The spread of the coronavirus epidemic in the Czech Republic has put thousands of jobs in the tourism and TEFL* education sectors at risk. While the nation hasn’t been hit as hard as neighboring countries, the restrictive measures and social-distancing orders put in place by the government mean that many English teachers have suddenly found themselves out of work.
The magnitude of the impact depends partly on how long the epidemic will last and when schools can reopen and people are able to meet again for face-to-face lessons.
“I think it will take some time before ‘normal’ happens again,” says Cheryl Drábová, Managing Director for TEFL Worldwide. “It’s hard to say how long, of course, but things almost always return to a normal.”
This is in part true because the demand for English teachers in the Czech Republic has been quite high the past few years, according to Drábová. “What will happen once this settles will really depend on how long this lasts and whether or not language courses will be cut from companies and personal budgets, and if so, for how long,” Drábová adds.
*Teaching English as a foreign language
The ripple effects of the shutdown
For TEFL instructors, the sudden quarantine has meant layoffs, canceled classes, and a steep drop (or even a complete halt) in income. Most teachers weren’t prepared and many didn’t see it coming at all. “I only felt the situation the week before total lockdown, when schools and universities closed; it was very sudden,” says Michael Matejka, who’s been teaching in Prague for ten years.
For some teachers, this has been equal to disaster and many have had to look for employment somewhere else, delivering for Uber Eats or finding a new niche as a dog walker. A lucky few can rely on savings.
“I’ve been saving for years for an emergency and boom, here is one,” says teacher Kayla Bethmann. “It sucks and I hate it and it’s a hit, but I’m not worried about whether I can make rent.”
Not that it’s easy to save for teachers, as Bethmann points out that rent spikes in recent years have hurt everybody. “You can put away maybe 1,000 CZK here or there but it has become increasingly harder to save as our paychecks stay the same but rent and bills do not,” she adds.
After the initial shock, other teachers have slowly moved to virtual teaching. Matejka says that when the schools/universities stopped classes, he raised the idea of Skype lessons but only one of his students accepted. “Then the next week, it was lockdown, so all but a couple accepted Skype lessons; the situation forced them more than I did,” he adds.
Finding a way to cope
The demand for online English teachers has actually grown during the pandemic, as instructors and language schools around the world were compelled to move all of their courses online, explains Drábová.
“I’m sure there are some teachers that are completely out of work due to school closures – that’s pretty much expected at this time,” says Drábová. “In general, though, there has been a huge demand for teaching English online for the past several years, so teachers in need of more work can find dozens of companies hiring TEFL certified teachers for online English lessons by doing a simple Google search.”
In fact, there are a number of platforms – Vedamo, LearnCube, and the very popular Zoom are just a few – out there these days, which make it easy to give a high-quality online English lesson. “And despite the small amount of time that teachers and language schools had to make this work, students seem quite satisfied with the results,” says Drábová.
Both teachers and schools are hoping the love for online teaching continues after things return to normal. “I like teaching via Skype and I don’t want to go back!” says Matejka. “I imagine after quarantine, most of my students will want to return to traditional lessons, so I suppose I’ll start looking around for new students since I’d like to stick with Skype, at least somewhat.”
Where will the industry go from here?
If you were affected by the situation and need to adjust, Drábová recommends trying to get any of your private students to agree to online lessons as a first step. “Then do a search for online teaching jobs and apply, apply, apply! There are dozens of jobs out there,” she says.
If you don’t know where to start, Asia-based schools such as VIPkid, DaDa, and iTutorGroup are always hiring. Although many online schools prefer native-English speaking applicants with a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certification, some tutoring platforms like Cambly have a more informal setting and don’t require a degree.
Another great option is English First, one of the largest online teaching platforms in the world – they have an active recruiting team based in China and are always hiring UK and US native speakers.
In addition to applying to schools, try setting up a profile on Expats’ Teachers in Prague page or visit the Jobs in Prague for English & Multilingual Speakers Facebook group to find not only teaching but also other opportunities. If you speak more than one language you can always look into translation, writing and other jobs as well.
Are you an English teacher in Prague? How are you working these days?