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Leaving the Classroom for Online Flexibility in Latin America
Written by: David Peña
Last Updated: December 22, 2020
Exhausted and over it, I was ready to leave my 40 hour per week classroom job for more flexibility and travel. When moving abroad to teach English, I did not expect to have such a rigid schedule, with dozens of outside responsibilities. I wasn’t just planning classes, but somehow I got roped into teaching a homeroom class and working closely with parents and school system drudgery. I was tired and had little time to travel and experience the fun and exciting parts of teaching English abroad.
Then, a lot of luck came my way, and as my contract was about to expire, my girlfriend was offered a position in Santiago. Chile is a country I had imagined living in as a young boy, as it was famous for modern infrastructure and incredible natural sights. Unfortunately, as a non-native English speaker, Chile offers few opportunities to teach the language I am so passionate about.
But with this difficulty I faced came the opportunity of a lifetime to pursue a lifelong goal: teaching online.
I began my journey learning English online and can say that the Internet is an amazing tool for the process of immersing yourself in a new language. With a few clicks and a blink of the eyes, you are connected to someone halfway across the world, with the skills you want to have. I have always been a person who strongly believes in the power of an online education, and decided this would be my next step towards my career in Chile.
After some time searching, I began working online, teaching conversational Spanish with Verbling to non-natives but also applying for more serious methodology in online companies. This is how I found a job teaching English to young children in China. Once I moved to Chile, I set up my brand new office just a meter from my bed. A great thing about teaching online in Chile is that Latin America is much cheaper, so the money I can earn online goes further.
Everything about my new position has lived up to my expectations. Working online is not for everyone, and some thrive in the classroom more than I did, but teaching rural children on the other side of the world, who would not have had the chance to learn English without this program, is so rewarding, and I get to stay in my beautiful, central apartment and enjoy the view while I work.
The absolute best part of teaching online is the location and schedule flexibility. Of course I have to maintain a fairly regular weekly schedule, but it’s when I want to work. And, of course, as long as I have access to the Internet, I can travel when I want.
I have the chance to bring my laptop, book an Airbnb with WiFi and see the incredibly diverse country that I live in. In my short time I have seen beaches and mountains, deserts and rivers, not to mention the several trips I have coming up to ski in the mountains, road trip the Carretera Austral and go wine tasting in Mendoza, Ecuador was one I will never forget, and I got to see beautiful places in the short time I had, but the flexibility to travel long distances and work from my computer has given me the chance to live more as a nomad than I ever could have imagined. I still got to see some beautiful places and meet incredible people, but now the intercultural exchange I get to participate in has opened my eyes in whole new ways.
The children I work with online have had immensely different, but in some ways similar experiences to myself. They live in rural towns in a part of the world I have only seen in pictures. This exchange that we get to participate in is magical and allows me to put myself in their shoes, while giving them a new skill that will hopefully enrich their lives. I was once a young boy in a small town myself, learning English from people across the world, and now I get to provide that to these children. Maybe one day, they too, will be able to spread this knowledge themselves to people in countries they couldn’t even dream of.
If I were to sum up my passion for English and language in general, it would be just that. Having this language in my arsenal is one of the most helpful tools I have ever gained in order to better my life. I got the opportunity online thanks to generous teachers; now I get to do that, also online, to help others improve their worldwide reach.
David Peña is a lifelong language learner from Valera, Venezuela. He has been living abroad for over two years. He has taught English in Ecuador and Chile to a variety of students, from high school kids to business English, to people from all over online.
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