I’ve been teaching English since July 2011 in Lima, Peru. The experience has been truly interesting. I’ve worked for a variety of employers and have also taught a diverse range of students. In addition, getting to and from classes has been a journey all of its own. Overall it has been an experience that I have learned from.
When I first took the step of moving abroad I assumed that I would be teaching for one or two companies and in a classroom of maybe 10 -20 kids from 8:30am – 4pm in the afternoon. This is not the case at all to say the least. Over the course of time that I have been here, I have taught mostly adults with 1 to 3 students in a classroom. In the beginning I worked for 3 different companies and also taught private students as well. Now I just work for one company – it makes things less complicated and teach private students whenever I can (as I can make about double the money since there isn’t any company to take a cut). My typical week consists of:
Class 1: 7am- 8:30am (M,W,F)
Class 2: 9am – 10:30am (private class M&W)
Class 3: 1:15pm – 2:30pm (M,W,Th)
Class 4: 6pm – 8:15 (M,W)
Class 5: 6:30pm – 8:30 (T, Th)
All of these classes are in the San Isidro district which can take me anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to get to on a combi depending on the time (check out my blog post “The Combi Chronicles). http://gettingtoknowtheworld.com/2011/07/18/the-buscombi-chronicles-el-bus-de-diablo/ The evening classes are my least favorite to go to just because the day is over and who wants to leave home at 5pm to go to work. Yes, getting on the bus is tiring, dirty (don’t wear white), and annoying; however, even though its super cheap to take a taxi it’s just not cost-effective based on what I’m getting paid. Plus, taking a taxi in Lima can be more dangerous – risk being pick-pocketed on the bus vs. being kidnapped or a smash and grab victim in a taxi (it’s very rare, but it’s not unheard of).
Lesson learned: Patience and all the 80s music one can stand http://gettingtoknowtheworld.com/2012/01/30/combi-music-vs-2-0-madonnas-material-girl-from-the-album-like-a-virgin/
Advice: Another thing in regards to schedules are cancellations. If a student cancels 24 hours in advance you typically won’t get paid, so be aware of holidays, as you may not have classes for a week. Also some institutes pay will pay you if the student cancels less than 24 hours in advance, others will not.
The interview process has been a lot quicker than any interview process that I’ve ever had in my life. Native English teachers are definitely high in demand here in Peru. In one case the interview process was the following:
Wednesday: I sent my resume to various English learning institutes
Friday: I received a call for an interview either that day or the next
Saturday: I began teaching
Most of the other cases were pretty much the same. The only company that was different was the one that I still teach with now where the process went like this:
Wednesday: I sent my resume to various English learning institutes
Thursday: I was sent a link to fill out a questionnaire about my teaching experience, why I wanted to be a teacher, and why I was here in Peru.
Saturday: I received a call for an interview.
Sunday: I had an interview on Skype
Monday: I observed a class
Wednesday: I taught a class with another teacher
Friday: I had my own class
The worst case that I’ve come across was one day I went to an interview and it ended up to be at the person home which happened to just be flooded. Their dog jumped on my legs and left its adorable paw prints on my light blue pants (hence no light pants in Peru dogs and busses). They offered me less than what the other institutes were offering, so I attempted to negotiate. They declined me and scheduled met for two days of observation at Nextel (so I know they could pay more). The next day they did not get in touch with me for the meet up location, I happened to get the number for the other teacher and she said that they said she would be teaching by herself. I never heard from them again. I’m pretty glad I didn’t, should have gone with the red flags from the beginning – I’ve spoken to other teachers who have worked for them and they ended up having multiple bad experiences.
Overall I’ve been paid on time with one exception where I was paid over a month late. But I must say that I doubted I would get paid at all after the month delay, so I’m glad I did get paid at all. The company even gave me a bonus because of the difficulty of them getting the money to me.
Most of the institutes provide material for you to teach with. Thus far the best book that I’ve used is the American English File series, which includes speaking, writing, grammar, and listening in all of its units. In addition I’ve created great material from transcripts on www.npr.org, and blogs on English exams.
The majority of my students are adults I’ve taught some students privately and some through institutes. I’ve come across several types of students:
- The student that pretty much speaks English but wants to improve their fluency.
- The student that is taking classes because their family wants them to take classes (early 20s still at home). But they don’t want to do any homework because this is what their parents want them to do. And of course they cancel classes all the time.
- The student that wants to learn English because they think they should, based on their social class or position at work, but they are too busy to do any homework – so they have super slow progress.
- The student that is traveling to the United States soon, and wants to speak fluent English in one month.
- The student that is taking an English exam to get into a foreign school and wants to soak up everything that you teach them, they study all of the time, and ask for extra work.
- The student that is taking an English exam to get into a foreign school and wants to soak up everything that you teach them, but cancels classes, is late to class, and doesn’t do homework. Of course they still want results.
- The student who is 5 -8 years old who you capture their attention for about 20 minutes segments and you are the constant entertainer for them.
- The student that is learning English for their job and is a little bit above basic level, they go to class, do their work and are eager to learn.
- The student that pretty much knows English that doesn’t want to look at their book ever but just wants to talk so that they don’t loose their English.
So which is my favorite type of student. All of them for the most part can be pretty interesting to teach even the ones who are taking classes because someone else wants them to. Everyone has a story. It’s exiting to teach someone to prepare for an exam because you have a specific goal. You can also learn a lot from experienced professionals especially those that are at higher levels or the owners of companies. I truly enjoyed preparing one of my students for doing a 30-minute speech in front of hundreds of people. I’ve even become pretty good friends with some of my students and imagine that I may stay in touch with a few after we leave Peru.
All in all, this teaching experience has been pretty cool. It’s really amazing being able to help someone grow, and help someone to improve their life. It may be hard to leave the house at 6:20am or at 5:40pm but once I get to class it’s worth it.
Advice: Have fun! If you are a native English speaker you poses about 70% of what you need to teach, the other 30% is personality.