Teaching English in Poland

Teaching English in Poland: everything you need to know

In general, there is a huge demand for native English speakers in Poland. If you’re thinking of teaching English in Poland and you’re a native English speaker, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding work. But you may be wondering what your students will be like, where you can work, whether you need a teaching certificate, and how much you can earn. You’ll find the answers to all those questions here, and also why Poland is a great place to teach English.

Basic information about teaching English in Poland

Who will you teach?

Many Poles already speak/have good knowledge of English but would like to improve or actually learn to use the language in conversation. I would say a majority of students are within the age range of 24-40, and are working people who mostly need English for work and travel. On the whole, young people speak better than those who are older, as they’ve been learning practically their whole lives (plus the internet helps for sure). You’ll find that your students are very nice people with many interests and plenty to teach you in return.

Where will you teach?

That depends on the kind of work you’d like to have. If you work in a traditional school, the lessons will typically be in large groups – 5-10 people and in the evenings 4pm – 8 pm, and on Saturday mornings as well. Some schools will send you to companies but that depends on the school and how they do business. Generally, you’ll be teaching from books, so you won’t really have to create your own materials, unless you’d like to. If you work online, like for my company Talkback, then you can work from home or while on vacation, as long as you have a reliable internet connection, and you’ll be teaching mostly one-on-one lessons. These types of lessons are more personalized depending on the needs/desires of the student, so there may be more preparation involved, but also the lessons are more interesting and you see more progress, as the student is more engaged.

When will you teach?

The best times of the year to start teaching, if you’re going to teach English in a language school, are in September/October and January/February when the semesters begin. That’s when schools will be looking for teachers, so it’s best to contact them perhaps a month or two before that. If it’s online, you can start anytime you’d like.

Why is Poland a great place to teach English?

Teaching English in Poland is a lot of fun and the pay is good. If you teach in a school, you’ll often be teaching just conversation, as you’ll be teaching in parallel to a Polish teacher who takes care of the grammar, etc. If you teach online, you’ll build close relationships with your students as it’s just the two of you and you speak at least an hour each week. This is my preferred way of teaching as it provides a lot of flexibility as well (making your own schedule, etc.). 

How do you find a job teaching English in Poland?

When looking for a job in a school, my recommendations would be to do a quick Google search of the schools in your area and to contact them via email or, perhaps even better, by phone or go there in person (that’s what I did when I found a job here). Often they don’t check those general emails, so calling and asking whether they’re looking for someone would probably be the best bet. Another option is to check tefl.com, where you can find offers specifically in Poland. If you’d like to teach online, feel free to email me at leah@talkback.pl.

How much will you get paid teaching English in Poland?

That depends on a number of factors. I’m not sure what traditional schools offer these days, but you can expect anything from 50-90 zł per 60 minutes. 

How many hours will you teach per week?

In schools, usually about 20-25 hours per week, so around 4-5 hours per day. Essentially, they’ll give you a schedule and that’s when you have to work. If you work online, you can choose your own schedule, working when and how many hours you choose. It’s totally up to you whether you’d like to take off Mondays or Fridays, or only work 3 days per week.

Why I love teaching English in Poland

I’ve been teaching English in Poland for the last 10 years and I’m extremely satisfied with my decision. I couldn’t ask for a job which suits me better – so much so that I got my Master’s degree in linguistics here in Poland. I get to talk to people all day, help them, learn all about their lives and opinions. I feel like I’m half linguist, half therapist with all details I know about my students. Sometimes I think I know my them better than my friends. I certainly talk to them more often.

To do this job, you have to like getting a lot of face time. I have something around 7-10 hours a day of face-to-face conversations with any number of people. This means no matter what’s going on you have to be charming, entertaining, and funny, even if you’re not in the mood. However, most of the time I find that even if I start a lesson in a bad mood, I end it in a good one because I have the pleasure of spending time with rad people. My fascination with people only continues to increase as time goes on.

