The Boots-On-The-Ground Guide to Teaching English in Russia

It was always one of your biggest dreams. Finally, you’ve had the balls to pull the trigger and go ahead with it.

You've always dreamed about traveling and experiencing another culture. But not just any culture. Russia is your dream destination.

You just have one small problem.

How are you going to make money there?

Well, you did read somewhere that you can make good money with teaching English in Russia. But is that really true?

More...

If that sounds familiar then I'm glad you found my guide.

Maybe you have a vague idea of what you want to do but you want to hear some first-hand experience first. Or maybe you’re already dead-set on this but don’t know where to start.

Introducing: The Boots-On-The-Ground Guide to Teaching English in Russia

In this guide, I break down all the necessary info that you need for teaching English (or any other language) in Russia. It’s the only comprehensive, no-BS guide on the internet that includes plenty of PERSONAL EXPERIENCE and ACTIONABLE ADVICE. No sugarcoating and no lame talk about improving the world this and becoming a better person that. 7,000+ words of cold, hard facts.


The requirements for teaching English in Russia

If you’ve never taught in your life, be it a language or something else, you’re probably wondering how you can get this whole thing started. I remember how clueless I was before I first got started. My thoughts were somewhere between “this can’t be so hard” and “holy shit, there’s so much to it, I’ll probably never figure it out”.

There are a lot of technicalities and bits and pieces that you should know and learn as you go. But to give you the big picture, you should have these five attributes to become a good teacher.

5 things you need to be good at to teach a language
(and the one thing you don't need to know!)

#1: Be a good communicator

Being a good communicator in the realm of teaching means connecting two things.

You need to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what the aim of this is.

When you know that, you need to be able to explain it to students.

In practical terms this means: you need to know what exercise you’re going to do, why you’re doing this specific (type of) exercise and what you plan to achieve with it. And you need to communicate this to your students. Not every single bit but they broadly need to know what they’re supposed to do and why.

This is exactly what you write down in your lesson plan when you start out teaching.

It’s the number one most important attribute that you need.

Why?

A person remembers only a fraction of what they read, hear and see. You’ll forget 90% of this article, even if you read all of it. But people remember 90% of what they do. Being a good teacher means making students do the right things. Books help you with picking out the right things. But to get them to do what you want them to do, you need to be a good communicator.

In plain English, that means:

Yes, you need to be able to explain stuff when students ask you. But much more important is being able to guide them towards finding the solution themselves.

Just like in the movie Inception, when you have an idea or find a solution yourself, you will remember it much, much easier.

#2: Be sociable

Extrovert or introvert, you cannot be a good teacher if you do not like to talk. After all, the whole point of learning a language is being able to communicate in that language. If you don’t enjoy the process, then how are you going to set a good example for your students?

In class, at almost all times someone is talking and the other person listening. To pass on this skill of interacting in this particular language you need to be good at it and you need to enjoy it because it’s the only thing you’ll be doing.

Of course, you can just let students do exercise after exercise but they will a) not learn anything that way, b) get bored very fast and c) you’ll get bored very fast as well.

A good way to think about this is to remember your own teachers. Did you enjoy the grumpy ones more or those that were happy to make conversation? Ask yourself if you would be happy if you were sitting at the other end and receiving what your students are receiving.

Being sociable will help you a great deal with finding a common language with your students. They’ll be more motivated and get better results if they like you. In turn, you’ll also enjoy working with them much more.

Your students after they've understood conditionals

#3: Enjoy improving other people

Teaching is essentially the skill of building another person’s skill. It consists of four parts:

  • Taking responsibility: yes, your students are responsible to study and do their homework but you have to make sure they do the right things (see point 1). If a student is studying diligently and still not improving, that’s on you and you have to take responsibility for doing something wrong.
  • Organization: you have to organize and plan lessons in order for them to have a purpose and improve your students’abilities.
  • Guiding someone through a process: you need to make sure they know that learning a language is a marathon and not a sprint. Learning a language is a process that takes time. You have to be able to communicate this and support your students during rough patches.
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    Motivation: your students must be self-motivated and it isn’t your duty to explain them why they should learn this language. But it is your duty to explain and to motivate them to do dull work that nevertheless helps them get the result they want.

