It is with great fortune and a bit of luck that I landed my job at one, if not the top private schools in Peru, and South America for that matter. Working with some world class teachers has been a truly wonderful experience. We also have some world class students (one student recently got the top mark in the world for Spanish) and promising young athletes, many of whom represent their country. I knew from the get go what was expected from me as a teacher as I have several cousins who are students in my school and knew what I was getting myself into.
To start with, my colleagues are truly one of a kind, a great staff with a great morale. The kids are simply wonderful, well behaved, hard working (for the most part) and polite. Mostly all students will acknowledge you as you walk by lots even just walking with you for a chat.
The Upper School consists of students 11-18 years of age. Once they complete Secondary 4 (S4) they choose which program they would like to follow: either LN which is the National Program or the IB which is the International Baccalaureate. All students from Secondary 2 and higher receive a laptop. Many classrooms are also equipped with smartboards, projectors and speakers. Our intranet system is excellent and departments are well organized. The school is English speaking, with some classes in Spanish and French (depending on the subject).
Because of the school I am employed at, there is a lot of pressure put on both students and teachers alike to remain at the forefront of education in South America. With that being said, the school day runs from 7:25am to 2:40 pm. There is a 20 minute registration/tutor period followed by eight 40 minute lessons. There are breaks between every two periods (20, 10 and 50 minutes in length). The average teacher teaches 28 lessons a week, some more others less. Each teacher also has yard duty once a week.
Some teachers are ‘tutors’ for the pastoral program which involves monitoring a group of students and doing various activities which relate to their well-being. During my first year as a tutor, I had a great group of students, each with a unique personality which added to the colourful classroom environment. Getting to know my tutees I found to be pretty easy, maybe because I was young or it could be that I shared my personal experiences with them which got them to open up. Either way, I could probably say that what I experienced as a tutor are experiences that not many teachers have throughout their careers. This year I am a tutor once again for the same year group but with a mixed up group of students that are just as wonderful as the previous year.
Moving on….during the first and third bimesters, staff are expected to run two activities a week. During the second and fourth bimesters staff members are expected to take part in supporting one of the four houses where there are a wide range of sports activities. Our house system it truly amazing and the students show a great deal of sportsmanship and support for others while still competing to win. Today, for instance, during house mini-sports I saw a student from one house helping a student from another house and showed him how to properly hold, aim and shoot a bow and arrow. These students are truly exceptional.
Being a Geography teacher has allowed me to travel around the country with students. During all outdoor education camps, students are required to do a Geography component. I have had the opportunity to go to the jungle three times in a year and a bimester, to Huaraz and St.Eulalia. For a Geography teacher, Peru is heaven as we have the ‘costa’, ‘sierra’ y ‘selva’.
Another aspect of school life at my school is service. Both staff and students invest a great deal of time in raising money for service projects. Our main goal is to help the less fortunate people of Peru to improve their quality of life. In the time I have been employed at my school the staff and students were responsible for doing earthquake relief work which consisted of rebuilding a school, building community centers (37 in total over the year) and ovens for the community centers. I have taken part in a service project where myself and a colleague took a group of 20 students to Cusco and built a greenhouse for a rural community at 4200masl. These kids ranged from 14-18 years of age and had to battle altitude, long days of hard work (including carrying logs 2km up a mountain) in cold and rainy weather. I can honestly say it was one of the hardest things to do in my life and to think that this group of 14-18 year olds created an 80 squared meter greenhouse is truly unbelievable in my eyes.
I have been involved in a service project where we went to a National Reserve and cleaned a 100 squared meter area of beach as well as constructed two eco-bathrooms. Students even take initiative and create their own service projects. I’ll be overseeing a student led project to build two community centers and two eco-bathrooms (of which is a design created by one of the students).
In the classroom, management issues are not much of a problem as the system in place is very effective and again, the students are wonderful. I have had classes that range from 18-28 students. Class sizes will surely get smaller in the following few years as the school is preparing to renovate and expand the school facilities.
I could go on and on about life at my school but that would probably turn this article into a novel. Simply stated, from my perspective working at a private school in Peru is absolutely great.
If you’re looking to get a job, I would research the British and American private schools in Lima and visit their websites (to name a few: Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Markham College, Newton College, San Silvestre, Colegio Peruano Britanico). They generally post job opportunities on their websites and it’s simply a matter of sending your cover letter and CV into the human resources department. Speaking about my school in particular, if the right teacher isn’t found to fill the position, that position will go unfulfilled until the proper candidate is found. You should have a teaching qualification, experience as a classroom teacher and be a native speaker of the English language.
Living in Lima is great. The cost of living is relatively low and the pay is half decent. Peru is a developing country with many opportunities. The gastronomy is amongst the best around the world and the native Peruvian drink is “Pisco”, a few Pisco Sours and you’ll be feeling good. Most people say to be careful in Lima, I would say just be aware. The worst that will happen to you is either getting pick pocketed or a B & E. Touch wood, nothing has happened to me. The people are friendly and will always give you the time of day. I have been traveling to Lima since I was a baby and I can see the changes Lima has made over the years, all for the better.
Traveling this great country is relatively cheap and there are too many places that you can visit, I won’t get into that as you can check out your Lonely Planet.