Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men (Or: 20 Years in the Making)


Today is the 20th anniversary of the day I started my first teaching job in Bangkok, Thailand. April 16th, 1995. In honor of, here's an update on what I've been up to recently.

* * *

I had a plan.

It seemed like an okay plan, as far as plans go.

As far as my plans go, anyway.

I left my last position in the Kingdom with more than $175,000. I decided to take a year off to do some bucket-list type activities, after which I would get a job in the UAE (which usually have three-year contracts) and hopefully the Girlfriend could come (married or not) and then I'd live happily ever after.

A plan!



JOB FAIR

I had intended to look for a job at the TESOL Arabia job fair, which is in March.

My only point of reference for doing that was a colleague in the Kingdom who told me that a friend of his had found a good job at an oil company there. I figured it would be a new way to get a job, anyway, rather than the tedious anonymous internet application process.

As the fair drew closer, however, it began to look like less of a good idea. Most of the companies that were recruiting there were in fact for positions in Saudi Arabia and Oman. There were none in Dubai and only a couple in the other Emirates, all of which requested a master's degree as a minimum qualification.

I spoke to an agent from a recruiting company, and she was not particularly encouraging about positions in the UAE. She said that mostly they were seeking women, at the moment, as most of the new students in the UAE were women, and they'd had a lot of applications in the last couple of years from people downsized out of their university and college positions in the UK and US. (She did say however, that my combination of an English BA plus a DELTA is still a pretty formidable one.)

In addition, it cost about $300 to attend the job fair, although that got you a free lunch voucher and free attendance to all the TEFL seminars they were having. "Social Media and Your Classroom" and "Re-thinking the Learner-Centered Approach for the 21st Century" and so forth.

I decided to go to the hotel and check it out, regardless: I arrived and saw a lot of remarkably non-insane looking people with resumes printed on nice paper. Most of them were there through recruitment agencies and their agents were coaching them on what to say and not to say during the interview. There was a line of hundreds of people, stretching out into the lobby of the hotel in Dubai where it was being held.

I said "Fuck it," and decided to instead go on a 36-hour drinking binge with Crazy Bob.



PORTALS

Now if you're looking for a job in the Emirates, you've probably seen the two big recruiters, who recruit through website portals. Basically, you make an application through their website, uploading not only your resume and information, but copies of your certificates and diplomas and references.

So I filled out applications for those two places (I shall not name them, but you can find them easily enough should you care.) And uploaded scanned copies of all my shit. It took most of one day, six or seven hours.

Then I pissed off to Sri Lanka for a month.

Both places said to expect a reply within a month.

One place -- the place that employs Crazy Bob -- responded only by sending me an advertisement for their affiliated online master's degree program, and closing out the two applications for positions I'd made, without any further ado.

The other place -- which is generally better regarded -- called me in for an interview. I was in Dubai that week with the Girlfriend, so it couldn't have worked out more perfectly.

I went to the interview and a couple hours later received an emasculatingly-worded form letter rejection.

INTERVIEW

Now I thought the interview went okay; perhaps not perfect, but certainly just as well as the ones after which I'd gotten my last two jobs in the Kingdom. I'm better-looking, better-qualified, and better-spoken than a LOT of TEFL teachers. (Believe it or not.) I wore a white shirt and tie and had recently had a haircut.

But the thing was recorded, which I wouldn't have minded except that they had the video of my face being broadcast on a huge screen in front of me during the interview. It made me a little more nervous than I otherwise would have been. (It had a weird bit of lag to it; I thought I looked disturbingly like Max Headroom.)



The British guy seemed to like all my answer to questions about the classroom stuff, but the Emirati guy asked several times about why I changed jobs so frequently and why I hadn't done a master's degree. (In fact, I've almost started an online one several times, and told them about the one I chose and my intentions to begin it soon.)

I had a good cover story, I thought, and told them about my parents' illnesses and my attempt to take my girlfriend to America on a student visa. I told them I was looking for a good position and a place to settle down and raise a family. (True enough, actually.)

