons. Any tips on the quickest way for employment in Poland, IE what are the best TEFL courses for this. Been searching for ages, but not had much luck.

    lee · August 9, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    Hi Adam, i am currently live in Warsaw now, and I am looking to teach english here. any ideas or help you could give please ? Thanks in advance lee

Gordon · December 18, 2017 at 9:12 pm

Haha, ah love it man. Similar, if less formal experience when I was living in Indonesia. Desperately trying to learn Indonesian which is a new language and is very sensibly designed, while helping my mates with the english was harrowing. Very much what you were saying here – I know how it works but buggered if I know why it works like that, and absolutely no rule to it that I can see. The ‘ough’ words in particular. WTF is that about. Never pronounced the same way twice, and THIS is the international standard language? Christ.

If it helps with the teaching approaches I personally find it handy to praise what’s there regardless of how good it is; ‘We yesterday go to shopping and food buy’ is garbage english for a native speaker, but for someone learning that’s pretty fuckin’ awsome. My approach is to praise the functional bit and then maybe focus on one thing to improve, helps avoid that loss of motivation. But if you’ve been doing it for 2 years then you’re obviously doing pretty great overall man!

Eric Evans · January 3, 2018 at 3:16 am

Great post. I currently teach English in Central Asia, and it’s been such a rewarding experience. Thanks for sharing.

Alex Garred · January 26, 2018 at 7:11 am

Hi, this is a very interesting article for me as an Australian also intending to move to Poland to hopefully teach English and be with my girlfriend. I actually have a couple of questions regarding the qualifications needed to teach English and the logistics of making such a move – I’m currently studying education at university but I’ve been wondering if a TEFL/TESOL certification would be faster to obtain and better for my circumstances. Is there any way that I could contact you and ask a few more questions?

Natali · June 18, 2018 at 8:46 am

Hi, Phil. I’m interested in teaching English in Poland. I’m an English teacher in Ukraine and I’d like to compare Polish and Ukrainian exams, lessons, methods, mistakes etc. Could you help me giving some infomation?

    Phil Forbes · June 18, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Hey Natali

    I wish I could help you, but I’m not too experienced with exams and such myself. All the teaching that I’ve done has been game and activity focussed, not so much exams and study based. Basically, my teaching experiences have been somewhat informal. There are a few Facebook groups dedicated to Teaching English in Poland. If you can find some of them, I’m sure you’d be able find a bit of gold!

    Mark P Thomas · June 28, 2018 at 2:44 am

    I’ve been teaching university esl in China and have to give exams so maybe I can help.
    1. Have students keep a daily journal in English. Try to write at least 3 sentences per week of class.
    2. Cover at least one English language idiom per class.
    3. Pull an article from the news and have them read it and answer a few simple questions about it in their journal book.
    4. Listen to a song and have them write down the words.
    5. Watch a short film with English subtitles and have them write about it in their journals
    6. Provide a simple gap fill self introduction template.
    On your exam have 5 questions. They can pick a card to get their question.
    Use the film, the song, an idiom and the news readings to base the exam questions on. Look at their joureal to make sure they have one entry per week.
    Hope this helped!

      Phil Forbes · June 28, 2018 at 8:47 am

      Awesome tips Mark. A few things there I’d never thought of myself!

Karolina · June 22, 2018 at 10:23 am

Hi Phil,

This blog has been helpful, thank you for the tips.

I’m also from Australia and seriously thinking of travelling to Poland next year and wanting to teach English. I already have basic polish and family in Wrocław so I would base myself there. I have a degree but was wondering if the Tefl/Tesol course is worth doing and if you need this to teach English over there.

Regards,

Karolina

    Phil Forbes · June 23, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Hey karolina

    Thanks for the kind words! What is your degree in? If it’s in teaching, you won’t need any other form of qualifications to get a job here. If you don’t have any qualifications or experience teaching, you’ll need to get something. Keep an eye on Groupon for a few certificates, that’s where I found mine 😉

Mark P Thomas · June 28, 2018 at 2:30 am

Helpful and well written blog Phil, I’ve got an interview for an esl position at a training center in Krakow. I’ve looked on your blog and else where on the web but can’t seem to find what kind of wages I’d need to live comfortably in Krakow. Seems like maybe around 3000 zlotny per month? Is that about right? Any help you could provide with info would be greatly appreciated.

    Phil Forbes · June 28, 2018 at 8:51 am

    Hey Mark. Congrats on the job interview! I’m based in Warsaw and it’s well known for being a little bit more expensive than other areas of Poland. I was earning 4000PLN a month and that was comfortable. I’m not sure if Krakow is 25% cheaper than Warsaw, but with 3000PLN a month, that’s certainly the minimum, I’d say!

