Number one for English language teachers

Poland: Just starting

An undercover teacher reveals their thoughts about the Polish classroom and the pressures on teaching staff.

Due to the changes that are currently taking place in Polish education, a teacher’s job might be said to be at least an adventurous one. Especially when you’re a young, inexperienced teacher like myself and have just started your career.

The changes I’m talking about are supposed to transform the whole educational system within a few years. The primary school was again split into two separate units: an elementary school and a gymnasium with a secondary school following. That means that all the new born gymnasia had to find English teachers very quickly. Secondly the ‘Matura’ i.e. a final exam in the High School has undergone a complete transformation; now, there are two parts: internal and external, there is less formal grammar replaced be more real life situations.

Not long ago the grammar-translation method prevailed in most schools (not to mention that some ten years back only Russian was taught everywhere). The change is slow and painful but there are results: more and more young teachers are being trained and English teaching standards are constantly increasing. Big editorial companies organize Teacher Training Sessions, provide books, materials and methodology.

What does a typical Polish classroom look like? Well, there exists no such thing. Classrooms and teaching conditions vary; there are simply rich and poor schools. In the case of private language schools, classrooms are well equipped, teachers well paid and students more disciplined and willing to learn. The public sector still has to cope with all the problems of equipment, payments and motivating students in classes ranging from 12 to 22 (or much more in primary schools). From a teacher’s perspective, there is a problem of choosing between public (less money, more stability, paid holidays) and private (more money, less stability) sector.

Long ago a teacher was one of the most respected of people, together with doctors and lawyers. Nowadays there are only scarce remains of this kind of respect. Nevertheless, much stress has been recently put on a teacher’s getting more qualifications: additional courses, post-diploma studies, methodological training sessions etc. One of the requirements of your advancing in the ‘teacher career path’ is having some of those completed.

To sum up, a teacher’s life here isn’t at present very easy. We don’t earn too much although there are plans and promises that things will change for the better. At least, English Philology or Teacher Training College graduates can be pretty sure to get a job. Another thing – English being a major language after all – there always will be a demand for teachers. And last but not least: we all know how much satisfaction and pleasure this unique job might provide...

Greetings from Poland !!!

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