Czech Republic: Teaching in Prague

About the school
I started living in Prague in the Czech Republic since 2007 and have been teaching for the last year and a half. The school where I work follows the international GCSE and International Baccalaureate, IB syllabus. All of the lessons, except for Czech literature and language, are conducted in English. The majority of the students are Czech, Asian, and Vietnamese. There are also some other nationalities, but they comprise a very small percentage of the student body.

I teach history and geography across the whole age range, which is generally 14-19 years old. The classes get smaller and more specialised as you move up the school; I have 26 14-year-old students in my year 1 history class and only three in my year 6 history class which consists of 19-year-olds in their final year of IB.

My first day
I can hardly remember the first day of school, but the first week was definitely in at the deep end. I had been to Prague many times before, and my parents lived here teaching English as a foreign language, EFL, but I hadn’t really considered how to pronounce Czech names! It’s quite tricky to get your tongue around all the unusual consonants and I’ve needed lots of help from my students to make sure I pronounce their names correctly! That said, it’s also a bit confusing when a Czech-Vietnamese boy decides that he wants to be called Charlie…

The students
The students are great and that’s partly because the school has a very good pastoral system. There are only around 300 students over six years so everyone seems to know each other. Even students that I do not teach regularly say ‘hi’ to me in the hallways. Some of my classes have the funniest, most clever kids I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. The Czechs aren’t particularly well-known internationally, but once you’ve lived here for even a short time, you come to appreciate their quirky, dark sense of humour. Many of the kids have this as well, and some of the spoofs that have been performed in school have left me crying with laughter.

The students are also, for the most part, incredibly intelligent and demanding. But, as in all schools everywhere, there are some students who really want you to deliver everything to them on a plate. Yet, most are genuinely eager to learn, ask very challenging questions, and really keep you on your toes. There’s also a huge sense of freedom in the school that can’t be found in the gymnasia which are more traditional type of Czech schools that focus on rote learning of dates and figures and provide very little stimuli for students. Our method of teaching is much more interactive, and the kids really seem to thrive in our environment.

The staff team
We’re mostly British, of some description, with the odd American or Kiwi, as well as a Spanish teacher who is from Ecuador. We also have several native Czech teachers, who handle the Czech language and literature classes, as well as many of the foreign language lessons (i.e. French and German). Everyone is intelligent and quirky, and it’s generally a very good community.

A typical day

8.05am Staff briefing of headmasters’ notices, pastoral or department meetings
8.15am Registration
8.25am First lesson followed by three 40 minute lessons
12.10pm Lunch followed by extra-curricular activities such as Scrabble, football etc
1.00pm Afternoon classes begin. Three of four 40-minute lessons
3.00pm School ends.

After school there are more extra curricular activities including cricket, aikido, Poi dancing, drama club. Each teacher has responsibility for the organisation of at least extra curricular activity.

The cost of living
There’s always something going on outside of school, too. Prague is a great city to live in, and there’s lots of music, sporting events, art, and everything else to keep you busy - not to mention the beer! I must admit that much free time is spent consuming the famous Czech pivo… Especially in the spring and summer, when a lot of outdoor beer gardens open up; there’s no better way to relax! The standard of living is still incredibly high compared to the UK, but it’s definitely not as cheap as a few years ago. The flat that I’m renting was the equivalent of £475 when I moved in during August, 2007, and with the weakening pound and the stronger crown, it now costs the equivalent of £675!

It’s still much cheaper to go out for a meal here, though. A dinner for two, at a normal Czech pub (hospoda), with some beers, will cost around £10. Beer is around £1 for a half-litre and it’s cheaper than Coke or mineral water. As with so many places, it can be very inexpensive if you are out of the city centre, but if you are near Old Town Square, the prices will be nearly the same as in most parts of the UK. The same goes for food shopping - if you’re happy having the standard Czech diet of potatoes, meat, and cabbage products, you can exist here very cheaply; if, however, you want your curries, peanut butter, English cheese, and Mexican food, then you’ll pay over the odds, but it still works out at only around £20-30 a week. Many people eat out as it is cheaper.

Plans for the future
In fact, I like my job so much, that I have promised my year 3 students who will be sitting their international GCSEs this year, that I will stay to watch them graduate in another three years’ time. And I might stay even longer than that, to see more of my favourite students go through their six years at our school. After that, who knows? Some of the teachers have been around for more than ten years, so it’s very possible that I might turn into a long-timer too…

Further information:
Teachers’ international consultancy
Gabbitas overseas recruitment
TES overseas jobs
Council of international schools
International schools
ISC research

For more advice on working abroad, visit Teaching overseas