Teaching is truly one of the most difficult jobs one can attempt. Firstly, organizational and time management skills are a must. Work does not stop once class is over; it is the teacher’s responsibility to be well disciplined and prepared. Teaching English at English First in Russia can build confidence and understanding; it is a unique opportunity to hear the ideas and opinions as well as the life experiences of educated Russians. Most of all I enjoy the interaction I have everyday with my students. There is always something new that I can learn from them and reciprocally something from my culture that I can share with them. I find the classroom to not be just a place of learning but an opportunity for cultural exchange.
English First (EF) is the largest language school in the Moscow area with 17 schools and approximately 25 full-time native speaking English teachers on staff. I am in the middle of my second year with the company. EF as an employer offers stability and ease.
Before continuing, I should mention that I am contracted teacher with EF. The company also employs a considerable number of part-time English teachers under much more flexible terms. Part-time employees are hired after their arrival to Moscow and after they have met with management for an interview. They do not receive most of the benefits that full-time employees do, and they usually have to travel much more, but they do receive a higher per-hour wage. This article will cover only employment with EF as a full-time contracted employee. (For more information on part-time work with EF, see this article, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.)
Relocating to Moscow on your own can be stressful and overwhelming. EF not only provides visa support and reimbursement, but also round-trip airfare. Moreover, they actually help you to find an apartment near the school if needed. The monthly salary for a full time native speaker is approximately 35,000 rubles. This is substantially less than most independent teachers make, especially within the center of Moscow and although it does not allow one to live in luxury, it is certainly a comfortable and most of all stable salary. Independent and even some corporate teachers working for other companies often have cancelled classes and are left with a loss of income as a result. Again, stability can be a great benefit to working at EF.
Although I have yet to hear of any of the foreign teachers rising through the ranks of EF Moscow, English First does have locations throughout Russia and Asia, and so can open doors for other opportunities if you want to see more of the world. Most contracted teachers at EF Moscow stay for about two years and then move back home or to a different location.
As a full time teacher, it can be both a benefit and a disadvantage that the timetable at EF is fixed. Personally, I have never worked on Saturdays, but I do have a hectic evening schedule. I teach at an after-school program and so my day finishes quite late – at 10pm. Official holidays at EF consist only of New Year and a few spring holidays observed in Russia. If you have plans to travel while staying here, it can be difficult to find time off and reschedule classes. Of course each EF school varies on the type of classes and time schedule according to their clientele.
Although Russian lessons are offered to native speakers by EF, I have never felt the need to take the opportunity. There are at most four native-English speakers in a school, the rest of the teachers are Russians and although they all, of course, peak English well, they are more than happy to speak to you in Russian. Time spent outside the classroom with EF management can be spent speaking mostly Russian, giving you many opportunities to practice your language skills with people who are eager and willing to help.
The staff at English First are experienced and knowledgeable of the difficulties of moving to Russia on your own, and they help make the process of application to arrival as simple as it can be. Their friendliness and the stability they offer in employment and pay can be invaluable when seeking employment experience in Moscow.
This text was written by Becca Dalton, who holds a BA in Political Science and Slavic Studies from Rice University in Texas. Having received a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, she studied at MGIMO in Moscow through SRAS for the academic year of 2004-2005. She has since then remained in Moscow teaching English professionally at English First, an international company specialized in ESL education.