When I first declared that I wanted to teach English as a foreign language, a friend of a friend told me “But teaching English is for losers.” I don’t tend to see myself as a loser and it wasn’t what you’d call a helpful comment so I stashed it in my grudge pile until this year, when an eye-opening experience made me wonder why this view exists and how teachers are viewed and valued. This is a sort of rambling reflection based on that and an invitation to discussion.
For my part, I see myself as a pretty solid bet: I take my career seriously and that’s why I blog and why I did the DELTA. My experience until 2015 had been that reputable schools value their teachers and pay them appropriately, take pride in their efforts and are keen for them to engage in professional development. This year, however, life has served me three courses of That Ain’t Always The Way, Ducky:
- I experienced a working environment that placed somewhat less value on teachers and teaching. Needless to say, most teachers expressed negative feelings about the school and it was altogether rather uninspiring, not to mention surprising given the status of the school.
- While reading posts from a facebook page for expats in Madrid, it occurred to me that perhaps English language teachers are only worth what students will pay, and if the going rate is brought down by unqualified non-career teachers, then that’s what we have to deal with.
- I’ve just moved back to the UK and have been checking out the teaching options for a while now. It has been rather disheartening to discover that there are so many job adverts for zero hour contracts, with low rates and no benefits, and – I’m guessing – no pay for lesson planning or marking. I realised that some of the best jobs in the UK in terms of pay and esteem seem to be at universities, teaching EAP, but this seems tricky to get into outside the summer months. (See Gemma Campion’s very interesting post What is required to teach EAP on the blog Teaching EAP for more about getting into EAP and EAP practitioner identity.)
What’s this all about? It appears that EFL teaching (outside certain institutions) is often not seen as a serious profession. Why is this? Is it because it’s “so easy” to become a teacher? (See this post on eltjam for an interesting discussion on this topic.) Are there too many of us and not enough work? How do we assert ourselves and receive recognition for our professional status from society? Do we need to? Am I expecting too much?
On a positive note, I’ve been very lucky to have worked at a fantastic summer school this year and am just about to start my first EAP course, which I’m excited about. And there’s a three day induction – a good sign that teachers and teaching are valued at this institution.
Is your experience similar to mine or totally different? I would love to hear your views.