On teaching abroad and perving on the lives of others

Friday, 18 June 2010


The word has been spreading for years, but I'll confirm it again; teaching English abroad is a great way of travelling. Not only does it fund your trip (or, in the case of some better-paying nations, allow you to save a lot of money), but it allows you to be a nosey bastard, too.

As it stands at the moment I teach for 18 hours per week, and spend approximately 10 hours planning lessons. 'Planning' constitutes choosing/ writing exercises, finding 'authentic' listening files on youtube/ language CDs and educating myself in grammar points and terminology; most of which I never knew existed before the day that I teach them, all smug-faced and pious, to a class full of students.

The 18 teaching hours are made up of 4 classes and 10 one-to-one students, who mostly take classes in their homes. My private students currently consist of:

- A mother and daughter who live alone in a huge spacious apartment with a tiny chihuahua named Dolce Vita. The mother, who talks constantly about how beautiful and clever her daughter is, also likes to assure me that I'll never be left in a room alone with her. Her daughter is 14 years old and has braces.

- A meek and pleasant newly married man who lives in a shiny new apartment which has symmetrically arranged cushions and chairs. His wife is a tall, foreboding blonde woman who usually returns home towards the end of our class. Before she returns, every sound in the hallway causes him to glance fearfully towards the door.

- A trainee pilot that lives in his parent's large, quaint house, which doubles up as a doctor's surgery. He told me a story about a day when his mother answered the door to a man without an appointment; when she asked the man what the problem was, he told her that he had had an erection for 2 weeks, and couldn't get rid of it. He then dropped his pants and ran, erection-first, around the surgery, whilst cackling like a maniac.

- A lad my age who can speak German, English, Dutch and writes orchestral/ classical music compositions. Our lessons usually consist of practice for interviews at European conservatoirs, and discussions about whether the use of certain descriptive adjectives make him sound gay or not.

- An advertising executive who doesn't turn up to classes... a 'ghost client'. I arrive at the company, sign in at reception and sit in the waiting area for an hour, using the time to plan other classes, or to sit picking my nose. Then I sign out, collect my money and leave, wondering whether the arrangement is some kind of front for a human-trafficking operation.

- A young woman who solely wants an hour of conversation practice, meaning I don't have to prepare any kind of grammar or receptive skills exercises. The only teaching duty I have is to correct her verbally as we debate on her favourite subjects such as 'who owns the Falkland Islands' and 'if you're a Peruvian in Buenos Aires, does that make you a thief?'

- The CEO of Carrefour, who can't pronounce the word 'crisps'.

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