Friday, May 01, 2015

What the Fuck is Going On Here?

All right, god knows, I'm not exactly the King of TEFL or anything, but I certainly thought I was employable. Not too old yet, fairly well-qualified -- BA in English plus DELTA - and a wide variety of experience in a wide variety of countries. Sure, a few gaps in my employment history, and some wanton job-changing, I guess, but doesn't everybody have those?

Maybe not!

It seems like there has been a VAST sea change since even just the beginning of 2013 when I was last looking for jobs. (I mean, I wrote about it myself. There's a GRAPES OF WRATH-style mass migration to the Middle East going on.)

I got turned down for the third and final job in Abu Dhabi -- it was a rather fishy-sounding affair through a contracting company -- so I applied for a couple more jobs -- one was a highly-paid military contracting job in Saudi, the other was at a college in Bahrain.

Both of these involved uploading ALL my stuff onto websites.Scanned copies of documents, references, all of it. And of course, "Master's Degree preferred."

From both I got no response at all. (Well, not yet anyway, and it's been ten days or so.)

Not a rejection ... just no response at all.

That seems to be the norm now, even for shitty chain-language school jobs, these application portals.Your information will be scanned not by humans but by algorhythms. Your diplomas and certificates and references will be checked BEFORE YOU EVEN GET A JOB.

The world of TEFL is now shitty AND competitive as well! And completely ON THE GRID!

Now let me reiterate: my certificates are all real (now). I have good references from my last couple of jobs.

I'm sure I'd turn something up. I did get offered a job in Saudi in Riyadh, in a sort of bait-and-switch deal. "Oh, our positions in UAE are filled now, but we do have some in Riyadh." And I could go back to my former employers (or so they told me when I left.)

But it got me wondering: what about all the poor fuckers I know who don't have any references, any real qualifications, who just amble along doing private lessons and working on tourist visas? What's going to become of those poor fuckers in this new era of TEFL? Never mind the police background checks and verification of documents even in places like China and Thailand.

Jesus wept. What's going on here? Who's the commanding officer here?

Well, fuck it. No more job applications, it's too distracting. I make the equivalent of a shitty chain-language school franchise salary from my books and stock dividends, so it's time to hunker down somewhere for a while. Probably have to go back to Russia for a while and live with the Girlfriend, and get that straightened up one way or another. Work on some books -- got one porno novel to finish and then I'll get to hard work on my next memoir, about my early life -- and get that stupid master's degree done. Hell, maybe I'll get TWO master's degrees. I got the loot, anyway. Fortunately.

Although, shit, I might have to change the name of the blog, if I can't teach English any more ...

ANYWAY! Enough about that.In five days, ruminations on Bangkok then and Bangkok now.

(EDIT: It's official, as of 2013, Saudi and UAE are now requiring a letter from your university verifying that you did NOT do your education online. This article is specifically about health-care workers, but it would apply all around. And here's another article from a visa service about that.


Ken said...

ETX It's just the way things are in the world. There are countless posts about this being the case in the US and Europe of non-response. It's like talking into a black hole sometimes.

I'm comparable to you (I have less work experience as I started in 2007 no DELTA but have a UK teaching license and an MEd) lots of companies don't respond to me. I think this might be the rise of pig nation attitudes where simple courtesies don't matter any more. A random email out of nowhere? There is even less human connection.

Hell even UK universities and 6th form colleges don't respond back to me. Heck my current UK based job I applied for it in February... February 2014. They only saw fit to get in contact with me in March. A University in a developed Asian nation took 19 months to get back to me.

It is no reflection on yourself, merely that while you may well be a strong candidate there may well be a stronger candidate or some other thing like your face fitting or maybe they want somebody younger or a myriad of other things.

But it got me wondering: what about all the poor fuckers I know who don't have any references, any real qualifications, who just amble along doing private lessons and working on tourist visas? What's going to become of those poor fuckers in this new era of TEFL? Never mind the police background checks and verification of documents even in places like China and Thailand.

