Resources, Tips and Tricks to Teach English in Brazil

Tool, resource, trick, teachingThis is the last officially programmed part of the “Teaching English in Brazil” series, which has been a large labor of love.  I have taken the best tips and tricks about teaching English that I know of or could find, compiled them and put them in this one blog post!

I wanted to give you the best “fat of the land” so to speak in regards to teaching English within one blog post.  With that said, these are the “best of” tips and tricks.

All of the tips and tricks assume that you have read the relevant parts of the “Teaching English in Brazil” series, if you need a refresher, then feel free to do so.

I did separate many of the parts of this series into different scenarios and I asked you to choose a scenario that fitted you in part 1 – it would be helpful to double check and make sure you remember which scenario you chose (or choose one) as I divided these tips and tricks according to the scenarios.

Here we go!

Scenarios 1 and 2: Work for an English School

If you are set on the scenario of becoming an English teacher at a private English school, here are some tips and tricks for you!

I covered pretty much everything to do with finding an English teaching school, getting a visa and getting a job in this post, so feel free to refer back to that if you are looking for guidance in that area.

If you are looking for guidance on what qualifications you will need to teach at the school, then I covered that area in detail in this post.

How about after you have figured out what school to teach at, are prepared to give classes and have the job lined up.  What are some good tips you need to know in order to teach at a school?

The English School Work Culture



As a foreigner, you are going to be very much used to a different type of work culture, and you need to be prepared to adapt and surrender to a completely different type of culture.  Imagine having a totalitarian boss that doesn’t really care what you have to say or what you think, he/she will just do what he/she wants!

This is the reality of being employed in an English teaching school, you will need to be prepared to surrender you wants and desires to the school’s – and be prepared to be told what to do and expected to do it even if you don’t agree.

Don’t be afraid though, this is an adaptable situation and you can learn to live with it fine.

Your Salary





DON’T PAY TO TEACH:  This should say it all, but so many English teachers I’ve known have been sucked into a type of “teaching program” where they pay the “language institution” (like that everything is in quotes? Hehe) to give them the privilege of teaching for them in Brazil.

The truth is that getting a job in Brazil should be easy enough so that you don’t have to pay anyone to get a job teaching, they should always be paying you.

Getting your check: most English school will cut you a check at the end of each month.  This is the standard method of payment, but there are a few things you should know about this:  worker rights aren’t like in western countries where things are well documented, Brazil is a country where people are generally guilty until proven innocent.

Make sure that you keep very good record of everything that could be beneficial to you!  Write down your hours, make sure that everything you are paid for is written down and agreed upon.

If for some reason your check hasn’t come or it is late, then don’t take it as a sign that you’re fired; it is quite common for people to get paid late – could be that someone owed your boss money, then that money was to be redirected to you.

Be MEGA Flexible



Imagine showing up to a class where half the students don’t show without notice?  Or a group lesson where no one shows up and no one bothers to call?  Well these are all applicable situations as English students in Brazil tend to be extremely flaky with a capital “F” by our standards.

So, just because the working hours tend to be 8-5, you may need to keep yourself open and available from 7-6 in order to accommodate cancels, reschedules, late shows etc.

Speak Portuguese

If you are going to increase your odds of getting a job or best accommodating your student, then speaking Portuguese is a must!

Think about it, do you understand why Brazilians have a problem differentiating between “to make” and “to do”?  Because it’s the same word in Portuguese.  There are tons of these issues that bleed through and affect their English learning, so it is imperative that you understand this.

Another side to learning Portuguese is that you will be at a clear advantage for the school, they can hire you with the ease of mind that you can teach at any level – especially since most jobs are in the beginning to intermediate levels.

I am working on a Portuguese learning guide, you can click here to check it out.

Scenarios 3-5, Working for Yourself

Are you set on being self-employed and opening your own practice?  Well, here are some great tips for you.

If you are wondering about what qualifications will allow you to become an English teacher, then check this blog post out.

Further, if you are wondering how to create a website for teaching English online, then check out.

Create a Contract

One of the most important things you can do to secure you income (and sanity) when working privately, is to have a contract the students can sign which will be enforceable.

I have a link to a contract you can use, it is in Portuguese but you can put it into google translate or get someone to help you if you don’t speak Portuguese.

Here is the contract on

In this enforceable contract, you will lay out exactly:

  • That you will teach them English
  • How many days a week, what time their classes will be and how many hours they will be.
  • That the student will PREPAY (!!) for any and all classes, and the cost (it says check our cash but I would recommend cash only + never let them give you a check above the amount and ask for cash back!)
  • A no show clause
  • That if they show up tardy, that the class will still terminate at the agreed time.

You must (!) have students sign a contract, if you don’t do so, you are asking for trouble as they will cancel, constantly show up late, not pay on time etc.

