Thanks to one of Connecting Worlds’ international partners, ESLstarter, Jessica Womack found herself arriving to Buenos Aires’ international airport just a few months ago to realize a program of Teaching English in Argentina.
ESLstarter is just one of the many international partners Connecting Worlds works with to find the exact kind of working abroad program that interested parties all over the world might be looking to set up. Jessica kindly agreed to share what she has experienced on the Teaching English in Argentina program with us so far. She shares some invaluable tips and first-hand information which is bound to be useful for anyone thinking of teaching English abroad.
1. Where are you from and why did you decide to begin looking for a teaching English abroad program?
I am from the southern region of the United States of America. I first began looking for a teaching position abroad almost four years ago. I lived and worked in South Korea for three years.
2. How did you go about finding your teaching English abroad program and what made you choose the teaching program organised by Connecting Worlds in Argentina?
I used the teaching recruiter site “ESLstarter” to find this program. Phil and Claire are the managing directors of ESLstarter. I have used them before and trust their experience and ability to find quality teaching placements. When I reached out to them about this program they suggested it would be a wonderful opportunity.
3. Can you tell us a little bit about the school/institution you are teaching in and the teaching you have been involve in?
I currently teach within two schools. One is an inner-city school that is run by a Catholic parish (Cardjin) and the other is an International German school (Holters) located one driving hour from my home. At Cardjin I am a support staff teaching meaning that I assist within the classes and work within the pre-described curriculum. At Holters I am a lead teacher. I have one literature class, one workshop class, and one early-learners English class which totals to three classes per a week.
4. What have you enjoyed about the teaching experience?
I have greatly enjoyed the students. There is nothing better than walking into a school yard and having students rush and crowd around you just to get a hug. I am truly blessed to have such warm, active, and loving students. They bring me art work (elementary students) and they also talk to me about books (high school students) and they even connect with me outside of class.
5. What have you found difficult or what have you had to adjust to in terms of the teaching experience itself?
This might sound strange but I have had to adjust to mosquitoes. I have always lived in places where areas were sprayed or water levels were kept at a minimum to decrease the chance of the mosquitoes laying eggs. In Argentina it is the absolute opposite. The mosquitoes plague the classrooms and bite staff and students relentlessly. I wish I would have gotten my vaccination prior to leaving (similar to the Japanese encephalitis vaccine). Outside of nature which is hard to control I think adjusting to the fact that students aren’t taken to homework really surprised me. Students are very lukewarm about completing homework. It is best to have all activities finished within class or create an incentive that makes it imperative that they complete their homework.
6. How do you believe this particular teaching English abroad program will benefit you in the future?
The student and learning culture here is different. I never realized how different teaching/learning environments within the Americas could be. We usually group Eastern countries as the same and Western countries as the same. Teaching here has opened my eyes that even within the Americas we are very different and have much to learn from one another. I think that the lesson of just being culturally open and receptive is a benefit within itself.
7. Do you plan to travel around Argentina at some point?
Yes and I have already traveled to the Sierras de Ventana and Córdoba capital. I also visited some more rural areas to get a taste of the gaucho lifestyle. I would like to travel more dependent upon time.
8. In addition to the teaching experience, is there anything else about being in Argentina that you have enjoyed?
Yes, I have enjoyed the wonderful expat and Argentine community I have found myself within. There are weekly gatherings and events held within the Buenos Aires capital. I often go to these events and find myself within warm and comforting groups. It can be quite difficult to make friends here just due to the fact that people aren’t typically receptive to strangers on the street; however, when you go to organized events you will find that the doors to the social aspect of the community magically open.
9. What advice would you give to someone wanting to teach English abroad in Argentina? How might he or she prepare?
I would suggest bringing as much cash as you possibly can. If that is not a possibility then to use Xoom as your primary money exchange. They have convenient store fronts located all throughout South America and especially in Argentina. Do not use ATM’s at night without traveling in a group! Also, you may find it very hard to redeem your Argentine Pesos once you leave the country so only exchange in small increments. If you have to buy any type of food look for small Asian marts, vegetable stands, and bakery shops. Not only will you save money but you will receive a better quality food product. The following site “pickupthefork” is a godsend and it will guide you through the many restaurants in the capital of Buenos Aires province.
As far as preparing for the classroom a TESOL course would be excellent. 120 hours should suffice. Within these programs you will learn classroom management, course planning, communication skills, and other valuable lessons that will surely be needed while teaching.
10. Is there anything else about the experience that you would like to share with us?
I would suggest that any future participant in this program sit down and talk with their future school and make a schedule that is comfortable for all parties. I was extremely blessed to have an administration that listened to my needs and gave me theirs. We were able to tap into my talents and match them with specific groups within the school that would benefit from them. This is a cultural exchange and the best way about that is to find a common ground to begin upon and then move to other platforms from that point.
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