By Sibel Tinar, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The one-size-fits-all model of the business of teaching has fresh competition in Rio de Janeiro, as Tailor-Made English, a boutique school recently set up by two Englishmen, offers fully customized education to its students.
Damian Williams and Stephen Greene came up with the idea a year and a half ago as a reaction to the highly commercialized English Language Teaching (E.L.T.) sector in Brazil. “We both believe that every learner is unique and therefore learns in different ways”, says Stephen.
“What works for one learner may not work for another. The challenge for modern teachers is to choose from a menu of potential methodologies and activities, and the only way to do this is by analyzing the needs of the student, not the needs of the teaching institution.”
“We are not really a ‘school’ in the traditional sense of the word, as we don’t have premises and ‘fixed’ courses”, adds Damian. In fact their students are mostly working professionals, participating in individual or small group classes, who need to use English in their jobs, plan to travel to an English-speaking country, or simply want to “refresh” the language they have studied in the past.
Despite their efforts to keep things as simple as possible and minimize costs by opting not to have fixed premises, the pair haven’t been left untouched by the infamous Brazilian bureaucracy associated with setting up a small business in Brazil, and they are still in the early stages of establishing their business.
Talking on the subject, Damian also reveals that they received conflicting advice from different people, advising; “One of the first steps is finding a good accountant who knows what they are doing.”
“The amount of different pieces of paper we have been asked to provide by different people is confusing, and I rarely understand the logic behind it”, adds Stephen, clarifying: “This, however, is not necessarily a criticism of Brazil, just bureaucracy in general.”
The logistics of establishing a new business has not slowed them down, though, as Tailor-Made English is gaining more popularity via the all important word-of-mouth recommendations, and already has its hands full with several projects.
Both professional teacher trainers registered by University of Cambridge, Damian and Stephen devote a large proportion of their time to training. They run a popular language-development course for teachers called Discover, Explore, Develop at Village School in Gávea, as well as writing materials for major publishers. “We have lots to be getting on with at the moment, but our first love is always teaching itself”, says Damian.
They are also exploring the opportunities of the internet, such as interacting with students through social networking sites, and teaching through Skype. Course books had much greater significance when they first started teaching about fifteen years ago than it does today, when teachers often struggled to locate original material.
“Finding listening material, for example, used to be next to impossible”, elaborates Stephen. “Nowadays, there is no excuse for not using authentic, interesting and current material from the internet.”
With many projects already under the belt, Tailor-Made English is already moving forward, signaling that this alternative approach to teaching has the potential to become the next educational trend in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil as a whole. For more information on their projects, you can contact Damian or Stephen directly.