How to Become a Successful Private Teacher in Moscow, Russia

How to Become a Successful Private Teacher in Moscow, Russia

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If you happen to secure a contract teaching English at one of the basic chain-schools or private academies in Moscow, it won’t be long before you start thinking about how to supplement your income. Moscow is infamous for being one of the world’s most expensive cities.

Although prices have dropped considerably since the horrific 2014-15 crash of the ruble, it’s still a pricey place to call home.

For inexperienced teachers who usually come over on contracts, the pay will barely be enough to live. Sure, they’ll give you an apartment (likely to be the slummiest place you’ll ever live, and you’ll probably have to share it with a strange flatmate). At least you won’t have to worry about rent. But what about going out and having fun?

You’re in luck! If you’re a native speaker and thinking about taking on private students, they are quite easy to find. Just how do you do it? Here are a few quick tips:

1. Make friends with your students, keep in touch with them

If you are on friendly terms with students in your contract classes, there’s a good chance after your term finishes, you may be contacted to continue studies 1-on-1. Some students may even refer their friends. I had several adults and even one child student who later arranged private lessons. It’s good to keep yourself fully motivated and maintain a strong rapport with your students. Such positive teaching behavior might come back to benefit you in more ways than the obvious good vibes in the classroom!

2. Attend English-speaking meet-ups:

Free language-based events are filled with locals who want to improve their English skills. If you make friends there and impress them with your language prowess, it’s easy to arrange further meetings. Sometimes you can arrange language exchange, where they will teach you Russian in exchange for English. Other times, private lessons can be arranged. It’s easy to make new friends this way too!

The most popular meet-ups when I was in Moscow were the LAM, or Language Exchange Meeting, which was usually held every Sunday.

Hundreds of people attended, most looking for native English speakers to mingle with.

Another one you can find on Facebook is Moscou Polyglot.

Also, there are English house meetings and others which can be found on couch surfing and other sites.

3. Native Speakers Club.

This organization is popular for expat teachers who want to supplement their income. You basically fill out an application here:

You will soon be contacted and given a telephone ‘interview’. After this, they might ask you to come in as well.

Don’t be nervous, as long as you were honest on your application (about your qualifications, nationality, experience, etc) the interview is only a formality and you will be ‘hired’.

After this, the club will contact you and offer you private lessons, which can either be held at their building, at your place or the student’s place, or off-site. You will be paid directly by the Native Speakers Club for a certain period of lessons, predetermined beforehand.

Usually, the Native Speakers Club will summon you over to their office for a ‘sample lesson’ with a prospective student. You will be paid for it, but not much. If the student likes your performance, they will sign a contract (with Native Speakers Club, not with you) and you’ll be given a set schedule. Make sure it doesn’t interfere with your ‘real’ job!

4. Vash Repetitors

By far the better option, in my opinion, is this popular website. You also have to ‘apply’ here, but much like Native Speakers Club, the interview will only be a formality to make sure you are who you say you are.

Once you are ‘hired’, you’ll be put into the database as an available English teacher. The rest is quite simple and convenient!

It might be hard to register because the website is all in Russian:

It would be best to have a Russian friend who can help you with registration.

After you are in the database, you can search the website for students looking for jobs and accept online, or you can wait to be contacted by a placement secretary, who will offer you jobs. Fees and locations differ, so look closely before you accept one.

Vash Repetitors doesn’t have a home office, so all the lessons will be given in varying locations. Some students will want you to come to their place. Others will come to your place, and still others would prefer to meet in a cafe or other public place. It would be best to gauge the prices so you don’t get stuck with the low-end classes, and also keep the locations in mind (and how long it will take to get there) while organizing your schedule.

5. Ask your colleagues

Many of your co-workers, especially those who have been living in Moscow for awhile, will already have their own schedules of private students. Often, those schedules change. Teachers may either find a more lucrative student, or be forced to take a job at their regular school during that time period.

Therefore, they will have to get rid of a private. Usually the teachers will pass these privates onto a friend. You can ask around at your work and see if a teacher has too many privates to handle, offer to take some off of their hands. When I left Moscow, I passed most of my privates, some of them quite lucrative, onto my own teacher friends.

Things to keep in mind when teaching private students:

Once you put together a schedule of private students, it’s on you to retain them.

Although private students pay significantly more on an hourly basis than you’ll be making on your contract, one of the negatives is they usually won’t pay if they cancel a lesson.

Sometimes students could even cancel at the last minute, or even no-show without notifying you, and you’ll be out money for that lesson even if you spent time planning. Suck it up, it’s just one of the consequences of this aspect of teaching.

With private students, you don’t have a set curriculum or a syllabus like in your classes. It’s important to give the students what they want.  A good first lesson would be like a placement-type conversation, where you figure out exactly the expectations and goals of the prospective student.  Then you can plan your private lessons accordingly.

Some want nothing more than conversational sessions. This is a positive, because the lessons are easy and require little planning. Other students want a more structured, classroom-like setting. You can use coursebooks and materials found at your school to plan for these lessons, but it’s worth noting that in 1-on-1 lessons, you should include a lot of supplementary material that you think your particular private will enjoy.

Of course, stay on good terms and keep your student satisfied. That way, they’ll keep coming to your lessons and also might possibly recommend you to friends and acquaintances.

Alright, now you know what to do, go out and make that money. Good luck!