St.Petersburg – Diana Bruk, August 2010
As a native speaking teacher, finding work in Russia is pretty much a mathematical certainty, as the demand is high and the number of applicants in pretty low. Nonetheless, I found applying online to the big schools futile, and found that it was much better to personally email the branches of the schools that you were interested in, or, better yet, go to Russia and walk into the schools themselves with your resume in your hand, in which case it’s likely to be hired on the spot. Most of the schools handle/pay for the visa entirely themselves, and if you do apply from abroad you can usually get them to pay for your round-trip flight as well. I work for Language Link in St. Petersburg so I can only comment on that particular school, and it definitely has its pros and cons.
The pros are that it’s very centrally located, offers accommodation and health insurance, has a very good reputation and pays well comparatively.
The con is that the administration there has fairly poor relations with its teachers and is often completely unreasonable, having very high expectations for their teachers while doing little themselves (for example, your salary can be deducted for something as minute as coming into the school 10 minutes before you class begins rather than the required 15, but then they often fail to notify their teachers about individual lessons being canceled or moved; they also often change one’s schedule radically in the last minute and, if you complain that you won’t have time to prepare, they simply respond with “Life is tough”; the contract is also illegal in some ways, not least of which is the fact that we are, by Russian law, entitled to 28 days of paid holiday in addition to government holidays, whereas they only give us government holidays and a few extra days before New Years).
They are good at advertising, and because their prices are very high the students tend to be diligent and eager to learn, and there’s a nice sense of camaraderie between the teachers so I wouldn’t advise against the school entirely, but to an extent I wish someone had advised me to look over the contract more carefully and at least attempt to negotiate some of it before beginning.
As for living in St. Petersburg, the winters are difficult but there’s certainly never any shortage of adventures and the cultural scene and nightlife are pretty spectacular. Since I’m considered a Russian by many Russians I don’t feel like I can really comment on the native speaking teacher experience here, but many of my American and English friends seem to enjoy it and say that Russians are very hospitable and eager to share their culture with Brits/Americans.
But you definitely need to take everything with a grain of salt and be able to laugh it off when the water in your apartment is suddenly turned off for a week and you can barely get to work one day because a large hole inexplicably appeared in the street overnight.