Braveheart vs ruthless system 0:1. Scottish teacher gives up on teaching in a Polish school.

1 02 2008

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza, 1. Feb. 2008
Authors: Małgorzata Kozerawska, Marcin Markowski
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

* * *

Iain comes from Scotland. He’s 34. Loose-fitting sweater and jeans. He switches to first-name terms immediately. He’s been living in Poland for the last four years, teaching English in private schools in Łódź. He’s a native speaker of English, wanting to teach in a state-run secondary school as well. He found work at the reputable IV Liceum Ogólnokształcące where he taught to an elitist International Baccalaureate class. He lasted a week.

Iain tells his story

My first day at work, Monday. I had to wait 15 minutes to get to the staff room. I didn’t have a key, and there was no one to ask for it. Then it turned out photocopying paper ran out. I was told students have to pay for the paper.
Day two, Wednesday. I telephoned one of my students, as I didn’t know where’s my class going to be. The person responsible for contacting me was on a sick leave. Room 12 I was told. Teachers tell me there is no room 12. I telephone my student again. Turns out room twelve belongs to another school. And there was no blackboard.
Day three, Friday. I went to the headteacher to find out where’s my class going to be. She decided it’s going to be the computer room. There was a blackboard this time, but no tables.
Day four, another Monday. I came to the school earlier to prepare for classes and photocopy some material. There was no one at the reception, where they key to the staff room was. I opened the geography room at 8 and waited for students. No one was coming. After 15 minutes I was going to grab a cup of coffee, when my student rang. He was asking if I’m coming to classes, as everyone was waiting in the computer room. I was thinking: why is the lesson to take place in an inappropriate class, when a better class is free?

After classes I went to see a doctor for an obligatory medical check-up. I had to go private and pay, although the school has its (free) doctor. I wasn’t able to use his services, because I had to be at my other job when he receives patients. At the surgery I was told the school should have given me a standard form. No one told me about this at the school. I went back. Secretary said, sarcastically, that she’ll take care of me because apparently as a foreign teacher I was more important than other teachers.

Secretary sent me to accountant, who gave me several forms and asked not to get upset as “this is how things are in a state-run school in Poland”. Same with class registers. I’ve seen other teachers using them, I didn’t get to. Plus there weren’t many teaching aids.

Iain wrote about all this in a letter to the headteacher. He said goodbye to the students and left this job. ‘I would like to donate my wages to the the school, as it’s obvious the school needs it more than me’, he wrote.

The Headteacher

Katarzyna Felde, headteacher at the school where Iain worked. Energetic, practical mathematician, ‘I was seeking an Eglish teacher for the IB class, because the former teacher relocated to Britain. Students have found Iain. He had a friendly attitude. He asked to show him around the school. He wanted to know where his class was, where was the smoking room, where are keys being picked up from. I never had this before.
He got a huge geography room, in which he moved all tables to the middle. It wouldn’t make sense to move furniture there and back all the time, so I moved his classes to room 12. It belongs to the afternoon school. Yes, there was no blackboard. So I moved his class to computer room. And there was problem again. Everyone there sits facing the wall, turned back at the teacher. But Iain didn’t come to me to say he had a problem with something. How was I to know?
The staff room door has an automatic lock. Keys are to be picked at reception. Iain knew about this. I couldn’t have predicted he’d come to school at 7.15 am. There was no one at the reception yet. And none of the teachers. They don’t come an hour before lessons. They prepare to classes at home. At 7, there’s only the caretaker in the building.
Unfortunately students pay for photocopying. We don’t have money for that. As for the medical examinations: we have a contract with a specific doctor, and we directed Iain to him. I have no control over his opening hours. And we’re lacking teaching aids for all teachers. You have to organize it on your own. I told him. You need something – we’ll buy. But not now. We’re getting the money from the city council, and it has to be in their budget.

So what will happen with the class now? Headteacher: I’ll look for another teacher, probably not a native speaker this time. I got discouraged. After all it’s a different culture, it’s hard to fit to one another. A Polish teacher doesn’t need to be guided step by step and introduced to everything. And won’t go on complaining like a child.
Iain came from a country where everything is ready and prepared. He was, in fact, treated better then Polish teachers. Some of them have been upset with this. Yesterday one of the parents rang me asking what will I do to get him back. That’s over the board. I bear no grudge against him, but I’m not going to look for him, or say sorry, either. I have nothing to say sorry for. He’s worked eight hours in our school earning 160zł, which will be paid to him

* * *

If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.




10 responses

2 02 2008

Iain sounds like an absolute waste of time moaner to me, showing very bad form. The school is better off without him

4 02 2008

He, a guid ane. School as a battelfield. But did William Wallace like before-dawn attacks, just like Iain? I mean, who in their teacher’s mind comes to school when the enemy’s not there yet? And at 7 a.m.?

