Having been lazy for a few months, a couple of weeks ago I decided to start replying to unread Conversation Exchange emails in my inbox. Last week, I met up with Patrice for a coffee near Opera after his Japanese class.
Yesterday we met at the same time, and he brought along Bernice*, another Australian teaching English in Paris.
As my only teaching job has been with BTL, I’m always curious about the conditions at other schools, so I took this opportunity to interrogate her.
Bernice works for Berlitz, where they don’t have a regular timetable with the same students every week, but only teach students for one class each course (so the students get 10 or 20 teachers over their courses). They don’t get paid for preparation time, but are expected to follow the course books, so don’t need preparation time. The teachers are expected to work for 35 units a week (I think she said a unit was 45 minutes, with 40 minutes of teaching and a five minute break).
Bernice works Monday to Saturday, and says that although she is supposed to have Mondays and Wednesdays off, the school usually books classes for her then.
So far, BTL sounds better to me. I like that I get to see the same students each week. Admittedly, a couple of them have been a little trying, but I generally enjoy building a relationship, and find that the better I know a student, the better I become as a teacher because I can plan more interesting lessons.
I also like having the freedom to plan lessons. Yes, course books are a godsend and I would really struggle to organise everything without them, but it’s nice to be able to take a break. As I told Bernice about how I use the Ethicist and BreakingNewsEnglish podcasts, OneStopEnglish news lessons (a few weeks ago I had great fun with the story about the Belgian skydiver who murdered her love rival), Mad Men extracts and Almost French extracts in my lessons, I rediscovered my enthusiasm for my job. I think it would be extremely different if I was constantly chained to the books.
However, the main advantage of working at BTL was the salary.
At BTL I earn €16.50 an hour. At Berlitz, Bernice earns €9.00 an hour. At 35 units of 45 minutes a week, that works out to €236.25 a week. That’s what I’d earn in 14.5 hours, and although I’ve had some slow weeks, I haven’t consistently worked that little since summer.
I think I might have to enlighten the other teachers at BTL – there has been lots of grumblings about uprising in the teachers’ room lately.
*Bernice’s name has been changed to protect her anonymity – and her job.