  • Poles are highly educated. For this reason, you can have high-level discussions about any topic, making your job more interesting and giving you the chance to learn from your students.
  • You can teach from home or online. This is an extremely comfortable option for teaching English and it’s becoming very popular. All you need a good Internet connection and you’re set. It’s a great option for people without cars, who want to fill in their schedule, or want to teach in their pjs. Looking for a school? Try mine: talkback.pl
  • Most people already speak English on some level. Because of this, you won’t have to start from the basics of the language, which are probably the hardest things for native speakers to teach. That makes your job a little easier. Most of the time, you’re simply fine-tuning their current skills and teaching higher level grammar and vocabulary.
  • You get paid pretty well. This is due to the high demand and relative scarcity of native English speakers, especially good ones. If you’re certified or experienced, you can of course earn more.
  • You can teach adults. The political system in Poland changed in the late 80s, and before that, people learned Russian in school. Nowadays, English lessons in school are better and better but people still need practice, mostly with speaking. That means your students can be any age, not only children. I personally prefer teaching adults since there are no limits to the conversation.
  • Poland is in central Europe. This is a huge advantage for traveling. Considering most Americans dream of exploring Europe, it’s the ideal location for a gap year. You can teach on weekdays and travel on weekends since everything is so close. With trains, cheap airlines, and the number of holidays in Poland, it won’t be a problem to balance those two things.
  • You can be an entrepreneur. Because there’s plenty of work, you can work just for yourself if you’d like, which is what I do. Having your own company is great but it’s a ton of work. You have to find the work yourself, advertise, have a website, make invoices, etc. Also, if you don’t speak Polish, you better have someone who can help you. You’ll have to speak with your accountant on a monthly basis and take occasional trips to the Tax Office, so it’s better to speak Polish with this option. However, I survived a couple years without it, so you can too.

6 traits you need to teach English in Poland?

Working as an English teacher in Poland is a popular job for native English-speaking expats looking to earn some easy cash. But it’s not for everyone. And it’s not as easy as just being able to speak. In addition to knowing how to instil knowledge in others, teaching English in Poland is  about people skills and a deep understanding of the language. A little dose of eccentricity doesn’t hurt either. Think you got what it takes?

Below I’ve listed the 6 traits I think are most important if you want to teach English in Poland:

  1. Open-mindedness
    While teaching English in Poland, you’re going to be meeting with people who are quite different from you and from each other, and it can be hard to accept/manage. But that’s what makes the job amazing! Each lesson is also a chance for you to learn something new, not just your students. 
  2. Down-to-earth
    You’re the teacher, but as you’re probably teaching mostly adults, you’re more of a friend and a guide than a traditional English teacher. You need to be able to relate to people, understand them, and have deep conversations (some people will use the time as a therapy session. It’s cheaper!) Some of your students will become your friends, and you’ll certainly talk to them more than your family/friends. 
  3. A sense of humor
    You’re not only a teacher, you’re an entertainer. People want to have fun in their lessons, not be put to sleep. Don’t be afraid to be yourself (and if you’re not funny at all you might wanna think of a different career path) and be a little “out there”. Your students will appreciate it. Plus, Poles have a great sense of humor. Harness it! 
  4. Adaptability
    Like I said before, teaching English in Poland, you’re going to be meeting all kinds of people/groups and you never know what the dynamic is going to be like. Maybe they’ll be open, maybe not. Maybe they’ll only want to talk about PRL, old movies, and windsurfing – three things you know nothing about! (I had a student like that for 3 years!). Whatever the case may be, you gotta be ready to adapt to it because, if not, it’s gonna be awkward! 
  5. The ability to make shit up on the spot
    Is there a word for that? If not, there should be! Maybe “a good bullshitter?” For real – this is useful. Not only are you going to be talking for hours and hours about all kinds of things, sometimes you need to pull a topic or a lesson out of your ass, so to speak. Although you should always be prepared, you never know what turn the lesson will take. 
  6. Curiosity
    As an English teacher in Poland, you have the unique opportunity to not only teach, but learn from your students in turn. These people will be interested in all kinds of various topics, hobbies, professions, you name it. So deep curiosity in people and their lives will really come in handy. I’d also add that knowing a little bit about a lot of things goes a long way, as well as having opinions on a variety of topics. You have to be prepared for anything!

