Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Eliane, who has TONS of helpful information on teaching-traveling: from ESL for airlines, to Business English, to TESOL training, all around the world.
Eliane, tell us about your background.
Eliane: I was born in Brazil but raised in Canada. My father was a soccer player and went to work in Canada and we ended up living there. Due to his profession, we traveled quite a bit and I ended up catching the travel bug. After highschool, I decided to visit Brazil and begin my teach and travel experience. I taught English to several age groups, from 5 year old kids to business executives. I definitely decided that teaching teenagers wasn’t for me and teaching 5 year old kids required several naps as they have tons of energy and you run out of activities faster than you can think them up! Fun though!!!
When I was studying Modern Languages, I decided to focus more on teaching Business English and English for specific purposes. This led me to take several professional development programs (course design & curriculum development, teacher training, materials development, needs analysis & language proficiency) in ELT to get ready to change into more specialized areas of language training.
I started teaching at the age of 17-18 and I’m 48 (goodness, time flies by). Yet the great thing is that every time I felt I didn’t want to continue teaching anymore, it was really more about figuring out what I wanted to do next within the English Language Teaching industry. This always led me to the next work opportunity.
I have trained around 3500+ teachers over the years, developed a language department for an international airline company, designed courses and developed materials for corporate programs for top executives as well as the airline and travel & tourism industry.
By now, you`ve figured out that I’ve spent a big chunk of my time in airports and airplanes. So, I think I’ll share two major experiences which challenged me as a professional and made teaching English refreshing again. They were both as a result of wanting to take the next step and not knowing whether it should be in teaching or another career.
The first experience was when I was on an airplane and it was one of those flights with people returning from their first Disney trips. So think lots of teens and kids, full of presents, stuffed toys and infinite chatter which did not allow anyone to sleep on an 11 hour flight from Toronto to Sao Paulo. Add to the picture, a drunk passenger who did not want to stop drinking nor talking and once sick, the flight attendant felt so bad that she found me a place in first class. So what started out to be a really long flight looked a little better from first class. I spent the next 7 hours talking to an interesting gentleman and he suggested I apply for a position in the airline company he worked for as they were recruiting people in my area. On this trip, I really had no intention of moving back to Brazil. But I took his advice and went through a week long recruiting process and figured I didn’t get in as I was still finishing school. I remember it was close to Carnaval in Brazil and I decided to travel to a friend’s house.
Well, within 48 hours I had to return because I had been hired and had to start right away. There was a small language department with just general English programs and all I kept thinking was “what are the company’s real needs?”, “what programs would be interesting to offer?”. That`s how I started to put together a needs analysis, level assessment followed by a proposal to develop the programs for flight attendants and pilots. And at that time, there was no material in the market so we had to look at the airline’s material, their training programs and see how to put that into context for language training.
The rewarding part of teaching English for specific purposes is that your students get to apply what they`ve learnt right away as it is a need. They know their world and some terminology and you know English and methodology and this exchange is the key for a successful program in any specialized area. You both depend on each other to make the program work!
Well, here is the second story. I was taking a year off to rethink what I wanted to do and so again I decided to hop on a plane and go to Brazil for a break. I had been training teachers for 5 years consecutively and traveling at least 25 weeks of the year across Canada, so I truly needed to get away from airports and airplanes (if that’s even possible in my life). So I spent time journaling, reflecting on the next chapter of my life. I put my resume on different work sites but I wasn’t really looking for anything. I knew I enjoyed writing and wanted to transition into that. After a year, I felt it was time to either go back and continue teacher training or find another challenge that was fun, included travel and the skills I had. After setting that intention, I got a call from a Brazilian company that worked with top executive programs and I would have to travel all over Brazil to teach Business Communication. It turned out to be very interesting as you are going a step further in teaching Business English. It is about getting students to communicate well at a sophisticated level of language and structure. And so I started this next phase which led to also becoming a curriculum coordinator and a project manager for different corporate programs spread throughout Brazil. Needless to say that airplanes and airports became a regular part of life again.
TT: This is AMAZING! Tell us more about your teaching and traveling.
E: For teaching, I can say that work in Brazil and Canada have been the best opportunities I’ve had as they provided the bridge to working on projects in different countries. For the airlines, I worked for a consulting group in France, Thailand, Korea & Japan. I can honestly say that I’m lucky in the sense that I had really good opportunities come my way. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t looking. It just means I often thought of what I enjoyed about it and what I could do within the industry. Teaching specialized programs is not often advertised as teaching general English but there are many opportunities if you look for them. Some classroom experience is necessary whether you have a certificate or not. Yet professional development is a must along the way! It opens even better doors!!
