What I Learned From A Month Of Teaching English In São Paulo

Brazil By June 28, 2016 Tags: , , , No Comments

Greetings Friends, AJ here again.

If you’ve read previous posts about My life so far in Brazil, you’ll know that at the moment I’m working part time as an English Teacher in São Paulo.

So far, the experience has been interesting and rewarding and I’m learning a lot about how the industry works and how to make the most of it. So, if you’re looking to come to Brazil to teach English or you are just curious to know more about my experience, keep reading.

I started teaching at the beginning of last month (May, 2016). At first, I took some advice I read on the Brazilian Gringo Blog and Googled “English Schools in São Paulo” and then proceeded to call around and ask if they were hiring. After getting a few emails and struggling to get information from receptionists who didn’t speak English, I decided it would be more efficient to apply to job postings I found online.

I didn’t bother going door to door to apply at schools because I wasn’t yet in São Paulo when I first started applying and by the time I got there, I had some prospects that looked promising based on e-mail and Skype conversations.

I don’t know how many schools I applied to, but I had a handful of interviews and was immediately offered positions with 2 schools. This leads me to the first thing I learned:

English Teaching Jobs in São Paulo are easy to come by. There are TONS of schools in São Paulo and every school wants to have native english speaking teachers. If you present yourself well, you WILL get a job. São Paulo is the financial and business centre of Brazil and to a larger extent, a major business hub of Latin America so, in a globalized world, everyone needs to know the lingua franca of business–English.

Since Brazil isn’t normally on the top of the list for most people who want to go abroad to teach English, demand is high for teachers and the supply can sometimes be low. Once again, leading me to my next point:

You don’t need any special qualifications to teach english in Brazil. Nor do you need any “real” teaching experience. As mentioned above, Brazilians really want to learn english from native speakers so the schools are happy to bring you on board if they know you’re a native english speaker and you seem capable of teaching. There seems to be a preference for American English so if you’re from Canada or the US that’s a plus. But, there are people from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and other European countries who work in Brazil as english teachers.

Teach with schools first, get private students later.  I’m sure some people will have a different opinion on this and that’s fine; but, if it’s your first time teaching abroad or your first time teaching in Brazil/ São Paulo, it might be better for you to gain some experience teaching with schools and then slowly build up your private student list. Teaching with schools helps you get a feel for the market and build up your skills if you have limited teaching experience. Also, if you teach semi-private classes like I do, you can use the opportunity of teaching with a school to learn the best ways to move around the city and get used to your new environment. Teaching privately is essentially like running your own small business so while you’re adjusting to your new environment, you’ll have less to worry about if you teach with a school.

And now on to my last point after a month of teaching english in São Paulo:

Theres lots of money to be made.  Ok well maybe not toooons of money, but depending on whether you teach classes in a stationary school, semi-private students in-company or private students, you can make $500-1000USD/month on the low end and $3,000+/month on the higher end. I’m sure there are people who really hustle and make more.  On average, you will probably make something between these two incomes working 20-30ish hours/week. Although living in São Paulo can be quite expensive, if you’re making this kind of income here you’ll be just fine. It’s important to note that these kinds of salaries probably don’t exist outside São Paulo so if you’re thinking about going somewhere else to teach, keep that in mind.

BONUS–a few other anecdotes about my first month teaching english in São Paulo:

Initially, I was offered jobs almost immediately by two schools both targeted towards english for business professionals and both offering in-company private classes. This means the teachers go to the student’s home or office and teach them there.

The first school was really impressed with me during the selection process so they decided to offer me a more senior level position that of course meant a higher salary. But, there was a catch. In order to qualify for this position, I had to block out all my prime teaching hours for them and keep these time slots open for them regardless of whether they filled those slots or not. Even though the second school immediately offered me a class that would pay even more than what the first school was offering, the regular starting rate for all the rest of their classes was much lower so I thought it would be better for me to work only with the first school especially since I also had to fit in shifts from the hostel.

So, I started working with them and it turned out to be a learning experience of what NOT to look for when it comes to teaching english.

Firstly, I assumed that since I was given a higher level position and I had blocked off all my time for them, they would be filling my schedule right up, not so. Most of their classes are 1 hour long and in São Paulo, depending on where you live, it can take you 30 mintutes to 1 hour+ to get to these classes especially with traffic (most of my classes were an hour away). So, I was running all over the city for their students with nothing close to the amount of hours I expected to be getting and that’s not all…

The school didn’t have a physical office so I had nowhere to print materials I needed for my classes. Although they have a virtual drive of teaching materials and I have an ipad, printed materials are important and printing materials for my classes cut into my income and shouldn’t be my responsibility as an employee.

