Thursday, May 19, 2011

Teaching- Part Two

Sao Paulo from my old apartment-
the city I am soon to be leaving behind.

Last week I bought my ticket back to England because I have wedding to get back for (sister Creel’s!). So I have just a few months left working as an English teacher in Brazil (for this year at least, I bought a return ticket coming back in January!). Recently I was teaching a class in my student’s offices. My students were reading from the text book, and one of the exercises focused on a guy at an airport. He was complaining about airports, and said that now he is “sick of flying”. One of my students asked me for the meaning of the term ‘sick of’, and I explained to this student it was when you were fed up with something/when you no longer liked doing something. I then said, “so, can you give me an example of something you are sick of?” “Yes” she replied confidently, “I’m sick of your classes”. Ouch! After a couple of seconds of silence she then started to polite-laugh/sneer at me....I have a feeling me and this student won’t be swapping email addresses when I leave!

This incident aside, work has been going well recently. For those of you I haven’t told about my set-up to, let me explain. I split half of my working hours teaching for a business school, and the other half is spent teaching private classes. Because Brazil is a third world country, I had previously been under the impression teaching would not have been very well paid over here. However after doing a little research, it quickly became apparent that I would be able to support myself as a teacher over here. Within a few days of looking for a teaching job, I’d secured interviews with a couple of schools around the area I am living in. Before attending the first interview, I checked out the school’s address on Google maps, and with my hand-drawn map I set off. I was surprised to follow this map down a very dodgy residential area (So....a shit hole!), and found the ‘school’ was actually someone’s house. There was digging going on outside as I knocked on the door. I was greeted by a Swedish woman, who invited me in, and alarm bells definitely started ringing when she locked the door behind me! This woman then told me to take a seat in the hall (next to a student who was waiting for class with her teacher, and this teacher was just finishing up her class in the classroom/kitchen). It was pretty hot, so all the windows were open, and all the noise from the construction outside was filtering into the hallway.
The woman pulled up a chair opposite me, and told me she hadn’t had a chance to look at my CV, but if I wanted a job I could start the following evening. She then briefly described pay (in front of this student)....but just before she had finished talking, there was a power cut! The workers must have done something to affect the cables! I was literally sat there in the dark, with this woman’s laptop lighting up her embarrassed face. She was apologising on one hand, but on the other, asking me to recommend her school to ANY friends I might have had who were looking for a teaching job. Needless to say, I didn’t take her up on her offer nor did I recommend her school to my friends, and I went with a different school.
"Hey guys, Andrew's here!"
The majority of my classes are in offices within a 5 to 10 minute walk from either a bus stop or a train station...which of course isn’t bad at all. However, for those classes 15 minutes or more away I have a bit of a problem. And that problem is....sweating! Walking around in temperatures between 30-35 degrees in my work clothes and my heavy backpack, means that when I enter a company’s office, I often look like I’ve just got out of a swimming pool....fully clothed!
And it is only recently (after being here for over a year) that I have given in, and started using my umbrella to shield me from this aggressive sun shine! Yea, I might look like Michael Jackson walking round a theme park, but at least now I don’t need to worry about dripping as much sweat all over those company carpets!
As speaking English is important for my students, the majority have a very good attitude towards learning. They often actively study outside the classroom, and have a very positive attitude whilst in class. However I used to teach a woman who contradicted everything I have just said! Let’s just say...she was very bizarre! After dragging my ass out of bed at some ungodly hour, I would often wait for a long time for her to arrive at her company’s reception. When she eventually arrived (anything up to an hour late), she would stand there in the hallway and scream my name. Then she would turn, power walk down the hall to her office, expecting me to catch up with her. She never apologised for being late, and would glare at me when I asked her my standard ‘tell me about your weekend’ question. Once she simply replied, “you know I don’t do much on a weekend. Why do you always ask me that!?!” I know I’m not the easiest person to be around first thing in the morning, but this woman was something else!
Then there was the time she completely surprised me, and was so nice to me I was wondering what was wrong with her! On this particular day she must have had time to brush her hair, she was wearing a short skirt, and had plastered some very red lipstick on her lips (and quite a bit smeared across one of her front teeth). After about 5 minutes of her telling to me about her weekend, I drew her attention to some mistakes I’d written down in my notebook for her. She looked at me, mid-sentence, flicked her hair to one side, and said in a slightly sexy/maybe-she-needs-to-cough-type voice, “oh Andrew, you are such a BAD BOY!” Seriously, this actually happened! I don't teach her anymore! 
When I first came to Sao Paulo, I remember walking down Paulista Avenue and being quite taken back by how many people of different nationalities, races, shapes and sizes there were (having come from Japan where I was told less than 1%  of the population are foreign residents). Sao Paulo is a real cultural melting pot, and naturally I fully expected this to be reflected in the offices I taught in. I was quite surprised then, to find that this is not the case. I teach in quite a few multinational companies, and have yet to see one person of African or Caribbean heritage represented in the office environment in a non security/cleaning role. I saw a black guy walking around an office once, and later when I talked my student, I commented on how refreshing it was for me to see this; however my student informed me that although this guy was wearing a suit, he was merely there to shine shoes. So of all the students I teach in companies, not one of them is of African or Caribbean heritage.
Seu Jorge
I teach in an area of Sao Paulo very close to an extremely wealthy residential area. My student informed me that one of the most popular singers in Brazil, Seu Jorge, also lives in the area. For those of you who have never heard of him, he is a black singer who was born in a favela (slum) in Rio de Janeiro. He was discovered, and is now a multimillion selling artist (youtube him if you get the chance, he is pretty good!). My student told me that one day Seu was outside his house  cleaning his Porsche, when he was approached by some thieves who demanded his car keys.  Seu Jorge calmly told these thieves that he was a cleaner, and not actually the owner of the car so he didn’t have the keys to this car. After hearing this, these guys immediately accepted the story and walked away. I guess this story goes some way to illustrate how black people are perceived in this city.
I teach a lot of my classes ‘in company’. This means I teach in my student’s offices, and with security in this city being the way it is, I am required to identify myself with some ID each time I enter a building. As I hand over my ID, I let the person on the front desk know that the “Professor de Ingles” has arrived. That’s right, I might have skipped the masters and PHD, but over here, yours truly is already a professor! “Yes my name is Andrew...he is expecting me, I am his professor!” Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeey! It’s quite depressing to think when I next look for work in a few months, it could be in recession hit England....

”Yes, my name is Andrew. Yes, that’s correct, the caravan cleaner. Can you get someone to show me where the Jif is please!”

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