Teaching English in Russia and Poland — interview

Roger shares his story
One of the favorite ways to live in Russia for foreigners is to teach the English language in local language schools or in private. Thousands of people do so, especially in big cities like Moscow and Saint P. However, I wanted to find out what's the difference between teaching English in Russia and other countries for example Poland.

Although these two countries are united by a long history dating back hundreds of years, now they are very different. One is a pro-western country and a member of an EU with a strong power of law while the other can be considered an opponent to most of the western political goals.

I was lucky enough to find a guy who was teaching English in Russia during the 1990s, which can be considered one of the hardest periods in Russia not only for foreigners but even for local Russians. The economy was going down, crime rates were up and overall the situation wasn't great.

Meet Roger who has been teaching English in different countries for over 25 years. Roger was kind enough to answer the questions and provide insight into his experience of teaching English in Russia and in Poland.

1. What are the best and worst thing(s) of teaching English in Russia?

The best thing was the focus and intelligence of the students. I have taught students from over thirty countries, and Russians were the most industrious. They were highly motivated and always did what was asked of them. The worst thing was that students didn't respond well to the communicative method. They wanted highly structured, teacher-centered classes, and believed the teacher wasn't doing his job unless he was constantly talking. Perhaps this has changed in the years since I taught there. Teaching was simply not much fun in Russia.

2. What are the best and worst thing(s) of teaching English in Poland?

Polish students are very polite and warm-hearted. That’s the best thing about teaching here. There’s nothing really bad about the job in Poland, apart from the pay.

3. In which country you earned the most money as an English teacher?

I earned more in Russia, but that was because the school had to attract teachers to what was at that time a scary, hostile environment. The levels of criminality and lack of personal safety made several teachers leave mid-contract.

4. Are there any differences between working in Poland and Russia (in terms of work culture for example)?

In Russia, school administrators were often infuriating. The culture was one of obstruction and uncooperativeness. It often seemed that "The answer is 'no', now what is the question?" In Poland, there are lots of rules and admin', but that’s normal. If I had to choose the better place to work in terms of work culture, I’d have to say that it is more comfortable in Poland.

5. Where did you have a better social life?

I worked in Petersburg for a couple of years, and I took full advantage of the opera, ballet and concert halls. In those days the restaurants were terrible, but there were some good bars, mostly foreign-owned. Moscow was just too big and intimidating for me. As for the people, I made some friends among the students, and they were delightful. In Poland, I don’t socialize much as I’m middle-aged and settled, but where I live (a medium-sized city in the east) there’s not a great deal to do.

6. Which country would you recommend to a person who is planning to teach English (Poland or Russia)?

I can't comment on Russia now because it has been such a long time since I worked there. I hope that civil society has developed and that people can relax a bit more than when I was there. Poland is a very safe place. Having said that, I am a white European. I wouldn't recommend either country to someone who has a dark skin.
I hope Roger's answers have given you some insight into teaching English in Russia and Poland.
In case you have some additional information to add please leave it in the comment box.
Posted on February 09, 2018 · by Iskender Mokenov
Iskender writes for RULEXPAT — an info-hub for Expats in Russia.