Teaching English in Ukraine: Traveling Teacher Series

How do you start teaching English in Ukraine? I interviewed Kate and Kris who moved to Ukraine to teach! They share tips and thoughts on how they found the position, what it’s like teaching there, and more.

The traveling teachers series is all about people who travel and you guessed it teach! Each interview features a different teacher, traveling to a different place, and teaching a unique group of students. So often we hear of people teaching abroad, but what is it really like? How do you find the opportunities?

There are many questions surrounding traveling and teaching. Through this series, I hope you are inspired by the good work going on around the world, learn, and start to think about ways you can travel and teach abroad yourself. I’m excited to share this story of teaching English in Ukraine with you today!

This week I am excited to bring you a story about teaching English in Ukraine! I loved this interview because it is from an awesome travel bloggers who have not just taught in one country but in over 4 countries! Kate and Kris have been traveling and teaching for the past 11 years. They’ve been all over the world and are continuing their adventures by now teaching in Ukraine. Together they blog about their experiences living in Ukraine and traveling around the world on What Kate and Kris Did. Here is their story of teaching abroad.

What inspired you to start teaching English in Ukraine?

Honestly, it was an accident. We are the sort of teachers who fell into English teaching. We were traveling in South East Asia and fell in love with it. Not wanting to leave, we investigated ways we could stay longer and found a program where we could be trained to be English teachers, and then work.

We had friends who were teaching English in Spain (the food is so good in Spain!), so we knew a bit about it, and thought we’d give it a try. I remember Kris saying to me “I don’t think I want to be a teacher”. I told him to give it a go for six months, and if he didn’t like it, we’d do something else.

That was 11 years ago now. Since then, we’ve taught in six countries and have done diplomas in teaching English as a foreign language that have opened up more job opportunities. It’s safe to say that the experiment paid off. We love teaching English and also seem quite good at it. We’ve got no plans to do anything else now.

How long have you taught and where?

We started off teaching in a primary school near Bangkok, which was definitely a baptism by fire. We worked there for a semester, before moving to Madrid for six months. We did nearly five years working in Vietnam – one year in Haiphong in the north, and then nearly four in Ho Chi Minh City, where we taught academic English to students who wanted to study abroad in English.

There was a short and not very successful stint near Shanghai in China, before we moved to Odessa in Ukraine. Teaching English in Odessa for two years, we taught all ages and levels and Kate became Director of Studies. We left for 18 months to go back to teach IELTS preparation (an exam students take to live and work abroad) in Bangkok.

Then we came back to teach English in Ukraine. We now work in Kyiv for London School of English, where Kate is Director of Studies and Kris is a teacher, teacher trainer and a methodologist for Pearson publishers.

And next….who knows? That’s a great thing about doing this job.

Are any of your expenses covered with the teaching experience?

It depends on the position we had. Some places pay accommodation, some cover flights or health insurance, some just pay a salary. Sometimes, that salary has been hourly paid, and others we got a fixed monthly salary.

Right now, our flights, accommodation and health insurance is covered by the school. We get a monthly salary but that’s all spending money.

How did you find the program or opportunity to teach abroad?

The first job we had was a program which trained us and then put us in a placement for one semester. We found it on ESLcafe.com website. Now, we look for jobs on various websites.

We don’t use programs. You can find out how we do it in our post: How to find good ESL jobs. We found our job in teaching English in Ukraine on TEFL.com, which is an excellent place to find teaching jobs.

Are you able to spend time traveling and exploring the country while teaching?

We spend a lot of time traveling within and between jobs. That’s another awesome thing about this lifestyle. While we were in Ukraine the first time, we went to Turkey, Greece and traveled back from the UK to Odessa overland via Amsterdam, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow and Lviv. Since we came back to teach in Ukraine in August, we’ve been to Marrakesh, Minsk, Odessa and Lviv and are about to go on a week’s trip to explore the castles and university towns in west Ukraine.

What are interactions with students like?

As I said, we’ve done all kinds of jobs. We’ve prepared students for university in both language centers and universities, worked in a primary school and several language schools. We prefer language school work. It’s diverse, you teach all ages and levels of students and you can really see them progress.

Here in Ukraine, our classes have a maximum of 14 students in them. Our youngest classes have 9-11 year olds in, and the oldest are groups of adults (I don’t think they’d appreciate me mentioning their ages!!). We teach a lot of general English, but also exam preparation for Cambridge and Pearson exams and IELTS, and some business English. As I said, it’s very diverse.

The students we teach are brilliant. There’s a real thirst for learning English in Ukraine these days and the majority of students are motivated and hard working. Some of our teenagers are incredible. 14 years old and able to converse fluently in English, as well as being native-speakers of Ukrainian and Russian, and good at languages like German and Mandarin Chinese.

What is your favorite part of teaching abroad?

There are several great things about it. It’s always different. When I worked in the UK, I worked for the government and days really used to drag. Now, no day is the same. No lesson is the same. Even if you teach the same material, the students react to it differently.

The possibilities are huge. There are so many places you can work, which means so many places you can explore and experience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not selling teaching English as ‘teaching on the beach’. It’s hard work. The hours are long and you haven’t got lots of time to travel to tropical beaches. However, you get holidays and where ever you are, there are cool places to explore.

The last excellent thing is the people you meet. Since we started this journey 11 years ago we’ve met so many fascinating and lovely people from all over the world. We have friends everywhere. It shows you just how small the world is, and how similar we all are.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone who wants to teach abroad?

We have a whole blog of advice, experiences and stories for people who want to teach abroad, but if I had to summarize it, I’d say do your Research. Social media and the internet being what it is, anyone can offer TEFL courses and teaching jobs. Having good advertising and being good at marketing doesn’t mean that the course, or the job, is going to get you the job you want, be the quality you want or have the conditions you want. Make sure that the path you choose can really take you where you want to go.

You can find more specific advice at http://whatkateandkrisdid.com/teaching-english/ and find Kate and Kris on Facebook at @whatkateandkrisdid if you have more questions.

    1. Teaching English in Prague
    2. Teaching English in Spain
    3. Teaching in English in Paris
    4. Teaching in France
    5. Becoming an AuPair in Europe
    6. Teaching Abroad in Europe
    7. Teaching Abroad in the UK
    8. Teaching at an International School in Russia

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