Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Saturday, April 23, 2005

27. A guide to teaching in Buenos Aires (B.A, Argentina)

NB. This post is for people who wish to be English teachers in Buenos Aires.

There seems to be a lot of work for native speaking English teachers in Buenos Aires. The easiest work to find is in-company business English classes, through a number of English institutes. Bridge-Linguatec, Brooklyn Bridge, Anglo American Business, MB Language Center, Sol Vasquez and English Training Systems are some of institutes I've contacted. Just look in the Yellow Pages. Usually the companies have long-term contracts with the institutes to provide teachers. The companies will pay the institutes about $25 pesos an hour for a teacher, $15 pesos will go to you the teacher, and the other $10 pesos the institute pockets.

There are other institutes here which are more like a school, ie. with classrooms etc, generally they pay better but it's harder to get a positition there, as I think they prefer to hire Argentine teachers. I presume the same goes for the many Universities in BA - but I never tried to contact them for work.

Around BA - 34 - Knife sharpener
Random pic: Bicycle powered knife sharpening service

The in-company work is usually with 2 or 3 students. Most of my classes have 4 students enrolled but usually only about 2 turn up. My largest class has 5 students, my smallest 1. The larger classes are generally more fun, as it's easier to get more student-student interaction going than with the smaller classes. But in general, it's a lot easier than managing a real classroom with say 15 students. Most of my classes are Intermediate but I also have some High Elementary and some Higher-Intermediate and Advanced classes. I enjoy the High Elementary classes the most, but maybe that's because I have a fun group of learners. The advanced class is easy, we just make conversation from an article I choose from say Time magazine. Most difficult for me are the High-Intermediate classes - they tend to have the curly questions over grammar points etc. Some of the exercises from the High-Intermediate material can be tricky even for me, a native speaker!
The material is business English which at the moment means the Market Leader series of resources. These are quite good, thorough, and the Teacher's notes are excellent too. To begin with I was spending hours preparing classes like I was taught to in my CELTA course but now more and more I'm often winging it by just following the teacher's notes, especially for the elementary classes.

Around BA - 37 - Windy
Random pic: Windy day in B.A.

Before coming here I'd heard mixed things as to whether or not you need to do an (expensive) TEFL course. My answer is this: because the ratio is only 2:1 or 3:1 I'd say not. It's pretty much possible to just follow the teacher's notes and you'll get by. So you don't need it. BUT, all of the institutes I've worked for require a CELTA certificate, so you'll need it if you want to get a job. I have met some people who are working without a qualification but I think it's a bit harder to find work.

The other issue is whether to work illegally or not. All the institutes I work for require a CUIT number, which means we're working legally. A CUIT number is what contractors have, so technically we're not employed by the institutes but are self-employed, and contracted to the institutes (who have contracts with the companies). To get a CUIT you need a work visa - which I have. It's still a bit of a drag to get - you have to have proof of residence, i.e your address, from say a telephone bill or tenancy contract, or, if you're staying in a hotel like me, you have to go to the Police station and get a Certificate from them. Then you have to go to AFIP, the tax department, and fill out the form and wait in line a few hours.
With your CUIT number you then go to a printer and pay $25 pesos to get 100 facturas (invoices) printed with your name and address on them, which you can use to bill your institute at the end of the month.
So if you don't have a work visa it can be difficult to get the CUIT number. But I've met many teachers here without the CUIT who still get paid - usually by 'borrowing' the CUIT and facturas of another teacher who has them, or of an Argentine friend.

The best time of year to look for work is the start of March, as this is when most companies start courses for the year, which will usually run until November. I'm told there's a bit of a slowdown from November until February for summer.

Post any comments if you have anything to add...

Edit: I forgot to mention the viability of living off these wages. See my blog post 24. Working Man for thoughts on that.

It seems there is work around for people without teaching qualifications, or without a CUIT number. A friend of mine has found some work for a few institutes, and they don't care that he doesn't have certification or a CUIT number. His pay is about $13 pesos an hour, which is slightly less than what I'll call the legit institutes I work for, which pay $15 pesos per hour. It's kind of ironic though, since one of his classes has over ten students, and he has to find his own material. So for this class he could really use the skills you acquire in a TEFL course. Whereas, with my 2:1 classes and the Market Leader series, you don't really need much teaching skill.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

26. Placebo / Fútbol (B.A, Argentina)

Sorry for not updating this page lately, but I've been pretty busy working, and well life hasn't been too exciting as I've settled in to the working man Mon-Fri routine, whereby I don't do much all week except work and anticipate the weekend, which is much the same as the life of a non-traveller.

