A lot of people find my blog searching “teach English in Chile”, but I realized the other day that I’ve never written a comprehensive post about what I do.
First of all, let me say that no two people can come to Chile and have the same experience teaching English. Some people opt to only teach at Institutes, while at the other extreme some go completely freelance. I’m somewhere in the middle. I like the security and structure of working at the Institute, but I also enjoy the freedom (and financial benefits) of having private students. I work for one of the larger institutes in Santiago, so your experience will probably be different if you work for a smaller institute.
I can confidently say that the things I enjoy about teaching outnumber the negative aspects. That being said, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll post about the negative things next.
1. The best part, by far, is the students. I’ve been lucky that most of my students have been really interesting people. I have a student who is a doctor going to Australia to study information technology in hopes of bringing innovations to Chile. Another student is a professor of Literature at one of the best universities here. I had a student who designed and implemented the recent Pension Reform. I had a student who is currently working for the IMF in D.C. So as you might be able to tell, it makes for interesting conversations. However, even with beginner students it’s interesting for me to find out about their families, their jobs, as much (or as little) as they can say about their lives.2. Getting to know new parts of Santiago is also an upside for me. I’ve taught in Las Condes, Providencia, El Centro, Huechuraba, San Joaquin, Ñuñoa, Recoleta, Vitacura and La Florida. Just yesterday I discovered a little neighborhood I never even knew existed, tucked between the Alameda and Merced in the Centro.
3. Watching as normally uptight businessmen and women compete against each other in a rousing game of Taboo is quite entertaining. It’s the simplest game ever and doesn’t require any materials except a whiteboard and a marker. You break the class into two teams and have one team member from each team face away from the board. Then you write a vocabulary word or phrase on the board and the rest of the team has to describe the word to their teammate without using the word itself. I don’t know why, but the vast majority of my students, young and old, LOVE this game. And it’s fun to watch and listen to the creative ways students try to describe a word.
4. This next one is going to sound corny, but it’s also what makes me believe that I really do like teaching. There is no better feeling when students start to use the language you have taught them. It’s especially rewarding when you start off from scratch with zero beginner students.
5. Okay, maybe you’ll call me a bad teacher for saying this, but some words the students come up with are just hilarious. Sometimes it happens because they think that the word in Spanish should be similar, and pronounce it with an English accent. Luckily, since I speak Spanish I know what they’re trying to say 99% of the time. For example, today my beginner teens thought that “gate” (portón in Spanish) could maybe be “porton.” Cute. I have a student who constantly tells me how “preocupated” he is about his English (preocupar=to worry). Other times it’s because they’ve only seen the word written and don’t know how to pronounce it, because let’s face it, English spelling rules make next to no sense. Anyway, usually my students and I have a good laugh about things like this, because honestly, if you’re not willing to laugh at yourself, it’s going to be quite hard to learn a foreign language.
6. This item will appear on both the upside and downside list: the schedule.The above picture is an actual page from my date book. It’s an unusually busy week because I had to work both Saturday and Sunday for a special program, but the rest is pretty typical. Class in the morning, class around lunch time, class in the early evening, class at night. This leaves a few awkward hours in the middle of the day, usually mid-morning. However, I love those few hours. I love being able to come home and take a quick nap. I love being able to meet friends for coffee or an early lunch. I love the flexibility of it. The downside, well, we’ll get to that in the next post.
Overall, I really do like teaching. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to teach English in Chile forever, but for now it’s a good fit for me.
If you have any further questions about my experience, please feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment. My e-mail is akhall2 at gmail dot com. If you want to know what Institute I work at, send an e-mail because I won’t say here.