Private English Tutoring in Rio
An Alternative to Working at a School
by Gray Graziani
Rio de Janerio is full of English schools that hire native speakers regardless of visa or certification status, and finding a job is rarely difficult. However, there is an alternative to working at a school: become a private tutor. As a completely independent teacher, you make more money, determine your own schedule, and have an opportunity to teach a colorful range of Cariocas (the lucky residents of Rio). There are drawbacks, and if you are a person who wants the stability and reliability of a regular teaching position, then the schools are the way to go. Some people start off at a school, and then slowly transition to private lessons, which is an effective but time-consuming strategy. If you are willing to endure several anxious weeks building a base of students, you can bypass the schools completely and jump right into private lessons.
There are several things you will need to do before you leave home. All travelers to Brazil need a tourist visa, which costs $100 for Americans. It lasts for three months but can be extended to six months. You will also need to bring enough money to cover your expenses for at least a month, when you won’t have many students, or none at all. You will probably need to budget anywhere from $500 to $1,200 a month. Another good idea is to pick up several books that you can use for lessons. I recommend a TOEFL study guide, a book with reading exercises (a fifth grade reading level book is perfect for foreign students), and a grammar book that has plenty of exercises. You can find these at any large bookseller, or on the Internet. Also, learning a little Portuguese will go a long way.
Once in Rio, the first thing you should do is buy a cell phone; you will need it to get in contact with students. Phones cost around $60 to $150, and the major companies, TIM, Vivo, and Claro, have stores all over the city. Then you can start advertising. The tried and true method of putting up fliers is a great way to get yourself out there. You can design them any way you like, but I recommend including something about TOEFL preparation, being a native speaker, and contact info. Get as creative as you want, and, as with a resume, don’t be afraid to embellish your skills as long as you are not misleading people.
With a bundle of fliers in hand, the first places you should head are the universities. PUC and UFRJ are the largest, so make sure to flood them with your information. You will be competing with other tutors, but don’t be discouraged; there are plenty of students to go around. Also, the fliers will likely be torn down after a week, so be sure to routinely visit the schools. Remember, the more fliers you put up, the more calls you will get. Then, branch out to the rest of the city.
It is also a good idea to place an ad in the universities’ newsletters. Simply ask a student where the office is and fill out the classified form—it’s free, and a great way to reach a lot of people. You can also place an ad in Posto Seis, a free newspaper that boasts a readership of more than 100,000.
The last advertising method is simple, but often forgotten—talk to people. Mention to everyone you speak to that you are a teacher looking for students.Nearly every Carioca knows somebody who is learning English, so get the word out. Even a casual conversation with a woman in a bookstore can lead to a new student. The amount of students you get is a direct result of how much you advertise yourself.
So what can you charge? A private lesson from a school costs 80 to 100 reais (about $35 to $45) an hour, so charging 30 to 50 reais an hour is a great deal for students. It is also much better than the 15 to 25 reais an hour you would make at a school. You can develop your own system, but if students pay per lesson, they will be able to cancel and leave you without that income for the week. Have them prepay for a month.
Once you have students, reality might set in: I have no idea how to teach English! Don’t panic. Most students will be paying for an hour of conversation with a native speaker and do not have any higher expectations. You have all the tools you need in the books that you brought from home. Many students are already taking an English class and have materials they need help with. Ask them what they want from you, and mold your lesson accordingly. If a businessman is learning English to open up job possibilities, then come up with mock interviews. If a girl is studying English in high school, then help her with homework and use your grammar book. Practicing pronunciation is something you can do with everyone, and it requires no preparation. The point is, you will come up with your own methods and learn as you go. Just remember, most students would rather have a fun, easygoing tutor than one who goes by the book.
So after all this hard work, grab a caipirinha and head to Ipanema beach to enjoy your independent and carefree life as a private tutor in Rio de Janeiro.