6 things I’ve learned about teaching English in Berlin

1. Finding a job is (relatively) easy…

I’ll stick my neck out and say that for anyone who has a recognised teaching qualification and some experience, finding an English teaching job is easy. Before I came, I sent out some applications and got one or two interviews organised. Both of these interviews were ‘successful’ and I was offered some work.

2. But, all the work is freelance

Don’t start polishing your best shoes/ironing your tie just yet. A successful interview only adds you to the school’s list of teachers. You don’t get a full-time contract, you get offered a sort-of contract for each course that you take from the school. It can take several months to get anything like a full timetable so you’d better pack some extra cash. You will need to sort out your own health insurance. You won’t get sick pay, so you’d better not get sick. You won’t get holiday pay, so you’d better not go on holiday. You won’t get paid travel, but you have to do that to work. People with a vested interest in the system will tell you working freelance has advantages.

“You have so much control over what you teach, what hours you want to work and what materials you’re developing for your learners” claims Dale Coulter in an article written by Sarah Hucal in The Local “a business English trainer in Berlin can expect to earn between €15 and €40 for teaching a 45 minute class.” You will quickly suspect that none of this is true.

3. Cancellations will make you cry

In my previous teaching jobs, I used to like cancellations. On the one hand (if you’re like me), you can’t quite shake the feeling that no-one is coming to your class because it’s shit. On the other hand, you can sit back and relax knowing that your lesson plan for the next class is already done. In Berlin, the story is all too different. With our good friend, the freelance ‘contract’, advance cancellations are not paid for. I’ve had months where 20-30% of my classes have been cancelled – not ideal if you’re saving up to buy something nice, or if you like financial planning beyond next Tuesday.

4. Berlin is full of hippies

Not such a bad thing you might think. “Hippies are fun people, I like them, I think they’re great”. Wrong. It’s a terrible thing. Apart from offering you ‘free hugs’, Hippies are generally creative people. The ‘upcycling trend’ that is hitting Berlin seems to present the perfect example. Why is this a bad thing? Well, creative people like teaching English – flexible hours, late mornings, chance to practice their creative activities and the like. To put that into a nice zero conditional sentence – if there are more people teaching English, there is more competition. More competition means lower wages and less job security. All of this together basically translates to the fact that the myriad schools of English all over Berlin know that they can always get someone else (probably a hippie) to fill your place.

5. I like travelling……..but, not on Berlin’s U-bahn network

Berlin does have an excellent public transport system. Super-duper for tourists and meandering tramps. You will also become well acquainted with it. English teachers usually have a lot of travelling to do but in Berlin it feels somehow worse. Probably something down to the sheer size of the city – Berlin has half as many people as London with a similar land area – which often sees my days break down to half teaching, half travelling.

And finally something positive….

6. Your students are cool, interesting people

I’ve had almost universally good experiences with the English studying citizens of Berlin and you will find your students to be friendly, easy-going and self-motivated. Lots of them are genuinely awesome people. Example. I mentioned to one guy that I was looking for a bike but Berlin second-hand bikes are overpriced (which is true). “Kein problem” he said. He had a bike in his garage that I could have for free. The people are definitely the best part of the job.

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5 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Nicely done, Spud.

  2. BerLingo says:

    Ok, I lied. Last comment today.
    Reading your blog is making me wonder why I am so desperate to teach English in Berlin.
    I think if it all goes t*ts up by the end of July, when my first 3-month sublet contract runs out, I’m going to scoot back to Bilbao and try my luck there 🙂

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