Tales from the Chalkface: Testing Times

Exam times. Hard times. Teachers are giving out advice about revision while students have their heads in books and worry about their futures. Quite a few teachers are worrying about that too, their own, I mean, as much as their students’, especially if they are freelance.

Next semester doesn’t seem so sure a prospect as it once did. Word is that a very respectable language school within hailing distance of the Rynek is cutting the pay of the freelancers it employs. If it’s happening there, it’s probably happening everywhere. The struggle for survival of Krakow’s many (too many?), language schools is getting tougher. Each one is playing chicken, waiting for one of the others to close in the
hope of mopping up its clientele. Meanwhile belt-tightening is the order of the day.

So what? Language schools are no different from any other business in these economic hard times. Everyone has to face market forces, which right now means we all have to think harder than ever about what we spend. If we don’t there’s the shock of shopping at the supermarket only to come out with lighter bags than we wanted, or a too light wallet if we buy everything we’d like. My estimate of my last grocery bill before the till rang was about 70 złoty but the till told me it was double figures.
My own lack of funds leaves me mystified as to how those students, busy with exams, manage to live here when it’s so tight
on a wage. Of course, it’s traditional for students to have little and to thrive on it. In my university days (sounding old here); students had two priceless assets that made up for their struggles: time and hope.

Time to study, make new friends, explore the world, music, art, philosophy, sport, you name it (and some things you might not name), a student would be trying it. Their zest for life was, and still is, infectious. It is fuelled by the hope of a bright future, but increasingly that hope is harder to sustain.
The hard times are beginning to bite here again as they have been globally. I find myself more and more having conversations about price rises, which was a habit I ditched when I jumped ship from Warsaw a few years ago and came to where the surroundings are easier on the eye and shops easier on the pocket.

The trouble is, times are changing and now I’m back in student mode, living on hope. Though that’s no bad way to be and I wouldn’t be a teacher if I wasn’t an optimist, I’m worrying that my cup is half empty now I know how much it’ll cost to fill it up, so it’s back to belt tightening or working more hours, not always an option right now.
Don’t get me wrong, we ex-pats are lucky. Most of us can just move on. It seems like that applies to students and teachers alike. Success to all!

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