Teaching English in Poland

- Poland

The following comments are from English teachers who have worked, or are currently teaching English in Poland. If you are an English teacher and have some advice to share about Poland, please post here.

Poland has high unemployment, as a result your boss always has the upper hand. It is a good idea to get a solid contract. The contract should include pay and number of hours per week. Many poorly run "English Schools" will guarantee high hourly wages but not the hours per week. This can be problematic, if you make any plans based on your salary.
Anonymous 21 April 2006

Transport system in the city is wonderful - best is to buy a monthly ticket (ticket office at Plac Bankowy) for 66pln. This will enable you to use the buses and trams and metro trains for one month. 66pln is the equivalent of £10. Average cost of a flat is 1200 - 1400pln - just over £200 per month. You can get a very pleasant one room flat with kitchen and bathroom for that amount. Any more and you are being suckered. I have been working in Warsaw for four years - I have also spent one year in Slovakia. If anyone wants more information they can get in touch with me at gilgaskell@hotmail.com
Gill 18 October 2006

Poland is becoming a popular destination to teach English, especially among those who don't want to follow the herd in Spain. I taught in Poland for one year in a place called Lodz, which happens to be Poland's second largest city. Like many places in Poland, it was grey and drab, and had high unemployment. That said, Lodz has a university and important film school which attracts people from all over the world. On the good side, the school was well-equipped, students were highly motivated, demanding, but easy to get on with. At the time, I earned about 2,500 zloty per month, which is of course peanuts in comparison to British wages.
Stakhanov 3 January 2007

Plenty of jobs available especially for a native speaker. Many employers will take you on a part time contract and allow you to work privately for extra money so long as you keep focussed. Most cities are equipped with reliable and cheap public transport and most young people will speak English if you ever require any assistance. As one of the biggest markets for ESL teachers it is a great place to start, however, to ensure you get a job it is a must that you appear in person for an interview, as much for your sake as for theirs.
Geoff 21 January 2007

A wonderful place with wonderful people. The language is a pig to learn properly but help will be given if you try a little. Food is sensible and large cities have decent supermarkets. Some really nice places to visit with mountains in the south and excellent sandy beaches in the north - especially good for the Summer. Something for everyone. Some very good schools and some real cowboys too so be a little careful. Although the wages are poor by Western European standards native speakers should earn a more than decent wage by local standards. Some good schools will provide accommodation too possibly in lieu of part of your wages... well worth a visit!
Anonymous 18 February 2007

Honestly speaking, it is very hard to make a decent living in Poland as an English teacher, and since most of the cities were destroyed during WW2 and rebuilt by the communists, they are not too colorful nor pretty to look at. The people are generally rude to deal with too. I would suggest looking for work in the Czech republic or Slovakia... at least you will have beautiful towns to walk around in.
Anonymous 14 October 2007

Poland is a great place to teach English. I taught English for just under 2 years in a city called Wroclaw and I am very satisfied with how things turned out. There are lots of English schools in Wroclaw as well as in every other major Polish city. The people are very nice and the cities in Poland are extremely beautiful. Wroclaw's mix of classical and modern architecture is a pleasure to be surrounded with. Poland is one of the nicest countries in all of eastern and central europe but because of Soviet domination after WWII many people are unaware of its true beauty and the potential it holds for foreigners. Wroclaw offers a wide variety of activities for your spare time including rich nightlife, clubs, pubs, museums, galleries and sporting events. The city is equipped with effective modern transportation so getting around was never a problem for me.
Mike 2 February 2008

Due to the large number of people who left Poland to work in Germany and the United Kingdom, Poland is actually experiencing a shortage of labourers so there are tons of job opportunities for outsiders, including teaching English. I was sponsored by a Polish community center in Chicago to go teach English in Poland. I had my TEFL certification so it was easy for them to find a position for me at a local English training center for adults. I really enjoyed my stay in Warsaw and I have already been contacted several times by my Polish employer to go back and teach full time. This is why I am currently doing my TEFL diploma. Poland is in high-demand for skilled English teachers. Although the place I was at likes to hire native speaking English teachers, I learned that those who speak some Polish are much more likely to land a job there because some programs are for beginners who barely understand any English.
Anonymous 2 February 2008

