Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Most Normal English Teacher

So, obviously, there are a lot of stories about really fucked-up English teachers, and most of the teachers I've known were a bit off in one way or the other.

There were a few guys I would (hesitantly) define as normal that I met in Saudi, but I didn't know these guys closely. I know the guys in my office were all a bit nutty in various ways. Married men "Dating" Filipina whores, secret potheads, borderline autistics, hermit types, guys who ate only one kind of food, etc.

But I often get reviews -- especially on Amazon UK -- from these allegedly completely-professional and normal teachers of TEFL. And there's a whole body of Oxford / Cambridge books that I guess are written by "normal" TEFL professionals. (I guess ...?)

But I've worked in like ten jobs in a half-dozen countries, and I've met so very very few people I'd call normal, in the way I'd call my dentist back in America normal, for example.

So I'm reaching out to my audience: who are the most normal teachers you know?  Are you perhaps one yourself? Best "normal" teacher story wins some free books or $10 or something.

Warning: A lot of these teachers who THINK they're normal are usually the weirdest ones of all.

So I'll make a list of disqualifying traits:


  1. no teachers with fake qualifications
  2. no alcohol or drug problems 
  3. no gap year or obviously very short-term teachers
  4. no taking of anti-depressants / tranquilizers, even if medically prescribed
  5. no dating students, even if students are of legal age, 
  6. no teachers who are primarily sex tourists / looking for foreign wife or husband
  7. no dating / marriage to a local / foreign man or woman if said man or woman is 15 or more years younger (or a former prostitute)
  8. no ranting (in class or otherwise) about politics, conspiracy theories, bizarre health beliefs
  9. reasonable personal hygiene / appearance
  10. no living alone in middle-age and never going out / living alone with cats (must have at least some level of normal human interaction / socialization)
  11. no working at places where they can get away with minimal-to-no actual teaching; no lecturing / reading to the class from the book / standing there while students write during the whole class
  12. no running from debts / alimony / failed marriages / failed businesses

I've even tried to contact these various "normal teacher" reviewers through Amazon and various other ways, but I've never had any kind of reply. 

So, you know, don't be scared! Let's open a dialogue! Let's build a bridge between our cultures!


John from Daejeon said...

So, if you do track down and find a normal English teacher, they will be communicating with an abnormal English teacher.

Personally, I thought a few of your truly off-the-rails stories might be along the lines of "write what you know."

englishteacherx said...

Oh hells yeah -- I have been a bit off the track of normalcy all my life. The TEFL lifestyle suits that -- as author Tim Willocks once said, in a line that forever stuck with me, about a character who lived in Mexico, "a place where people would think he was strange because he was a foreigner, not just because he was strange."

Anonymous said...

Sound of crickets going chirp ... chirp ... chirp ...

Ken said...

My sister.

She has a lot of qualifications. She is a UK licensed teacher. Has a ton of work experience (16 years) working in UK 6th form colleges and decided to go overseas for a bit. She actually comes back with significant money!

She went to work for a Japanese university for two years. Then a Hong Kong university. 100% record of grade 1 lessons in her UK work experience. Everywhere I go oh you're XXXX's brother. Home and away...

She is currently working as a project manager for the British council.

She has a super focus because she genuinely enjoys teaching and has no backup to fall onto.

Myself I'm the abnormal one. Although I have qualifications and experience. My heart is no longer in it and I've been looking to do other things as an ESL teacher salary in the UK pays only slightly more than welfare/JSA!

englishteacherx said...

How can I put this politely. Is she um, normal sized? Has normal human relationships? Or just teaches and then goes home and reads books about teaching and goes to bed early so she can get up and teach?

Ken said...

Pretty much, unless you count teenage years when everybody in this family was overweight (dad was a chef).

Instagram appears to be clean of compromising photos. The photos she does post are boringly of food and eating out with friends or hiking up hills and stuff.

Work does drug testing so there is no secret habit.

Relationships have been normal with sane people with boring careers.

The only abnormal thing about her is she is a terrible driver and writes off cars in empty car parks. Every car I've loaned to her comes back with large numbers of dents.

I fully expect her to snap one day and go all crazy though. As I was similar myself. I snapped at the age of 28 and thought this isn't living and went walk about.

Anonymous said...

Anyway X, fat is the new normal, check your statistics. You seem to have unusually high standards of "normal"

Anonymous said...

I tick, or have ticked, several of those boxes so I guess I'm not normal.

On the other hand I'm not sure the "normal" middle class life in western countries exists as an option for most people these days. We TEFLers are just ahead of the global curve. Soon everyone will live lives as crappy and insecure as ours.

englishteacherx said...

Yeah, you know, I've been getting that impression lately.

Ken said...

Just as a note I've noticed that too. Zero hour contracts are now normal. Contracts for one term are normal in state funded schools and colleges these days. Longest I've ever seen is 2 years.

There is no security of going fully qualified. Only that if the qualifications ratchet up you won't have to go back and study for them.

ejohnson9m@hotmail.com said...

I don't think you'll find a single person on the planet-teacher or otherwise-who passes all of these qualifications.

As I was reading through this, I thought I had it. I easily qualify for the first 6, but you got me on the 7th. My Asian wife is 19 years younger. Our April-September romance is apparently too bizarre and unusual.

#8 is pretty subjective-one man's ranting is another man's explaining-and everybody believes in something that seems crazy to someone else.

#9-my hygiene is great, #10 can't live alone, now that I'm married, but you may be surprised to learn that introversion is no longer considered a sign of witchcraft.

#11-I wish. I have to bust my ass to come up with content, the students still don't pay attention, and when they inevitably fail, I'm always blamed. Oh, I'm ranting, I guess. Damn.

#12 isn't reasonable-the collapsed economy has driven lots of people to desperation.

I think instead of "normal," you should say "not dysfunctional."

Anonymous said...

It's an increasingly dysfunctional world, though, it's true. But take my dentist back in America ...

Tom said...

This is an impossible mission given the requirements.

For instance, who teaches abroad, isn't a short timer, doesn't look for someone but still goes out?

The only people that would meet the requirements are married with real jobs in the real world.

It's a good thought experiment to remind us that no one who teaches EFL abroad past one year can really be qualified as normal.

Jug Jugette said...

Dang, I fail on every single one of those criteria. Must have been doing something right these past twenty-five years...

Anonymous said...

3. No gap year or obviously very short-term teachers.
I've met quite a few teachers who were normal although the majority initially intended to be short-term teachers and got sucked in to EFL teaching (enjoyed living abroad/ enjoyed traveling/ wives/ got someone pregnant).