All of these factors play a part in teaching and improving someone else’s skill. If you think you’re not going to enjoy that, then teaching’s not for you.

#4: Be patient

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. Your students are going to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. This will go on for months and years. They will know the rules and still make the mistakes. You’ll be banging your head against the wall and they’ll still do it. The worst part is how sometimes they won’t even give a damn about not making them.

Your task: keep calm and keep teaching.

Be patient with your students. Most of the time they’re not stupid but they can’t help themselves. Stay patient and correct them, a thousand times if need be. Lead by example. Reward good behavior and correct use of English and eventually you shall see results.

Prepare for always the same question you must

#5: Have experience with learning languages (not necessary but helps A LOT)

Now this one’s a bit debatable. Of course, you can be a great teacher without knowing other languages. And you can be a great (or shitty) teacher and know five more languages yourself.

But it is definitely easier when you know both sides of the same coin.

You always have a point of reference that you can compare your current work with. You know how it is to be a student: what helped you, what you wanted from your classes and what frustrated you. You also know which teachers you liked and disliked and why. You can also recommend or advise against certain methods that you’ve tried yourself (or that have been tried on you).

I’d say if you’re a newbie and have never taught before, having solid language learning experience (no, not the two-week crash course in Spanish) is highly valuable. I’d say it puts you almost at the level of someone who did a course but has no experience either. I can speak from my own experience that my constant language learning helps me a lot with my methods and my credibility vis-à-vis my students.

The one thing that is totally overrated when it comes to teaching English

Grammar.

Yea, it’s the big boogeyman. Everyone thinks they need to have perfect command and knowledge of English (or any other) grammar. Total nonsense.

Let’s assume you’re a new racecar driver on the scene. You don’t know shit about how your racecar works but you’re fast as fuck. But before you can be promoted to race against the big boys, you need to know at least the nuts and bolts of it, right?

Guess what, the mechanics are going to explain it to you.

Now replace racing with teaching and the mechanics with teacher’s books and voila. All grammar you need to know is always explained in the teacher's books, with explanations how to explain it. It really doesn’t get easier than that.

Of course it helps if you know it because you won’t need to look stuff up and will find more effective ways of getting the main points across. But please don’t think you need a major in English Language Studies to be an effective teacher.

Do I need certificates to teach English?

Lots of you will ask yourself whether they need a certificate in order to start teaching. After all, if you have no experience and have never done this before, surely you must have something to show for yourself? I’ll be absolutely clear on this:

A teaching certificate is not necessary but indeed helpful.

Both, in terms of finding work and becoming a better teacher.

Plenty of schools and private students hire you even without a certificate. In fact, my personal experience was that most don't even ask for it. As always, personal fit beats any piece of paper claiming you have some sort of qualification.

However, having a certificate is definitely a plus. Especially if you want to teach at schools, or even universities, the recruiter might ask for it. Physical schools are going to be more interested and persistent about this compared to online language schools where you aren't actually employed but work as a freelancer.

Sometimes schools offer you a better rate if you have a certificate. The next-best thing you can have is a (postgraduate) degree from an English-speaking country. Ideally, this degree is in a linguistic field but that's not mandatory.

In terms of the actual teaching, it all depends on you. How many of the attributes mentioned above do you have? Are you able to plan and structure a lesson so that every part of your lesson fulfills a certain purpose?

Modern books are well-structured and give you a good framework to work with. But you still need to put in the work and actually prepare yourself. In addition, you can and should research additional methods of teaching.

My personal experience is that you do not need a certificate (I don’t have one and don’t plan on getting one) but in that case, you should be willing to teach yourself everything you need to know. If you don’t have either, you’re probably going to bomb and will notice pretty quickly that you have a lot to catch up on.

