So reader Elena B asked, "what's going on with work?" I realized that I'm too busy whining and not telling you guys about work stuff, even though most of you found my blog via my "Teaching English in Brazil" entry.
So before I update you on work, I'd like to ask what you guys like most to read about in this blog.
So tell me by leaving a comment: what do you like reading about most?
*teaching/working in Brazil
*my personal life (...a little creepy? but I guess my family will choose this one), like activities with the boyfriend, or the cat
*pleasant cultural comparisons
*ranting cultural comparisons
*visa information and help with living in / moving to Brazil
*awesome linguistics stuff
So my work week is divided like this:
*about 8 hours a week at the school
*about 10-15 hours a week with the American job (lately it's been more on the 10 side because I have a new partner who takes her sweet time in getting her part back to me, grah)
*about 20 hours a week of private classes at home (this can vary from 15-25)
*It depends on the month, but I average about 1 big translation a month (by big I mean 10-15 pages). But they tend to come in waves because I think my clients tell their friends things like "Oh I just got this great translation back from this American girl named Danielle!" and then their friends say "Oh, I've got an article that I've been meaning to get translated!" so I'll get 2 or 3 in a week, and then they drop off. It's just luck, I don't really do any marketing for myself.
So basically I keep myself busy with a bunch of little things instead of just one 9-5 job. Every thing I do has its good points and bad points, and every time I get frustrated with one job I declare to Alexandre that I'm going to quit it and just focus on the other ones, and then I never do.
But I think my favorite overall is my private classes because.... I hate having bosses. And inferior colleagues, for that matter. Because I am such a damn arrogant know-it-all about teaching English. Seriously. I only make things harder for myself. Do you guys know that TV show called "Shear Genius" with the hair stylists that talk about cutting hair like it's the most important job in the world? The contestants are always like "THIS IS MY LIIIIIFE AND I AM THE BEST DAMN STYLIST IN THIS ROOM! I AM AN ARTIST! DON'T MESS WITH MY CLIENT!"
Yeah, that's how I am about teaching. In my head, at least. So I get very impatient with my boss at the school / the other teachers / my partner with the American job / my boss at the American job. But I don't get impatient with students because they're not supposed to know the stuff yet. And then I explain it and 99% of them get it. I am impatient with people who are supposed to know as much as or more than I do, and don't. Damn, I'm a snob.
But really the only downsides to private classes are:
1. People trying to barter for a lower price when I've already given them a good price (I know it's cultural but I HATE IT)
and 2. Flaky, flaky students that sign my contract in which really the only stipulation is that they need to give me 24 hours' notice if they want to cancel without paying, and say "yeah, of course, I totally understand, that's fair," but then argue and whine when they cancel class at the last minute and don't want to pay. And when I say, "well, you know, as you accepted with the contract, my only rule is that I need 24 hours if you want to make up the class," and then they insist, "no, but this is DIFFERENT!" and it never is. A couple of students have tried to insist "no, but it's a health situation! I'm sick / my son is sick / my dog is sick, so I shouldn't have to pay." and I have to explain "sir/ma'am, if I allowed people do cancel without paying if they were sick, do you know how often people would be 'sick'?'"
It puts me in a terrible situation and I don't have the personality to be like "NOPE. You're paying!" when they whine and moan, especially if they're people that usually don't cancel. So I try to be fair, because I don't want to mess up my rapport with someone in the long-term for such a relatively small amount of money. For example, if someone calls to cancel and their class is an hour and a half, I let them have 30 minutes on the next class (so they only lose an hour instead of an hour and a half).
The reason I have this 24-hour rule is threefold:
1. I need to guarantee that I can pay my bills at the end of the month
2. I need to know what times I have available for people who DO give me 24 hours' notice and want to make up a class
3. It's psychological: if students don't feel like English class is a commitment, they don't feel any pressure not to cancel. So they cancel all the time, on a whim. And then their English doesn't improve, because they're not practicing. And then they get frustrated and blame me/the class/the language, and quit.
Oh, and another common problem is that Brazilian women, especially those close to my age, are very, very very shy when they start their classes with me. I used to interpret it as arrogance, but after seeing it so often, I know they're just shy. So I just keep being nice and friendly and patient and they always open up after about a month or so.
Basically I love teaching but I hate the business side of it. Alexandre says that I need to eventually open a school here and hire his stoic, money-minded brother to deal with the accounting side of it. To be honest, he doesn't need to do ALL that. I'm good at managing money. I just want him to talk to people when they start whining and being cheapskates.
But yeah, the rest of private classes is great, now that I've built up a steady clientele. I have about 10 people that have signed contracts, and 2 that pay for hours per month but don't have set times because of their jobs (a flight attendant and an athlete), and a handful of friends/students from the school that just come randomly for extra review or help. But everyone I have is actually really nice to work with. I end up learning a lot about people because, well, they have to talk about themselves in the classes. I get the occasional ditzy girl with no opinions, but most everyone is a pleasure to teach. I choose the schedule that works for me, I have the liberty to turn down people that call but send up red folgada flags: they call and say things like "I won't drive to your house. I want you to come to my house on the other side of town and I don't want a set schedule because I'm so busy and I don't want to use a book because I want to learn specific things for my job and grammar is boring." When I get people like that I just tell them I'm too busy for new students and give them the number of a fellow teacher whose English is good. So basically with private classes, you've gotta suck it up and deal with the bad stuff for a while, but it's worth it in the long-run, in my opinion.
I'd love for fellow teachers reading to share and compare their experiences, and any new/potential teachers reading can ask questions.
Oh, and don't forget about the survey above! :)