What Life is Like Teaching in Brazil

If you’re thinking of going to Brazil to live it up in the sun, party hard at the carnival, and learn how to speak Portuguese, then go for it – just don’t forget you’ll have to do some TEFLing while you’re there though!  If you’re thinking of teaching English in Brazil, then take a read of Baz’s tips on what it’s like in a typical Brazilian classroom – it provides some interesting insights!

How Was TEFL In Brazil?

Brazilian students in Salvador were first class (well most of them, but more on that later).  I found their attitude towards learning extremely positive, and interacting was easy and fun.  I taught in three different academies so the student’s reasons for learning were different.

My favourite place to work was for an academy on Friday evenings, as the atmosphere was more like a youth club than a school.  Students came to learn English by listening to a couple of songs and singing along followed by informal conversation classes.  My job was to create dynamic and fun conversational topics for groups of about ten students.  Most students were chatty and keeping the conversation going was relatively easy, but there were a few dry moments where I had to think on my feet.  I loved it though and it didn’t really feel like “working.”

Teaching in the daytime

In the afternoons I’d teach business English.  The best part was the thirty-minute taxi ride with Georgie; my own chauffer paid for by the academy.  Georgie was a goofy Brazil man with long greasy hair; we had a laugh and he taught me ample Portuguese phrases, all of which are unrepeatable here.  The students were a mixed bag: I expected them to be serious and formal, but the grown men were almost as immature as the teenagers I taught in another academy.  They’d often giggle, draw pictures on each other’s notebooks, and take the mick out of each other (unless the director was in class, then they’d turn into responsible adults and behave!).  Keeping them motivated was difficult at times because we had to follow a strict schedule with a text book and the director made them attend the lessons; but I enjoyed teaching adults and gained a deeper insight into the Brazilian way of life.

Teaching in the evening

In the evenings I worked at a family-run academy in the outskirts of Salvador.  The location was a bit run down and I stuck out like a lanky foreigner on the bus rides there and back, but the teaching was good fun (most of the time).  In one of the classes my students were two men in their fifties, a young lad in his late teens, and a couple of women in their twenties – they were a keen group and we had a laugh.  The two old boys used to joke that they were only learning English just so they could escape from their wives.  My other class with four women was hard work; at first only one could understand me and she acted as a translator for the others.  It was a challenge getting them to speak in English, but over time they improved.

Worst moment

One evening, the director of the family-run academy called me into his office.  By his side was the co-director, his mother.  The week before there had been a misunderstanding over my first paycheck and I thought they were going to apologise; fat chance.

“It has been brought to our attention that you are not doing your job properly,” he said with a stern face.

“Oh, why do you say that?” I said, genuinely surprised.  The students had all seemed happy with my classes.  His mother whispered to him in Portuguese.

“One of our students has told us that you are not teaching much grammar.”

“That’s right,” I said. “We had a chat at the start of term and voted that we’d concentrate mainly on speaking and listening activities.” The mother whispered again.

“Are you sure you’re a qualified teacher?” asked the director.

“What?” I said, raising my voice. I felt insulted.  “What do you mean?  I showed you my certificate and references.  Surely this is a misunderstanding.” We argued for a while and in the end they apologised.  I had been teaching some grammar, but not enough in one of the student’s eyes.  They never told me which student had complained, but I knew.  The rest of the students weren’t impressed with the extra grammar homework.

A word of warning

The reason that I got all three jobs was because I said I was going to stay for the whole term, but I lied.  I’d already planned to go to Australia and because of the visa situation I could only stay in Brazil for four months.  I felt guilty for lying and should have planned my time better; and as you can imagine the family-run academy wasn’t impressed when I handed in my notice half-way through term, even if I did find a replacement.  Since then I’ve committed to every contract.  If you go to Brazil then give yourself between 6 and 9 months at least.

Thoughts of Brazil overall

TEFLing in Brazil was pretty amazing: I met some great people, had some fun lessons, and discovered that I wanted to pursue teaching English as a career.  Compared to my old office sales job, I loved working abroad.  If I went back then I’d probably live in Rio; I was there for a couple of days and had an amazing time.

What’s your story? Are you teaching in Brazil or thinking of going there? Leave a comment and let us know.


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