I was hoping to be writing about the concert put on by Placebo, one of my favourite bands, whom put on a concert here in BA on April 4. But unfortunately, on the day of the concert, I got struck by my first case of food poisoning since I've been here. Evidentally lunch that day was a bad one and the effects on me were diarrea, vomiting and a bad fever, which meant I missed the concert that night and a day of work the next day. The real stinker was a class got reallocated to another teacher because of that.

Matt sick - 03
Sick with fever

Speaking of work, starting next week I've got an almost full schedule of 16 hours a week in company plus 3 hours with a private student, so hooray. Living off those wages is the next challenge...

On Sunday I went to a fútbol (that's soccer) game. Fútbol is often described as a religion in South America, and I guess to some extent that's true. Buenos Aires has a few teams in the national competition, I think four or five, and whenever the local teams play each other it's usually a spectacle of passion. Boca Juniors vs. River Plate is one of the most famous local derbys, but another is Racing vs. Independiente, which I went to on Sunday with Juan and a friend of his. Now, I'm not too much of a football fan, being from NZ I prefer Rugby or Rugby League, but this game was pretty exciting nonetheless. The match was played in the stadium of Racing, so was 4/5 full of the blue and white of the Racing supporters, with two sections allocated for the Independiente supporters wearing red and black. A massive security operation outside the stadium ensured the supporters of each team were kept separated. Leading up to kick-off, both sides taunted each other with a range of songs sung at volume with a lot of passion. I wish I knew at least one of the songs.

Racing v Independiente - 02
The Independiente supporters

When the first goal came (to Racing) the home supporters (me included) went nuts with cheering and group hugging, which took a couple of minutes to die down. Soon after the opposition equalised, which shut up the locals. We were sitting close to the Independiente supporters so could see their faces, and watching the exchange of crude gestures between the supporters of the two sides was most amusing. Happily, in the second half Racing scored two more goals so won 3-1.

Racing v Independiente - 06 - Tatoo
A Racing club Tatoo. They take it seriously here

A few things were missing from the stadium - for example, a scoreboard, a clock and a big screen for those replays. There weren't any announcements either, e.g. "that goal was scored by Ramirez" so if you blinked and missed the goal, you missed it. But the passion of the fans more than made up for these deficits.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

25. Settling in (B.A, Argentina)

The routine of work is beginning to settle on me. I worked ten hours last week, and have four new classes next week. To save money I stopped taking Spanish lessons, and now my former Spanish teacher is taking a few English lessons with me, so I have a private student too, for now. My Mondays to Fridays are usually work-related but I usually have busy weekends, well Friday and Saturday nights anyway. Most of the clubs have finally been allowed to re-open following the December nightclub fire, but most are only allowed half their previous capacity. The upshot is I can finally experience the BA nightlife which is one of the things I came here for, but the downside is that now that I'm working and trying to live on a budget, I don't really feel like partying at all.

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The view from my balcony Good Friday morning. Deserted

Feliz Pascua (Happy Easter) for last weekend. Here only Thursday and Friday are a public holiday, which is surprising given this is a Catholic country. Easter here is a lot less commercialised, I saw a few chocolate eggs for sale here and there, but no Easter bunnies.
On Good Friday we went and checked out Recoleta Cementary, one of the final items on my tourist checklist. Its the final resting place for Argentina's rich and famous only, ex-Presidents, Generals, and most famously Evita Peron. What's most interesting is that the coffins are kept in grandiose crypts above ground rather than buried, something I hadn't seen before.

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Recoleta Cementary

Good Friday was also the last night in BA for a Scottish friend Duncan so we went out partying, we checked out Roxy, one of the recently re-opened nightclubs, but it wasn't that great a party.
On Saturday I went to a birthday dinner for Paula, an Argentine friend, and then to a housewarming of two American girls I know.

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Paula (blonde) and some of her friends in Barduck, an Israeli bar/restaurant

Autumn has descended on Buenos Aires. The days are now around 20 degrees, and this morning it felt cool enough to wear my tie and jacket with my suit at last. For the first time in my life I'd been looking forward to the end of summer as I was getting sick of breaking a sweat before I'd even arrive at work. Granted the temperatures are about the same as in Sydney, but Sydney is slightly better equiped to deal with summer, with air-conditioning in buses and trains, something BA lacks.

People always ask me if I like Buenos Aires, and I honestly don't know. I'm here because everyone says it's the best city in South America and that may well be true, but I don't know as I haven't really been anywhere else. I'm sure I'd appreciate it here a lot more if I'd lived or travelled to other parts of South America first, but having come here from Sydney, which at the moment I think is the best city in the world to live in, BA can hardly compete now can it.
Regardless, I'm not going to pack up and follow the breeze as a traveller should. I made a decision to try and live somewhere in South America for a few months and I'll stick to it.