Working for the London School of English
Earlier this year I finished my contract working for the London School of English (LSE) in Ukraine. After a short stint in Kiev I moved to Odessa and spent a total of 2 1/2 years working for them.
So what was it like? Is it a good school? Should you consider Ukraine as a place to teach?
The London School of English
I first heard about this school on Tefl.com when I was travelling around the Balkans. After 3 months of travel I thought it was about time I looked for a job. I was in Bucharest at the time and sent a quick email to the school director, Graham Jones, to find out a bit more.
I was never intending to go to Ukraine because, at the time, things weren’t looking too good there. Graham assured me it was safe and so I thought I might as well check out Odessa; I’d planned to go to Chisinau anyway.
This was my first job, post CELTA and I was very green when I arrived. I taught a trial lesson, which was ok. Not great but passable enough to get me the job. Luckily, the school gives new teachers a mentor and helps them to develop. More on that later.
If you work for one of the Kiev schools then you won’t be admiring the scenery, they aren’t in the most picturesque parts of the city. I worked mainly for the school near Levoberezhnaya metro station.
Odessa, however, is a different story. The school is situated in Deribasovskaya street, slap bang in the centre of the old city. This comes with both positive and negatives.
On the upside, it’s a nice street to work in. Loads of cafes and restaurants and a great atmosphere. This does make teaching hard though, due to the sheer number of buskers and hustlers all trying to make a living.
Some of these musicians are good but a large majority of them are just talentless wannabes wailing out the same tunes day in and day out.
A couple of weeks after starting at LSE, new teachers (native speakers) are whisked away on a glorious day trip to the beautiful Moldovan capital Chisinau. Famed for its Soviet era concrete buildings and broken pavements.
The purpose of the trip is to get a D-visa stamp in your passport. This enables the school to apply for a Posvidka.(temporary residence permit) It’s a long day but you get to go somewhere new and the school buys you lunch.
As well as your residence permit, the school provides you with following:
- A furnished apartment (single occupancy)
- Holiday pay (you get paid time off in May and at Christmas)
- Paid sick leave
- Medical cover (I got food poisoning and the school looked after me!)
- Return flights from the UK
- Delta/DipTESOL sponsorship
The flats vary in size and age but the good thing is that you don’t have to share with another teacher. Flats are rented by the school and are within walking distance of the school so you won’t have to spend time each day sitting in one of Odessa’s many traffic jams.
The school provides these benefits and expects teachers to be committed to the job. If you’re thinking it will be an easy ride, and that you can roll into work 10 mins before the lesson and just wing it, then LSE is the wrong school for you. In many ways, it’s just like a normal job you might have back home.
If you come into it with the wrong expectations then you’ll probably find yourself disappearing halfway through the year leaving nothing more than an Instagram post in your wake.
You’ll teach a variety of levels and ages with class sizes topping out at 15. You’ll also be assigned a mentor to help you on your way.
For the first few weeks, my mentor Steve would make sure I knew what I was doing and give me support where needed. I could ask for advice or for suggestions for teaching activities. It was good to have this support, rather than being left to my own devices.
The school pays pretty well but you’ll have to work for your money. There are meetings and training sessions and you are supported throughout with CPD.
LSE has an in-house development programme called CELTA to DELTA, aimed to support teachers who wish to go on and take further Cambridge qualifications.
The input sessions cover many different topics such as, classroom management, teaching young learners and common student mistakes to name just a few.
So coming back to my original questions:
- What was it like? It was a great experience that set me up well for the next challenge.
- Is it a good school? Yes. They will mentor you, give you training and make you a better a teacher. The staff are supportive and friendly too.
- Should you consider Ukraine as a place to teach? Yes, definitely. I felt safer there than in big UK cities.
After having a base for 2 1/2 years, I’m now looking forward to my next challenge. My wife and I are going to travel and work online for the next 2-3 years and after that we’ll see what happens.