What's it Like it be an English Teacher in Prague?
"Prague never lets you go... this dear little mother has sharp claws." -Franz Kafka. A friend sent me this quote when I was preparing to move to Prague, and I laughed at her. After all, my plan was to get my TEFL certification through teflworldwideprague.com, maybe teach for a couple of months, and then move on to Spain. It turns out the joke was actually on me, I have now been in Prague for a year and a half. I had so much fun in the TEFL class, and fell so in love with the city, that I found myself signing a year-long lease and job contract within one week of the courses end. I loved my new life, and based on my success in the TEFL course, I thought teaching would be easy. I was horribly mistaken.
The TEFL course itself was an amazing introduction to the world of teaching EFL, and I can’t imagine trying to teach without it. The trainers showed us how to teach, and their methods were amazingly effective. However, nothing can prepare you for the first time you walk in to teach a class, and realize you are getting PAID to be there. It’s not just an observation/feedback session anymore; it’s your actual career.
My first job was with a very small language school, and I was never happy with them. They continually made promises they couldn’t keep, and I also found I don’t enjoy teaching children. Six months in, I quit that school and switched to one of the largest language schools in Prague. I found teaching adults much more satisfying, but also extremely overwhelming. I was teaching 26 hours a week, and my classes were scattered all over the city. My earliest classes started at 7 am, my latest classes finished at 7 pm. (This is a pretty typical schedule for a teacher in Prague, especially an inexperienced one.) The first couple of months were extremely challenging as I struggled to get to know my students and understand their needs. I eventually fell into a rhythm, and now genuinely enjoy teaching. Most of my classes are one-to-ones, (which I prefer,) and they are all upper-intermediate or advanced. Much of our time is spent talking; about our lives, about our travel, about cultural differences, and so much more.
Sometimes I think I learn more from my students than the other way around. They have taught me so much about Czech life and culture, and what it was like during the communist days. The country has only been free for 20 years, and it is still undergoing massive changes in its attempts to catch up with the Western lifestyle. The average Czech person is quite reserved, a residual effect of communism. They mind their own business and don’t care what you do as long as you’re not hurting anyone. That’s part of the appeal of life in this country, and why I’ve stayed so long. No one judges, and the country is free of rules almost to an extreme. After spending so long under the rule of others, they don’t seem too concerned about authority and laws. It’s fitting that in a country where beer is cheaper than water, you can openly drink alcohol wherever/whenever.
Life in Prague is a lot of fun. I work two jobs (far more than the average teacher,) and thus make enough money to travel quite freely. I’ve been to most of the countries in Western Europe, and plan to start hitting up the Eastern European countries soon. Teaching abroad has enabled me to experience more of the world than I ever could’ve dreamed possible. However, I am not content to quit here.
I genuinely hope I can break free from the quote I began with. I love Prague, but I don’t want to stay here forever. I want new experiences, and I want to live somewhere where I can soak up the sun and the beach every day. I’ve seen many people come and go in my year and a half, and get jealous when I see them all moving on to new countries. The TEFL school I went through has placed their grads in over 42 different countries, and I feel like I would be short-changing myself if I don’t experience the culture and lifestyle of at least one more country.
That said, I would recommend Prague to anyone looking to break into the EFL world. It’s a hotspot for new teachers, and it’s still relatively easy for Americans to get a visa here. The pay isn’t great but it’s enough to survive and travel some. There is a large, accepting, free spirited expat community here. My time in Prague has easily met, and vastly exceeded, anything I ever could have expected from it.
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