Monday, October 22, 2007

Are all English teachers running from something?

I’ve had a theory for some time now that many career EFL teachers are running from the law or some other problem in their home country. The recent arrest of Christopher Paul Neil – the alleged Canadian pedophile – only furthers my belief. He had been, as you may recall, teaching English in South Korea and other Asian countries for the past several years. When details of his employment history were made public, I was not at all surprised.

There are plenty of nice people teaching English abroad, but most of them decide after a few years that they want something more out of life. There are those who make it to a Director of Studies position or an extremely cushy, well-paid teaching job, so it makes sense to keep at it. But unless you can get one of these EFL positions that commands more pay and more respect, there’s very little reason to be in TEFL for more than a few years.

And yet there are plenty of people (mostly men) who stay at it. And I can’t figure out why. They complain about their pay and their hours, as they should. So they’re not in it for the money or the job itself. They spend all of their time in British pubs, watching British sports, drinking British beer, eating British (or Indian) food, and speaking English. So they’re not, presumably, here for the language or culture.

So why are they here? I have narrowed it down to two main reasons:

1) Laziness: As much as they complain about the hours and pay, they still get three months of holiday each year, and English teaching is the type of job you can do with minimal effort.

2) They are running from the law/an ex/their families/responsibility: A lot of these guys who are apparently in love with their own culture, language, sport, and food never bother going home. That, to me, is suspicious. If the imported thing is so great, surely the real thing must be better… Not to mention seeing their friends and family. And yet they don’t go home… Strange…

7 comments: said...

This article is a little offensive, just plain wrong and exposes your lack of experience. Some of us "male" (and "female") teachers have figured out how to make a killing teaching English. Maybe it's time you start asking around and figure out how to do so yourself.

eslhell said...

I apologize if you find it offensive. As I said in the post, "There are plenty of nice people teaching English abroad...", so I am by no means saying that all English teachers are creeps. I am talking in the post specifically about the people who claim to hate the job and Madrid, make very little money, are not interested in Spanish language or culture or food, and yet have no desire to go back to their own country (which they supposedly love). As for making a killing, I also said that some do get DoS jobs or get a well-paid teaching job.. but for those who don't, I see little reason to stay in it. It's just my opinion. said...

Thank you for the clarification. If you're speaking only about the "cynical" pub crowd, that's different. There are some good jobs out there and English teachers, like me, who rarely go out because they have families to take care of, etc. In your article, it sounds as if all teachers are like the pub crowd. I actually admire their way of life because I have to work all the time, but it's a bit like the grasshopper and the ant, ain't it? I'm obviously an "ant," and by the way, I still complain about the money and hours. It can be a jungle, but I've got to pay the bills.

Ian said...

Whilst this piece of crap was written some time ago, I cannot leave it uncommented.

I'm not even a teacher, but if I were, I would find both the subject, and the content offensive, not thought out, and just plain provocative.
I suggest you study facts, rather than making such generalisations with your "theories".
I am surprised the moderators have not removed it, and kicked the author out. They are not doing their jobs.

Troy said...

Such nasty comments for an innocuous post suggesting that some, and yes it does stress some (ok, the word many is also used) English teachers are a bit suspect? The author also uses "they", refering to those that do sit around and gripe about the local culture. A pastime for some, from Spain to Bolivia to Japan.

The fact remains that TEFL is a very unregulated industry. Therefore it is very easy for people who can't make it elsewhere to perform the magic act and become a teacher simply because they were born in an English speaking country.

Case in point, and a favourite pet peeve of mine is the "teaching" of children that goes on here in Spain and around the world. Where else can you find COMPLETELY unqualified people (before you attack folks, this is not saying all are) who are thrown into a room for an hour or more with up to 15 3-year-olds? In Spain there have been recent uproars about undercover "guarderias" or nurseries that are being shut down because they have no license. How are English academies different? True, the children are not there all day, but a lot can happen in an hour. Many of these academies are accidents waiting to happen where the only safety measures provided are small first-aid kits!

So with this near-complete lack of regulation in mind, it is only logical that the profession would attract pedophiles and the likes. Until professional English teachers pull together and demand certain levels of professionalism both from themselves and from their workplaces, unfortunately nothing will change.

kaz said...

I find your blog both useful and amusing and have been reading it since before lunch, and have just come back from siesta to read a little bit more. (I work from 7am to 10pm with a 5-6 hr break in middle of the day, hey it's not perfect, but I'm quite new at it).

I'm a female 'teacher' (I prefer the term English coach, I'm not a teachers arse, really) here in Spain, and have taught/coached English in Thailand and Australia. I've been doing this job for a little over year now and have never met either a drunkard or pedophile working as an English teacher.

I find it rather odd that we in the ESL industry have such a bad reputation, because as previously mentioned I've met quite a few English teachers, male and female and they all have seemed to take their job seriously, turn up for work on time, sober, well groomed and prepared for the lesson.

The major problem I have had is with so-called 'academies' that exploit teachers by overworking, underpaying and generally bullying these newly-arrived foreigners into working crap shifts and signing dodgy contracts. But I'm slowly realising that it's part of the initiation period and you eventually learn to stand up for yourself or move on.

This is not a critisism of you or your blog, just an observation and I felt like telling it to someone who might care...

Cheers, have a nice day! =0)

eslhell said...

Hi Kaz,

Thanks for reading, and for posting!

I appreciate that we're all going to have different experiences and meet different people during our TEFL times in Spain. I will say that at the last academy where I worked (Transfer), everybody was pretty professional -- and those who weren't got weeded out fairly quickly. However, at the other schools where I worked and friends of mine worked, unprofessionalism was rampant... making life very difficult for those who did take things seriously (as we were treated no differently -- in terms of pay or respect -- than the goof-offs).

Hopefully things will change and, over time, the academies, clients, and teachers can find a balance that keeps all three parties happy, engaged, and rewarded. For people with good contacts and legal status in Spain, being autonomo probably isn't a bad route -- at least you have a bit more control over your fate and can avoid dodgy academy contracts!