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Simply English (Moscow) experience - one year later

 
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Susya



Joined: 09 May 2016
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Sat Oct 14, 2017 2:32 pm    Post subject: Simply English (Moscow) experience - one year later Reply with quote

Despite some qualms, I did end up taking a job with Simply English in Moscow (https://www.simplyenglishschool.com/) for the 2016-2017 school year. Since it was hard to find any information about it back in the spring of 2016, I thought I'd report back on my experience as a first-time ESL teacher. I'm back this autumn (2017) for a second year with the school, so obviously it worked out fine for me. It was a tough and exhausting school year, but from what I can tell, it was considerably better than working at the McSchools, though not as high-paying as the ritzy international schools.

The company is legit and the employers (one Canadian and one Russian) are on-site, friendly, and accessible. The pay is indeed in the 75,000-90,000 ruble range, and arrives twice a month, in cash. If you set up a Russian bank account with their bank, they can apparently do direct deposit, but I haven't tried this myself. Visa reimbursement came in three parts on my first three paychecks. They do NOT pay for flights.

You have the option of company housing in a shared flat (12-15,000 rubles/month, deducted from your paycheck) or keeping the money and going out on your own. I took the company housing, which also covers utilities and wifi. I have cats, and they were good about finding me a flat that accepts them. The flat was nothing special (others were renovated and much nicer) and was fairly far out from the center, but it was convenient to transit (metro/bus/tram) and shopping and came well-supplied with kitchen stuff. I was generally happy there. Roommates came and went (three during the year), two good and one horrible. This year's roommate is good. The company deals with the landlord if necessary for repairs or whatever.

The official workweek is up to 25 hours between 09:00 and 21:00, five days a week. I had Saturday-Sunday off and generally 19-22 hours of teaching. I finished by 18:00 or 19:00 every day except one, and usually started around 10:00, sometimes as late as 13:00. Your pay is salary, not hourly, so you get the same pay even if all your students cancel and you spend the week sleeping. In late December and early May schools take vacation and a lot of private students cancel, so the load lightens somewhat. There are sometimes offers for overtime lessons if you want them (I didn't).

As a second-year teacher, I get a slightly better deal: fewer maximum hours and a shorter workday. They've also added one personal (vacation) day per semester for everyone, which is nice. We get paid for official Russian holidays, which means several three- and four-day weekends. We're also off 31 December-8 January unpaid, which has to be budgeted carefully for. It's possible to take a random day off if you need to, but they dock your pay.

School supplies, pretty much anything I asked for, are provided free by the company, and they give you a printer/copier/scanner in your flat with as much paper as you need. There's a teacher's room in the office, and a color printer and laminator, but not having to trek to the office every day to print worksheets makes life much easier. They have a good collection of online textbooks and other resources available, and bookcases of lesson materials, flashcards, books, etc.

The office staff is supportive and speaks English well. The office is on the circle line, so it's easy to get to, though about an hour from where most of the teacher housing is. They're good about escorting you to assignments initially (so you can learn the way) and dealing with any problems you encounter, from being lost in some maze of buildings to disciplinary issues with the kids or organizational issues at the schools. They have someone on call 24/7 for problems.

Health insurance is provided, and I got sick enough times to appreciate it. We get three paid sick days per semester, but you have to be seen by a doctor and get an official medical excuse to use them. I assume that means they've had problems with people taking "mental health" days or calling in with hangovers. The clinic was convenient (five minutes by tram from my flat) and professional, and the company made my appointments and sent an employee to translate. The one time I was too sick to go to the clinic, a doctor made a house call. All of this was free to me. Meds aren't covered, but are dirt cheap. Coming from the USA's horrible system, this feels like paradise!

The big downside of the job: you really do spend your life on the metro. There are no lessons in the office; everything is at client sites. A few of the teachers are assigned full-time to a single school (mostly kindergartens, I think), but most of us are crisscrossing the city daily teaching a mix of schools and private students (children, adults, and corporate). This can mean as much as four or five hours a day on transit. The company covers the cost of a Troika card (subway/bus/tram/trolley), so you're not paying for it, but if you don't use the time for something, it gets pretty irritating. The metro has free wifi, so I did a lot of email and lesson planning, plus I read fourteen novels during the first semester last year (yes, fourteen) and got very good at napping. This year I'm tackling the Game of Thrones series.

