Monday, September 5, 2011

Good News Bad News: Teaching English in Santiago

Okay, seven months later, I think I have some experience to comment on the pro's and con's of teaching English in Santiago. I always prefer bad news first. So I assume you do, too.

Bad News

1. Uncertainty of hours. First, I love the English institute that I work for. It's probably the best in the city as far as I am concerned. However, no matter how many times my boss tells me "oh, Katie, we'll be filling up your schedule so soon that you won't know what to do," I always nod my head and smile while keeping a steady head. Unfortunately, for a small institute, a owner cannot guarantee that Chileans will sign up for classes during free periods in your schedule. For example, even though I was hired in March, I (as well as almost all other teachers at the institute) did not have a full schedule until June. Then, this year there has been student protests as well as a strike at the bank. In January/February/March, everyone and their dog goes on vacation.

2. Cancellations. Okay, so you have a full schedule (about 25-30 teaching hours per week). Beautiful! Now, your students will most likely cancel. My institute has a relatively lax cancelation policy of 3 hours prior other institutes require more notice from the student. I cannot tell you how many times I've received an e-mail or call EXACTLY three hours before my class saying that "something has come up." And you guessed it, you don't get paid for a cancelled class.

3. Commuting. I have a pretty sweet deal because most of my classes are in the center and I LOVE walking. I take the metro only a couple of times a week. However, I have friends who must take the metro all around town a few times a day. This adds up! Currently, the metro cost $570 CLP (roughly $1.25 US) for each trip.

4. Hourly Pay. This applies to me, but not to everyone. There are some institutes that offer some sort of base salary pay. Mine does not. So I do not get paid extra for planning, only teaching. Not a great incentive to plan exciting classes, right? For example, I have a class at a newspaper. And I had the wonderful opportunity to read and correct 10 articles from my students. Did I get paid while I sat in front of my computer? Nope.

5. Schedule. Since I teach business English, I teach before working hours, at lunchtime and after working hours. Although I am able to run errands between classes, I don't have to go grocery shopping everyday twice a day. There are two to three hour gaps in between my classes that start at 8/8:30am and  can end at 8pm.

6. Sticky Situations. I cannot speak for male teachers, but I've been in some interesting situations when it comes to male students. First, gringas have a stigma for being more sexually free than Chilenas. So combined that with the fact that we smile and make eye contact when speaking, you have a recipe for disaster. Once, I had a student who after our class was over I received an inappropriate e-mail from him. When I didn't respond, I received a skype request as well as about five calls after he had moved out of the country. I've had a few other sketchy ones, too. So, be on your guard, ladies.

Good News

1. Students. Although some students can be a real pain, cancel, and not respect the fact this is your job, many are taking classes to learn English. I can honestly say I enjoy all of my classes the majority of the time. Rarely, I have a class that is scant on laughter. Since I work mostly in banks, I am constantly challenged to learn more about the world of finance. My students are keen on discussing current events. This is could be the only reason to teach English in Santiago.  Because it is worth it! How many times in your life will you be able to discuss the movie Borat with a Chilean banking executive? Would it be too corny to say that I get true satisfaction when I see my students progress?

2. Walking. Alright this one is for me. I walk all the time. I walk a lot. I haven't talked about in my blog that much, but I've also lost weight because of it. It is awesome. My legs are killer...  minus the fact that they are blindingly white.

3. I'm in South America. Alright, so may be there are more negatives to positives, but the most important part about teaching English, is that you are living in a foreign country. You are (slowly but surely) learning a different language and culture. Every weekend is filled with some sort of adventure. It's not a fairytale and I've yet to meet single, young, sexy, Chilean prince charming (that doesn't have a child or live with his mother). Life is seldom boring. Also, I'm looking forward to traveling to Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina for a reasonable price.

Life Currently
Recently (as in yesterday and today), I have had a little meltdown. I don't wish to plaster my emotions all over the internet, but I would like to be honest. I've been planning on coming home for Christmas for the past several months, and according to current plane ticket prices, it's going to be dead expensive. The possibility of me spending a very hot Christmas away from home is enough to send me into a mode of over analyzing and worrying, something that drives me crazy with anticipation and a desire to make rash decisions. All I need is a little perspective and some Chilean wine.


Anonymous said...

My love,

I cannot imagine just what a challenge this has been for you, but the simple fact alone that you are still living out your Chilean plan makes me feel so inspired by you. I love reading your blogs. :)

Only you would know when the appropriate time to leave would be, but I sense that time is approaching so that you may move on to bigger and better things. I feel awful that you and I have hardly talked these past several months, but I want you to know that not a day goes by that I don't think of you. I'm actually wearing a pair of pajama pants that you gave me, heh heh heh.

Please know that I miss you and always have you in my prayers.

Mucho amor,
- V.

Grace said...

Hry girlie, may you shoulda wrote the article I just posted on the Santiago Times!! Haha, cept, mine is laced with optimism. YOU GON BE FINE. LOVE YA!

Ceri said...

You look gorgeous, lovely, with your beautiful Chilean wine. Haha.

I know I'm not heading to Chile to teach English but I'm heading to Mexico so I still took these points into account to prepare myself. :) So thank you for those.

Katie said...

I think it's way better to know what you're actually getting into, then having it candy coated. I hope this doesn't sounds too negative, but living here has been the best decision of my life. I can't imagine doing anything different! Good luck in Mexico. That sounds amazing. I look forward to reading about it!! :)