The best certificates are the TEFL and the CELTA. Especially if you're a rookie, unsure of how to teach or not a people person, they'll give you a good framework of how to plan a lesson and what to focus on when teaching. Take a physical course to get a certificate, even if it takes a few weeks, over an online course, which will be less valued and useful to you.

Do I need experience to teach English?

Let me put it like this:

When was it better to have less experience at something than a lot of it?

Never.

But everyone has to start somewhere, right?

Correct.

Like with any other skill, having experience will make things much easier but it isn’t “necessary” per se. Those of you that maybe already have some teaching experience know that it helps you to identify your students’ needs quicker. You're much faster to figure out what does and doesn't work for you and your students. It also greatly reduces your preparation time. More often than not, you can use the same blueprints and lesson plans again and again and just tweak them slightly depending on the individual student.

If you plan to work on a contract, then most probably they’ll require you to have teaching experience. If you don't have that, you’re guaranteed to get a shitty rate. Either way, feel free to bend the truth and put a little bit (1-2 years) of experience on your resumé. No one can or will check it but you need to have a good background story like being able to tell them about the methodology you are using. This is of course, surprise surprise, easier to fake if you know what to talk about, i.e. if you’ve taught before.

Students in my experience almost never ask. You want to make it about them anyway. Their problems, their goals and their experience with other teachers. More tangible benefits are having good reviews and being able to refer to past success stories from other students. Students are always curious to find out how they’re doing in comparison to others. If you have a couple of points for comparison that always helps.

By the way, you can never have “enough” experience but in case a school or a student asks and you need a plan B, the 1-2 years I mentioned above will do the trick. 80% of what there is to know, you learn during the first two years.

How to get a job teaching English in Russia

Enough with the preparing, it is time to find actual work. I’m going to list the four main options that you have if you want to teach English in Russia. They all come with their own pluses and minuses. I'm going to break down all of that for you below. 

Teaching English at schools and kindergartens

How it works

A lot of schools and kindergartens in Moscow are constantly looking for new teachers. Merely finding a job as English teacher is a piece of cake since demand is very high.

Mail the school your CV and you’ll get called up for an interview very fast. Make sure it’s a “teacher’s CV”, i.e. highlight relevant skills and experience. They’re not strict about it at all but they want to check whether you have the skills that a teacher needs.

During the interview you can expect the following questions:

  • Why do you want to be a teacher?
  • Do you have experience? Where have you taught and whom?
  • What’s your methodology? What kind of books do you use?
  • Can you give us a small trial lesson?

That’s about all I can remember. As I said, these interviews are very easy and you’ll pass more than 50% of the time. If you do, you’ll get a fixed schedule with 30 hours of work per week, give or take a few hours. Prep time is not included, that’s only the time you actually stand in front of a class and teach.

Work hours are during the day when the kids go to school or kindergarten. You work on a contract that is usually for 9 or 12 months.

How much money can you make

In Moscow you'll get about 70,000 - 150,000 Rubles per month (after tax) depending on the school and the workload. Sometimes they support you with finding a visa and accommodation, sometimes not, each school handles that differently. I haven't taught at schools so I can only tell you what I know from interviews and what I've heard from other teachers.

Pros

  • A fixed schedule: you don’t need to travel from A to B to C and spend more time commuting than actually teaching, nevermind doing that at different times of the day. Instead, you have a reliable and stable work schedule that allows you to plan ahead. That might not sound like a big deal but trust me, it is. Spending a lot of time in traffic takes a big toll on you, so be grateful if you don't have to do that. Plus you actually work normal hours on weekdays, which isn't a bad thing at all.
  • No need to look for clients: this one is obvious, once the school signs you, you can pretty much sit back and focus on the actual work. I’ll talk about the downside in a minute but looking for new students can be quite a pain to say the least. Don’t underestimate the convenience of working on a contract.
  • Easier for beginners: if you’re just starting out, this is definitely the easiest way to go. Good schools will support you with your visa and your accommodation but pretty much all of them have their own materials. Some even give you lesson plans and tell you what to do. That’s a good and easy way of gaining experience without being too much under pressure.

