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.
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.