I taught ESL in Gdynia - one of the three tri-cities; the other two being Gdansk and Sopot. Gdynia is a lovely city and is considered one of the "wealthier" cities in Poland (due to the shipping industry years back). The private school I worked in was highly professional and very accommodating in the types of classes I wanted to teach. The salary offered was minimal, though higher than that earned by the native Polish teachers (bear in mind, I had only 1 year of teaching experience). I found the students to be extremely hard-working, eager to learn the English language well, and very respectful of their teachers. The students were a mix of young (and some mature), ambitious, students and/or up-and-coming professionals. The locals were another story. Though I was there during 2001-2002, it seemed that many were still reeling from the years of post-communism. (Tourist guidebooks that claimed the 40-something crowd were considered the 'lost generation' offered me a clearer picture of why there was such disparity in attitudes between generations). From stories that I've heard and my own experience there, I would highly recommend teaching ESL in Poland. As in any country you first work in, it pays to do some research on the school and to get a firm (and clear) contract. Poland can offer you a beautiful landscape in which to work and/or travel just as long as you are willing to accept the attitudinal differences in the generations of Poles who lived through the rigors of war that many of us have never come close to. Oh, and keep your valuables close at hand - petty theft is still evident even in broad daylight.
Lillian 24 March 2008

Poland is a real mecca to teach English... and is highly recommended. But it's not a mecca for money but simply that there is always work available for native English teachers (despite high unemployment). However, of course the quality of school does vary from place to place. You should be really cautious. Some schools obviously just care about the student's wallets rather than their language learning. At the moment, there is a high demand to employ native speakers. In many of the smaller towns, schools will still employ native speakers solely on the fact that they can speak English 'fluently', even if they are not trained teachers of English. Whilst this may all be very well and easy for those of you who haven't invested their grand in CELTA or Cert TESOL... you have to ask yourself this. What sort of educational institution employs unqualified "teachers"? The answer is simply cowboy outfits who obviously don't care about the quality of teaching and are literally desperate for the token native speaker. My advice to you all is to avoid these schools at all costs and invest yourself in the 4 week CELTA course (you can even do it here in Poland). You will feel much more comfortable as a teacher and will actually be able to deliver some quality teaching at the same time. After all...students come first!
Glenn 30 September 2008

Teachers applying to schools in Poland might want to be wary of the following... a school currently seeking teachers advertised two different gross hourly rates tied to the complexity of the teaching work. They also advertised as additional benefits free accommodation and private insurance. They did not seem too interested in Polish tax or national insurance. These would be taken care of within the teacher's own home EC country.
Later emails clarified the following...
a)The higher gross figure included accommodation and insurance. That is against all conventions on how pay rates are normally expressed.
b)They also explained that payment could vary from month to month depending on the school's judgement of the teaching quality - not something you will find on many bona fide teaching contracts.
George Benson 19 January 2009

As another post explains... many Poles have left Poland in recent years to find work in Western Europe. Those applying to work there should ask themselves... if the natives are doubtful about working conditions here, what are my chances as a foreign teacher of securing a good job? The old system in Poland was manipulative and authoritarian. Communism has gone but perhaps some residual traces remain.
JS 19 January 2009

Having been in Poland a few months I've spoken to many schools and spent 3 months as a teacher for one. I left there to return temporarily to IT mainly due to low salary and a female manager with serious mood swings. Very unprofessionally shouting at me across the length of the school for finishing a lesson early, despite having completed the material, taught extra and then the student also asked to leave early to attend another class. A common trait with polish managers - they have no ears. When the student explained she had asked to finish early - the manager refused to accept this. The student felt very embarrased about the situation and I very angry. My general advice is 'read the small print'. I applied for another school and something didn't seem right. I asked to see the contract before making a decision, half of one page contained a list of all the tasks that must be completed 'without pay' which could easily have eaten lots of time each week. Also when I turned the job down based on the rate, it suddnely increased about 50%... so why wasn't it this high to start with? Charge high - pay low, then wonder why teachers move on so fast. Some contracts state that hours are not guaranteed and in 'school holidays' you simply earn no money whatsoever, so it's worth asking about guaranteed hours. Finally, when you get that job - work at it! You'll not only earn the respect of your students and colleauge but you'll improve your career and enjoy it more. If you're a 'gap year teacher', please remember that you're also setting a reputation, some schools are wary of native speakers after having teachers who are consistantly late, rude, ill prepared and drunken. So remember, you're preparing the ground for those who follow, don't mess it up for them!
Tont Kenny 6 March 2009