FORM LETTER

Obviously they're not obliged to give me a reason why; there's a lot of room for conjecture. Was it the lack of Master's degree? Probably not only. Gaps in my employment history? Surely that didn't help. Did I stink of the backpacker, with my sunburned nose? Was my fresh haircut a little too cropped, making me look a bit too Aryan?

Or, more worryingly, is the residual creepiness of months of self-employment as a porn writer showing through? (I don't think so, because I was with the Girlfriend that week so I was as well-socialized as I get these days.) My age -- 45 -- is about right for the Middle East. (Young enough not to be close to the mandatory retirement age of 60, old enough not to be too much of a flight risk.)

More terrifyingly still, I considered whether my English Teacher X "cover" might have been blown somehow, but I've seen no online evidence of that, and I suppose I probably never would have gotten the interview in that case.

The form letter simply says that they have " identified other candidates who presented a better fit for the position and thus, we regret to inform you that we will not be moving forward with your application at this time." (Translated: You're a square peg, motherfucker.) 

There's also an addendum that I can re-apply in a minimum of six months, after I "update my candidate profile." (Translated: Come back when you stop sucking so much.) 

TACTICAL MISTAKES

The only tactical mistake I felt I made in the interview was being a bit too critical of the last place I worked, remarking that I mainly left due to the pollution, lack of availability of married housing and long-term contracts, inconsistent policies of treatment of different students, and students who were "very motivated not to study." (That got a laugh out of the British guy, as I'd hoped but perhaps the Emirati guy didn't like it.)

With what I know about the layers of bureaucracy there in Middle East, the rejection could have come from a completely different source than the two people who actually interviewed me, and could have been completely arbitrary.

Another friend who applied for a position there and was rejected said that he thought they just interviewed constantly, even when they didn't have positions to offer, so that the recruitment staff could justify their bloated salaries. (It is a government body, after all.)

But the fact that the rejection came so quickly was the most worrying part. Lots of applications drag on forever before an eventual rejection; this was so swift and resounding, though, that it has seriously gotten me down.



SO WHAT NOW?

Obviously, I see which way the wind is blowing. I can afford a master's degree, and I'm sure it's just going to become more and more necessary in the next and final 15 years of my working life. (This isn't the first time I've been rejected for a job, but it's the first time since the late 90s, when my lack of a CELTA was often-mentioned.)

Both Crazy Bob and our other colleague, Chuck, got jobs at the other place, the rival outfit, without master's degrees, as did another guy I know, but they don't have much good to say about the program anyway. (Still pretty much fuckups, drunks, and a total lack of organization.) Chuck left his position in the middle of the night, as mentioned in my last memoir. 

So ... time to lick my wounds and regroup.

The 16th of April, 1995, is the date that I began my first English teaching job in Bangkok, Thailand, 20 fucking years ago. (If I had joined the Navy instead, I could be retiring with a full pension now.) In fact I am in Bangkok at the moment, staying at the same hotel that I stayed in back then. (More on that later.)

I'm in a much better position than a lot of guys, anyway. Still got some money and options and some years to put them into practice.

When life hands you poop, make poop-juice, you know? Chin up, X. Down but never out.

Not yet, anyway.

20 years down, 20 to go!





As a 20-year anniversary present don't forget you can quite a lot of free books from me:




Get it FREE for 5 days, starting on the 17th on Amazon and it's free to read on Kindle Unlimited, if you have that


Countdown special stars the 17th on Amazon, 99 cents for three days, then $1.99, then $2.99. Or read that fucker free on Kindle Unlimited! Get it HERE ON AMAZON!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Re-Patriation Chronicles, Part 4: English Teacher B

Same guy as in the last interview, yeah, and now he fills us in on returning to the US after a TEFL sojourn. 




How long did you work abroad, and where?  

I worked abroad on two separate occasions in Ecuador for about 3 years over the course of the 6 years that I was either living or traveling there. 

What made you decide to return to your home country? 

