So last night Alexandre and I talked about my general malaise that I wrote about in my losing my mojo post yesterday. He sees that I always start to get depressed and that I lose all my momentum when I spend too much idle time at home.
Alexandre is encouraging me to go back to working at an English school. My knee-jerk reaction is to recoil in dread and disgust at the mere thought of it. I had so, so many bad experiences working at schools back in Hicktown. (Yes, all of those links are separate posts about said bad experiences.) Then there was that ridiculous interview at one of the technical schools / English schools here in the new beach town where the director didn't even speak English and wanted to pay me 3 reais an hour.
If I were to sum up my problems with working in English schools, they would be the resentment, insults, and general bad treatment from the bosses and the other teachers who really did just seem to resent me for screwing with the status quo (i.e. for doing my job well and for going beyond the horrible standards for teaching English in Brazilian private English schools). Related to this first problem set is the feeling of isolation that I had among my colleagues. A couple of teachers had some experience living abroad for a few months, but the vast majority had never even left Hicktown. They had studied English at the schools and were advanced students and got hired, or they were studying letras at the small private college in town that the boss had gone to. They didn't treat me like a colleague. They asked a ton of ridiculous questions and made me feel like some kind of show horse being examined.
I'm not trying to be arrogant. It's just how it is. I just didn't blend in. We weren't on equal footing. I'm a native English speaker, and they're not. I have experience teaching English, and most of them don't. I have a degree in Linguistics and a half-completed Master's in teaching ESL, and most of them have only a few months in the US working as a nanny, if that. Oh, and I'd married into a wealthy Brazilian family, while many of them had come from humble beginnings (of course, because I'm American, there's no way my beginnings could have also been humble.) I think these differences were what caused their nasty comments, my boss saying things like, "I've given you to a new group, but your former students are complaining about the new teacher. What'd you do in there? Did you talk badly about the other teachers? Did you give them unfairly good grades?", or teachers telling me on payday that I had to buy them all drinks because I was "the rich one," or a teacher telling me, "you only know elitist Brazil! Alexandre is making you a snobby Brazilian!" because I didn't want to go to a Carnaval street party being held in town. Oh yeah, and there was the one who told me that I wasn't even a good teacher, that I was only successful with private students because I'm American... I could go on.
But one thing I did like about working at schools was, of course, the teaching. Even when the books were bad (which they almost always were), I could usually make the most of it, and my students left happy and better at English. I felt like I accomplished something. I enjoy the challenge of having to explain something in a different way when a student doesn't understand, or negotiating with students until everyone's clear on how to say something or why they have to say it the way they do. I miss teaching.
On the whole, I also enjoyed the students at the schools. There was, of course, the occasional jackass, but I had very few problems with students overall. I think they treated me better because they saw me in a different light. They saw me as someone on their side, someone who sincerely cared about their learning, someone who didn't get caught up in the school's bullcrap of using the right colored marker for a given activity and insisting that they go to all the social outings. They saw me teach and were usually happy with the service I was providing them. Most of the other teachers, on the other hand, saw me as a threat, as a foil, and eventually probably saw me as closed off and snobby because I started to avoid them. I went into teaching at the schools with a ton of enthusiasm, imagining I'd make friends with the teachers and find the real idea of colleague and all that, not realizing how toxic the environment was. I eventually became the "cold" American they had thought I'd be. But I was surprised about the friendships I ended up forming with students. Almost all of my friendships in Hicktown can be traced back to my students at the schools -- either the students themselves, or friends or family of students that I ended up teaching privately or meeting at social outings.
Alexandre's overall argument is that I don't have anything to lose. He says if the schools here are bad too, I can just quit.
So my going back to a school would be to have all those good feelings I get from teaching, to get out of the house, to meet the townsfolk and get to know this region better through them, to be part of society again, and lastly, to get a little bit of extra spending money (though that isn't really the point). I just have to decide if those benefits are worth the crap I will probably have to put up with from my bosses and colleagues. I mean, there's a chance things here will be a bit better, since people in this town seem to be a little more accustomed to foreigners, but I think my lack of optimism in that respect is understandable.
So? What do you guys think? Please, share your honest opinions! You've heard all the stories, the good and the bad, and many of you know me and have heard even more. And of course, a lot of you have personal experience with the situation and can tell me what you'd do.
There's also a Fisk, a CNA, and a Wizard in town. If you think my going back to a school is a good idea, which is the lesser of three evils?