Oct 21

Who'd be an English teacher?

my opinion
Thoughts for CELTA trainees and a question for language teachers
I've been teaching English and training teachers to do that for over 30 years, but someone recently wrote a comment on one of my videos saying that they WOULDN'T recommend it as a job - here are my thoughts!
Video transcript

If you had a chance to live your life again, would you be an English teacher? A couple of weeks ago, I had this comment from someone on one of my YouTube videos:

I won't suggest anyone to be an English Teacher, especially a person who has not been born into an English-speaking state. This sounds harsh, but the reality is hard to digest.

And it got me thinking….

Now, I realise that I started in a privileged position as a ‘native speaker’ of English with a British passport and without these advantages my experience might have been quite different. I also know that there are many many issues in our industry and it’s no cake walk for a lot of teachers.

But I’ve really LOVED my work over the years so here are some of the reasons that I WOULD choose to be an English teacher if I had my time all over again.

The People
The first thing is definitely the people – especially the learners I’ve had. It’s what keeps me coming back year after year. I have to say that, for me, this means adult learners- I didn’t get on so well when I taught kids- but I’ve had such a wide variety of adult learners from very different backgrounds and who wanted such different outcomes. It’s been a constant interest and a constant delight.

I’ve had the opportunity to help people and even change their lives in a small way and I’ve had so much fun in the classroom. I can honestly say that Monday mornings have never been a chore.

And it’s not only the learners either. I’ve had some amazing colleagues who’ve often become close friends, who largely share my ideals and who I’ve learnt a lot from.

The Subject
As well as the people, the subject just interests me. I love language and the way it works. I love the systems of grammar, the rules and the exceptions… and I find it fascinating to see how people learn (or don’t learn) languages. Even after 30 odd years, I’m still learning new things.

I also like the fact that with a skills-based subject like language teaching, you’ve often got a lot of choice about the topics that you can use, about how you teach, the techniques you use. I love that creativity.

The places
What other job would have allowed me to live in a wide variety of countries-Taiwan, Switzerland, Czechia, Kenya and Australia as well as the UK and get to know them a lot better than if I’d just been a tourist in those places?

I’ve also been able to work in a variety of contexts- schools (private and public)/ colleges/ universities and freelance. All of this has meant variety and isn’t that the spice of life?

A career
Finally, I’ve been able to feel as if I was moving forward. I’ve been a language teacher, CELTA tutor, assessor, Joint Chief Assessor, coursebook writer, MA TESOL tutor, web designer and video maker. I’ve also done some qualifications that were well structured, interesting and useful (Delta, MA, PhD).

It’s true that English language teaching is not the best paid occupation, but I’ve always had a reasonable living out of it. I realise that I’ve had some luck (and I’m a person who tends to see the glass as at least half full!), but all in all I’m really happy that I fell into language teaching and given my time again I’d definitely make the same decision again.

How about you? Would you go into ELT again? And if you wouldn’t, what do you think would have suited you better? Let me know in the comments.