I was dating a local girl for a while, and went for the marriage combo, We got married knowing we had a kid on the way. Our son was born down there towards the end of my second year at the high school. My wife, only had a high school degree and no career, so I knew she wouldn't bring in any money there. I also knew that if we were going to move, it needed  to be before he was 1 because it was going to be very difficult after that. I had also realized in the 3 years working there/6 years living there I was not going to be moving up at my high school anytime soon unless someone died or won the lottery. Since I am anxious and do not like to stay in a place with no real prospects of moving up, we moved back to the states. I got my last month's and a bonus month salary which was nice. 

What were your experiences trying to get a job when you returned? 

It was a mixed bag really. I had a lot of people around me that told me to move on from teaching and that I would make more money in business. I found an ESL job fast at a chain school in NYC, but I hated the 30 students in a closet with an attitude and quit quick to go into a business venture with some of my wife's family. 

After I figured out that was going no where, I got a job as a receptionist/security at one of the big banks near the World Trade Center and worked on getting my credentials in order to teach in the NYC public schools. I taught high schoolers in Brooklyn Spanish for a year. 1/4 to 1/2 of them had a level of spoken Spanish or had family who spoke Spanish, so it was an interesting experience. I also had some classes with 40 kids in them even though we were only supposed to have a 34 max. My school reduced in size so I lost that position because they could only keep one Spanish teacher. Last hired first fired (or as they call it excessed), 

I took a position at a middle school briefly, and I then I moved back into ESL and Spanish teaching for adults. After that, I came up with the philosophy that I could teach anywhere anytime with the right environment. 

What did you like and not like about your home country upon returning?  

I would say it was one of the hardest experiences of my life. I had not planned on getting married again ( I was/am on wife #2). I had also planned to stay in Ecuador longer (I really wanted to move to the coast from the high lands) or move to Korea. I had a friend from Ireland who taught with me the first year at the high school who told me Korea was way better than all the BS in Ecuador we put up with and left. I had not had any plans of coming back to the states, let alone married with a kid. 

Since I really didn't want to be back, everything was difficult in the beginning. I had to get used to giving people more space in elevators and escalators (even in New York) and the attitude of the people sucked. They all acted like you should know stuff that they knew even though you were not from there so there is no way you could know it. I did not like the hustle and bustle of the city. I got out of my exercise routine and began putting on weight. 

I also found it difficult to get out of town for the weekend (I still find it difficult). In Ecuador I could go visit friends or in-laws for 20 bucks for the round trip bus ticket per person and maybe cook them a 10 dollar meal. If I did not have money, it was cool too, In NYC it was 100 dollars roundtrip just to get out to long Island or Connecticut for the weekend. Then once you got there, you were pretty much stuck inside for the whole weekend to watch TV or play video games. No real fun and open spaces. I missed being able to be at the beach and swim  in the ocean after an overnight bus ride or being able to go for the weekend to my wife's town in the Amazon region where I could walk or run in the country. There were also a lot of cheap touristy things you good do right outside of the city in Ecuador that just were not there for cheap in NYC. In short it sucked in a major way. 

Needless to say, after I moved back to teaching adults, we moved back to the Midwest where I am from. I have found while I have been able to improve my professional situation slowly and my wife and son are happy here, I still have mixed feelings about living in the same place where I grew up. I had originally moved away to explore the world and get away and am now back to square one (really its like 1.5 since it is the same place but I'm different). 

On the positive note, I am able to own a house, have two cars, and buy crap I do not need like every other American. The quality and variety of the food is better and eating out at semi-quality places is much cheaper. These are all things I would not be able to do in Ecuador. I would be living in a crappy apartment in the city, taking the bus everywhere, and finding luxury in buying a used cell phone when mine died or happiness in buying pirated CDs and DVDs. 


What did your wife think about America?

My wife was okay with New York and was happy to be in the states when we first moved to the states. When we moved to the Midwest, she loved/loves this area. With the nice people here, the space, and the opportunities that we have she is right at home. She prefers living here to back in Ecuador. Even though she loves Ecuador, she knows that it is a hard place to sustain a good and comfortable lifestyle. 

What are your plans for the future?  