The lesson planning can also be a big time burden. At one point last year I was teaching kindergarten, 1st grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 7th grade, adult private students, child private students, and night school (adults/teens). Different lessons for all of these, nothing I could recycle for different students/classes. An all-kindergarten schedule would've been a lot easier, but my brain would turn to mush if I had to teach nothing but kindergarten. This year is easier, just by virtue of being more experienced at ESL teaching now and having returning students from last year.

The free Russian lessons are fine, but since everyone has a different schedule, if you can't make it to them, you're out of luck. They worked for me for the first several months last year until my schedule changed. So don't count on getting fluent in Russian via the company lessons.

Teacher turnover is high, between the people who flake out midyear, the people who did their year in Russia and now want to go elsewhere, and the people who leave for the better-paying international schools, but they have more teachers this year than last and an extra office employee, so it looks like they're expanding. They're very happy to have returning teachers and were good about negotiating a better contract for this year.

So, that's my experience with Simply English. I'm happy to answer questions here or in PM.
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maruss



Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 1142
Location: Cyprus

PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:08 pm    Post subject: Interesting posting! Reply with quote

It's always good to get up-to-date reports on peoples experiences with various firms.From what you have written, it seems that things there haven't changed much- as for the hours you are putting in you earn every penny of what they pay you, even more so as none of yours are at the firms office so you have to commute everywhere!This can be the real killer and as you also say, many people quit because they cannot stand the stress of Moscow living, plus the cold weather and pollution etc.The luckier ones get jobs with much better conditions where they only work in one place so they can also find accommodation nearby if they are well paid?Personally I would not agree to flat share with strangers and might only consider it with friends who I knew I would get along with-as you wrote, one person was horrible and for me that would be the last straw if I was working a schedule like yours!But I guess to hire a private flat would take away a large portion of your salary like it would for most jobs unless you are at one of the prestige schools etc?You are also teaching varying levels and age groups and this makes the job even more demanding,plus all the preparation time you have mentioned!But you do it for the experience of living and working in Moscow and this is the reality of life there for most people-for many it can be much worse than your too!Thanks again for the update and all the best.Any comments from you on what I have written would be welcome.
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depechemodefan1966



Joined: 31 Jan 2015
Posts: 50

PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 10:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A brilliant summary, Susya, and thank you.

However, given the number of hours you have to travel, I would insist on travelling time being paid. You are in the position now to ask for and expect it.
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maruss



Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 1142
Location: Cyprus

PostPosted: Thu Nov 30, 2017 10:18 am    Post subject: I'll second that! Reply with quote

Even so many years later, I can still remember all the time I wasted travelling around Moscow commuting from one class to another!This actually wore me out more than the job itself and anyone thinking of working there should bear this in mind before accepting a position and clarify exactly WHERE they will be working.It is easy for those who don't know to overlook this very important factor, even more so in winter when you will go in and out of over-heated buildings into often heavily polluted air at sub-zero temperatures: this can really ruin your health very fast, especially if your immune system is not strong.
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Partizan



Joined: 11 Jan 2013
Posts: 58

PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 8:41 am    Post subject: Re: I'll second that! Reply with quote

maruss wrote:
Even so many years later, I can still remember all the time I wasted travelling around Moscow commuting from one class to another!This actually wore me out more than the job itself and anyone thinking of working there should bear this in mind before accepting a position and clarify exactly WHERE they will be working.It is easy for those who don't know to overlook this very important factor, even more so in winter when you will go in and out of over-heated buildings into often heavily polluted air at sub-zero temperatures: this can really ruin your health very fast, especially if your immune system is not strong.


Places like these are called McSchools and for a number of good reasons. These type of schools have a high turnover of staff due to the reasons described and should only be used for a) gain experience for a newbie b) establish a foothold on the ladder if one focuses on a specific country, in this case Russia.

