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.