The future is hard to say. I moved into administration about 4 years ago and am working on my doctorate in education, so I know that I have a student loan bubble above me that I would love to solve in a flash. There is a part of me that is dying to go to Saudi, China, Korea, or Japan in order to move up into a better administrative position and pay off the bills quickly.

However, that is difficult to want to do because I know that I might not be able to take my son with and I still have a couple of good years left before he becomes a non-human teenager that just hates my guts. The other thing I know is that it has been so hard to work up into a stable job that I liked after getting back stateside (5 years to get a quality full-time job, and 7 to get a job that had decent conditions and a future. All the adult and higher ed positions paid decently but were all part-time based off enrollment), so I do not want to lose the progress that I have made here. 

However, if I can time it so I move up into a Department Chair or Dean position abroad which pays well and leads to me being able to return to the states in 5 years and take that same position at a university, I would do it in a heartbeat.. If I do not go that route, I will probably wait for about another 10 years when my son goes to college and then move abroad again into a position in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, or China.

* * *

Tune back in 3 days from now, when ETX celebrates the 20th anniversary of his first teaching position ... with an epic fail and a continued slide into alienation and decrepitude. 

Coming soon!  




Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Interview with English Teacher B

I'm aware there's rather a dearth of information on this site about teaching in South America so here's an interview with a guy who worked in Ecuador for a while. With some heavy fucking life advice at the end, too. Just what you come to ETX for, eh? 



How long did you work abroad, and where?  

I worked abroad on two separate occasions in Ecuador for about 3 years over the course of the 6 years that I was either living or traveling there. I had studied abroad, turned 21 there, and fell in love with the place (especially the ladies or as the Ecua guys would call them the long haired dictionaries) and was dying to find any way to stay or go back. The first time I taught for what was considered one of the top language schools in Ecuador. I found them on the internet, sent all my materials in, and then had an interview, filled out the application and was hired. I had a split shift so I would start at 7am and then I would end at 9pm after bus service had mostly ended for the evening. At the time I thought the conditions were so so, but afterwards I realized that I actually had it pretty good. They paid my Ecuadorian taxes, we got a month paid off a year, and pretty good insurance.

After that experience, I came back to the states for about a year and a half finished my first masters degree in foreign languages, picked up a TESOL Masters and headed down. I did the grass roots approach where I went to the phonebook and basically used the local FedEx to send my resume to every school that had English or International in it that I did not know was a top tier school. I then landed a job at a private international high school and taught there for two years. At first it was wearing coming from teaching adults to teaching kids. Luckily, I had good colleagues and a boss that took me under my wing and supported me. The dean of students was an older lady who was nice and liked me as well. While I did not have a lot of time to go out all the time and have fun (by that point I was a little tired of the bar scene, and I did not want to run in to my juniors and seniors who were sneaking into the bars -I would go out every so often on a Friday or Saturday with friends), I really got into a good routine of exercise, got to explore the country and meet some quality people.

Who have been your most venal / incompetent employers? 

I would say the language institutes in the U.S. (NYC and some in Chicago). They will have many layers of supposed support which are there to function as big brother tactics. They also let you know and make you feel that they can get rid of you and replace you at the drop of the hat. It is also easy to work around the clock between grading and planning unless you really regiment your time well.

What do you like and not like about teaching?
Once you get good at teaching your subject areas, you begin to like seeing students be able to do what you have taught them in their new languages. Teaching also allows you flexibility and gives good deadlines. You also get to know your students which are always interesting people. You can plan and grade when and where you want, but at the same time the fact that you have to teach at certain times gives you deadlines. EFL/ESL reaching allows you to go anywhere.

With teaching you do not have a lot of options for growth outside of administration, but most teachers hate administration because it is a totally different job which you are not usually trained for. The biggest downside to teaching is that you hit your peak fast, and then you do not have options for professional growth which usually means that you will not earn a lot more money. Your main areas for growth become getting better with what you do, and staying up with new trends.

What kind of students do you find the most difficult and thankless to teach? 

This is a tough one. I think you always find the students who are privileged or spoiled who are the ones that are the least thankful and most demanding while wanting to do what they want to.

