The Downside to Teaching English in Santiago, Chile

This post has been harder for me to write, because I’m no Negative Nelly. However, I’ve had a rough few days teaching-wise, so it seems as now is a great time to write this. So, without further ado, things that are not-so-good about being an English teacher in Chile.

1. If you decide to go the Institute route, beware. Institutes are inefficient and disorganized. No, I haven’t worked for ALL the institutes in Chile, but from anecdotal evidence, this is my conclusion. PLEASE e-mail me if you know of an institute that isn’t like this. I’d like to apply ASAP. Ha. You can see this post to get a small example of what I’m talking about. In a nut-shell, institutes expect you to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’ve gotten calls at 8:00pm on a Friday night asking me to sub the next morning. I’ve gotten calls at 2:00pm the day before a class starts. I’m expected to drop everything and go get my materials right then. It gets somewhat ridiculous.

2. If you decide to go the Private/Freelance route, beware. Students (with very few exceptions) are flakey. REALLY flakey. English is not their priority. They will cancel you if a better option comes up, be it lunch with a friend, a business meeting, or simply because they don’t feel like having class that day. A way to combat this is to make students pay up front, or be very strict about your cancellation policy. That way, even if you had to schlep all the way up to Vitacura, you at least know you’re getting paid for it.

3. I talked in my last post about how I liked getting to know new parts of Santiago. That still holds true. The downside of this, however, is having to use public transportation. Don’t get me wrong, I think Santiago has a pretty good system if you’re traveling at non-rush hour times. However, metro station Los Heroes at rush hour is what I like to call Hell on Earth. One could argue that a lot of people, not just English teachers, have to brave the metro or micros at rush hour. True. But English teachers have the potential to have to ride public transport 4-5 times a day, a surefire way to burn your salary recharging your Bip! card and to contract some mysterious disease from the stranger squashed up next to you and breathing down your neck. Yummy.

4. I also talked about my schedule in the last post. I love having an hour or two free during the day. However, that comes with a price. Basically, as an English teacher, you work when normal people don’t work. This means early in the morning, at lunch time, and at night. LATE into the night. There was a time that I worked five nights a week until 10:00pm. I arrived home at 10:30, ate something, fell asleep, and was out of my house by 7:20 am the next day to get to a class at 8:00am. Sounds terrible? It was. Luckily I was able to quit my early morning class because it just got to be way too much and I ended up with some health issues. Working at night means no meeting friends for happy hour, no leisurely dinner making, no time to wind down before it’s time for bed. Working at night has definitely turned me into a night owl, simply because I like having a few hours at home before I hit the sack. Also, my Institute has Saturday classes, which means you could get stuck with a one day weekend.
5. Summer. What? SUMMER? Yes, Summer. Summer is an English teacher’s nightmare. Especially the month of February. If you’re considering coming to Chile to teach, let me tell you: expect to make little to no money during the month of February. It’s when everyone and their mom (literally) pack their bags and get the heck out of dodge. Consequently, it’s also the month when nobody wants to think about learning English. So I say, when you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Take a vacation! January can also be quite slow. Other slow-ish months include: March (everyone’s just getting back from vacation and can’t think about English), July and/or August (kiddies get a two-week winter vacation), September (National Holidays means a week when everyone’s drunk and not thinking of English), December (Christmas and New Years). That being said, I made good money this year in July and September, so it’s not always bad. But if you’re hoping to make a regular salary all year long and are a person who likes to budget, English teaching is not for you my friend.

These reasons are probably why I won’t be an English teacher forever. It can be stressful, but it gets easier the more you do it.


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