New Teacher Tales – Erick

In our New Teacher Tales series, we interview people we know who are working as English teachers. They tell us how they started out in TEFL and give advice to those of you who are thinking about getting into it.

In this post, Erick from Peru tells us about his long career teaching in Mexico, before moving to the USA.

Where do you work now?

I have just started a freelance career in the USA. Before I moved here, I worked at International House Monterrey for over 6 years. I began working there as a teacher and teacher trainer and moved to being the Director of International Exams, a job which I did for the last 3 years there.

Find out more about teaching English in Mexico in our blog post

As a freelance teacher I am offering general and business English classes as well as exam preparation courses. The best thing about being a freelance teacher is the possibility of making your own schedule and working on your own timing. It is not as easy as it looks, there are lots of things I need to take care of, things like taking care of my own marketing and getting my own students, designing my courses and looking after my own finances. It is a difficult job to do but rewarding when you see that things work smoothly and as you have planned.

What’s the best thing about living in Atlantic City?

There are a lot of positive things about living in this city. The most obvious, of course, is the possibility of living in an English-speaking city and all the advantages that gives you. At the same time, I have taken this as a fresh start and a new beginning, I am embracing this new chapter of my life and giving the city a chance to see if I can adjust and what opportunities this brings to my job as an ESL teacher.

What did you do before you started teaching English?

I have been a teacher for over 24 years so far. I started when I was 20 years old, and this is the only job I have ever done. I can actually not see myself doing any other type of job, it is hard to imagine me doing something else for a living.

Helping out students when I worked at Britanico School in Lima, Peru

Why did you become an English teacher?

I guess it was something I did not plan myself. I started studying the language at school and after I finished high school, I decided that it was time to study English more seriously and that’s when I realized that I wanted to become a teacher. I started teaching as an easy way to gain some money while I was still studying and noticed that I really liked it so I decided to do it more seriously and I just kept on doing it.

Where have you taught English?

I have worked with students of all ages and levels. I have worked at schools (primary and secondary), language centres, universities and now as a freelance teacher. I believe that working in all these different places have given me the confidence I need to start working on my own. I learned how to work with people, how to talk to prospective students and how to sell a course. It is a lot more difficult to be an independent teacher but I think that it is more rewarding at the same time.

Read more about different types of TESOL jobs in our post

On exam day as Director of Exams at International House

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since you became an English teacher?

I will always say that professional development will always be my number 1 reward as a teacher. The possibility to grow as a professional, to improve myself as a teacher, to meet people from all over the world, to know places while travelling, to learn from different cultures. There will never be something better than nurturing yourself from everything that teaching gives you.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you since you became an English teacher?

I still need to be honest and say that not everything is good when you’re a teacher. There are a lot of problems teachers face every day, from low salaries to lack of support from the school management. Another common problem we have is the lack of teaching resources some schools put your through and do not solve, sometimes they even think it´s teachers who have to bring from our houses all we need to teach a class and that sometimes demotivates teachers.

Tell us a bizarre story that’s happened to you as an English teacher.

This happened to me a few years ago, as part of my job at International House Monterrey I was also a Speaking Examiner for Cambridge exams. I went to a school to do some B2 interviews and one of the candidates made a drawing of me, since she did not know my name or anything she named me “Mr. Cambridge”. I still have that drawing to this day.

Is there anything you would change about your time as an English teacher?

I strongly believe that we are a product of everything that has happened to us throughout our lives, as people and as professionals. I also believe that we are where we are supposed to be at the moment and the things we’ve done took us here. I like my life as it is right now and I cannot imagine myself somewhere else doing any other thing. If I had decided not to work at a particular place that would have taken me somewhere else and I am not sure if I liked that place.

With Jeremy Harmer at the IH Monterrey 10th Anniversary celebration

What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting into English teaching?

Be prepared for everything. For working overnight preparing classes, for looking into thousands of resources to find the material you need, for dealing with students who don’t care, parents who don’t believe in you, bosses who will always ask you to give more than what you are getting paid for. At the same time be prepared for happy faces of those students who do care and pay attention in class, for that invaluable feeling of success when the class came out as planned, for the thankful parents who approach to you saying their kids like your class and have learned a lot. Being a teacher can be a rollercoaster ride with lots of ups and downs… but we are all part of this ride so we better enjoy it while it lasts.

Read more of stories of how people got started teaching English abroad in our other New Teacher Tales interviews.

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