Cons

  • Poor salary: let me make that crystal clear: 1,000-2,000€ per month is not balling at all in Moscow. At the lower end, you’ll barely be able to get by. At the higher end, you’ll live ok but you’re not ballin’ by any means. That’s why lots of teachers that work for schools and kindergartens top up their pay by finding private students in their free time. Which in turn defeats the whole purpose of starting to teach so you can learn Russian, bang girls, etc.  I strongly discourage everyone from teaching for monetary reasons. You’re definitely not going to become rich with this.
  • Not much free time: even without finding additional students on the side, you’ll have a pretty substantial workload. 30 hours of teaching is more demanding than 30 hours of office work. And that is before we factor in prep time and commuting. Basically, you’ll have a lot of work for little money.
  • Less flexibility in your daily schedule and approach to teaching: this translates to “you leave your boss and your 9-5 job at home to become a 9-5 teacher where other people tell you what to do”.  Because this is essentially what you’re looking at when you start teaching for a school.

Summary

If you’re really dead-set on becoming a teacher and want to gain some experience, or if you don’t give a damn about being well-paid and just want to do it for the hell of it, then this option is for you. I would recommend against it.

(I'll talk about teaching children vs adults a bit later.)

Teaching English to corporate clients

How it works

Getting into teaching corporate clients is pretty similar to teaching for schools because, well, you teach for a school. Only are these language schools that focus on adult students.

The process is pretty much the same: send in CV – pass the interview – sign the contract – teach. From what I know, you have to travel to the students’ workplaces to teach but some schools also have their own facilities. I remember interviewing at one that had their office in the skyscrapers in Moscow City and students would come to them.

Usually, you work on a contract as well although there seem to be exceptions. You teach either in the mornings or in the evenings to accommodate the work schedules of your students.

How much money can you make

I’ve seen salaries from 70,000 to 200,000 Rubles per month depending again on the school and the workload. For visa and accommodation, the same as for schools applies. Some help and others don’t. Overall you can probably make a bit more here but that comes with its own disadvantages as well.

Pros

  • No need to look for clients: it’s the same story as if you work for a school. You get a schedule of students and that’s that. Very convenient.
  • Decent pay and opportunities to network: this depends a lot on the school but the pay can be decent. My impression is that it tends to be a bit higher for corporate clients than for schools (at least in Moscow where you have a lot of them). The added bonus is that you can make connections with your students and they might start taking private classes with you (if they can afford it) or recommend you to their colleagues. It’s quite common for students to know other people who want to learn English.
  • Adults are less stressful for a beginner: this one depends a lot on your personality but if you have zero experience with teaching, working with children will be quite stressful and confusing. Working with adults is definitely easier for someone who hasn’t got a clue because your students can give you active feedback. That is if you can communicate somehow with them.

Cons

  • Annoying work hours: unlike at schools you’ll have to work early mornings and late evenings plus sometimes weekends as well. You’ll have to work when other people aren’t working, whether you want to or not.
  • Not much free time: same like working for a school, your schedule will be busy, only that you’ll work shitty hours now.
  • Adult students can be lazy and hard to motivate: it’s all well and good if you can crack jokes with your students. The reality though is that the laughter will get stuck in your throat when you show up to classes where people come unprepared because they “didn’t have time”, “didn’t understand it” or other lame excuses. I talk about the disadvantages of adult students in more detail further below. 

Summary

This is a good option for those who don’t feel completely at ease with children, don’t mind the odd hours but want some sort of stability. Again, you’re not going to make it rain by teaching adult students English but it’ll be enough to survive and you’ll learn a thing or two in the process.

Teaching English as a freelancer

How it works

Most people’s idea of being a teacher probably looks something like this:

Get ready for the day, meet your student, chit-chat a little bit with him, maybe meet another student and around noon you have the day off to go to the beach/meet girls/[insert your favorite activity here].

Essentially they dream about being a private tutor that has very little work with lots of free time and lots of money as well.

Not quite as easy as that.

