Claire Venables took our Trinity DipTESOL course in Barcelona in 2006 and since then has moved to Brazil to start her own business. In this blog post, Claire describes what inspires her, how she manages her work life and the Brazilian lifestyle.
When did you take your Trinity DipTESOL?
I did the Trinity DipTESOL in Barcelona in 2006. I can’t believe how long ago that was and how much has happened since!
What was the most challenging thing about the Trinity DipTESOL?
I found going really deep into the grammar of the English language really challenging. I had never really studied it like I had to for the course. I remember making all these little palm cards and studying them while I was on the metro. I had time lines all over my walls and carried that huge book by Parrot around in my bag. It was really hard but at the same time it felt great to see my confidence grow when I was in the classroom.
Which area of your teaching did you develop the most during the course?
Well, definitely my ability to respond to students’ doubts about grammar. But the input about language and learning theories and pronunciation were also incredibly useful for me in the classroom. I became much better at analysing what was going on with a student’s English and responding to these problems more effectively. I did all of my assignments on teaching Young Learners and the reading and research that I did for that was transformational for my teaching practice. I made better decisions when I was planning and implementing lessons as I had a much better understanding of child development and language acquisition in the early years.
Where are you now?
After working for a few years as the Director of Studies at Oxford House (good times!) I moved to a seaside town in Brazil in 2011. I have a company called Active English and we offer face-to-face courses and have partnered with Oxford TEFL to run online teacher development courses tailored to the Brazilian teacher market. I’ve also just begun my first coursebook writing project. That was a dream of mine for a long time and I’m learning a lot! My most fulfilling work, however, is what I do with the VOICES for Women SIG. This group belongs to our national Teachers’ association (BRAZTESOL) and my work involves providing support and resources to help women develop their careers in ELT. The Trinity DipTESOL was definitely a turning point in my career and it’s something I encourage them to aim for too.
Why did you choose to go to Brazil?
I moved here for my husband, who had finished his PHD and got a job offer in a university. To be honest, it took me a long time to adjust to the new lifestyle but I have made it work and am at a really exciting moment in my career. I’m just about to move to São Paulo which will be a whole new world both professionally and personally.
Where are you working and for how many hours?
I work almost entirely from home which give me a lot of freedom and flexibility. I also get to travel all around the country giving talks, courses and workshops. I love this because I get to discover new amazing places in Brazil and connect with teachers from all different contexts. I don’t have a regular schedule but I can tell you that having my own business and being involved in so many other voluntary projects means many hours of work. I’m really passionate about what I do though so I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What is your normal day to day like in this position?
Like I said, I have a lot of flexibility with how I organise my day. I only teach students for around 7 hours a week so the rest of my time is organised around my projects, training courses and meetings. I am far more productive at night so I spend my mornings doing things for me and start work after lunch. I rely a lot on social media to keep me connected and involved with the ELT community I invest time in posting, commenting and so on. I prefer to spend a whole afternoon working on one project, like the coursebook, rather than doing a little every day.
How did the Trinity DipTESOL help you to secure this job?
There was no direct connection between my diploma qualification and my work now. However, getting that qualification set me on the path to where I am today without a doubt. I’ll be forever grateful to Duncan and the team at Oxford TEFL for the support and guidance I had during the years I worked there. I really believe that surrounding yourself with people who are really dedicated to ELT is essential for professional growth.
What are your students and colleagues like?
Well, my students have mainly been young learners until this year. I mainly work with pre-primary aged children. At the moment I am teaching a few adults and they all have a very specific profile. They are all B1 or higher, are highly motivated and successful. They’ve all studied English for many years and have classes with me to make the transition from being a English learner to an English user. I have a great time teaching these people!
My colleagues are amazing. It took me a while to connect but I have made connections with wonderful teachers from all over the country most of whom I have met online in Facebook groups for teachers like BrELT. Now we see each other regularly at conferences in different cities and are involved in a lot of joint projects like organising ELT events and teacher training. I feel so grateful for the people in my VOICES group too. These women are a constant source of support and inspiration for me. Teaching can be lonely if you don’t invest on building up your PLN.
What is the salary like?
I am really happy with my salary now. I know what my work is worth and I’ve gotten much better at negotiating a fair price. However, when you work for yourself there is always that pressure to make sure you have more work coming in next month, and the month after…. You don’t have the same security that working for a school provides but it’s a choice you make.
What do you miss most about home?
I’ve lived away from Australia for over 17 years so what I miss from there is mainly family. I miss Barcelona a lot and make sure I go back every year for the Innovate ELT conference which is hosted and co-organized by Oxford TEFL each May.
I have adapted to Brazil but safety issues and inequality is part of everyday life and that is still hard for me to deal with. There are lots of amazing things about living here though and I feel like I’m able to really take advantage of all of them!
What do you usually do at the weekend now?
BBQs are a big part of Brazilian life. I love traveling, especially to Rio or São Paulo. That means meeting up with friends, going to see live music, going out to bars and restaurants. There is this amazing park in São Paulo that I love hanging out in. It kind of reminds me of Parc Ciutadella in Barcelona. I go there to ‘matar saudades’ as they say here in Brazil.
You can also join Claire on a Question and Answer session she will be giving on Sunday 10th December at 19.00 Spanish time: “How to make your Young Learner classes financially rewarding” by signing up here or visiting our Facebook page on the day.