I realize that I already wrote about this subject in an earlier post: What the Hell is a Russian State School? However, the thing is that I wrote about it, I didn’t show it. So in this post I’d like to include some images from my time teaching ESL in the Russian public school system. If you want to hear a bit of background about Russian public schools, read one. If you just want to check out the photos, scroll on down.

Where else could I possibly start, except to stay that Russian public schools are crazy! Kids run wildly in the halls, they slam doors, they yell and scream. There is very little, if any, order. As an American this was surprising. When we were kids, if we ran in the hall we got yelled at. I think we even had to walk in lines sometimes. Order was the name of the game.

Who is to Blame?

Man, when I was teaching English in Moscow class would end, and those kids would bolt out of there faster then if I was chasing them with a machete. Not that this bolting behavior was restricted to the end of class either. I had a couple of particularly difficult classes where the kids would run out during the middle of class. When that happened I would have to chase them down. Or just ignore it and let them come back. Sometimes I locked the door to keep them in, sometimes I didn’t care. Their parents were paying a lot of money (by Russian standards) for lessons from a native speaking American. If the kids didn’t have the discipline to stay in the classroom, I felt that the parents shared at least half the blame.

Moving on to the classrooms themselves. That’s a tricky question. I taught in two different schools (#11 and #8). The former looked like it had been around since Stalin, and the latter looked like it had been finished about six months before I arrived in Russia. However, that’s not to say it’s destined to stay that way. Even at the brand new school, chairs were beginning to fall apart, and trim was coming off the doors. The window blinds were a mess and there was never enough chalk. That’s just a Russian school for you. It’s the facade of something brand new, but when you look underneath the surface you see that it’s actually quite poorly done.

The Experience of Teaching ESL in Russia

My experience teaching was perplexing till the last. I never knew whether I was a terrible ESL teacher, or whether I literally scored the worst possible teaching situations known to man, and I should have received the medal of honor for my efforts. Perhaps a bit of both. That’s enough of that though.

Despite the conditions, I still made the best of it. I got to meet some cool students, study the language, learn about a new culture, and find a bit more of my missing personality. Also, teaching in Russia was my jumping off point for travelling the world. I’ve traveled to more than half a dozen countries since then, and I wouldn’t change anything for the world. If you’d like to do the same, you can check out my book, Try the Borsch, where I go deep into how to find the best possible ESL job in Russia. Ok, to the pictures!


I loathed this piano. Keeping the kids from playing it was half my job at school #11.

Seating at the Older Russian Public School

This was my “office” along with two other teachers. The seat of the chair came off and sometimes my kids stole my water. 

My office at a Russian public school

An empty hall (a rare site) at school #11. My room was just down the hall and on the right. 

A hall at a Russian public state school

The real question you should ask yourself is: where the hell is the toilet paper?

A picture of the bathrooms in a Russian public school


Everything was nicer at school #8, but appearances can be deceiving.

Desks at a new Russian Public School

This was my “office” at school #8. Everyday, pack up the CD player and bring it back home.

My desk where I worked at a Russian public school

It’s not that I hate chalk (I do) it’s that we always ran out of the stuff! Also the erasers sucked. 

A blackboard at a Russian public school

Even though I loathe chalk, it was still better than this tiny little whiteboard in school #11.

A piano in a Russian public school classroom