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Teaching ESL and Traveling in the Czech Republic

The red-roofed city of Prague is one of the oldest cities in Europe and, in my opinion, one of the most dazzling.  I first came to Prague as a tourist and fell so much in love with its history, cobbled backstreets and picturesque landscapes that I decided to move in and teach English here. Little did I know what was in store for me at that time and how salutary the opportunity would be.

The standard of living for English teachers in Prague is moderate, the options are many, and there is plenty of room to learn and grow as a teacher. It won’t make you rich, but it’ll unquestionably give you the opportunity to improve your teaching skills and add variety to your techniques, while still having tons of fun teaching abroad and traveling. In this OnTESOL Graduate blog, Breno Silva will explain more about the types of TESOL jobs available in Prague, how to get the work visa as a non-EU ESL teacher, and what to do for fun in the Czech Republic.

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English Teaching Jobs in Prague

Teaching Abroad in the Czech RepublicThe TESOL job market in Prague is largely divided by Language institute courses and in-company courses. The first is the more traditional way and the groups are rarely larger than 10 students. The latter is often one-to-one and does involve a significant amount of extra time allocated to traveling. Both can be pretty much focused on anything from general English, to English for Accountants, to American slangs; and both are all too often targeted specifically at adults.

Language Schools

Most ESL teachers prefer to work at a language school. The students who attend these classes tend to be more diligent than public school students (Perhaps because they pay out of their own pockets). This also makes the students more demanding, which often entails better preparation and dedication on the part of the teacher. The lessons are more dynamic and definitely more communicative at language schools, which makes it much more rewarding and fulfilling for teachers.

There are dozens of English schools in Prague, with the vast majority offering courses on general English, Business English, and exam preparation. Some are large educational institutions under the umbrella of gargantuan groups, while others are smaller, more personal schools.

Business English

In-company courses are the reality of most teachers in Prague. Businesses seem to be investing a lot in the education of their employees, even during a recession. The TESOL market is huge and the opportunities plenty. ESL teachers are sent everywhere around Prague to teach receptionists, managers, and directors. The classes are usually smaller and very often one-to-one. Classes take place before or after working hours, so expect them to start at 7:30 am or 5 pm.

Some students are responsible and take it seriously, but others often put their studies on the back burner and seldom keep up with the lessons. In terms of student motivation, I found that a lot depends on their position at the company and their ability to move up in their career based on their educational background. The level of English may also vary a lot from one student to another, so Business English teachers in Prague often need to change the focus of the Business English class and teach General English for getting the student up to speed with basic skills, or teach exam preparation courses to help an executive with the IELTS test they need to enter an MBA program.

Post-Secondary

In Prague, there is a post secondary program created for young adults who finished High School but failed to gain access to university.   One of the benefits of this program is that teachers have a full schedule and don’t have to travel all day to companies across the city. The challenges, however, are that students may be less motivated and schools may offer fewer resources and support. This type of teaching job is better suited for experienced ESL teachers.

Pay and Benefits for English Teachers in the Czech Republic

Most teachers work as freelancers after obtaining the “Zivnostensky list,” or trade license. They get paid per teaching hour (here considered 45min) and the wages vary from $10 to $15, with exceptions being few and far between. Business English teachers can earn up to $40/hour, depending on their experience and the student.

A typical monthly income for teaching at a language school in Prague is $1,500. It’s necessary to pay roughly $180 for social and health insurance, but the rest of your income will steer clear from tax deductions. Prague is a breathtaking, inexpensive city, and you will be able to learn, have fun, and still save some cash left at the end.

The position will generally require around 25 hours of instruction per week. While the salary is certainly enough to get by and enjoy life within the country, it will not grant you the financial leeway to travel frivolously throughout Western Europe. You can, however, still maintain a level of comfort in the capital, which is much more than you can say regarding other European capital cities.

As accommodation will be fairly scarce in smaller cities, expect your employer to arrange this lifestyle aspect for you. You might be fortunate enough to be given an apartment in Prague, but, as it is a capital city, you are equally likely to be asked to fend for yourself, with assistance in the search process. Unless you make arrangements with another teacher or know a local, you will probably find the accommodation you are provided with fairly simple, but certainly livable.

