Curious about what it’s like to teach English in Peru? Fernando Calle shares his rewarding (and sometimes trying) journey in the classrooms and language schools of Lima.
After almost four years of teaching English in English institutions across Lima, I realize that I’m no longer a rookie. The journey has been sometimes challenging, but what I’ve gained in positive, rewarding, and endearing experiences was exactly why I signed up for this career. It’s what I set out to do from the very beginning.
My Mission In Becoming An Educator
My original mission in becoming an educator of the English Language was: to transmit my life experiences to my students, to have them see what I have seen and experienced living in the United States, to allow their imaginations to fly freely and to encourage them to wonder what other places might be like, and to appeal to their curiosity and inspire them to become a little more adventurous in life.
I’ve answered thousands of questions about countless topics, but always, beneath it all, the most important thing for me was to inspire them. Standing here four years later, I believe I’ve achieved that with the students I’ve been lucky enough to teach.
My Favorite Moments As An English Teacher
One of my favorite moments about teaching is when the students finally arrive at the moment where they are speaking the language. It’s music to my ears. Persuading them to be vulnerable and expose themselves to the language as often as possible is quite a triumph.
I was told once before that I may not be able to make a difference in everyone’s lives, but if I can at least make a difference in one life, that’s good enough for me. I know I have touched people’s lives in a positive way, mostly because I feel it, and especially when walking down the hallways, responding to the students’ warm greetings. This feeling is priceless, if you ask me. Getting them to the point where they’re continuing their conversation in English, even on their breaks when they don’t have to, is an awesome sight.
My Fellow Educators
On the other side of the spectrum, I have also met many wonderful educators over the past few years.
Many of which are native speakers who often come from varying professional backgrounds. I’ve met some that I have a lot in common with and others that it’s a little harder to see eye-to-eye.
The ones whom I don’t typically see eye-to-eye with are the ones who have never left the country, some who have never even left Lima. Their perspective and life experience is just so different than mine, by the simple fact that I left Peru for as long as I did.
My World Changed When I Moved Abroad And So Did I
I studied abroad, married my wife in California, and eventually had my four daughters. I worked in various places and in different types of jobs. I bought my first home, went on numerous road trips, paid taxes, and accepted American society as my own, all the while maintaining my Peruvian identity as well. All of this shaped me into the English teacher I am today.
This experience of living life beyond and outside of my native Peru has allowed me to bring more to my lessons, and thus my students. It’s also meant that inevitably I find myself connecting better with the native English speakers over many of my Peruvian colleagues who have never tasted life outside of Lima. Though I am as Peruvian as they come, I now sometimes find it difficult to blend in.
My Biggest ‘Hang-Up’ With Current Teaching Requirements
In some language schools, you must have a bachelor’s degree in education in order to teach English. My question is, what is the point of holding that degree when you have never been culturally exposed to the language you’ll be teaching? Isn’t that the greatest education after all?
Many of the teachers I have come to meet over the past four years in Lima’s institutions have never left their city of Lima, but they do carry a bachelor’s degree in education. In my opinion, learning the methodology alone, without specializing in teaching a foreign language or ESL, just doesn’t make sense.
A bachelor’s degree in education should not make you an English teacher, especially when proficiency in fluency, phonetics, and pronunciation still has room for improvement. In my experience, I notice significant differences between a teacher that has lived abroad and a teacher who has simply completed their advanced level degree at a language institute in Lima.
Though the current requirements to teach English in Lima don’t entirely make sense to me, I guess it all boils down to rules, regulations, and policies. Or, maybe it’s just the way this business is. But, when it stands in the way of a native teacher being hired who may not carry an official bachelor’s degree in education but who does bring with them years of practical experience living in an English-speaking country, I have a problem. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
There is just one institution that I have come to find that shares my view. It has a good mix of native and non-native teachers. I see this as a plus for the students. So for now, I’ll rest easy knowing that I’ve found my “home” as an English teacher in Lima. I will continue focusing on doing what I enjoy most: teaching, inspiring, and touching people’s lives in positive ways.