Teaching English In Russia
Some Very Valuable Tips!!

Teaching English in Russia - A fantastic summer working experience for Martin.

Martin was kind enough to write me about his experiences with teaching in Russia. Here's his story in his own words.

I got a contract to work for BKC-IH (BKC-International House Moscow)during the summer of 2010. I arrived in Moscow on 12th July and taught my first lesson 4 days later. I left on 28th August, having been in Moscow for nearly seven weeks.

I was given an apartment at Pervomaiskaya, in the north-east of the city. My apartment was 15-20 minutes by foot from the Metro station. My apartment was excellent. The area was quiet and safe and the apartment was more than big enough for me. I had an Internet connection installed. I had the place to myself, but I can imagine that it may have felt a little cramped if I was sharing with someone.

I absolutely loved Moscow! It’s a really vibrant city with loads going on. If you are a native speaker of English and have some initiative then there are will be loads of opportunities for teaching English in Russia. This is because the demand for English in Moscow is extremely high. There are plenty of opportunities to get 1-to-1 classes outside of your BKC-IH classes. I took some of my students to various English Conversation clubs around Moscow and the organizer of one began to pay me to go to his club.

Potential teachers should be aware that enjoying yourself in Moscow is not a cheap occupation. Bars and nightclubs are expensive and so are restaurants.

The Russian culture is one of self-sufficiency. By this I mean that when you start teaching English in Russia, working at BKC-IH things will be explained to you but then you’ll be on your own. People will not come and check that you’re ok. If you have problems it is your responsibility to go and ask the relevant person for help.

At first I found this culture difficult, but I very quickly came to like it since it meant that I wasn’t bothered by people and had the freedom to do what I wanted.

I arrived in Moscow with a reasonable knowledge of Russian – approximately intermediate level. This proved immensely useful when teaching English in Russia. In classes I was able to explain tricky points in Russian quickly and easily, and especially at the lower levels, I got the impression that this was appreciated by the learners.

My Russian was also very useful on the street. For example, when you work In-Company you have to go into various businesses around Moscow. In every company it is necessary to have a pass to enter and I found that the security guards didn’t always have these passes for me, so I had to explain who I was and what I was doing.It goes without saying that the security guards didn’t know a word of English, so a knowledge of Russian was very helpful!

A nice way to improve your Russian is to go to a Russian conversation club. There is one that meets in a café every Saturday near Metro Beloruskaya. The organizer is bi-lingual and then the participants are mostly Brits and Americans who live and work in Moscow and want to improve their Russian. The club advertises its meetings in the Moscow Times.

I was given a lot of hours teaching English in Russia – at the height of my teaching I had 32 hours. This wasn’t more than I could cope with, but it did mean that I had to work hard. During the working week all I did was teach, prepare lessons, eat and sleep. However, I’m certainly not complaining as I really enjoyed the teaching, but it is something that a prospective teacher should be aware of.

Each class follows a particular textbook and the lessons are dictated to a fairly high degree by pacing schedules. Regular tests are incorporated into the pacing schedules. I understand why BKC-IH uses this approach. It is a business and wants to teach learners as ‘efficiently’ as possible.

On the one hand this is good because the subjects for each lesson are set out for you in a well-structured way. On the other hand, the system at BKC-IH does encourage teachers to be lazy. Teaching is a difficult occupation and it isn’t possible to teach effectively by simply slavishly going through a textbook. To be most effective, and to achieve high quality learning among one’s learners, the teacher needs to input their own ideas into the process, particularly in terms of the topics used and the delivery of the lessons, but coming up with one’s own ideas is rarely easy and requires time and effort.

One of my major disappointments was that there was no access to the Internet in the classrooms. In my teaching back in England I use the Internet very frequently and it adds a huge amount to lessons. For example, I use YouTube clips to visualize certain topics and there are hundreds of quizzes and activities available.

The depth and breadth of resources, materials and information of the Internet is staggering and to make this unavailable seems foolish to me. Each school may only need a screen in one or two classrooms but the possibilities that this would offer to improve the quality of the lessons, and more importantly, the quality of the learning, would be huge.

To conclude, I can wholeheartedly say that I had a fantastic summer working for BKC-IH in Moscow. I would strongly recommend this for anyone who is qualified.

However, I would add that potential teachers should not think of it as an extended holiday – you will have to work very hard. But if you come to Moscow with the correct frame of mind and try your best, then I’m certain that you’ll gain a huge amount from the experience. I know that I did!

Wow - thanks Martin for your valuable insights on teaching English in Russia!

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