Thursday, February 21, 2008

And now I'm becoming sooo cliché

What is the one profession all Americans fall into when they move abroad? Oh yes, you know the answer: English Teacher.

When we first moved down here everyone asked me, "Oh, what will you do, teach English?"

Um, NO! Number one, I am not a teacher. My degree is in environmental science, not education. Number two, I have no real experience teaching English as a second language. (The fact that I worked with some people who spoke only Spanish and I taught them a few numbers and some names of plants, doesn't really qualify.) Number three, I am retired. (Okay, so that third one is sort of true, but my early retirement after putting in 14 long months working for the state of Iowa is probably more like a hiatus than actual retirement. I like the sound of retired at 25 just sounds nice, doesn't it?) Oh, and then there is the all important number four, I do not have a work permit issued by the government down here, and, for obvious reasons (read a few entries about my personal paradise that I am living in), I would prefer not to get deported!

So last week when my Portuguese tutor asked me if I had ever thought about teaching English, I brushed it off and had a few reasons why I should not be an English teacher. But she has insisted that there is a real need for more English teachers here right now, the work permit issue could be "handled", and she thought it would be something I would excel at. She encouraged me to call her coordinator and at least talk to her. Well, yesterday I made the phone call, today I had an interview, and tomorrow I go in as a trainee.

No money is going to be exchanged in the immediate future, but the owner of the language school wants to take me on as a little project. She wants me to sit in on some English classes and learn the school's teaching theories and strategies. Then, she wants me to attend some Portuguese classes (free of charge) to advance my proficiency in that department. And then, if both parties so desire, I will start getting some classes of my own to teach.

It actually is a pretty nice set-up for me. I get to work on my Portuguese, I can learn a few things about teaching foreign language, and it will get me out of the house and meeting new people. And, truth be told, if it all were to work out, I think I would enjoy teaching. It was one of the gazillion things I considered majoring in and maybe I've always had a calling for it. (As a young kid, I regularly made extensive lesson plans, created special worksheets, and held "school" with my two younger brothers. I taught them everything from spelling to multiplication to special trampoline lessons where I made up names for all kinds of tricks and had them almost break their necks as they attempted them. My mother took issue with my methodologies though (and not just the attempted neck-breakings.) For example, when I was 8, I decided Nathan, who was 4, needed to learn his times tables. He did well with them, but Mom insisted that the kid needed to learn to add before I made him memorize multiplication tables so he actually would understand multiplication. Ugh, details, details...I was just excited to show off to my friends how smart I had made the 4 year old. And all the other 8 year olds were incredibly impressed!)

We'll see what happens, but tomorrow I go in for a school wide teachers meeting to get introduced to everyone and figure out which classes I want to start attending. It is something new to look forward to and I am pretty excited about it, even if the whole thing is awfully cliché!

Oh, and for a couple interesting moments from my day:

This first one was an "I'm not in the USA anymore" moment. During my interview with the language school owner, she was explaining how she thought I had a lot to offer the school and how with my outgoing personality and willingness to learn, I could be a very successful language teacher. She then went on to add that, "you are young and attractive and that is going to help you a lot. Really, you will find that it is very important in Brasil to be beautiful." Wow, can you imagine sitting in an interview in the US and being told that? I mean, I can take and appreciate a compliment, but I think that would count as really, really not P.C. back home!

Also, important to note if in Brasil: don't think that just because you buy a Diet Coke you can take it with you. On my walk back home from my interview, I stopped to purchase a drink. I noticed the store had Diet Coke in glass bottles, which really excited me. For some reason it always tastes so much better when you are drinking it out of the glass bottle. So I paid for my drink, declined the plastic cup the guy offered me (since, remember, I prefer it out of the bottle), and continued on my walk home. I heard someone yelling behind me, but I ignored it and kept walking. I made it about a block before a very out-of-breath young girl came running up behind me with a plastic cup insisting that I pour my drink into it. She then explained to me that you are not allowed to take the bottle. Seriously, I would have been happy to pay an extra ten cents, or whatever the deposit is, to have been able to enjoy my drink from the just wasn't the same from the cup!


Amanda said...

I laughed outloud at the mental image that raced through my mind while reading about the diet coke/glass bottle thing. Only you girl!

Kate said...

What an amazing experience! It's true Emily, you'll suceed at whatever you do!
-Jealous in Cold Snowy freezing rain, iowa.

aka "Kate"

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to follow your ESL career in BH. Good Luck!