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Advice on BKC International House Moscow?
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thepracticaldragon



Joined: 21 Dec 2004
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2004 6:11 pm    Post subject: Advice on BKC International House Moscow? Reply with quote

Hi,

I'm looking at going to teach in Moscow or surrounds within the next few months with BKC International House. Could anyone who is working/has worked with that company let me know how it is -- i.e., do they follow through on what they promise to provide, is there good teacher support, etc.? (I don't mind if they don't speak English, as I'm fluent in Russian, and I've lived in Russia before, so I know the general perils and pitfalls of that. I just want to make sure that I'm not walking into a disaster, company-wise. They look cool, but you know what they say about looks....) Any feedback would be much appreciated.

Thanks!
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alekto



Joined: 16 Sep 2004
Posts: 21
Location: Moscow, Russia

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I worked in Zelenograd (a suburb of Moscow) for 2 years with BKC. Generally, they're ok for a Language school in Russia. You get what they say, certainly. But you'll work hard for your pay, that much is for sure. Most other IH schools demand less hours. Here they will make you work the full 30...even if it means a spilt shift (although they are trying to deal with that...and multiple site classes too).

They're getting much more heavy-handed on the whole professional development thing - putting new teachers under a 5-point system to decide whether or not they need more help (or something - I dunno, I don't work for them anymore!).

As working on-contract for a school goes, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
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canucktechie



Joined: 07 Feb 2003
Posts: 343
Location: Moscow

PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2004 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am on my second year at BKC and academically I think it's pretty good. The DOS and ADOS's are all helpful and the school places a lot of emphasis on professional development (monthly seminars, etc.) The teachers are a fun lot too.

The business side of the school is less attractive, as noted above the school will squeeze that 30 hours out of you and this may result in a difficult timetable. There are also difficulties like reluctance to expel problem students and the occasional misplacement to get the student paying ASAP, although this sort of thing happens in any money-driven school.

If you speak good Russian I think you could do very well teaching privately, but BKC is certainly a good place to start as you will make a lot of contacts and you will have a steady income and a place to stay until you decide to strike out on your own.
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thepracticaldragon



Joined: 21 Dec 2004
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2004 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the feedback! Yeah, I was thinking of teaching privately, and probably will in the future, but I want to get apartment, visa, whatever else taken care of for me this time around, and you're right about the contacts thing.

Very Happy

Anyone else?
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Xenophile



Joined: 29 Dec 2004
Posts: 7
Location: Moscow

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2004 8:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am also on my second contract with BKC-for the first year I worked as a teacher in one of the small satellite towns, and now I am working as an ADOS for satellite schools.
Having worked in TEFL for several years in different countries, I can say that BKC is a good school to work for-they will treat you fair and square. Yes, you'll work hard for your money, but you will get paid regularly and reliably. Bear in mind also that there are quite a few "extras" which are worth a good deal. You get a rent-free and bill-free furnished flat with all the basics, your visa paid for (providing you complete your contract) and a travel card for the metro which you can also use for non-work trips (as well as any other travel expenses you might have getting to classes eg buses). There is often a lot of travel involved-very few people do all their lessons in one branch, apart from those working outside Moscow-but the timetabling department generally do a good job of arranging "blocks" in a branch so that you're not constantly rushing from one place to another, and you will be placed in accommodation which is reasonably near to where you teach. Teacher support is very important to BKC, especially as they employ a large number of newly-qualified teachers, who can get help with planning lessons, go to workshops and seminars, and get feedback about their lessons. There is a very positive attitude to lesson observation here. The 1-5 scale may sound intimidating, but it's helpful for recruitment, who can see how a new teacher is progressing, and also helpful for teachers to monitor their own development, and it's more objective than the comments on the report (though these are helpful too). DOSes and ADOSes aren't "Big Brother"-they're trying to help you develop your teaching skills. We also have a mentoring system for new teachers (whether experienced or not) who are there to help you adjust to living in Russia, to the way the company works, as well as to listen to any gripes or suggestions you might have.
A word about Russian students. They are quite demanding, but very rewarding to work with as they are, on the whole, highly motivated (yes, even the teenagers!!). Lessons are quite expensive for them, so they work hard (though they're not averse to having fun in the classroom as long as it is productive) but they also expect value for money. I can honestly say that, of all the nationalities I've taught, Russians are the most motivated.
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zaneth