Finding work as a freelancer takes a lot of effort and time. Your best bets are sites and local language schools where you can offer your services. At language schools, you pass a small interview and sometimes they record a video of you for their website so potential students can get to know you. For websites, you fill out your profile and send in scans of any kind of relevant documents that you might have, such as university diplomas, certificates and the sorts.

At schools, the student pays the school a cut (usually 50% of your rate) and you get paid in cash directly by the student. The student signs a contract with the school, so you are “guaranteed” work. Schools often have fixed rates. You can request a higher rate but keep in mind that students pay another 50% on top of that. Being more expensive than everyone else means shooting yourself in the foot. The schools throw students your way. Every time they have a potential student, all teachers get notified and the student can pick from the available ones.

Online you set your rates yourself and pay the sites a “finder’s fee” depending on the expected value of the order. Often that’s give or take two lessons worth of fees. From there, the student is your own responsibility. You get students that you work with for months and others that you only see once. Screening for good and reliable people is on you but you can do that (on most sites) before actually paying for the student.

How much money can you make

The good news:

You can make up to 500,000 Rubles per month if you work a lot, have experience and have good profiles with a lot of positive reviews that bring in new students on a regular basis.

The bad news:

That’s not going to happen for a long time because you need to build up a portfolio of students, a good reputation and the experience to get the former two. Moreover, you have to adapt to your students’ timetables, which again means working odd hours and effectively caps your ceiling if you don’t want to work with everyone. Realistically you’re looking at making 100,000 – 200,000 Rubles a month. Those are good months and by no means stable.

Pros

  • Better pay and ability to set your own rates: the biggest advantage is, of course, the money. You can make much more as a private tutor and 100$/90min lesson are not unheard of in Moscow. The ceiling is much higher and you can make really solid money with this, provided you’re willing to sacrifice a lot of your free time and working when others do not. Or you can choose to have a bit more free time and focus on other stuff, while still making enough to live decently.
  • Portfolio diversification: You’re not dependent on one single source of students, instead you have several. Online language schools have their downsides like contracts with students that force you to work for less than you normally do. But you can game the system a bit if you’re careful. Snatch away the students after the contract has expired or talk the odd one into working with you during the trial lesson.  
  • Setting your own schedule and picking your own clients: whether you want to work with kids, teenagers, adults or all three of them, you’re free to choose. Equally, you can choose if you want free days or if you can’t do a certain evening, you can always call your student and postpone the lesson. All of that is very convenient and an absolute dream for people who are well-organized and flexible.

Cons

  • Student acquisition is HARD: yes that is HARD, written in capital letters and bold. It will take you a while to get going. Even then you’re not protected against absolute down months where you don’t make enough money to pay the bills. Expect at least a year of constant teaching before you’ve built up enough of a portfolio and reputation to have it a bit easier. There are a lot of teachers out there that students can choose from.
  • Much more responsibility: picking the right materials, finding a place to study, organizing lessons, acquiring and retaining students. Those are all things that I came up with off the top of my head that you have to do as a freelancer but not if you teach for someone else. There’s probably more that I couldn’t remember right away.
  • Students have all the power: when you teach on a contract, you essentially have the power. The students paid so they will show up to get their money’s worth. Plus there’s all this stuff that I outlined that you don’t need to care about. You also make contacts with a lot more people because you often teach groups. As a freelancer, you teach individuals who might be unreliable, unmotivated and you can’t even network because you’re sitting in a café somewhere. The student has effectively all the power. When he decides that he’s had enough, there’s nothing you can do about it but find a new one.

Summary

This can be a decent way to make and build up some transferable skills that you can make good use of later. If you’re brave, ready to sacrifice stability for freedom and a self-starter, this is the way to go.

Teaching English as a governor

How it works

You might know who the Gouvernator is but a governor?

That is just another word for a nanny. Being a governor means you’re babysitting rich people’s kids and do so in a foreign language. This is how it works.