Bruce Chirwa · June 29, 2018 at 7:14 pm

Hi, my name is Bruce, from South Africa, I am a 39 year old black African , and i have a very keen interest in teaching English in Poland. I do not have an ESL teaching certificate yet, but i have worked as an assistant class teacher and i normally work as a Christian youth worker.
Can you please assist me with any direction.
Thank you

Catherine · July 7, 2018 at 4:06 pm

Hey Phil
Love your blog! Came across it by chance when researching CELTA/TEFL/TESOL certification and, quite separately, “things to do in Poland”! I’m from Melbourne originally, currently in Spain and heading to Gdansk in a few weeks. You’ve given me a lot of food for thought. Thanks for sharing your advice – it’s very much appreciated.
Regards
Catherine

Florian G. · August 10, 2018 at 12:35 pm

Superb blog post. I’m a French expat in Warsaw, and I’d be interested in giving some lesson/discussion. But as you mentioned, discussing and teaching is two very different task.
Let me know if you’re up for a beer or something in Warsaw anytime!

    Phil Forbes · August 13, 2018 at 7:32 am

    Thanks Florian! Sounds good, I’ve just replied to your message 🙂

Jess · August 13, 2018 at 3:07 pm

Hi Phil,

Thanks for such a useful blog. I’ve been teaching English in Warsaw for a while and find it really interesting and rewarding. I’ve just been offered to teach in-company classes but I am not sure what is considered a normal hourly pay rate for teaching English at a company. Is it different from what you get while teaching at the school? Could you also please give me any other tips regarding in-company teaching? Thanks!

    Phil Forbes · August 13, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    Hey Jess! Nice to kinda meet you.

    To me, there wasn’t a lot of difference. Both involved teaching a group. I guess one thing you need to remember is that you’re ien their environment. Don’t be easily shaken or put off by being in a new environment. Just be sure to stick to what they want to learn – if they want business English, stick to that.

    A normal hourly pay rate – well, that’s a good question! I guess that depends on the time of day, how far you’re travelling, the level of the students – only you can be the judge of that 🙂

Magdalena · October 3, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Teaching could be very hard, I know something about it – I’m teaching foreigners polish language 🙂

Mitch · October 19, 2018 at 3:02 am

Hey there Phil

I had a read of your blog and it was really helpful. I’m going to be in Warsaw next year to attend a conference and I’ll be based in Warsaw for 6 months. I have a BA from an Aussie University (straya represent) and also have completed an Adv. Diploma in TESOL. I’m now trying to navigate the employment process and find suitable work. Is there any way in which I can contact you ? Because I am trying to reach out to people who’ve done the same thing and get as much information as I can.

Thanks for any help mate!

Lee · October 26, 2018 at 7:54 pm

Phil

Thanks for posting this. My girlfriend keeps telling me to do the TEFL course so that i can teach in Poland. I’m very tempted but i see some information that suggests that you need a degree. I don’t have a degree, not much call for one as an electrician. What’s been your experience. Do you have a degree. Do you you know of people without degrees having fewer opportunities?

    Phil Forbes · October 28, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Lots of questions there man!

    Check your email 😉

Chris Mann · November 7, 2018 at 8:24 am

Hi Phil

Awesome blog post! I’m an Australian working in China as a high school English teacher (without a masters in education) but my contract finishes in February so my girlfriend and I will spend next year in her hometown Gdansk. I’m very excited and I hope to continue teaching English.

There’s the full range of TEFL/TESOL certificates out there ranging from cheap online ones from groupon.com to fully immersive courses for thousands of dollars. Will many employers be concerned with how I’ve obtained my certificate or will any kind of certificate combined with my experience be enough to score a gig?

Thanks in advance!

    Phil Forbes · November 7, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Hey Chris! Nice to kinda meet you. Straight up, Gdansk is a stunning city. Old but by the beach. Imaging Geelong or Newcastle, but like 1000 years old 😀

    In my experience, how you have a qualification doesn’t particularly matter. Having taught before, that’ll be your best asset. But yes, you cover all your bases by having some kind of formal qualification alongside a qualification. You don’t need a masters or bachelors or anything. Most employers just want some kind of formal acknowledgement. I got a simple online certificate and managed to get a whole lot of job offers just by having the certificate and a can-do attitude. If you’ve got experience to add to that equation, well, you’ll be set! This is the qualification that I got, too: https://premiertefl.com/?ptaff=207

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