What made me accept working for a TESOL teacher training company, the airline, and the corporate training company that I currently work with is the travel factor. For me traveling actually allowed me to discover more of who I am, how I see the world, how I see life and especially how I enjoy every moment and all the simple things in life. There is something that happens to you when you decide to hop on a plane and go somewhere else to start teaching or just traveling. It connects you to a real side of yourself, to your essence and it continuously awakens you. It is such a gift!
I was able to travel across Canada as I taught in most provinces and I was able to travel across Brazil as I taught and managed corporate projects in different areas. You get to see how there is so much diversity within a country. The north of Brazil is a different country all together. We work with banks, mining companies so our travel ranges from big cities to really small cities where we are the highlight of the month when we arrive for a weekend training program.
TT: Wowza! Give us more tips on how to find these job opportunities.
E: In Brazil, I just looked for all the language schools and taught at different ones until I could have a formed opinion as to what I preferred to teach and which school was better suited for that. Brazil has many language schools and many private students looking for good English teachers. I always did research on the web and asked different friends about schools and jobs they could recommend. For the airline, it was more through a funny airplane situation that I ended up working for Varig Brazilian Airlines. Nowadays, companies always look for English teachers in job sites where you can post your resume, foreign websites and newspapers in the country, and employment ads.
TT: How do you fund all your travels?
E: I fund travel mostly through savings.
TT: Tell us some particularly powerful moments from your teaching-traveling.
E: There are many moments that have been powerful and funny. The first one that comes to mind is when I got a call from a student saying “teacher, I got promoted and if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be moving to another country with my family.” That always stayed with me as no matter what we do, everything is about connection, everything is about building relationships. Some are easier than others but nonetheless they are part of the journey.
With kids, always funny and powerful. I remember this 8 year old bringing me a beautiful flower from his garden for Teacher’s Day. Another kid who cried because his father announced they had to move to another country again and that I could relate to as most of life we had to move around. For some kids, it is easier while for others, adapting like that is difficult.
With teachers, it was a bit of everything. I always ask people why they are taking the program and why they want to teach. Some of the reponses: “I want to see the world.” “I just want to get out of here.” “I just finished university & realized I don’t want to be a lawyer,” “I just want to find a wife.” `”I want to travel with a group of friends as we are all retiring and we want to do consulting and training in different countries.” Every single answer was really about change, the need to start over, the need for new beginnings! For me it was like that too.
TT: I love those responses! So, how have your travels impacted you as a teacher (if you went back to teaching) or in your current career?
E: About 10 years ago, someone asked me if I were to change careers, what I would do? And I had no answer for that question. So, a friend gave me the book The Artist Way by Julia Cameron and it changed everything. I realized that I had fallen into a teaching career but I hadn’t chosen to be a teacher though it is a natural part of me. What I found out by doing this three month task book was that I what I really wanted to pursue was writing. I wasn’t sure of the format. I knew that when I was a child but I’d forgotten it. So I said ok, this is what I would like to do but I had no idea where to start. So, I did lots of research, set out the intention that this was my next career, my next chapter in life and continued traveling. About a month or so later, I was on a plane and sat beside this very talkative lady who was a film coach. And that was the sign I’d been waiting for. We talked for five hours and I hired her as my film coach, took several courses and began writing. I opened a production company to pursue filmmaking and within it we are developing an educational division. Now, I can also transfer the skills I have in language training and development to create practical tools and solutions for global teachers worldwide.
TT: So cool!!! How have your travels impacted you as a person?
E: Traveling has made me a different person, more open to life and people, more open to what’s important and what has meaning. It taught me to enjoy moments and to be present with everything I’m doing and everyone I’m with. And most of all, I’m learning that life is a great book with as many chapters as you’re willing to write.
Traveling and teaching and the connections I’ve made is what makes life richer and what actually allows me to become a better writer for every face is a story.
TT: Eliane, thank you SO MUCH for sharing your remarkable story! Readers, feel free to leave comments and questions for this fabulous Teacher-Traveler, and stay tuned for Eliane’s second article: Concrete tips and resources for aspiring Teacher-Travelers!