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ESL Teaching Guide - Russia

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We have a separate page on teaching in Russia for a sobering tale by Steve Currier, Canada

Elena I. Gotlib - May 2004

I'm actually not a teacher, I manage a supplementary English language course at the Urals State University of Railway Transport (Ekaterinburg, Russia)

The positive aspects of your current teaching job/- My course helps students to find new ways and means in their lives, they go abroad to travel or to study - it's not easy here, believe me.

The negative aspects.... - Oh!... The main one is the lack of native speakers. We invite teachers from USA or UK, but they prefer other countries due to low wages in Russia! Accommodation and curriculum are quite good (no one made complaints), students are friendly, the Department and its staff is experienced, textbooks and all teaching materials suffice.

Ian Goulden - February 2002

Russia, or at least Moscow is, in my experience, a very good place for a native English speaker to live and teach. I feel Grundie is painting a rather black picture - although it is true that almost no language school here will provide its teachers with proper work permission. In practice I have never ,in the more than three years I have been working in Moscow, found this to be a problem. I came to Moscow with IH BKC who I found to be a supportive and generally well run organisation who provide teachers with visas, reimburse air fares or at least pay a contribution a room in a flat and classes. After being here for a while it is normally fairly easy to find hourly paid or private work-in fact it is easy to have too much work as there is far greater demand for native teachers than available teachers! And you can rent a flat that is more to your taste.

Suggested Reading

Live & Work in Russia and Eastern Europe
Lonely Planet Moscow
Lonely Planet Russia & Belarus, Third Edition
Teach Yourself Russian Language Life and Culture
Culture Shock! Russia (Culture Shock Guides)

Grundie - January 2002

As a general rule, it is not a good idea to work for a Russian owned or managed school. There are huge differences in perceptions about what are acceptable and unacceptable management styles. The typical Russian style is "If you don't like it, tough." Discussion is not encouraged, orders are commonplace, salaries sometimes don't get paid, promises are made and forgotten. Most such organisations exist outside Moscow, in the further regions, where access is more difficult and getting away can be hard.

Be sure that you have your own medical and repatriation insurance. Companies offer "medical cover" which usually mean that you have the right to the same medical attention that Russian citizens have. You do not want to go to a Russian hospital that has no drugs, cockroaches everywhere, and 6 people in a room made for two. If you have a cell phone take it with you and change the card for a Russian card when you arrive. Be sure that your apartment will have a working phone otherwise you are unable to contact anyone and you are also uncontactable. Build a support network of colleagues and students, otherwise you will spend a lot of time alone, lost and unhappy. Be sure that your company will provide free, unlimited internet access.

Read the English language papers that are available in Russia on line. Try The Moscow Times or The Exile or The Russia Journal for general information and for job opportunities.

First, you need a visa that lets you enter and LEAVE the country. One large Moscow based language teaching organisation, tired of losing teachers who walk out or who change schools, has started to issue visa invitations for entry only. To exit means applying for an exit visa. Only the school authorities can do this and it takes up to three weeks to obtain. So, if the teacher is unhappy or dissatisfied s/he cannot leave as and when s/he wants to do so. BKC/IH is the only organisation that offers a multiple entry visa which is valid for a year and which allows the bearer to come and go as and when s/he wants.

Others offer a simple 3 month tourist visa which can be extended, but which often means that a quick trip to the Baltic States is necessary in order to obtain a new visa. And guess who pays the cost of that trip?

Crossing Belorussia to get into or out of Russia, or to renew your visa, means that you need a transit visa and medical insurance. No visa, no insurance means you are arrested, your passport is confiscated, you have to pay big bribes to be released and you are thrown out of the country the way that you came in.

Next you need a work permit which the company should obtain before you arrive. To my knowledge only one organisation has even thought about this issue so the vast majority of teachers are working illegally. The Russian Ministry of Employment has estimated that 60% of foreigners are working illegally in Moscow. This means that when you are stopped by the militia (a frequent occurrence) the only way out of the problem caused by having irregularities with your papers is to pay a bribe in cash.

No one would work without a contract would they? And when we read that contract which is about 4 pages long and which has lots of clauses and minor clauses we are all reassured that this must be a fine organisation because it covers everything about transport, accommodation, insurance, illness, teaching hours etc. etc.

Well the truth is that the contract is useless, unenforceable and illegal. It means nothing. Any contract in Russia must be written in Russian on one half of the page, vertically, with an English translation opposite. It must be stamped and signed by a notary public and it cannot be e-mailed, it must be an original copy. Again, only one organisation, to my knowledge offers this, after you arrive.

If the so called 'contract' has a clause stating that salaries are confidential you can be sure that your colleagues are being paid a lot more than you are being paid. Salary differences are one of the easiest ways of spotting a company which is there to make a profit out of you without having much interest in you.

Other obvious points are to have your flight ticket repaid up front or at least in staged payments throughout your contract rather than at the end of the contract. Don't expect to become rich while in Russia unless you can find a lot of rich private students.


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