You find a suitable position on Facebook or one of the sites, send in your CV and pass an interview with the company, pass an interview with the family and the fun can begin. You’ll be expected to babysit or teach kids from 2-16 years and communicate with them only in English (or in another language). Often that’s a full-time job. When the kids get off school is when your day begins, so you’ll work something like 1PM to 7PM every day plus often a day on the weekend as well. There are also governor jobs where you become a part of the family and live for them for the duration of your contract.

The activities you do depend on the family and on how old the children are. That can range from actual babysitting (but only in English), to playing with them to helping them with homework and really teaching them. Some families want someone just for a few hours a week, while others get a governor that lives with them for a few years.

How much money can you make

These jobs are well-paid since you work for the elite families in Moscow (don’t know if they even exist in other cities). 50-60$/hour is the lowest I have seen if you work on an hourly basis. Others pay you per month and that can go as high as 5,000GBP/month including visa and accommodation (usually living with them). That also includes vacations to wherever the family might go.

Pros

  • Excellent pay: you can make good money being a governor, especially if you’re willing to sacrifice a few years in order to save up for later. You might also get nice perks like traveling to other destinations. Plus you don’t need to take care of any administrative stuff because they all do that for you.
  • Easy if you have a good family: if you don’t opt for the live-in version, being a governor can be easy work if the family is nice and the children are fun. On some afternoons you might do nothing else but get paid to play with the children. I know governesses who live a very good life thanks to their work.
  • Easier to get than you think: in theory, these vacancies require a teaching certificate and childcare qualifications. But in practice, you can get around that if you're a bit creative with your CV. Demand for this work is strong in Moscow. If you want to make some money and know how to take care of children, this might be a more lucrative option than "regular" teaching. 

Cons

  • Total dedication needed: in theory, it might all sound fine and dandy but the reality is that often you’ll be expected to do more than just playing Playstation. If you have to live with the family then you become a part of that family and almost entirely give up your own life in order to serve them. That level of dedication is probably not for everyone.
  • Family can be a pain: there are good parents and good kids and there are bad parents and bad kids. You might also get a combination of the two and then things get really complicated. Bottom line is that you have an extra variable to deal with and sometimes you might feel like you have to stick it out because the money is simply too good.
  • Very little free time: whether you live with the family or not, both will require a significant time investment. This work has the best (guaranteed) rate but you also have to work the most hours.

Summary

If you’re young and you don’t mind slaving away for a while to save some money, then this might just be for you. This isn’t so much teaching English as it is educating and spending time with children. Proceed with caution because a governor you can only be for so long before it becomes a pain.

My personal experience of teaching in Russia

Many of you probably skipped to this part right away in order to hear what my own impressions and experiences are.

I've been teaching English and German for over a year now. As I've mentioned many times in this guide, it's not easy by any means but you can make it work if you're smart about it. Instead of boring you with a long monologue, I'll answer FAQ a lot of you might have. I remember I had a lot of these questions before I started and I would have been very thankful for some answers back then.

Is teaching English difficult?

Teaching is a bit like chess, easy to learn but hard to master. You learn the basics of it very fast but you're never fully done with learning and improving. After a while, you feel like you've hit a wall. But there are always new and unfamiliar situations and problems that your students face, which force you to come up with new solutions. Every student is different and as they improve, so do you.

Overall, I'd rate teaching English as not very hard. If you bring the 5 most important things I described, then you have a good chance of being a successful teacher. 

Do I need to know Russian to teach?

I've only ever taught in Russia and I can tell you from experience that it's not mandatory but it helps a lot. Especially with adult students, it is very helpful for two reasons.

First, they will ask you for a lot of translations. Of course, you speak as much English as possible but students still want translations and that's ok. Most don't have a dictionary and it's also faster if you can give them a quick translation. 

Second, and that's actually more important, it's (literally) much easier to find a common language with your students if you speak their language. Even if they specifically want a native speaker, they'll feel more comfortable with you if you speak Russian. Occasionally students also need further grammar explanations, which is easier to do in Russian as well. Especially if the student's level of English is very low or zero, it's very useful and much easier to switch to Russian for organizational questions.