What's your favorite way to kill five or ten minutes in class? 

TPR (Total Physical Response, which is making the students get up and run around and stuff - ETX) is a nice way with the lower levels.I like to have them ask their partners next to them three to five questions based off the grammar that we have studied. I also like to play the I have a friend or I have a problem what should I do game in order to get them talking. I also carry around scenery or vacation pictures from clearance calendars and ask them what do you do in this place.

Which countries have you liked the most and least, and why? 

I only really taught in Ecuador which was my favorite and not-favorite country at the same time. I loved Ecuador because there were some different opportunities available, I got to meet some cool people, nature was beautiful in the mountains, I could get out of town and chill for about 20 to 30 USD for a weekend by hopping on a bus for a couple hours, and I could be at the beach or in the jungle after 6 to 8 hours on the bus.

At the same time, it was my least favorite country after living there off and on for 6 years. I learned quick that I was as far as I was going to get after a few years teaching unless someone died or won the lottery which got me antsy. The pay went up quick one year and was not going anywhere for years. While I met cool people, at the same time there were a lot of untrustworthy or petty people who were good for parties and not much else. While girls were not hard to meet, many had a saint like attitudes (in public) and had to be home early. It was like being in junior high where they couldn't say out late without their parents permission. On the flip side you could go out, meet a girl, get her digits, send her home, and then go out and meet a girl who told her parents/brothers better lies. Since you had to work split shifts at the institutes and Saturdays at times and at high schools there was plenty of work to do, you really couldn't go out much during the week or travel much on the weekends without it being a working weekend. I usually felt comfortable traveling for fun about every 2 to 3 months.

What kind of qualification do you have, and do you think they've helped you get a job?  

With my first job I just had my BA in International Business and Spanish. I was able to get the job because they needed someone with a degree and a teaching background, and I had just taken a methods course for TAs. I found out that I would make double teaching at a high school, so I took a calendar year to get my Master's in TESOL and was hired at an international school. Right now I am working on my doctorate so that I can either get a DoS, Dean, or faculty position at a school or university abroad when I work abroad next.



What advice do you have for newbies to the TEFL/TESOL field?

Don't quit your day job without seriously thinking things through first.

There are always people who I run across who get tired of the daily grind at a desk job, the cubicle, the commute, and/or just office politics that thinks that teaching abroad is the solution. If you have never taught before, chances are you will just become frustrated with teaching too. Teachers usually have a desk at the school, sometimes a cubicle, have clerical work like emailing, grading and the composition of materials whether through typing them up or copying them, and the hours can be grueling. It is not the most rewarding of careers in the long run even though it can be a fun job once you get into the groove of things.

 If you are sick of your job, explore what is your dream job first. If it is teaching, try volunteering first at a non-profit like a church - at many churches with non-English speaking congregations, if you walk in off the street and say you want to teach English, they will let you do it. Another option is to connect with your local community college and/or ESL programs in the area to volunteer. These are good ways to start out and see if you even like teaching. Many people think it will be like leave it to Beaver where the students will just sit there and admire your awesomeness because you are there hero for changing the world by teaching, but just think back to when you went to high school, and that is the type of dynamic you get in the English classroom. Some want to be there and learn while others are there because their parents, family and/or employers are making them when they do not want to be there.

For the lawyer or other types who have good jobs that make tons of money that want adventure and romance, i.e., just want to go teach to pick up ladies or men and get laid, I would recommend that they don't. English teaching is at the bottom of the barrel for most professions, so people will not hold you up to a great esteem. Americans and Europeans are in so many places and the internet lets people know how good looking they are, you find less and less neurotic people who will fall for someone who treats them nice on a whim. (unless they are the crazies who are fishing for a green card - so if a shot gun wedding and a minimum of 3 to 5 years with the person and losing half of your belongings and wages afterwards is what you want, go for it).