They are going to be in a world of hurt. Or they move onto the next Wild wild east country. There aren't many left though. There is talk of Myanmar and Cambodia on some shadier EFL forums. Unfortunately for these individuals my sister (the non crazy ESLer mentioned last year) is working for the Myanmar government to bring in proper due diligence checks of new prospective teachers soon to be introduced.

Anonymous said...

That's rough.

Based on what my friends say it's not that bad in Latin America or SEA. Of course you don't need to walk there so you wouldn't bother, but in those countries a fake degree/tefl can still get you a decent enough job to live on with a tourist visa.

I'm thinking Africa could be booming in the future, have you looked into it? I'm sure countries like Nigeria or Ghana already have a lot of highly paid ESL teachers for their rich locals. I actually recently heard a lot of money was being made in Somolialand, of course you'd probably die before you spend it.

I also have a friend in Kurdistan who enjoys it. Less money than the Middle East but more than East Asia. Lots more fun than the ME too.

englishteacherx said...

My impression of South America was that there were a lot more people teaching English on tourist visas than there were actually teaching on working visas. As it used to be everywhere!

Ken said...

I'm thinking Africa could be booming in the future, have you looked into it? I'm sure countries like Nigeria or Ghana already have a lot of highly paid ESL teachers for their rich locals. I actually recently heard a lot of money was being made in Somolialand, of course you'd probably die before you spend it.

A lot of African nations already speak English to a fairly decent standard. They do however have weak schwa and dipthong sounds though.

My personal guess is that it's going to be India/Pakistan but not typical ESOL work. Things like accent reduction and teaching them to speak like the Queen of England.

That kind of thing.

englishteacherx said...

I've know people who worked at call centers in India doing accent reduction. Salary was in the $2000 range, but pretty dry work. The dichotomy about places like africa is that if somebody has a lot of money to spend on English, they probably would just go ahead and study in England. The ME is a so lucrative pretty much only because the government spends a lot of money trying to educate or at least pacify the populace.

Some Guy in Spain said...

These posts are fucking terrifying for as I finish up my Masters. Fortunately, I have one job interview coming up for Saudi and another that more-or-less wants me after my MA but I get nightmares about being rejected because it's not an Anglophone country's...

Game over man, game over!

Anonymous said...


Your qualifications are solid. You also know your stuff (evidenced from your guidebooks), have zen-like patience (dealing with ME nonsense and Russian chain management alike), and seem to enjoy helping the occasional student who actually wants to learn.

Re the employment gap: yeah, this hurts. I've hired a bunch of folks in the past, and unfair though it is, a red flag is raised... the person (or algorithm) reviewing resumes doesn't know or have time to investigate your perfectly reasonable explanations - if he/she is comparing you and another candidate withOUT the gap, who gets hired?

Recommendation: GET RID OF THE GAP. This can be done w/ a plausible level of honesty via strategic, creative thinking. Did you continue doing any ESL consulting or tutoring (eg, girlfriend) while on the break? Do ANY (1 minute+) work for a credible, education-related organization? If so, find someone from the aforementioned entities willing to serve as a credible reference if necessary (manager at girlfriend's company, Crazy Bob, etc.), and just put it on your resume as a job for that time period. Maybe you only billed 1 minute consulting with SCHOOL/COMPANY-X, but you were available the entire time, and working on all those teaching books is arguably related to it... I only know one situation where this will not work - if the company seeks to verify past income via your tax returns (US government jobs, some very high-level positions). Otherwise, they have ZERO way to find out the extent of your "employment". For even one minute of work, a smart English major like you can come up with pages of detailed skills/experiences gleaned, right? It's not lying, it's puffery (which is legal). The auto-resume-analysis firms will just check the website, email, and phone of your company and reference. The box is checked, and a red flag disappears.