When working with children, knowing Russian is actually not important and sometimes even counterproductive. Children don't organize lessons and learn a language in a different way. You simply speak English with them even if they talk back in Russian. If you do know Russian, it's best to not let them know about that. If they find out, they'll never speak to you in English again. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of teaching English in Russia?

I already talked about pros and cons of the different options that you have if you want to teach English in Russia. But what about general advantages and disadvantages? I'm not talking about wishy washy advantages like "I get to learn Russian" or "I live in a foreign country, that's so cool!!".

Here are my three personal biggest advantages and disadvantages of teaching:

  • You learn how to coach and motivate people: this is probably the most important transferable skill you learn. Being able to motivate people and teach them how to use put new knowledge into practice is a massive asset to have. I see teaching as an opportunity for me to learn as well: with every new student, I get a bit better at sharing my knowledge and improving someone else's. Moreover, it's my job to keep them focused and motivated to keep learning. Those are essential leadership skills. 
  • You learn organization and responsibility: the other part of teaching is being able to structure and organize lessons, groups and your own schedule. Being a teacher means being an authority to students. They look up to you, even if they're usually more powerful, older or financially better off. As such, you get to take responsibility much faster than you'd maybe do if you worked for a company. Especially if you go it alone, you have an added incentive to see them succeed (more successful students=more good reviews=better rates and new students).
  • It is rewarding to see another person succeed: outside of financial reasons, it just feels really good knowing you helped another person learn something new. You feel a sense of accomplishment having a sophisticated conversation in your own language with a student, who a couple of months ago barely could say anything. 
  • Can be repetitive and boring: it's not always fun since you go over a lot of topics and books again and again and again, Sure, every student is different but at the end of the day, it's still 80% the same lessons you do with them. This is even more true if you work with students that maybe aren't your favorites.
  • Students can be annoying: trust me, you will get annoyed when they don't do their homework or make the same stupid mistakes over and over. Even worse are the late cancellations, scheduling issues and instances when students need a shoulder to cry on. I could go on about this but as I said, patience is key.
  • Can be a road to nowhere: teaching English can be a road to nowhere. That is if you don't do anything else on the side or don't work towards a certain goal. Yes, you learn valuable transferable skills but the key part is to put them to use. You don't want to be in your 40s and an English teacher with 15+ years of experience. At least I don't and you shouldn't either.  

Is it better to teach adults or children?

That totally depends on your personality and whether you get along with children or not. I personally teach only adults and can't work with children. Other people actually prefer the playful way that children learn in. 

Here's a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of teaching adults and children:

Working with adults

The Good

  • Easier to find a common language with and explain stuff (maybe not for all)
  • Easier to find materials and books online
  • Usually less stressful, don't have mood swings

The Bad

  • Can be lazy and unmotivated
  • Cancel lessons randomly and last minute
  • Think you're the silver bullet that will solve their language problems (instead of just working more on it)

Working with children

The Good

  • Doesn't feel like teaching (and often it isn't)
  • Lots of room for improvisation, good for creative people
  • Easy to make friends with

The Bad

  • Can be stressful (at least for me a room full of 5yo's is)
  • Improvisation involves more prep time, difficult for newbies
  • Parents are an extra variable to pay attention to

Is it better to teach groups or individuals?

Pretty much the same applies here. Some prefer the former, others the latter. Both have different dynamics and you learn useful transferable skills at both. I personally prefer individuals because I like to fully focus my attention on one person. Teaching groups can be more lucrative, especially if you manage to put together a small group by yourself. It's not so different from teaching one person but for the students it's cheaper and you get more, so it's a win-win.

Here are my observations on group teaching vs private tutoring:

Groups

  • Less taxing on the teacher, you can relax while they do group work or exercises
  • The bigger the group, the harder to focus on individual students, especially if levels aren't the same
  • Different methodology, you can employ a much more wholesome learning experience with group activities, games, discussions etc.
  • You have to manage group dynamics (students liking/disliking others, managing pace of studying)

Individuals

  • Full focus on one person, almost no time to switch off during the entire lesson
  • You need to adapt a lot of lesson plans and activities that are for groups or pairs
  • Custom-tailored lesson plans can mean more work but also more interesting for teacher
  • Individual lessons means student and teacher see results faster (hopefully), good for motivation

What are students in Russia like?

