Tips for teaching English in Prague
If you have a teaching degree, it’s definitely a lot easier to get your foot in the door with small private schools
Use the summer
Although most of the young enthusiastic English teachers flock to the city in the summer months, most teaching doesn’t really begin before September. Summer holidays and calendars filled with activities make the season a tough time for English teachers just starting out in the business. This is a good time to focus on laying the groundwork for the busy times ahead, though. Get out to meet people and try network with people who are active in the field. Scout out the best language schools you might want to work for. Make yourself known on the ESL scene in Prague and you will sure to reap the rewards later. I cannot overemphasise the importance of socialising – so many of the best jobs are got through knowing the right people. Attending language exchange meetups and groups can help you land your first private students or at least get your name known.
Be especially active in September and January
If summer is the time to do the sowing, then harvest starts in September. Children return to school and parents to work. Suddenly, the realisation of the long winter ahead makes people look for new projects to take on and many dive into language learning. This is a golden time for English teachers – September has proven to be the best time to find new private students year after year. Not to mention that language schools restart their semesters around that time as well. January is another golden month in language teaching – probably due to the popularity of New Year’s Resolutions. Use these two busy months to cement your student base. You can give out special offers to your private students asking them to bring a friend for free, for example. This way, even if one of them quits (which happens more often than any of us would like), you still have made a new connection. You will most probably be getting more lessons from language schools as well. The workload might seem like too much every now and again, but remember to cherish the times and do as much saving as you can.
Get involved with several schools
The busy months of September and January might make you feel like you could do with less work, not more. This can be rather deceiving, however. Unfortunately, language learning is one of those things that is very easy for your students to quit as soon as it starts interfering with their schedule. This is why it’s smarter to approach several language schools to hire you. Having several options to fall back on also helps with your negotiating. If you are just starting in a school, you will most probably not be on the top of their priority list. Be prepared to be sent to lessons at uncomfortable times and locations. If you are working for several schools, you have the option of turning down those assignments, or negotiating for a better schedule. Be careful, though – turn down too many, and you might be looking for a new job faster than you’d like!
Check up on your schools
In the 21st century, when information is so readily available with a few clicks, there is no excuse for not doing your homework on your future employer. When looking for schools to teach for, you should at least Google them or check out the biggest ESL blogs and forums to see if you might run into any problems. Some red flags should be if your prospective schools don’t require any qualifications or don’t run you through a proper vetting process – you can be almost certain they’re not running things by the books and you might have trouble getting paid from them in the future. Although getting the necessary visas and work permits might be a bureaucratic hassle, it’s still definitely worth going through the process. Working in licenced and legal schools will save you a ton of heartache and grey hairs in the future.
If you have a teaching degree, try to go for a government or university job
It’s definitely a lot easier to get your foot in the door with small private schools. But, if you have a relevant degree from a university accompanied by a TEFL certification, you could try to get into either the public school system, or even try to land a job teaching English in a university. The university jobs are some of the best in the business because the pay is good, groups that you will be teaching are very manageable and the students motivated. The degrees you would need for such a cushy position would probably have to be either teaching or linguistics. You might also get away with just (a lot of) prior teaching experience if you have graduated from a school in either the UK or US. A TEFL certification to prove proficiency is a must in any case, though. At least basic level Czech will definitely help your chances as well.
Prague is a very popular place for expat language teachers. Unfortunately for you, that also means a lot of competition - and the language schools know it. Luckily, good English teachers can always find work. Be sure to cultivate a reliable and hardworking professional image. Let your language schools know if you’re going to be absent and don’t cancel too many classes. Be upfront and respectful to your employers and students alike. This will help you to stand out from the crowd quite easily. Never underestimate the worth of word-of-mouth – just try to make sure that the word about you is a good one!
This article was written by Liisi Pajula, a freelance writer and teaching associate at Learn English Prague.
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