Aside from just making an EZ comparison between candidate A and B (with the employment gap a negative), remember WHY they are afraid of the gap... all those crazy guys and gals out there who miss a few months of gainful work due to a drug / drinking binge, "fun" tour of SE Asia, mental breakdown, or just watching Netflix for 6 months while pulling unemployment... although like you I have a soft spot for scoundrels, too. Everybody has a story worth telling.

A masters degree would help - with some additional benefit from a "name brand" uni, and/or brick and mortar v. virtual.

For someone with a brain (you fit in this category) and an English BA, a US elementary, middle school, and high school preliminary (5 year) teaching license in English can be legally obtained within 3 months for a few hundred bucks by passing a few online tests at a Pearson center (no student teaching required). EZ Peasey. But this will only help you with international school jobs, and the top schools won't hire you without US K-12 experience. However, 2nd and 3rd tier international schools are booming in most of Asia (excepting Japan) so with a teaching license I bet you could get a spot in time for August. They need LICENSED ESL teachers, too.

But why? I'd suggest lining up some EZ time-limited education gig in Thailand (to pad that resume!).. doesn't matter if it's 3 hours per month. Meanwhile, continue with all your revenue stream creativity (books, videos, etc.). Ever consider turning your teaching activities into an app?

If your goal is to bring Gfriend from Russia to the US, then yeah, you might as well slave away in the Middle East until you hit 2 million. But remember the one old guy in your requiem book - you will always think you need 20% more than the current amount... after you hit that, the goal goes up another 20%. Your future mistresses will need support too, along with those little Xs running around.

Anonymous said...


There are plenty of retired dudes in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, & on the coastal towns from Bangkok to Phuket, living off $1k or less per month in social security, with just the bare minimum (20k now?) in a Thai bank for retiree visa status. Most of the ones I met seemed pretty content, although I would say that $2k to $4k per month seems to be the sweet spot (honestly more is just stress and makes you a target). The risk is always marriage - someone taking their money. Love hurts, love steals, and love can even kill. And it definitely bankrupts. :)

I'd figure a 95% chance you'll get a decent ME spot in August (last-minute replacement hiring for no-shows), if not before. Personally I'd prefer to save a bit less while living (and loving) life in Thailand. Yeah, many folks would just slog around and do nothing for a year, but you're not most folks, you are ET f#cking X! If your goal is cash, I'd suggest immediately contacting your old Saudi employer and ask to come back (although I know the job sucked in many respects - but that's why it pays well).

I conjecture another reason for the hiring difficulties is that US PhDs have figured out that they don't have to wait tables, serve coffee, or live off food stamps while adjunct teaching for $1.5k per class... they can go to China, or Saudi Arabia, and earn 3 times more as a "professor"! There are tens of thousands of these folks now - doctoral grads in the liberal arts or other soft fields with weak US hiring prospects. And all those 6-figure LOAN (not salary, ha) law school graduates too.

Sorry for the rambling nature of this post, but I wanted to add my voice. Please keep posting on this site - I hate FB and Twitter, ha.

englishteacherx said...

Yeah, the only thing that keeps me from doing that Spain Master's is fear of getting it attested in the ME. Let me know how that works out for you!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Did you see the article on recently about the future of teaching?

Eerily it reminds me of the Simpsons.

Somebody wrote on /r/teflteachers/ about how such 'schools' already exist in places like Hong Kong. I have a feeling that cheaper online language teaching will explode in the next few years pushing down teaching pay even more.

englishteacherx said...

It's interesting, my former chain language school employers in Russia had tried to set up online lessons numerous times, but they never had much luck because, they said, people sit in front of their computers at work all day, so they want English class to be something kind of social. But the new generation that lives with its face glued to phones and tablets all day, they might well like it more.

Anonymous said...

If you or Bob weren't Americans you could always go to N Korea. I keep seeing positions that pay fairly decent salaries in Pyongyang.