Since I can't really compare I can only tell you the impression that I have of Russian students. Like probably anywhere else, it is hard to generalize. Some are diligent, some are lazy. Some are talented, others need three times as long for the same lesson. Some do their homework, a lot of them don't. 

In general, Russian students are pleasant to work with. They're eager to learn, friendly, talkative and easy to find common ground with. For a Westerner, their culture is similar enough to not get a cultural shock but different enough to leave room for lots of funny and interesting talking points. They're always very involved and curious to find out more about "how do you say this in English" or "why/how do people in the UK/US/Germany do...?". These types of topics are always a winner with Russian students. 

Overall, I'd say in terms of students Russia is definitely a good country to teach in.

Yes, these could be your students...

How do you structure a lesson?

The books that you should work with give you a leg-up on that. It always tells you what the wider goal of the lesson is and what the students are going to learn. My advice is to stick to the lesson plans the books give you. As a beginner, you don't really know yet what you're doing. Luckily, the book walks you through it from A to Z.  

Your only job is to find a good balance of productive and receptive skills and to monitor how students react to the material. You need to know when you want to do which exercise and why. Sometimes things move quicker than you expected, other times slower. That's where you need to be able to adapt. It is always good to have a few extra exercises and explanations up your sleeve.

Over time, as you gain experience, you'll be able to react on the fly and incorporate different types of material and work with extracurricular stuff. Still, you should mentally go through every lesson before you start teaching. The difference whether you come prepared or unprepared is like night and day and both you and your students will notice.

Can I teach other languages too?

Absolutely possible, yes.

English is the most demanded language by far. About 80% of the "teaching foreign languages" market in Moscow is for English. German is second with maybe 10%, French is third with about 5%. Then all the rest like Spanish, Italian, Chinese etc.

I would say if you're not a native speaker of one of the former three, don't even think about it. Unless you have serious established contacts that will guarantee you a constant stream of clients, you won't be able to live off teaching another language. 

Do I have to be a native speaker to teach English?

Like with so many things, it's not mandatory but very useful

First, rates are obviously much better for native speakers. There are also Russians teaching English but their rates are lower to the extent that you can't live off that. 

Second, the clients that can pay higher rates look specifically for native speakers. Even if you're a shitty teacher with a passport from an English-speaking country, you're already two steps ahead of anyone else. Plenty of students in Moscow are in love with the UK accent and want specifically teachers from the UK to teach them the correct pronunciation. Your reputation as a native speaker is way better.

If you are not a native speaker, you need to have bulletproof credentials of speaking top-notch English to command anything close to a respectable rate. That means having university degrees from English-speaking countries, very high test scores and ideally teaching certificates. Especially schools are often strict with that. If you're not a native speaker you're either out or you're getting paid less.

I can tell from experience that it isn't easy to compete with the competent native speakers out there, no matter how good your English might be. If English isn't your first language and you don't have a second language that is high in demand, don't come to Russia to teach.

How about the legal situation if I teach English in Russia?

If you work for a school, kindergarten, university or wherever you get a contract, then you're legally employed and they'll take care of your visa, your work permit and your taxes. Salary in Russia is always indicated after tax, so no need to worry about that. Also, students can work some hours legally as far as I know. 

Anything else is illegal. That is the theory at least. Unless you set up your own LLC in Russia to be self-employed, you can't officially work. The situation on the ground though is that lots of people...find a solution. Let's be crystal clear here: I'm not advocating tax evasion in Russia. But facts are facts, it is sort of a national sport. 

In practice, that means that you get paid in cash and no one bats an eyelid. That can work for a long time but tax authorities in Russia are getting stricter, so you should gamble at your own risk. As long as you're a small fish you'll go unnoticed but if you have the means to register your business legally, you should save yourself a headache and do it. 

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