Joined: 31 Mar 2004
Posts: 545
Location: Between Russia and Germany

PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2004 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, everything you say is basically true and I'm sure you are sincere. But, man, all these dos-written accounts of BKC start to sound a lot alike after a while.

Perhaps we can have a sticky "the heartfelt independantly arrived at by experience company line of BKC"

I know this is a little insulting. Sorry. I've nothing against BKC (I got a nice Christmas card from them the other day, by the way). It's just the tone of these things gets to me somehow. I suppose it's just a personal problem I should work through.

Just think of it as a little ribbing between colleagues.

Cool name, by the way.
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GedKealmen



Joined: 17 Nov 2004
Posts: 7
Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2004 8:17 pm    Post subject: Unbiased Opinion Promise Reply with quote

Hi there... I've never worked with BKC and never worked in Russia. I don't speak any Russian at all (Spanish, English, basic French, and minimal Chinese are my foundations) and I am heading into the adventure of BKC in Moscow.

I'm not a complainer, a backpacker, or a princess teacher. I'm d@mn good at teaching EFL or ESL and I have a ton of Mexican experience and recently some good Chinese experience. (I say this in the least self-serving way possible; I only want people to know who I think I am before they read my opinions.)

In 4-6 weeks I should be arriving in Moscow and starting personal interaction with BKC people, I've been offered a fair deal and I have accepted gladly, looking forward to the cultural and professional experience ahead.

I'll be sure to post opinions that are as unbiased as I can make them regarding each step of the way. Please specify points of interest so I can focus on things of general concern as opposed to subjective priorizations.

Best year's end wishes to all!
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angstrom



Joined: 03 Aug 2004
Posts: 27

PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2005 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, just change the pace here, I'm going to write an objective account of my 9-month stint at BKC. They were professional all the way, and in that regard, I praise them. They stuck to the contract terms and there were no unpleasant surprises. But on the negative side of things, I'd have to say that BKC is a capitalistic venture in the worse sense of the word. It'll squeeze every little once out of you and severely compromise quality in the process. If you taught from 7-9:15 pm, then have a 9 am class the next morning, and then, your next class is not until 4 pm, you know the last thing you want to do is teach. But, such is life and even though you are only earning 550-650$/month, you go through this daily ordeal and even come to enjoy in a sort of unhealthy masochistic way. So, I guess all I can really say is that unless you're a hardcore russophile like me, don't do it. Do it for Russia, for the Russians, for yourself, but don't do it for the money. You're not gonna save one penny, not even a half penny. The way I look it is, out of this painful 9-month contract, I did get decent students, a fairly nice apartment near the woods, a month's paid vacation, and most importantly, I was in my beloved Russia.
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thepracticaldragon



Joined: 21 Dec 2004
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess I'm glad, in a way, to hear that being a teacher in Moscow will be no different than being a student in Moscow was....

I ain't doin' it fer the money. If I were, I'd go to South Korea.

I guess I'll see at least one of you in Moscow in March, or as I like to call it, High Mud Season. Not exactly April in Paris, but at least I know what's coming.

Advice to anyone in Moscow. When spring finally DOES come, go to Metrostantsiya Universitet and walk down the tree-lined sidewalk (if it's still there) along the gates of MGU. The trees snow white flower petals on you. Very Happy
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canucktechie



Joined: 07 Feb 2003
Posts: 343
Location: Moscow

PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I want to quibble a bit with one of the above posts - you can save money if you really want to. You can eat very well (no not at restaurants) for about $150 a month, and if you go to the cinema, a concert, or a sports event that will cost you about $8 or less a shot.

