Reflections on teaching, take two – how to get ahead

If you have been following my blog you might have read my reflections on teaching after my first year here in Prague.  I’ve now been back for three months.  It’s been a little quiet on my blog, but traffic shows people are still dropping by to get information.

Now that I have my own flat again…

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…and had time for a little trip to the lovely city of Carcassonne in France…

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…I have a chance to update you on what it is like coming back.

So, what have I learned?  Strangely, if I had to give ONE piece of advice to ESL teachers who have been working for a couple of years I’d say:  Quit.  Then start over.

Now, this may seem like strange advice, but it is not so different from the way people have to leapfrog from company to company to move up the corporate ladder.

What has changed?

Value of experience – time:

After returning I very slowly took on new classes to try to build a good schedule.  I quickly found that most people want someone with a couple of years experience.  This puts you at the top of the list, and gives you the opportunity to pick and choose the classes more than the first time around.  The result?  My week now looks like this:

Monday:  16:00 to 21:00

Tuesday:  08:00 to 09:30 and 17:30 to 21:00

Wednesday: 08:00 to 20:00 with very few breaks

Thursday:  08:00 to 12:30 and again from 18:30 to 21:00

Friday: 09:30 to 10:30

This compact schedule allows me plenty of spare time to lesson plan as well as extended weekends to travel without huge opportunity cost.  I am averaging around 21 hours (not teaching hours which are 45 minutes) per week, and could easily take more if I wanted to.

Value of experience – money:

When I left Prague in the fall of 2014, my best rate was 350Kc per hour (60 minutes) and most classes were still at 300Kc per hour.  Since I have been back many of my classes are at 375Kc per hour or better, all the way up to 500Kc per hour.  This may not sound like much but 300 to 375 represents a 25% increase in pay.  Factor this by my average hours and, allowing for cancellations, that equals 28,000 to 31,000Kc per month.  A much better wage that I was making last time around.

Value of experience – variety:

Where in 2014 I was working for two schools and a handful of private students, in June 2015 I sent out 10 different invoices.  These ranged from schools (one large and two small ones) to direct to companies as well as individual students.  On top of this I still maintain four individual students who pay by cash.  Not only does this give me more control over what course to take, it gives me the security of being able to drop a class or contract and not starve to death.

The variety also makes teaching more interesting.  Currently my students include IT professionals, accountants, homemakers and students.  I teach mostly as close to home as possible including skype lessons to students in Poland and Germany. I also spend one day per week in another Czech city where I can work the entire day as well as take my own Czech classes.

Bottom line:

Even if you don’t intend to leave Prague and return like I did, it might be an idea to drop classes that are not profitable or enjoyable so that you can make room for the good stuff.

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