Travel Costs

When you think about giving private lessons, your first thought may be “$R 45 an hour is pretty good money, I’m happy with that!”, but after having commuted around the large city you live in and trying to get to these different students, you will soon realize that it isn’t all that much money if you don’t factor in travel costs…

When travelling to a client, make sure and research well:

  • How far it is for you to travel from your place to theirs
  • How long it takes by bus (if you don’t have a car)
  • If there is parking

After you have calculated this, you may need to tag on a little extra to allow for the time you spend doing this.  A good rule of thumb is 50 cents per km + parking costs – this should save your hiney.

Teaching English to Groups

Teaching English to small groups of people can quickly compound and increase your profit margins if done correctly, I will give you a few good tips to help you along.

Choose a ringleader: Out of the entire group, chose one person who is responsible and put them in charge of:

  • Who paid what
  • That everyone comes on time
  • That everyone is communicated to

Making this little delegation will save you huge headaches!

Marketing Yourself Well

I covered a good amount about this in the post I made about getting a loyal following, but here is a bit more info for you.

When you have made the plunge to be an independent English teacher, the pressure of having enough business can be overwhelming!

I mean you are an English teacher and not some type of marketing guru or anything.  The truth is that the best kind of marketing is marketing that speaks for itself.  This is marketing that speaks through other people about how great the classes are and how much they are learning.

Here are a few good tips in order to help you market yourself better:

  • Be clever and stand out
  • Push for word of mouth and incentivize when they do
  • If you are teaching private lessons at an English school, branch out and offer the same students you are teaching a better rate if they do it privately with you
  • Have a Facebook group
  • Build a cool website
  • Have a newsletter
  • Advertise locally

Getting Rid of Bad Weeds

You never imagined that weeding was a part of the job description of being an English teacher now did you?

The truth is that many students just aren’t there to be taken serious.  Maybe Renato was sent there by his mom because he is doing poorly in English at school?  Maybe Rafaela is more interested in you than your classes?

Either way, do not be afraid to stop and say “no” to students who do not allow you to be productive and prosperous or to students who just are not out to be good students.

Resources for Teaching English in Brazil

Whether you are giving private lessons or teaching a group, you will need to make sure that you are prepared.

You will be surprised to find that many schools don’t have the proper materials and equipment you need to get your job done correctly, so make sure that you have what you need before arriving (or getting them now if you are already teaching).

Please note that things are much more expensive in Brazil due to a 60% import tax and less demand, so if you can’t get these things from the USA (or your home country), then you can expect to pay up to 3 times more for the EXACT same item!  I personally came with an unbelievable amount of equipment in my luggage, it looked like I was bringing a whole store’s inventory when I arrived 😉

Here are a few resources you can use and how they are useful:

(Amazon Affiliate link): This is THE BEST portable/transportable system you can use to play audio lessons, music or other audio tracks for your lessons.  Here is why I recommend it:

  • It operates on 4 AA batteries (rechargeable) or plugs in
  • Has a great “home-stereo” sound despite being portable
  • Is easily transportable and protected.
  • Plugs into your iPod/iPhone, smartphone, laptop etc
  • Is VERY cheap, huge bang for the buck.

Cambridge Touchstone Series, / (Amazon Affiliate link) – they are also available in levels 2 and 3 on as well via Amazon.  This is THE best books for teaching ESL and the price is great too.  Here is why I suggest them:

  • Great for classroom teaching – let’s you guide the class step by step
  • Very easy to follow and use
  • Developed by one of the leading ESL organizations, Cambridge
  • Comes with Audio lessons
  • very cheap

(Amazon Affiliate link): This is THE dictionary for going between English and Portuguese and here is why:

  • No longer printed but still the best (amazon has some used copies available though)
  • Offers the best grasp of grammar and vocabulary out there
  • Clearly gives you the Brazilian side of the language instead of being overly Portugal friendly

Final Words

I know that this was a bit of a “dry” fact sheet in many ways, but I really felt that this was necessary to get out there.

As I have mentioned throughout this series, teaching English in Brazil is a really great way for a foreigner to make a comfortable living in Brazil.  My hope throughout this series was to demystify as much as I could surrounding the subject as I haven’t encountered a lot of help myself in the area.

If you have found value in this series, then I would challenge you to share it with a friend and get the word out.

Wishing you all the best!

Cheers – Valeu!

Kevin

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3 Comments

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  • e ai Kevin,

    Thanks for the info, I hope Floripa is treating you well!

    I just moved to Maringá from Seattle 4 months ago. Saw that you made quite a similar move in 2005. Wondering if you have any positive experiences with the language schools here in Maringá? I live just outside the walls of UEM so was thinking about teaching english to increase my community interaction, better my Portuguese, and make a little cash. Thanks for any pointers you might have.

    Glad to read you enjoyed your stay in Maringá!

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