Some things that will use up all of your salary Twisted Evil

Pubbing and clubbing (particularly if it extends to weeknights)
Western-priced medical and dental care (BKC covers you for medical in the Russian system, but no dental).
Getaways (unless you go to Tallinn and stay in a hostel, or something similar).
Shopping downtown.
And last but not least, a Russian girlfriend.
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thepracticaldragon



Joined: 21 Dec 2004
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

About the medical care...

Can anyone tell me if it's still the case that you can basically hunt down the medication you need at pharmacies around town and you don't need prescriptions for them? If not, what's going on with that? I'm asking because there're 2 meds I need on a regular basis and I so truly can't afford to buy a year's supply of them in the US before I go.

Seven weeks before departure...what, me, PANICKING???!?!!! Naaah.

ps -- A hostel in Talinn sounds nifty. And, due to circumstances decided around the time I was conceived, I'm planning to be on the receiving end of the (Russian) girlfriend thing. Wink
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expatella_girl



Joined: 31 Oct 2004
Posts: 216
Location: somewhere out there

PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2005 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Prescriptions are one of the best things about Russia. You can get almost any thing that is doctor-only in the west, over-the-counter in Russia. And usually cheap.

I found this translation site the other day--www.online-translator.com-- and put in an American med and it came up with the Russian equivalent in no time. Try your meds here. There are also western clinics in Moscow that will translate your prescriptions from English to Russian. Altogether I would say that meds and health care here are as good as, and probably better than, the west.
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GedKealmen



Joined: 17 Nov 2004
Posts: 7
Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 12:19 pm    Post subject: A couple of opinions on BKC Reply with quote

Ok everyone, I flew into Moscow on Feb-18 and I just started teching with BKC. Before coming here I tried to get an idea of what BKC would be like, but after looking through many posts in a couple of different forums I simply came away with a very wide range of opinions, some of them from disgruntled teachers, others from regular BKC teachers, and even a couple from BKC ADOSes. Here's what I got out of my research overall:

a) BKC is a big organization. One of the biggest in Russia.
b) It has a well-established system for teacher support.
(Not necessarily efficient, but well-established.)
c) It hires a LOT of teachers.
(This one ought to tell you something.)
d) They give you housing, a small bonus, a minimally competitive salary, and a few other obvious benefits.


Now, after being here for a couple of weeks, going through their "orientation" and getting to know the first layer of their organization, here are my first impressions:

1) The three central schools are all right. They have good support, good libraries, good people. But any new teacher who expects to be based in one of these schools is dreaming. You will work in one of the satellite schools which are minimal in most regards and you will probably be moving arund (using the metro and the metro pass they provide) constantly.

2) They tell you that 7-10% of their teachers leave before completing their first contracts, but I seriously doubt that. From the people I have talked to I get the feeling that this figure is probably around 35-50%. BIG NOTE: I HAVE NO FORMAL DATA TO BACK THIS OPINION, IT IS MERELY A GENERAL IMPRESSION GOTTEN FROM TALKING TO TEACHERS IN THE TEACHERS' ROOMS.

3) The housing is everything they say, and the people in the recruitment office do try their best to accomodate you, but they are apparently constrained by both the BKC system and the cost of good housing in Moscow. My first apartment was extremely old, the building's stairwell was full of graffiti, it smelled like a toilet, and it had a general feeling of being unsafe. Internet was not available, not even through the Internet Cards they sell everywhere, because the building's wiring is so bad that a modem connection is virtually impossible. I am moving soon to a slightly better place and eventually I will probably get my own place. Most teachers have similar quality housing.

4) I do believe timetables are planned with every intention of making things as easy as possible for you, but I have taught TWO days and I have already been asked to cover three 3-period classes. This also tells us something about the apparent difficulty their system has with teacher reliability. Apparently people get sick all the time and apparently people jump ship all the time leaving many teacherless classes, so Timetabling has to shuffle teachers around constantly creating a serious inconvenience for other teachers who would probably be all right otherwise.

