Teaching English In Brazil Part 17

By Joe Lopes
Continuing from last week here&rsquot;s part 17 of Joe&rsquot;s excellent guide to teaching English in Brazil. To read the previous parts click the relevant links at the bottom of the page.

Put It in Writing
The history of the teaching profession is littered with tales of pupils who were either the class pet or on permanent detention. Indeed, not every student you accept will turn out to be a Hermione Granger, or even a Harry Potter, for that matter. Some of them can even be downright ornery at times – and behave more like a Draco Malfoy – while others help make the session pass ever so slowly with their bad manners and disruptive antics (see Lesson 2″ for the gory details).

Since your primary aim will be to teach adult learners, you will need to protect your rights with regard to giving classes. Having a written contract between you and your student is one of the best ways to do this.

My wife helped me put together a version of a contract in Portuguese on the reverse side of the main document, but the basic content of your agreement should spell out the class rules and regulations in a clear, concise, and easy-to-read manner.

You do not need to be an expert in Contract Law or write like a Supreme Court justice to be able to create something functional, but your agreement should certainly cover the following points:

  • Hourly rates and fees;

  • Days and times you are available to teach;

  • When payment is due, and how much;

  • What to do in case of insufficient funds checks;

  • Late-payment charges and bad-check penalties;

  • Days off, including federal, state and municipal holidays;

  • Vacation time, the duration of it, and when;

  • Cancellations and emergency situations;

  • Policy regarding makeup classes;

  • Rate adjustments or increases due to inflation;

  • Anything else of importance.


There were only a few times in my teaching career where I had to haggle with students over late payment for classes, reluctance to pay for my vacation and holiday time, or the passing of bad checks. Somehow, when students are forced to put their signature to a piece of parchment, they tend to take their classes a little more seriously.

Make sure you go over the details of your agreement before the student signs on the dotted line. It’s usually a good idea to spend the first session of class in an informal, relaxed discussion about this topic-all the better to iron out potential problems prior to facing future misunderstandings later on.

As a sidebar to this issue, the Brazilian notion of what is a legally binding agreement between individuals versus the American (or foreign) notions of what it is are altogether different, and much maligned to boot. Some business people I used to teach were under the rather mistaken impression that the written contract was only the beginning of our negotiations – and, ergo, wide-open to interpretation at that; whereas, in the Anglo-Saxon Common Law tradition the contract is ultimately the final result of them.

But whether your agreement has the force of law behind it or not is irrelevant, for the very act of putting it all down on paper – and making the student recognize the seriousness of the business relationship you are trying to establish – is more than enough to lend it credence.

Still, expect some of the brainier bunch in your groups to deliberately question, argue over, deny, nullify, misconstrue, waive away, or even distort the finer points of your accord should you ever have the need to chastise them over some abuse of its terms.

Hopefully, this will not happen too often, but it’s good to know that you’ve “got it in writing” whenever the time does come to properly defend yourself.

Part 18 next week…

Copyright 2006 by Josmar F. Lopes

A naturalized American citizen born in Brazil, Joe Lopes was raised and educated in New York City, where he worked for many years in the financial sector. In 1996, he moved to Brazil with his wife and daughters. In 2001, he returned to the U.S. and now resides in North Carolina with his family. You can email your comments to JosmarLopes@msn.com.


To read previous articles by Joe Lopes click below:

Teaching English In Brazil Part 16
Teaching English In Brazil Part 15
Teaching English In Brazil Part 14
Teaching English In Brazil Part 13
Teaching English In Brazil Part 12
Teaching English In Brazil Part 11
Brazil: Thrills, Spills, and… Oh Yes, No Ifs, Ands or Head-Butts, Please
Teaching English In Brazil Part 10
Teaching English In Brazil Part 9
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 4
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 4
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 3
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 2
Brazilian World Cup Debacle: Just Wait Till 2010! Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 3
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 2
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia&rsquot;s Fragile Wings Part 2
Brazil: A Fever Called Corinthians Part 1
Brazil: Taking Flight on Florencia’s Fragile Wings Part 1
Teaching English In Brazil Part 8
Teaching English In Brazil Part 7
Teaching English In Brazil Part 6
Teaching English In Brazil Part 5
Teaching English In Brazil Part 4
Teaching English In Brazil Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 4
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 3
Teaching English In Brazil – Part I
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 2
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest Part 1
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 3
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 2
“Down in Brazil,” with Michael Franks Part 1
Brazil: A Candid Talk with Gerald Thomas
Getting to the “bottom” of Brazil’s Gerald Thomas
A Brazilian Diva Torn Between Europe and Brazil
The Enraged Genius of Brazil&rsquot;s Maestro Neschling
A German Ring in the Brazilian Rainforest
Brazil’s Musical Polyglots: What Was That You Were Singing?
Did Bossa Nova Kill Opera in Brazil?

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