Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tips for teaching English in Salvador

I've been thinking for some time now that I wanted to write a post (or posts) with some tips for teaching English, at least here in Salvador. I've been teaching English for about 1.5 years now, and have had a decent level of success, so thought I would pass along some of the things that have led to my success:

*Take at least a part time job at a language school. If you arrive mid-semester, tell them that you want to substitute teach. I started out this way and my connection to the school has really opened up a lot of doors for me. First of all it has given me access to all kinds of books and materials. When I teach my private classes, I use books from the language school. I've also gotten some great ideas from other teachers, worksheets, and other resources that I never would have had access to outside the school. It also gives you credibility with getting private students. If you can can say, "I teach at ______ school", it reassures the student that you indeed know what you are doing.

*Make friends with the receptionist at the language school and tell her that you are open to teaching private classes outside the school. Sometimes folks call the school wanting a referral to a private teacher, especially a native speaker. If you get in good with the receptionist, she will give them YOUR name and that will be one foot in the door to a new student, plus all the friends of your student who will want to start taking class from you after they hear from your friend how great you are!

*Make business cards. I made some cards when I first got here, just a basic one with my name, "Professora de Ingles", phone number and email. Now I have a nicer card that says (in Portuguese) that I teach in people's homes or offices. It gives another level of professionalism and legitamacy to your work.

*Learn some Portuguese. If you can speak the language, it will make your services more appealing to beginner students.

*Don't undercharge because you are desperate. Pick up all the hours you can at the language school where you are not paid as much, but charge a fair price with your private students because it will be next to impossible to raise the price later on. I charge R$40 per hour, but I give "deals" at $35 per hour if the person pays for a bunch of classes up front (like a 10 class deal), or pays by the month for your classes. I'm still happy with the fee and it makes them feel like they are getting a bargain. I definitely made some mistakes at the beginning about charging less money, or not holding my ground when folks try to bargain. Bargaining is part of life here, but you don't have to accept what they say. Hold your ground and they will still want to take classes with you because you are a great teacher.

*Most importantly, NETWORK. I have most of my students because they are friends or business colleagues of other students. Give your cards to your students and tell them you are accepting new students. Word of mouth is huge here.

*Be flexible. You have to be able to teach folks when they have time, i.e. early in the morning or in the evening. My usual schedule is to teach 1-3 classes early morning starting at 6:30AM, have a break, teach at lunchtime, have a break and teach in the evenings. If you want students, you have to teach them on their time.

Well, that's it for now. Hope these help anyone who is thinking about teaching English! I'll probably write some more in the near future.


viviene said...

very helpful...

I teach esl in the Philippines. much of what you said is applicable here.


Arthur said...

hello- i am an esl teacher with experience in korea and the czech republic. i spent some time in salvador a few years back as a volunteer and would love to get work teaching there again- how can i go about looking for positions there?

Stacey said...

THANK YOU! doing my research right now....i don't have any certification, but i speak portuguese and really want to get something going asap- any contacts you can pass along?

Anonymous said...

Hi! I realize you posted this some time ago but I would LOVE to be in touch with you. I'm also a native Vemonter, currently reside in San Francisco, and plan on moving to Salvador in March ('10) to teach English. If you are willing to let me pick your brain a bit more, I'd so appreciate it. Please feel free to email me at

Muito Obrigado!


Mike said...

Hi there,
I realize I'm responding to very old post, but I was just hoping you could tell me the best time of year to arrive in Salvador to find teaching jobs. My email address is mikeyyosullivan at gmail dot com. Thanks very much!

Mike said...

Hi there,
I realize I'm responding to a very old post, but I was hoping you might be able to tell me when the best time of year to arrive in salvador is, if you're looking for a job teaching English. My email address is mikeyyosullivan at gmail dot com
Thanks very much!

Lauri said...

Very good suggestions. Thank you for sharing!

lana moscovitch said...

I'm an English teacher down in Balneario but i want to move north and chase the sun!! Do you know how i can find a room to rent as i won't be able to afford to rent a whole flat.

I have a blog you should read

Shell said...

I was just wondering about the visa requirements for working in Brasil?
Is it possible to get a work permit or do people generally go there with tourist visas to work?
Thank!! ^_^

Anonymous said...

Hi there!

Please help me- a very loved one of mine left for Salvador and I would like to follow.

Do I get there first and walk from one language school to another spreading my Cvs? How did you do it? Did you have any contacts first?

Please help :)!

Jonathan Cairns said...

Hi - that's just what I was wanting to hear as my Brasilian partner and I are moving to Salvador or Bahian environs end of March. Thanks very much indeed. I'd love to ask you some more questions if you could email me - many thanks, Jonathan -

Anonymous said...

Hi! I've just moved here from Australia to be with my partner and have completed my TEFL, i was a social entrepreneur back home so am keen to not only teach in schools but through well recognised non profit programs here (possibly as a volunteer). Do you have any recommended organisations to get in touch with? Newly arrived and trying to find my way, i would really appreciate any help. hollie.gordon (excuse the spaces, don't want my email picked up by any bots!)

kay00000 said...

Hello! I hope this is still an active blog. Your insight was very helpful for me. I am from the United States, but spent a few months in Brasil for research. I fell in love with Salvador and would really love to go back and teach English for 1-2 years. I have a Bachelor's degree, some teaching experience, but no teaching certification. Do you suggest I get TEFL certified? Also, how does one go about starting private lessons? Do these run out of your home? I would love to ask you more questions about your experiences in Bahia!