Theodora PapapanagiotouWorking Conditions in Greece

Theodora Papapanagiotou

 

In my previous posts on this blog I talked about what it is like to learn and teach English in Greece. This time I would like to expand on what it is like to work as a teacher in my country

There are various categories of teachers and schools in Greece and it is a bit complicated.  

Let’s start with public schools (state schools). If you want to work at a public school over here, first of all, you have to have a BA in English literature, and it doesn’t matter whether you are a native or a non-native speaker of English. There are state exams taking place every 3-4 years, testing potential teachers in methodology, pedagogy, and language. If you pass this exam, you can get hired according to the needs of various areas in Greece, which means that you probably have to relocate. Although it is hard to pass this exam, then your job is secure, you can be sure to get a steady salary and you have steady hours. If a school cannot offer the required number of hours, then you have to work at another school in the nearby area to fulfill the required hours needed for a full-time position. 

Unfortunately, not all teachers who pass the state exam are hired, simply because there are not enough job openings. In that case, every year you can also apply to be a substitute teacher and then you will get teaching hours, again, according to the needs of the schools around the country. The difference is that most of the times you will have to work at several different schools during the week to have a decent amount of working hours, you will still have to relocate, and you get fired at the end of the school year. If you want to work as a substitute teacher again, you have to apply all over again and probably go to another school (if hired). 

There are also private schools where English teachers could find a job. You still have to have a BA in English literature, and some schools prefer to hire native speakers (fortunately, not all). In order to get a job in a private school you have to be on their list. You send a copy of your degree and your qualifications to the Ministry of Education department responsible for managing private schools. Then you will have the right to apply for a job opening and go through the traditional interviews. 

Working as an English teacher at a state school can be either a very positive or a very negative experience. A lot depends on the school: sometimes you might have to teach in very remote areas where there are no computers or even a CD player. It also depends on what kind of cooperation you have with the other teachers and the director of the school and if they are willing to participate in international projects or not, since not everybody is willing to put in extra time or do the paperwork. 

As I mentioned in my previous posts, Greek students usually attend classes in a private language school after their regular school hours, so that they can prepare themselves for language exams. Teachers employed by such schools usually work part-time and get paid by the actual teaching hours. Until a couple of years ago, teachers who wanted to get a teaching license for private language schools were required to have a BA in English literature, or have a language certificate of a C2 level, or be a native speaker of English and have a BA in anything. Now this law has changed and people with a C2 level certificate cannot get a license and work as teachers anymore.  

Depending on the school, the teacher has or does not have the freedom to choose materials. Some language schools have strict curriculum to follow and some don’t. What books to use, whether teachers and their students are going to be involved in project work or any other activities, what kind of exams the students will sit for at the end of the year – all of these choices also depend on the owner of the school.  

Finally, I would prefer not to talk about the salaries that teachers get… Greece is in the middle of a financial crisis, which in most cases means that the pay is not that good compared to what it used to be in the past. And yet, there are still wonderful teachers who love their profession and try to do their best, no matter what their working conditions are.

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Theodora Papapanagiotou

Theodora Papapanagiotou is a teacher of EFL and DaF (German as a foreign language) in Greece since 1992. She has worked in various language schools in her hometown, Thessaloniki and with various levels and ages. In the past few years she has been working as a freelance teacher and taking parts in conventions, webinars and online courses, trying to become a better teacher.

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