Joined: 22 Oct 2002
Location: Los Angeles, California
|Posted: Mon Mar 03, 2003 12:35 am Post subject: The Real Deal
|I've read many of the postings here with interest and I'm not sure exactly where to begin, but I would like to add my two pence worth. I'm writing to one of these discussion boards for the first time.
I'll give a little background before I give my opinions: I arrived in CZ in 1994 (aged 25) and left in 1999, returned to work for another 6 months in 2000, have visited at least once a year since then and plan to return to settle this August. I started out as a teacher in a N. Moravian coalmining town (for 4 years) on 6000Kc a month and ended up as a teacher trainer on $1000 a month in Prague. So, without wishing to sound too arrogant, I think I'm well qualified on the place.
It dismays me to read that people have enjoyed the country, the people and the teaching but wouldn't recommend it because of the salary. Surely if you're having fun, the salary is not the most important thing - especially if you're young and it's only for a year or two. The issue of salary has been covered enough on this site, but could you afford to go out eating and drinking every night back home? Well, that's what most EFL teachers in CZ do - especially in Prague. Remember it is always advertised as a good LOCAL salary. However, even in the early days I was able to do all these things and travel extensively in eastern Europe. If you want to make money, don't go to the Czech Republic OR teach English.
As you have gathered by now I really like the country, but I'm realistic enough to see that it's not all a bed of roses. There is still a lot of corruption and bad management at all levels and that includes language schools. Apparently there are about 500 of the things in Prague alone. Of course not all are bad and you simply have to learn from other people or experience which are the better ones. The local people can be downright rude at times, from pushing and shoving on the Metro to being ignored in a shop. But some will go out of their way to help you, expecting nothing in return. Maybe after years of repression some people are still very conservative about dealing with foreigners (and believe me we stand out). Many are incredibly racist (one of my biggest issues with CZ), but some open their arms to new cultures and peoples. Pickpocketing is also rife.
Life was tough for me when I first arrived and the main reason I stayed beyond a year was because of my students. They really appreciated the fact that I was teaching them in the arsehole of the country when I could be in the big city. There were very few foreigners in the town so I got stuck into the language and culture, which only made my time there easier and more enjoyable. My best friends are Czechs and that's why I'm returning (as well as the great beer and beautiful architecture and countryside:)).
I heard somewhere that the average TEFLer stays in the country less than 6 months. That's barely enough time to get beyond the red tape and settle in. Provided you're with a decent school it's worth sticking out at least one full academic year. Added to that, for TEFL, CZ is predominantly a place for younger people and I know some older people who have had a hard time there. And if you live and work outside of Prague, things will be more challenging, but, given the right attitude, more rewarding also.
Finally, there are two types of TEFLer in CZ: there are those who are career teachers and those who are in it for a couple of years to have a laugh and travel. The majority are the latter (and I mean no discredit to them) and some of them don't actually like teaching anyway, so their opinions are bound to be harsher. Of the career teachers, I know many who have been in the country for years, love their students and so far have no intentions of leaving. The longer you are there, the better the job you will get.
I could go on and on for a few more weeks but if you've stuck with me this far, I salute you. All I can offer to prospective teachers who have never been to CZ is that for the right person a lot can be gained, but it's not for everybody. Either way it's one of life's enrichening experiences.
5th January 2003
Posted: January 5, 2003