Bico – Teaching as an occupation to fall back on?

They say crisis equals opportunity, and the Brazilian website has pointed out that teaching is its visitors’ number one choice out of their financial predicaments.

foto via

Photo via

You can imagine how that went viral (and quite virulent) among Brazilian teachers. According to Brazilian legislation, regular school teachers need to have a teaching license, which will take the candidate at least 3 years to get hold of, if not 4 or 5. Hence, those newcomers are looking for jobs in educational sectors which are not as formalized: teaching computer skills, private tutoring, and – ta da – teaching in language schools.

So if you can’t find a job you truly want, you can always try teaching a foreign language you speak. Well, at least we can now encourage our students to learn all they can of the language so they have a career to fall back on, should they ever need to.

Many experienced teachers were outraged by the article, so much so that has written a disclaimer apologizing to teachers. I was not at all surprised, much less offended. I have seen it happen many times. Sometimes, those seasonal teachers find out that they are not cut out for the job and leave with a newfound respect for those who stay in the profession, us who take in stride the long hours and whatnot. They are our wounded in battle, allies in the war society seems to wage against teachers every now and then. And then there are those who stay, some of whom curse the moment they turned to this career, but many of whom find their true calling in teaching. Among the latter, I am proud to say, are some of my most cherished colleagues.

Of course the people who fall in love with the profession tend to seek out some qualification later on, be it a certificate, a postgraduate diploma, or an English or Education major. Some will do it immediately; some will take some time due to personal and financial reasons. Either way, the fact remains that they are our own. They often bring in a fresh perspective from their previous tracks and add to the richness of the field as a whole. In fact, many do very well in the profession, which I see as a testament to how hard they work and to how fast they learn.

I am not in any way implying that we should give up the fight to value our profession and its credentials, or the fight to improve our teacher development courses. I do realize that low entrance requirements and poor working conditions (including pay) are often related. All I am saying is that we could be less all-or-nothing or black-and-white in this matter. Not because of those who come in and out of education as if it were meaningless, but because of the admirable ones that have stayed.

Then, on this steadier and more peaceful ground, let us work on improving our teaching qualifications so that a candidate without them is so far behind a candidate with them that hirers are left with no real choice but to choose the most qualified. And may that help grant language education the recognition and work conditions it deserves.

I just don’t see how battling one another would secure us that dream.


*Thank you, Priscila Mateini and BrELT Team, for the topic idea and links. You rock! The controversial opinion here conveyed is of my sole responsibility, however.

Natália Guerreiro

Natália Guerreiro has been a teacher since the year 2000 and currently works in Aviation English assessment and teaching for the Brazilian Air Force. She holds a CELTA, a B.A. in English & Portuguese from UFRJ, and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Melbourne. She's been elected BRAZ-TESOL's Second Vice President for the 2019-2020 term.

  • Elaine Hodgson
    Elaine Hodgson
    Posted at 16:04h, 06 junho Responder

    Thank you for such a balanced view on the issue. I read the article and totally agree with you. Maybe the choice of the word ‘bico’ was not the best… If the journalist had chosen ‘temporary job’ instead the impact would have been different. I myself started teaching when I was 15, to make some money, gain experience and practice my English.

    • Natalia Guerreiro
      Natalia Guerreiro
      Posted at 21:23h, 06 junho Responder

      Many of us started before getting a qualification, so to me it’s weird to claim grandfather rights now and chastize newcomers for doing the same we did once.

      I agree the word ‘bico’ is quite loaded, but that’s the name of the website. Anyway, if the author wanted to draw attention to the piece, mission accomplished!

  • Ricardo Barros
    Ricardo Barros
    Posted at 20:46h, 06 junho Responder

    Great post as always, Natália. People who enter the profession without experience (as I did), often end up looking for qualification later on. It may be naive of me to say so, but I’m not sure how long one can last as an English teacher without trying to develop professionally.
    I also agree with Elaine in that a different word in the original article might have made all the difference.

  • Priscila Mateini
    Posted at 20:50h, 06 junho Responder

    Well done, Natalia! I couldn’t agree more with you words!

  • Katia Fernanda da Silva
    Posted at 10:44h, 07 junho Responder

    Perfeito. Amo seus textos!

  • Marcela Cintra
    Marcela Cintra
    Posted at 13:57h, 07 junho Responder

    Perfect, Natalia! That’s it! Entering the profession without experience does not mean we are not teachers looking for a career. Let’s all work towards quality!

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