Friday, March 22, 2013

Wall Street Institute (And Why I Quit)

I haven't written a lot about my job at Wall Street Institute on here yet, because I thought that maybe if I ignored it for long enough, it would go away. And, it finally has gone away--by which I mean I quit. And, now that I have quit, I feel the need to say a few things. 
Wall Street Institute (WSI) is an American English language institute that began in the 70s in Italy. It's now all over the world. It's owned by the Pearson Company, although I'm not real sure what that is or means. All I know is that it's a for-profit language company with a reputation for good language instruction (but super high prices). 
WSI students begin their classes in a computer lab, where they listen, read, speak, and write on the computer and in their workbooks. They do this for about 2 weeks before they schedule an "encounter," which is WSI English for a class of 1-4 students with a teacher such as myself. These "encounters" are taught in a very formulaic way: the lesson plans are in numbered binders and laminated. There are little laminated cards that have pictures and exercises printed on them that accompany the lesson. The teacher's role in all of this is simply to elicit the "target language," which varies depending on the lesson. The students should already know what the teacher is trying to get them to produce because of the computer lesson. So, it's more like an oral test than a lesson. 
There are also other, optional lessons called "complimentary classes" and "social clubs." Complimentary classes also have numbered binders but are bigger and more conversation-based than encounters. Social clubs are designed by the teacher and are themed lessons for big groups of students to get them talking. I did one on camping/hiking called "Take a Hike" and we told campfire stories. These are actually the only types of WSI lessons I enjoy teaching, because here's the deal: there's almost zero room for creativity and adaptation of the other lessons. So, after you've taught one two or three or ten times, you're pretty sick of it. Yes, you're good at teaching it I suppose, but it's boring as hell. And it's often super boring for the student as well. The topics are recycled in the encounters so that by the time a student is at the "Upper Waystage" level, they have probably had to do somewhere between 5 and 10 role plays involving boss/potential employee interviews. 
On top of all of this formulaic stuff, WSI does not treat their teachers well. They are the lowest paid and the most easily replaced. There are 30 some people in marketing and 4 or 5 teachers. Seems odd in a place that boasts quality language instruction...
On top of all of this, my particular branch of WSI was known for being difficult to work for, which was definitely true for me. I had always gotten along with my bosses up until I got this job, so it was hard for me to deal with the way Cesar, my WSI boss treated me, which was basically very patronizing and mocking, even after I talked to him about it. 
Anyway, after two months or so of working for the man, I still didn't have a visa and was increasingly unhappy with what I was doing and where I was and had decided that I was just going to quit Wall Street and see what happened. Fortunately, the day before I was going to quit, I ended up getting a position teaching part time at a local university. Talk about perfect timing! It's pretty crazy because I was just thrown into it suddenly, but it's already much, much better. I'll write more about it when I have time. In the mean time, don't let your friends work for WSI. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Geocaching Quito (Without a GPS)

Some friends and I have gone out looking for geocaches in Quito the last two Sundays. There are about 20-30 here, which is a small number considering the size of the city, but the activity hasn't quite caught on here yet. (If you missed my first post on geocaching, here: Anyway, most of them are in one of the best places in Quito: Parque Metropolitano. There are a few in another awesome park near me as well (Parque Itchimbia) and maybe one or two just outside of the city. My friends and I don't have GPS devices, so it was a bit of a ridiculous task since both of these parks are huge. But, we found two out of the five we looked for! 
Also, I should mention here that parks in Quito are one of the best things about the city. They are huge, and in the case of Metropolitano and Itchimbia, almost impossible to learn because of how many different trails there are. I like to go for runs at Itchimbia because I can get above the pollution and get lost in some trees while enjoying an incredible view of the city below me. On the weekends, they are almost always full of families having barbecues, flying kites, and playing soccer. There are also playgrounds for adults! And by that I mean, a ton of exercise equipment and workout type areas within the park. 
Anyway, both days were huge successes. Last weekend at Metropolitano, we made our way to a forgotten edge of the park to find a small cache hidden in a hole in a brick wall. Then, we ate cookies, played frisbee, and even met a guy who was slacklining who let us jump on his line for a bit. 

Dan (hostel owner and fellow Idahoan) looking in the wrong section of wall. 
The right section of wall! 
There she is. 
My first find in Ecuador!
This Sunday, we went to Itchimbia and made a day of it with a picnic blanket, some mimosas, and a frisbee. We walked all along the perimeter of the park looking for one cache to no avail, but Dan found his first without much problem not too long after we got there. 
The cache was hidden down inside this tree. 
Dan showing off his first cache. 

Pretty flower near the cache.

View of the south of the city, looking for the other cache.
My friend Danielle (also an English teacher here) and I looked for a cache near Guapulo as well--which is a beautiful neighborhood at the edge of the city, with an old church and narrow, steep cobblestone streets. But we were unsuccessful. Unless you consider a nice walk and some delicious ice cream successful, which I do, actually. So never mind. 
View from the top of Guapulo.