Be very careful teaching here, especially if you're new. The students are usually eager to learn and happy to have a native speaker. The employers are happy to have you too but many of them will use you as a marketing tool rather than a valued employee. If you do get a valid contract, read it very carefully. Many private schools have contracts with double-meanings and fine print. These employers have no hesitation to pull a fast one on you with empty promises of guaranteed money and hours. Be especially wary if you are in the small towns and villages. This is where I experienced the most corruption. These places are very poor and if you get caught sleeping, they will take you for a ride in a heartbeat and never think twice about doing it. Be very sure to check where you will teach. One time I was told I was going to teach in a city. I signed a contract and the school was "outside" the city, over an hour away. Also, I got 6 hours per day but I started at 10am and the last class ended at 8.30pm. I spent many hours in a small town doing nothing. I ended up working long days and only getting a few hours' pay. Basically, if you get a deal that sounds too good to be true, it is. Be sure to do your research and find reputable schools. Ask a lot of questions and avoid any places that have people who dodge them. Poland has a lot of honest people who want to do the right thing. However, being skeptical at first is a wise idea.
Gary 20 January 2010

I have been working in Radom, Poland since September 2010. I love it here. While the isolation might get to some people, for me it was ideal. The people may appear cold at first, but once they get to know you, they are really warm hearted and kind. My school, no issues about anything. Brilliant DOS and other teachers. For the most part the students are respectful and motivated. I have already agreed to another year, I might even make this my permanent home.
Jeremy 14 May 2011

I have taught in Poland for 6 months now and I only have 3 months left. I have absolutely loved it. I am only in Bydgoszcz which isn't the most beautiful city but people are friendly and my school - International House is a brilliant place to work. If you have a CELTA and want a good place to start out then I can't recommend it enough - especially if you can get in with IH. Only downside is that it's cold and you won't earn enough to travel outside of Poland. That's the only reason I'm leaving in December.
Louise 23 September 2011

I've been teaching English in South-West Poland for almost a decade now. Teaching here can be rewarding in many respects and provided you supplement your income with private lessons, you can live comfortably. Unfortunately, I've been here long enough to see the ugly side of Polish culture and mentality. As this is a forum on teaching English in Poland, my negative observations about this country and people would be inappropriate. However, I'd like to take this opportunity to only mention how horrible the air pollution is in Poland. Coal is king, not to mention wood, plastic and any rubbish they can get their hands on to burn for heating homes. These are not only poor housholds but in many cases very well off folks, with a Mercedes parked in the garage. During the burning season, it can be unbearable. I'm not green, just aware. Unfortunately, Poles are not.
James 6 November 2011

I have been living in Poland for over 3 months in the Trojmiasto- amazing cities but after canvassing many schools I have found little to no interest! I have built up some private lessons and the only concrete job that has been offered is 2 hours away. I wanted to leave this post for anyone who has worked in Gdynia-Gdansk who maybe could recommend some more professional institutes or schools to me. I wish you luck if you journey to Poland- would definitely not sell it to you as 'friendly' or 'easy' to accomplish things. You need to be as keen eyed as they are with details and 'what was said'...
John 24 Feb 2012

It's a wonderful place to work. The people are hard working, polite and have integrity. Find a good school for example IH Integra schools in Southern Poland are very good I know I worked in one in Opole for 2 years. The wage is above average in terms of cost of living and you can go out for meals a few times a week. Nothing like western Europe. The Polish are modest and unassumely and usually have respect for their teachers. The children also have a good attitude. I had the best time there and really recommend it, a billion times better than Western Europe TEFL work!!!
LucyB 23 May 2012