One last thing if you are in a high paying profession here you probably have a decent car, are able to go out to upscale places and even take lavish vacations, you are downgrading a lot because you will be taking the bus (this does not impress the girls and guys) -, you will not have a lot of money to do things, and you will probably be dipping majorly into your savings to have a decent time. My advice would be to find out where your local community of foreigners that you desperately wanting to explore is, and trying to connect with them here. I would also see about some short or longer vacations to the country you want to go to just to have fun - vacation is way different than work. I would also try to get to the root of your issues - are they the loneliness and isolation that you are feeling at a job you do not care for much or is it that you are looking for love in all the wrong places. It could also be the now what phenomenon that most early to mid-professionals feel. They have gotten into their jobs and do not feel much reward or progress so they become depressed that things are not the way they want them, and think they should quit everything and move on. Once you can figure out the problem, solve it here before you even try to travel. Problems compound and become a million times worse if you just move to a new place with them where you have no support structure and everything is overwhelmingly different.

So...If you do decide to teach abroad, have fun with it. It can be a fun experience if you let it be.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The 40-Hour Work Week

My latest book drops today, and it's a bit of a change of pace, in keeping with my new profession:


Are you tired of spending all your time futzing around with affiliate links and search engine optimization? Pretty exhausted with trying to monetize everything you do, thus reducing every fun hobby you have to a tedious grind? Fed up with weekends spent in front of the computer hacking away for pennies at another boring anti-feminist rant or e-book about how you shouldn't eat carbs? Weary of optimization, synergy, and metrics?

There is another way! 

What if I told you that you could work only 40 hours in a week, often doing nothing more stressful than sitting in front of a computer in an air-conditioned office doing routine tasks, for only 8 hours a day? WITH WEEKENDS FREE? AND with one or even TWO weeks of COMPLETELY PAID HOLIDAY per year? And if you work more hours, you can even get PAID MORE??

That's right. You could get an actual job.

Many fields such as accounting and IT offer salaries of UPWARDS OF $50,000 per year. OFTEN WITH HEALTH INSURANCE!

And you will NEVER have to spend time trying to think of income streams! YOUR BOSS WILL DO THAT FOR YOU! 

What's more, with careful management of your money and regular Social Security payments, YOU COULD RETIRE AT AGE 65 AND NEVER WORK AGAIN!

The dream is within your grasp. Dare to reach for it!

GET IT HERE NOW FOR ONLY $59.99!

Next week: Some gay ETX / Crazy Bob fan fiction that somebody sent in, and it's hot!


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Those Damned Fellas Who Won't Fit In

Another promotional video, an emo-music-plus-holiday-snaps take on THE MEN WHO DON'T FIT IN, by Robert Service, which I used as an epigraph for my last memoir.



One of the few guys to make a fortune from poetry, Robert Service moved from his usual stomping grounds of Alaska to Paris, where he was known to stroll around the rough sections of town wearing a monocle with his former-cop bodyguard. The People's Poet indeed!




Sunday, March 22, 2015

Catching Up With Crazy Bob

Recently caught up with Crazy Bob in the Emirates. 







So rest assured, the flags of English teacher degeneracy are still flying out there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Video Killed the Radio Star

A couple years ago I made a few crude videos (look at my YouTube channel here) using Microsoft Movie Maker, and I had left the world with a bit of a cliffhanger, with a video that illustrated a sucky speaking activity and then telling people to tune in for an illustration of a speaking activity that didn't suck.

Then I just sort of forgot about it.

But a few commenters kept requesting the sequel, so I finally completed it:



I had been trying to get a friend of mine to do some voice acting for it, but that never worked out, and then I sort of just forgot about it as I worked on porn e-books and started working in my next shitty job in the kingdom.

But hey, my fans ask for something, I'll try to give it to them.

This was a sequel to this particular video:



In which you can hear my sexy dulcet voice, actually, which has occasionally been compared to Kermit the Frog.

(I've been invited to be on a couple of podcasts, but I was rather afraid my Kermit-voice might utterly ruin people's image of me, which is no doubt highly virile.)

And just for shits and giggles, here's a promo for my most recent book, REQUIEM FOR A VAGABOND:



Get it HERE on Amazon