It’s not a revelation and it surely isn’t a surprise. Those in the industry are well aware of the reputation. Teachers who choose to work and travel, will do so just to get a taste of the world, and at the same time earn a decent wage to afford the whole endeavor. The result is a saturated market full of teachers, who grab any teaching position offered in a holiday destination or country with western style amenities. Mixed in with the wannabe travelers, are the career-oriented,professional teachers, and so a cocktail of amateur and experienced teachers is infused to create our current language school offerings. In this post I want to focus on the more experienced ingredients, so the ones who might be looking for a change of pace or environment after becoming a bit lethargic in the same city or country for too long. How can we confront our predicament and what factors should we consider when making our next choice. Should we only consider the benefits and drawbacks of the country, or of the teaching circumstances offered? It’s not easy to juggle the options, but below the surface, our teaching circumstances should be equally important.
When I first became a teacher I also thought of the destination as the priority but the longer I teach, the more I’ve come to realize that other factors should come into play. It’s not easy, the ESL world offers a galore of options, and it can be hard to sift through them all before finally settling on a place. I’ve learned from my travels that places and people can surprise us, and that that alone can be a comforting feeling when deciding where to go. Choosing the most popular option is always going to be the safest path but when we take a leap of faith we can be rewarded beyond our wildest expectations. Students from all over the world are eager to learn our language and bring their personalities and character as well as motivations to our classrooms. When we walk into a situation where we have an international mix of students we are handed an opportunity to really help our students not only improve their language skills but also learn from each other. Intercultural experiences in this environment are not only rewarding to students but to us teachers as well. I personally believe that one of the greatest benefits of our job is the chance to not just travel and visit foreign countries but to learn from our own students. They are always interested to learn about our culture and language but just as eager to share with us their language, culture, traditions and perceptions.
It is an absolute privilege when we teachers find ourselves in a position where we can help students on the road to success, and at the same time be offered an opportunity to grow ourselves, thanks to our students. In taking this leap of faith and deciding to venture off on a new endeavor we should embrace what the opportunity offers. Some of these can be:
- An international classroom with a mix of nationalities that we most likely have never encountered before.
- An age group that we have never taught.
- A school environment that fosters a less traditional approach in the classroom than previous experiences.
- Innovative tools at our disposal that the school encourages the teachers to use as much as possible.
- Teaching a language course with a specific focus (content-based lessons like history, geography, science etc.) with language learning being a secondary objective but equally important.
When we put ourselves in these types of situations we guarantee teacher development; challenge ourselves to improve and discover new ways to teach and learn. Inevitably we become better teachers, while at the same time helping our students reach their own goals in the classroom. The magic here is that sometimes we and our students learn and develop in ways we least expected at the outset, and who doesn’t like magic right? 🙂
Traveling is beautiful in its own right and lots of us love it for a number of reasons but we shouldn’t let it always dictate where we should teach. Alternatively, we can look for some of the opportunities mentioned above and if possible jump at the chance for just even one of them. I truly believe that when we prioritize our work choices this way we give ourselves the best chance to be successful as teachers. If you are becoming an ESL teacher for the short term than this post isn’t for you, but if you plan on sticking it out for a while than this is an exciting time. So put the soju, piwo, cervesa or sake at the bottom of your to-drink list! You won’t regret it, not until after the first day of classes anyways 🙂