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  • The pros and cons of working as an English teacher

    Posted on March 3rd, 2009 Mairo Vergara 9 comments

    teacher_appleI have been working as an English teacher for about 2 months now. I really like my job. It’s amazing to see how the students are pleased with their progress. Students start with no knowledge whatsoever and in just one month they can follow the English-only classes without many problems. Working with a group, teaching them how to understand and using this strange language is just awesome. I really like the classes and my students. I am working like crazy, learning a lot and doing what I have always wanted to do.

    But of course there are some problems. We are really, REALLY poorly paid. I get paid 6,44 reais (“reais” is the Brazilian currency) per hour (“class hour”, which is 50 minutes). It means I get 12 reais for each class (the classes have duration of an hour and a half). Working 21 hours inside the classroom (plus 10 or more hours preparing classes, correcting tests, and so on) I end up with a salary of 680 reais (around 280 dolars). Just to let you know, a cheap rent here in Brazil is about 550 reais…

    Besides being absolutely poorly paid, another thing bugs me a lot. The school treats the teachers like robots that areinto the students head. It’s all about the money! If there are fewer students in a class, they just move the students to a different class, hindering both the students’ progress and the teachers’ work. It’s funny how the classes/students’ organization is made by non-teachers, who absolutely don’t understand what happens inside a classroom.

    I dream about a school made by teachers for teachers, a place where they care first about the students, second about the teachers and after that about the money. Finally, I understood what people mean by “transforming education in marketing” able to magically insert the English language

  • Me and the old lady

    Posted on January 13th, 2009 Mairo Vergara 3 comments

    old-ladyYesterday I had one of the most terrific experiences in my life. Let me tell you about it; I guarantee it’s worth your time. On the way to my girlfriend’s house at about 12:30 I randomly met an old lady on the streets. She patiently asked me: “Hey son, could you help me cross the street?”. I of course replied “Yes, sure”. I helped the old lady cross the street and while she was talking I noticed she had a strange accent. Where is she from I wondered. “Are you from Londrina?” (Londrina is the city where I live) I asked her. “No, I’m not from Londrina. I live here but in fact I am from Mozambique, Africa. Oh that was nice I thought. Just after that she said: “I’m an English teacher”. The was REALLY nice I thought again! “Well, I just finished University, I am also an English teacher” I said. When I said this the old lady started talking in Enlgish…

    Ohhh so do you speak English?
    Of course I do!
    … and so on…

    We spent one hour chatting on the middle of the streets. I even took a bus with her to the bus terminal here in Londrina. She told me about how she lost her job (she used to teach English in a church, but they had some problems she winded up without a place to teach), how she was looking for a new place to work, about her husband who was sick, about her sun, which has around my same age, etc. The old lady was 74 years old and she was very, very cool! She reminded me of my grandmother.

    She talked about English and how she liked to teach it. How those modern teaching methods are not good and how she liked the old, more traditional methods. I agree with her, even though I don’t know much about methods. The old methods seem really nice. For example, Prof. Arguelles in his videos talks about how the old Assimil methods are better than the new ones. Nowadays it seems professors want to make the methods so comfortable and easy to follow without caring at all about the effectiveness of it. Words like repetition and memorization cause horror in actual language teachers who want every method to be “inter-socio-communicative”.

    My talk with the old lady made think about how simple language learning and teaching should be. You just learn the words, learn how to say the phrases, and use the grammar as a way to polish, to clean points where you have problems. My girlfriends told me that old people learn, after so many years, to separate necessary from unnecessary things. Maybe this is what we language learners and teachers should try to do. Put aside what is unnecessary and stick to what is truly necessary in our studies.

    I hope I can talk to the old lady again. I’m sure you and I can learn so much with her. She said God put me in her path. I, being a really rational person, personally don’t believe in God. But for those who believe in it, maybe it really exists. I would say God put me in her way in the same way coincidence put her in my way. Just to finish it up, her name was Raquel and her accent was awesome!