5 02 2008

Well, on the other hand, it wouldn’t hurt the school or the headteacher to be more friendly and actually explain things to the poor foreign guy. At least kids in a public school would have gotten a native speaker – a very rare species:)

5 02 2008

Homework. A lesson in modern web tech:

Proceed to Liceum’s website, choose the map (“plan szkoły”) and see the missing Room 12. (I mean, see it’s not there.) But wait, take Floor One, there’s Room 10, then Room 11, then a flight of stairs. If the numbering on all the floors is consistent, Room 12 would be that almost-cubicle right to (east of) the radio facility (which, in turn, would be Room 13). Secretary resides in Room 14 and director in Room 14.5. Wicked.

The numbers on Floor Two are spookier, I can’t figure them out. One thing’s for sure: the toilets are either numberless black holes or deliberately uncharted Area 51.

6 02 2008

EHEHEHE LOL:)) Darth, you’re killing me hhahahah

Exactly he thing I’d expect from you:)) Investigating the mysterious room 12:) But did you notice there are two rooms 25?

Mhmm… spooky

6 02 2008

You noticed that too! But my guess is there are not two Rooms 25. Instead there is some warp in polydimensionality. So, you enter the 25 near WC (read Area 51) and then you use Escher stairs and end up a Northener.

13 02 2008
Glenn Standish

I am afraid I have to disagree with Datblog. Iain is not a moaner…he simply wasn’t treated right. That school was poorly equipped. My wife also works at a state school and it’s far better than that one. I also don’t like the attitude of the headteacher. Who does she think she is saying that native teachers are too demanding?!! It’s her loss!

13 02 2008

=> Paweł, there is one room 25, they have some Escher stairs there.

=> Glenn, I have teachers in my family as well, one of them starting corridor patrols at 7.20, sometimes at 7.00. So, at another school Iain could meet lot of people, should he arrive early in the morning. In fact, he could be told to arrive early in the morning. That’s a specific case.

Generally, private schools are better equipped than public schools, and those in Warsaw have, generally, better budget than those not in Warsaw. Generally, schools have rooms 12. Specifically, there is that school without room 12.
Specifically, Iain managed to collect that intel there’s no room 12. Generally, at a school without many English teachers around, he might have a problem to get any info. (Unless he could speak the language of the locals.) Generalizations are generally good. More specifically, good for nothing.

The key issue seems to me: is Iain a (qualified) teacher?
If he’s one, he certainly saw the system’s flaws in UK. For another generally true fact is – or is it not? – that UK schools are even worse than schools in Poland. Why would Iain expect Poland to be much different? If he should be not a teacher but a native speaker thinking enthusiasm combined with native speaking make up for the ability to teach, which in turn, includes the ability to swim in the sea of little school madnesses – then he was proven wrong, I guess.

I thought there’s some status quo in Poland: only private and / or prestigious private facilities can afford foreign native speakers – but when it comes to ordinary state education, especially the lower levels, Polish teachers (wo)man the guns. If the lady says “native teachers are too demanding” she probably means so. When you say “it’s her loss”, it’s not quite clear what you mean. A financial loss? [Don’t think so.] An educational loss? [Don’t think so.]

10 11 2014

Don’t know do you realise that schools in UK (England, Wales or Ireland) and schools in Scotland are not the same. Talking about teaching aids ie. schools in the north are much better equipped.

Having a native speaking teacher is a big advantage. I spent around 10 years learning English language in different schools in Poland but when I moved to Scotland some time ago I realised that the kind of english being taught in polish schools is a dead language that is not used in any english speaking countries.

Another big thing is that since polish ad scottish schools are very different its no wonder that Iain needed more help to get settled and – as headteacher said – he asked about many things and by the looks of things she was surprised that he done that (“I never had this before”). So did previous native speaking teacher had no problems finding himself in a new school, new country and coped with much different habits??

4 03 2008
michael farris

Coming to this late, but while I’m here: I didn’t use this article in translation class because it was during the break, but I did use my own truncated (and slightly modified) translation in another class (made up of students who’ve finished a teachers college and mostly work as English teachers).

What I find most interesting is that after 4 years he apparently still has no real idea of how things are done in Poland. He asks the head of the school for a lot of information he should get from other teachers and then doesn’t go to her when he has a problem. In other words he consistently talks to the wrong people about whatever’s bothering him.

Predictably, the prevailing attitude of native speakers who’ve seen the article is that he’s a tool, while the comment boards at were all on his side against the teacher.

(transation discussion: I would probably usually translate elitarny as ‘elite’ or maybe ‘exclusive’ as ‘elitist’ has some potentially negative conotations I don’t recall from the original article).

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