For four years I rode through the scrub and wasteland of Poland's ESL Wild West, teaching the good, the bad and the really thick. The school owners I encountered were A grade f*ckwits, ignorant, small minded, jealous, uncultured and uneducated. Money....yes you can make serious money if you own a school. Teachers on the other hand, expect to drop your trousers and take it..... My advice, join a school. Suck it up for a year, make sure you note down all the illegalities which the owners WILL perform, i.e stating on your pay slip that you were paid X and note Y, to avoid ZUS (National insurance), the list goes on. Make a detailed record of these facts.
Make sure to develop as many private lessons as possible and contacts within the community, make as many friends as possible. Then after a year open your own school, steal all the students and when your old bosses try to mess with you, explain you have noted all their tricks and will give it to the tax office if they try anything.
That is how to teach long term in Poland.
Remember, Kindness is seen as weakness.
The Lone Ranger 9 Oct 2012

I absolutely agree with The Lone Ranger's advice. I have been working in Poland now for 9 months as an English teacher in a private school and it's run half ass. Administrators are socially inept, unqualified, and the owner of the school is a ghost rarely seen. Polish people are RUDE and sometimes down right nasty- period. My advice is to not work in Poland as an English teacher in a private or public school. Companies lie and cheat on their taxes, you wont make a lot of money, and if you don't know the Polish language, it will be very hard for you.
Dose of truth 3 April 2013

I've been teaching in Warsaw since 1997 as a freelance business English teacher. I teach mostly in-company individuals and I have a portfolio of private students. The pay is pretty low, it's usually not possible to just work at one commercial language school and earn enough. A teacher has to work concurrently at several commercial language schools to earn about 3,500 zloty (1,129 USD). Many of the schools prefer that you set up a self-employed business in Poland because the schools don't want to pay the high Polish monthly health insurance and pension (ZUS) costs. So if you pay monthly ZUS costs, thats about 300 USD. Also if your self-employed you will have to pay a bookeeper, about 80 USD per month.

There are many schools and they compete mostly on price,looking for the cheapest native speaker teacher, preferably with a TEFL certificate. I've never had a school offer a pay raise; I've always had to ask for a raise, and really have to fight for it. Some schools often decrease your pay rate the following year. The schools aren't very aggresive at marketing and keeping the students in the pipeline. Most of the schools, even the business English schools, seem to operate on the academic model: September - June, and not a yearly business model.

The students are usually friendly,but lazy; not too willing to do homework and either late for class or poor attendance. I prefer to teach indivduals, because the groups usually whine about the topics not being interesting enough and they expect the teacher to lead the discussions most of the time.

In summary, most of the Polish commercial language schools don't value native speaker teacher experience and education; so probably next year, I'm heading to Singapore.
Larry 15 June 2013

Trust nobody.

As a teacher, you are replaceable and disposable - so any idea that you'll be treated in a fair 'valued employee' type of way needs to go out of the window before you arrive. Polish school owners are generally inept and shady (certainly all of the ones I met were) and speak English at an intermediate level. They have no real passion or interest in teaching or education. Money is the name of the game, so believe me, if they can hire someone for 5pln less than you, regardless of their credentials, they'll do it and replace you. The only exceptions I fount to this are IH schools, where they do have good quality control and a general sense of business ethics/integrity.

If you're a qualified native speaker and getting paid under 60 to 80pln per hour, you're being foolish and undervaluing yourself. Don't let anybody talk your price down.

Get as many private lessons as you can and have a clear cancellation policy from the very beginning (24 hours paid -suggested). Make it clear that you cannot be flexible with times (even if you can) and have a fixed schedule. Tell people you expect a minimum number of lesson per month during your scheduled time (three if it's once a week for example- if you don't say this people will use this to re-schedule and mess you around constantly. Never underestimate frugality - even from people who have money. Don't be 'nice' or accommodating about matters of business. It doesn't work there like it does in the west.

Also, be prepared to hear some students say completely ignorant things (regarding race, sex, religion, etc.) as though they are 'facts' - you'll see what I mean if you live there.
Stew 19 June 2014



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