Teaching English in Prague
Realities Behind the Illusions
Ads for the drive-thru service of becoming a certified English as a foreign language teacher in Prague in only a month's time hold many illusions. This is what I wish the websites and informational brochures had told me.
Bring more money than recommended; twice as much if not more. My school (Next Level Language Institute in Prague) said to bring $1,500 to survive on the month during school and until I received a paycheck. Unfortunately, things in Prague were about twice as expensive as my school told me they were going to be and many things were much more expensive here than at home (deodorant $5 and mouth wash $12 at the time). The money you bring should be enough to hold you through two months of unemployment after the initial month in school.
Get the image of a happy classroom of students out of your head. The reality of teaching in Prague most often means traveling to all parts of the city to teach one student at a time in his or her business office. These students are busy individuals who are required to learn English by their employers so expect them to be answering their phone throughout the lesson, and canceling almost 50 percent of the lessons. Many schools don't pay teachers for canceled lessons. Add in all the travel time to lesson planning time and you end up getting paid for about half the work you do.
You probably won't become a legal worker—even if you are hired at one of the schools that claim they will "legalize" you, and your wages are being taxed heavily. This means you must leave the country every 90 days. Finding private students is a great way to make fast money and to help you survive. The money is untaxed and you avoid the bureaucracy of the language schools. Hang signs throughout the city advertising that you are a TEFL-certified teacher seeking students, and it shouldn't take long to get responses. To play it safe, you may want to create some sort of contract between you and your students so that you don't risk having them cancel classes at the last minute or fail to pay you.
Consider leaving Prague for one of the many small towns. You will be taken more seriously as you will be a rare commodity and not one among the 30,000 Americans and Canadians in Prague. You will also have a better chance to learn about Czech culture and language. The whole country is united by a low-cost and efficient train transportation system, so if you're in need of city life, it's very easy to get to Prague.
Finally, learn some Czech—it will take you far. A great book/CD set for starters is Teach Yourself Czech Complete Course Package (Book + 2CDs).
Always search for more. There's a lot more over here than just teaching. Websites to put on your favorite list for expat life, contacts, and events in Prague: prague.tv, www.expats.cz, www.jobs.cz.
All this said, my experience teaching in Prague has been incredible. I have been invited into my students' homes and shared their personal experiences. An official member of the EU, the Czech Republic is still considerably cheaper to live in than most Western European countries. So check out the Czech Republic; in my experience, you will be happy you did.