You’ve thought things through, prepared, written your application, crossed the t’s, dotted the lower case j’s and aced the interview. Accepting your first English teaching job in Berlin may be a little different to what you’re used to, especially if you’ve taught in Spain, South East Asia or another one of the teaching heartlands.
As a Berliner freelance teacher, you won’t be offered a full-time contract and you’re very unlikely to get more than a few hours at first. In fact, your first class is likely to be a substitute class for another teacher who is off on their holidays. Long-term classes come in dribs and drabs, meaning that after your successful interview you can’t expect to make a living from your teaching for 1-2 months. You should save some cash before you come to cover these hungry times.
As a guide, I had picked up 15 hours by the end of the first month rising to 22 by the end of the second, although your experiences will clearly vary.
The teaching rush hour
The majority of Business English classes come before/after work and at lunchtimes. In the land of wurst and weissbier, this means the busiest times are from 07:30 – 10:00, 12:00 – 14:00 and 17:00 – 20:00. This can lead to an drawn-out workday with lengthy gaps in between, although this is less serious than in Spain where I used to start at 8am and finish at 9pm.
The busiest days are Monday – Thursday and even the most devoted English learners shy away from a English lesson at the expense of a quiet Friday afternoon. I haven’t had any weekend work since I arrived and haven’t heard of anyone who has.
Types of class, maximum hours and cancellations
Group and 1 to 1 classes are equally available to the business English teacher. You may prefer one over the other but remember that cancellations in individual classes are quite common. Group classes are generally a bit more reliable and thus, easier on your wallet (and sanity).
Experienced teachers will know how many hours is enough for them, somewhere between 20-28 contact hours is fine in my book. I have a colleague who works 35 hours a week, which must surely involve a fantastic forfeiture of social life (or any life in general, bar work).
Should I take the class?
The most difficult aspect of freelancing for me is scheduling and knowing when to take a class. One of the most frustrating aspects of this is accepting a class, only to be offered a better one (less travelling, more hours) 2 hours later.
When considering whether to accept a class, you should consider whether it falls into the peak time or ‘rush-hour’ period listed above. I would always take a class outside of these times, but in the peak times you have more options so you can afford to pick and choose. In line with Berlin’s somewhat expansive size, you should bear in mind travel time, as a long journey may hinder your acceptance of another class after.
With a limited number of schools in Berlin, you should be a little bit careful about upsetting anyone and burning your bridges. As a general rule, once you have taken on a class, you need to keep it for a while unless you are very confident of picking up work elsewhere.