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The most common criticism of the first edition of ETX GUIDE was that I was exaggerating the facts, or that my experiences were unusual because I was such a fuck-up.
To completely and finally silence ANY voices daring to criticize me, I decided to add interviews with random teachers. (I had done this before on my old website.)
I'm happy to say I got a good representative sampling of interviews for the latest edition of ENGLISH TEACHER X GUIDE TO TEACHING ENGLISH ABROAD; experienced teachers and newbies, men and women, young and old, independent contractors and people who work for all different kind of schools.
Not all of them made it in though; here's one that arrived a bit too late to make the final cut. Here's a short interview with an experienced veteran in the business.
1) How long have you been teaching, and where?
Since the mid-1980s, and I've lived in the UK, Portugal, Cambodia, Japan and the Philippines. However, I have been working over the internet while living in Asia.
2) Which places have you liked the most, and the least?
It's hard to answer. I lived in Portugal for several years and really enjoyed it. But when I went back last year for a first visit in years, it just felt like being a tourist who could speak the language. It was a nice break, but I didn't feel any nostalgia, so I suppose the one I like most would be the current one. Moving on has a certain degree of severance.
3) What kind of qualifications do you have?
4) Which have been the most venal and incompetent administration you have ever worked for?
I haven't worked for a really venal admin. I have worked for a few who were a bit dodgy, but never any real bastards. One didn't pay the travel as promised, but that is really about the worst deal I have had. I have mostly worked for myself, so the incompetence would be my own. I have also worked for big schools, colleges and unis and they may be lethally bureaucratic, but they do meet the terms of the contract.
5) Would you agree that most TEFL teachers tend to be kind of fucked-up people?
There are probably slightly higher proportions of fucked-up people in TEFL than in the broader population, but in mainstream ELT, things are pretty mundane nowadays. When I started, the internet was unknown; it could be an isolated life, and salaries were comparatively higher. A job where people would put a lot of bad behaviour down to your being foreign that paid enough to live disreputably was bound to attract fuck-ups by the score, and did. The last staffrooms I was in were more herbal teas and discussions about work than planning the night's debauchery. There are still some Wild West areas and countries, which will bump the numbers of fuck-ups, but fewer.
That said, regardless of your starting point, a career in it may well fuck you up.
6) Which students have been the most difficult and thankless to teach?
Ones who are there under duress.
7) What would you have to say to someone considering a career in TEFL?
If it were a young person, I would advise them to think very carefully. Unemployment is high in most English-speaking countries, so the market's awash with young graduates, which is driving salaries down, and it's almost certainly going to be like this for years to come. In the UK, which is one the worst offenders, salaries are so bad in some places that you'd probably be better off working at McDonalds. I have seen UK job adverts this year offering an hourly rate that is under a third of what I was getting ten years ago.
Europe's got its economic woes. Japan's not what it was. People are still optimistic about Korea and China, but the demographics in both places are not good in the long-term. The trainers will pump out any number of trainees, regardless of how much work there is available. It's a high turnover market so it looks as if there's loads of work out there as there are always plenty of adverts, but when you speak to school owners about how many applicants they have for each position, things are less rosy. Then listen to the owners talking about how hard things are with student numbers- many schools are really struggling. For many thinking about it, it could be a way out of unemployment, but these are tough times and prospects are not good.
8) What's your favorite way to kill ten minutes in class?
Fortunately, I don't have to do this- I haven't been in a bricks and mortar classroom for quite a while.
9) What's your current standard of living like?
It's fine. I'd say it's comfortable- there's more money than month and we can do the things we want. Living in rented furnished accommodation and moving frequently may not suit many people, but we like it. It's one of the positive aspects of TEFL.
10) What are your plans for the future?
I'm a decade or so down the timeline from you, and things like savings and pensions are weighing down - my financial planning earlier in life was non-existent - so my plans are not that big or interesting. I will go and live in other countries first- maybe three or four more countries, which means I am now counting them off rather than up.