The school also has a “convenient” 4 hour cancellation policy, meaning that the students can cancel their classes and reschedule them as long as they give the school at least 4 hours notice. This is good for the students but very bad for the teachers because it makes it much easier for the students to cancel their classes last minute. For example, say you have a class scheduled for 6PM but your student goes for lunch at 12 and decides “aah, today, I don’t feel like having my english class”–CANCELLED. Since there was more than four hours notice, the student keeps the credits they paid to the school, you don’t teach and you don’t get paid. I found this policy to be extremely demotivating and often struggled to find the motivation to go to my classes even when the students didn’t cancel because they cancelled all-the-time. Furthermore, I felt that this sort of policy was a major selling point for the school and it attracted students who were lazy and not very serious about learning. There were other other weaknesses I realized in terms of teaching with this school but I won’t keep going so it doesn’t sound like I’m bitter lol.

After a month of teaching with this school, I contacted the second school that offered me a position and explained to them that I had slots in my schedule. They were glad to hear from me and I started adding classes from them right away. What a world of a difference! This school has a much more fair cancellation policy–24 hours and students can only cancel/reschedule 25% of their classes which gives a lot more income stability to the teachers. The students must also commit to at least 1, 2 hour class per week or 2, 1.5 hour classes which is much more time efficient for the teachers. They also keep the students with the same teacher consistently unless the student complains or the teacher leaves. Overall, the second school offers a much better teaching environment and I think this is beneficial for both the students and the teachers. The students are more serious and eager to learn so it helps you stay sharp and keep your game up and the school ensures they always support you and offer you whatever materials you need for your classes. Lastly, I will mention that they even agreed to match my rate from the old school so it was a no-brainer. I quickly phased out classes from my old school (the students kept cancelling anyways) and now I have a pretty full schedule with my new school and will start building up my private students soon too.

These are all little details that I wasn’t aware of and didn’t realize how important they were when I first started teaching but they matter and they’ll make a difference to your teaching experience.

Lastly, I haven’t had any experience teaching at any of the major chain schools in a classroom environment so I can’t offer any feedback or advice on that style of teaching or working for those schools. From what I know though, they usually pay less but it can be easier to convert those students into private classes if you approach the situation correctly.

There it is, lessons from a month’s worth of teaching in São Paulo.

Any questions/ comments, drop them below!

See y’all in the next post,

AJ

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Why It’s Harder for Anglophones to Learn Other Languages

Personal Development, Travel By June 19, 2016 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

You’ve probably heard it said before that it’s harder to learn another language as an adult than as a child. Now, whether or not this is true is still debatable but I think there is a less popular notion that it’s harder for Anglophones (people who speak English as a native language) to learn other languages.

You might hear this phrase in relation to Anglophones learning other languages when it pertains to aspects such as grammar being different like romance languages having gendered nouns and the different rules of agreement and so on.

But in my opinion, the real reason it’s harder for Anglophones to learn other languages is because English is everywhere.

the real reason it's hard to learn other languages

English is a global language. If you travel a lot then you know the only language you reaaallly need to know to get by is English. Somewhere along the line, you will come across someone who speaks English, even if you’re not in an English speaking country and this can put you in a bubble.

Furthermore, because of the economic importance of English as a language, people who are not native English speakers and who don’t often get the chance to speak English in their daily lives want to practice English when they come across people who are native English speakers. This is bad for you if you’re trying to learn THEIR language because they would rather speak English with you than help you improve in the language you’re trying to learn.

So, how do you get around this problem?

My best advice is to spend as much time as you can learning and improving in the language you’re trying to learn so you can hold a conversation with native speakers of the language without having to switch back to English.

Also, do your best to avoid surrounding yourself with other expats or people who only speak English as well.

At the moment, I’m two and a half months into my trip to Brazil and trying really hard to improve my Portuguese. Fortunately, my pronunciation is pretty good but I lack the vocabulary to hold a conversation so I have a lot of work to do. I try to spend as much of my free time as I can doing portuguese lessons, learning and improving so gradually, I will be able to understand the full context of speech and will be better able to communicate and hold a conversation.

It’s an uphill battle and despite the fact that most Brazilians don’t speak English, I still find myself getting sucked into English speaking bubbles no matter where I turn.

What has your experience been like learning another language? I would love to hear your experiences and any tips you have in the comments.

See you in the next post,

AJ

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Brazil Diaries: Pre-Festa Junina/ Poker Night

Brazil, Travel By June 5, 2016 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

Hey Guys!

So June is a month that culminates with the celebration of Festa Junina in Brazil.

It’s a traditional Brazilian countryside festival that includes lots of food, fun and good company.

The first Saturday of every month at the hostel is Poker night and we usually try to do a different food theme for the guests. Of course, since it is June, we decided to have a festa junina themed menu.

I had my Brazilian friend Carol help me to explain some of the menu so I could share the experience with you all.

This is more like a pre-Festa Junina celebration because our real party will be at the end of the month.

I’ve been doing my best to film as much as I can of my time in Brazil so I can edit and compile them into proper vlogs, I hope you enjoy this little snippet of my experience so far.

The best part about travelling is being able to experience other cultures and broaden your horizons. I never expected my trip to Brazil to manifest into what it has been so far but I’m immensely grateful for all the good people I’ve met and great experiences I’ve had so far.

More to come,

AJ

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