Still though, these jobs attract their fair share of drunks and hobos. I know, I worked with one.
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maruss



Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 1142
Location: Cyprus

PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 4:13 pm    Post subject: A good comment! Reply with quote

The old saying that you only get what you pay for seems to apply here as well?But I would also comment that there are many ex-pat teachers who go to Russia with good intentions after reading the recruiting ads. and then come down to earth very fast once they see the reality!
I met quite a few and had some bad experiences myself but at least I got paid what was promised so I suppose I should consider myself lucky!!!
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elkotik



Joined: 19 Jan 2017
Posts: 31

PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 10:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The guy who is director of this place offers 'teacher work visas', i.e. a visa that is just a work visa bought via an agency but is marketed by him as something specifically for teachers.
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maruss



Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 1142
Location: Cyprus

PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 11:58 am    Post subject: A typical trick! Reply with quote

To get work visas requires a firm to go through a lot of bureaucracy and also pay tax etc. so they use the visa agency method to get around this.Normally agencies can only get business visas which means that you are not supposed to be working and earning money there....The main problem is that it's illegal and if you are unlucky enough to get by spot check from immigration etc. you face paying a heavy fine and possible cancellation of your visa, which effectively means that you have to leave Russia!It is also quite likely that the firm will deny all knowledge of you to get themselves off the hook!
On the other hand, their justification is because few teachers stay long, why go to all the bother and expense of doing things the correct way?
I have a friend who was employed legally in Russia for years with an international firm as a 'consultant,'even though he mostly taught English on a freelance basis.But of course getting such positions is far from easy.
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elkotik



Joined: 19 Jan 2017
Posts: 31

PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:07 pm    Post subject: Re: A typical trick! Reply with quote

maruss wrote:
To get work visas requires a firm to go through a lot of bureaucracy and also pay tax etc. so they use the visa agency method to get around this.Normally agencies can only get business visas which means that you are not supposed to be working and earning money there....The main problem is that it's illegal and if you are unlucky enough to get by spot check from immigration etc. you face paying a heavy fine and possible cancellation of your visa, which effectively means that you have to leave Russia!It is also quite likely that the firm will deny all knowledge of you to get themselves off the hook!
On the other hand, their justification is because few teachers stay long, why go to all the bother and expense of doing things the correct way?
I have a friend who was employed legally in Russia for years with an international firm as a 'consultant,'even though he mostly taught English on a freelance basis.But of course getting such positions is far from easy.


The point I'm making is that the way this director advertises working visas is rather misleading and dupes people into thinking Russia offers visas specifically for teachers.
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Spasibo



Joined: 02 Dec 2015
Posts: 31

PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In Russia, money can get you many things... many of the American teachers I know are basically working on a 3 year "tourist" visa. The only stipulatioin is they leave every 6 months, it can be as short as 1 day. And come back the next day.

Not all countries have this, it's basically what your country and Russia have agreed upon for visas.
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maruss



Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 1142
Location: Cyprus

PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 9:24 am    Post subject: Visas/ work permits Reply with quote

Agencies can usually offer only visas, such as the six- month one mentioned and these are normally business visas.Until about five years ago you get these type of visas for up to twelve months, but with the requirement to leave after six months, even if only for one day: many people used this loophole to work in Russia teaching, even though it was strictly illegal as it is supposed to be for business and not work!Firms also used this route to avoid paying taxes and other bureaucracy and it was all o.k. unless you were unlucky enough to get caught, but few people did.But then they decided to change the regulations, ostensibly to be reciprocally in line with Schengen rules which only allow a maximum three months stay, followed by a minimum of three months outside the country.The other reason was because they knew that many foreigners were flouting the rules and not paying taxes and neither were the firms they worked for!Maybe the rules are different for people from Non-Schengen countries nowadays?
The other way is to get a work permit as a teacher which your employer has to apply for before you come and is valid only for that job, but this involves a lot of paperwork AND it means you will be registered with the tax people so there is no avoiding paying!Obviously knowing that many people who work for them tend not to stay very long, few firms want to go through the bother so they just use the first route, which is easier and also less hassle for everyone.
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