One of the problems of being a freelance teacher is the lack of benefits and extended working hours. A typical working day starts at 7:30 am and can go until 9 pm, with extended breaks during the day. Holidays are unpaid, the teacher has no access to sick days and the health insurance will, by and large, cover only emergencies. Also, because most teachers need to travel to various companies to work, a big chunk of your day will be spent in the subway or city train. Although some schools will reimburse you for the monthly pass, the time spent traveling is unpaid.

Getting the Work Visa to Teach English in the Czech Republic

Nowadays English teachers in the Czech Republic are primarily coming from the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. It is possible for non-EU ESL teachers to work on a contract, but prospective employers need to advertise the position for at least one month, and register this vacancy within the Czech “Jobseeker’s Office”. Once the month is over and no Czech or EU citizen is found suitable for the position, the “Jobseeker’s Office” may issue a permit to hire a foreign teacher, with which you can apply for a work permit and use this permit to obtain a work visa.

Realistically, you are more likely to land a job as a freelancer, on a trade license, or as they call it here, a “živnostenský list.” The vast majority of offers (and there are plenty in the market) are for freelancers. This means that you will act as a services provider, usually for a school, without any of the rights you would have with a contract; paid holidays (4 weeks) and sick days, and paid health insurance. In all likelihood, your payment will be much higher, however, and you will have the flexibility to work for different schools and have private students.

The better teacher you are, the more business you’ll have. If you opt for the “zivno,” and I believe this is the best way, please gather the following documents before applying: proof of funds, passport, proof of accommodation, and 2 photographs. Once you get your visa, you will have to come to the Czech Republic and go to a “Živnostenský úřad” (Trade License Office) , bringing your criminal background check, visa, 1,000 CZK, and a CRM form.

If you are a Canadian teacher, all your documents will have to be submitted either to the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Ottawa or the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Toronto. As a rule, the application must be submitted in person, but there are exceptions; also bear in mind that many schools will offer visa services and provide all the assistance you need.

On the last tip: some schools will try to give you an employment contract while at the same time requiring you to work on a trade license. This is illegal, but common practice, and subjected to heavy fines for both the employer and employee. This “švarcsystém” is convenient for the employers in that they don’t have to pay taxes and your holidays, for instance, and they may fire you at will; by the same token, it is unfavorable for you since you will be bound to a contract and its regulations while in all actuality having the same working conditions as a freelancer. Be aware of it and I’m sure you will enjoy teaching English in this breathtaking cosmopolitan city called Prague.

Teach and Travel in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is home to the history, culture, and Baroque architecture of Bohemia and Moravia. As such, a walking tour- whether with an organized group or on your own- is always a great option for an insightful weekend activity. Wander the streets of Europe’s most picturesque medieval Old Town or take to the former Iron Curtain-Esque neighborhoods…or both!

There are so many different districts and aspects of culture to explore that you will never have to do the same thing twice! To rest from walking throughout historic Prague, duck into a beer garden. I’m bold enough to say it: I think Czech beer is better than the almighty German, especially if you’re lucky enough to get a taste of a rural dark brew. Of course, a trip to Pilsen (the namesake of the international Pilsner style of beer) is absolutely essential for beer enthusiasts.

Although most Central European cuisines are fairly dense and don’t have the hugest range of flavor, there is certainly something to be said about cheesy, hearty veg-heavy Czech meals. Bakeries and street vendors also offer a great variety of bread and sweets, such as the quintessential rolled pastry whose scent has the capacity to waft throughout the former Austrio-Hungarian Empire.

Speaking from personal experience, the Czech Republic is an amazing country to cycle. While the topography is certainly not flat, casual cyclists will appreciate the rolling hills in place of stark mountain terrain. The Eurovelo network has a variety of routes branching across the country, with hidden gems scattered throughout.

If you are looking for a weekend getaway, hit the less-traveled city of Brno and continue on across the countryside for scenic views of castles, caves, and the national parks of Bohemia.

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