5) The salary they offer is enough to get by and probably even save a few bucks if you're not a big drinker or a serious clubber, but it is definitely not a good salary. And for God's sake... don't ever think that you can get a Russian GF and still live decently on your BKC paycheck.

6) The people in the Central Office and also the people in the Central Schools are really great. They are nice, friendly, professional, and well-prepared.

7) The satellite schools are another matter completely, and always bear in mind... this is a private language school. The final purpose here is not to educate but to make money. It is a business and eventually this will weigh when trying to solve problems in class, i.e. with problematic teenagers. Allow me to point out once more that the DOSes and ADOSes in the central schools ARE education-oriented people, they might even go to bat for you if a problem should arise with a satellite Local Organizer, but I can't vouch for that yet.

9) They do fulfill their promises, as far as I can tell. They just don't give you a complete and representative picture when they hire you and I believe this is not because of dishonesty, but simply because many people here seem to be unaware.

It is generally not a bad place to be. The people are nice, there is a good chance of moving up within the organizational structure if you're really good and you can take a lot... but it is not a comfortable place to work and it is definitely not a setup designed to keep teachers happy. The bottom line is that I have not talked to a single teacher here who is really happy with his/her job, and the teacher turnover rate is too high. I honestly believe the school would find it easier to invest a little more trying to make their teachers comfortable and spend less trying to get new teachers all the time because uncomfortable teachers quit.

Anyway... BKC ADOSes will probably read this and I will be blacklisted forever... hehehe. But bear in mind that I am always honest and I will always give my most sincere opinion. I also promise to mention the good things I experience as I walk my BKC path.

Take care, and I hope I didn't hurt anyone's feelings here.
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maruss



Joined: 18 Mar 2003
Posts: 989
Location: Cyprus

PostPosted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 2:48 pm    Post subject: Nice to read an honest report! Reply with quote

Just out of interest,in which area did they accomodate you and expect you to work?Did you manage to get your own appartment and did you at least have a washing machine for you clothes?(Try finding one of those launderettes in Moscow!!)
Having spent several years investigating things, my comments are that they have had some potentially great staff at all levels at B.K.C.(AND MAYBE STILL DO!!) but the pay and conditions are rubbish,especially with the cost of living in Moscow today-you can earn far more, so send me a private message for more advice.
I am thinking of coming over myself soon, but obviously not to work for them-if you pay peanuts, you should only expect monkeys,as the old saying goes!
Remember to avoid the south and south east suburbs of Moscow like the plague-they are not only ugly and miserable BUT HAVE SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN TO BE ECOLOGICALLY VERY UNHEALTHY, BOTH PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY!A very bad Slavic version of Brixton,Harlesden or Wolverhampton maybe???
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Xenophile



Joined: 29 Dec 2004
Posts: 7
Location: Moscow

PostPosted: Thu Mar 03, 2005 7:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GedKealman: Don't you think 1 week is a rather short time to be making such sweeping judgements about as large an organisation as BKC?
I'd just like to make 3 points:
1) It's the end of winter, the time when more people get sick than at any other time of the year. It's also the time when people are most likely to be feeling tired and discouraged (& therefore grumble more)
2) It's human nature to gossip. The tale of someone who walked out before the end of their contract is more interesting than the tale of someone who completed their contract, so you're much more likely to hear about it. Most people do finish their contracts successfully, and quite a few sign another one- they must be REALLY uncomfortable working here! Rolling Eyes
3) It's human nature to grumble, especially at this time of year. Walk into any staff room (this isn't confined to teachers either) and you'll hear people grumbling. That doesn't necessarily mean they're unhappy.

Maruss: The pay BKC offers is about the same as other schools in Moscow. You are either unaware of, or choosing to ignore, the hidden extras, such as rent, bills, travel card and health insurance. The conditions are pretty much the same as most schools I've worked in (& I've worked in quite a few, in various parts of the world). Of course you can make more money by taking on private pupils-that's pretty much true anywhere as well.
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