Do you need a TEFL certificate to teach English in Poland?

I get asked this question constantly by folks interested in teaching English in Poland, but who aren’t exactly sure how to go about it. They often don’t know where to look for a job, whether they need experience, or whether a TEFL certificate is necessary to teach English in Poland or not. Frankly, in short, I don’t think you do and I’ll explain why below. 

As a native English teacher in Poland, you’ll be focusing mainly on conversations in the lessons. Most of your students will already know the ins and outs of English grammar and they may be fed up with the traditional type of lessons involving just typical exercises. 

Also, a lot of schools are well aware that natives suck at explaining grammar compared to their Polish counterparts, so they probably won’t even expect you to teach it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least brush up/give yourself some kind of base of knowledge in case someone asks you to explain something. Nobody wants to look like an ass, especially not in front of a bunch of people who consider you an expert. 

I understand paying for something for convenience-sake, so if you want to do that, totally understandable, but if you’re looking to save some money before you make a big move overseas, you can absolutely, positively do that by using some excellent books. Some schools will require a TEFL certificate and I think if that’s the case you should ask them to sponsor at least some of the course fee. Why not? I’m sure many would be willing to do that. 

My recommendation to you is to check out English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy. This guy is my grammar guru and the book is totally my go-to when a student needs grammar practice. Each unit is nicely organized into both examples/explanation and exercises, so you can read through it and learn point by point why we use which tense in which situations. 

So, honestly speaking, I dont think you need a TEFL certificate to teach English in Poland. You can definitely teach yourself some basics and learn the rest when you start teaching and understanding what kind of mistakes your students actually make. Save your money and buy some good beer when you get to Poland! 

The legalities of teaching English in Poland

So you’ve finally made the decision to come to Poland to teach English, but you still have a ton of questions about exactly what to do to be legal. What kind of contracts are there? How can you get paid? There are generally a few options to choose from in terms of on what basis you can work in Poland. In this article, I’ll compare the most popular options: working on a work contract, opening your own business, and using an incubator service.

There are three types of work contracts in Poland:

  • Umowa o dzieło – for people who create things, e.g., graphic designers, programmers, photographers, etc. This is the “lowest” level contract, which means you are not provided with health insurance or a retirement pension paid by your employer. Most schools will give you this type of contract, as you won’t be working 40 hours per week, most likely.
  • Umowa o zlecenie – This is a full-time contract similar to the one below, but it does not include certain benefits like paid time off. However, your employer is required to pay social security (ZUS) and health insurance (NFZ) on your behalf.
  • Umowa o pracę – this is a full-time work contract which includes all the benefits set out by the Labor Code like paid vacation. Your company pays your social security (ZUS), and, therefore, you are afforded public health insurance (NFZ) and a retirement pension.
  • Your own company – While I have my own company, I can’t say I recommend this method to everyone. Why? It’s expensive. You need to understand the laws in Poland. It helps if you speak Polish (or at least find an English speaking accountant). It complicates things if you don’t have help from a partner or good friend. Opening a business is quite simple. You can easily do this in Urząd Miasta. However, the costs connected are quite high. This includes social security payments, which, for the first two years, constitute 400 zł per month, and after that reach about 1,500 zł. Of course this covers health insurance, so you will have public coverage.
  • An incubator service – I don’t know if this is something special to Poland or what, but these “services” cropped up a few years ago, making it so that individuals working as freelancers, without owning a company, can provide their employers with invoices. If you sign on with one of these (e.g., TwójStartup, UseMe, English Wizards, they will hire you on umowa o dzieło and, if you’re a foreigner, they will get a work permit so you can legally work in Poland. They will charge you a monthly fee for this (usually about 300-350 PLN) and they will remove the tax from your pay each month for you as well. It’s quite convenient for foreigners who don’t understand the laws in Poland and don’t speak Polish, and it’s much cheaper than opening your own business. This is what my employees use and it seems to work quite well for them. I’d definitely recommend it to freelancers.

For anyone interested in teaching English in Poland for my company Talkback, please feel free to send me an email at leah@talkback.pl. Any other questions related to work in Poland are welcome as well! 

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