France, TAPIF
Comments 8

Those who can, teach

There’s a pervasive notion, especially among expat communities that I’ve noticed, and that has been getting under my skin more and more recently. The idea is treating teaching English as a side hustle, something you do to support your lifestyle abroad even if it’s not something you actually care about or even like. This is a concept I have heard repeated in TAPIF or Expat groups, by bloggers, even by some of my own friends, and it’s something that, especially recently, makes my blood boil !

I have seen countless assistants arrive in France with absolutely no desire to teach, coasting along through their placements with the bare minimum effort and spending the rest of their time planning their vacations to every corner of Europe. Now, I will admit this is okay for a language assistant. It’s a short commitment and it’s designed to be a mobility program : they expect you to take advantage of being in Europe! If you don’t take the job seriously…. tant pis. It’s not like you really have any real responsibility anyway.

Where it really gets me is when people say things like “Well, I really don’t see myself teaching in the long run,” “It’s just not for me,” even “Ugh, I honestly hate teaching,” all the while applying for teaching jobs in universities or language schools because “it’s the easiest job to get, the easiest way to a visa.”

I wish those people would realize how disparaging that is towards career teachers. Teachers are some of the most passionate people in the world. Especially those working in schools. They are constantly learning, they recognize the hard work and effort it takes to be effective, they put in extra hours to reach that one struggling child, they understand the enormous responsibility they have to their students to not phone it in.

My own mother has been a teacher for more than 25 years, is CONSTANTLY learning new methods and experimenting in her classroom to find the best ways to teach her students. Her work is her passion, and as a result, she is an incredible role model for her students and even her colleagues ! And despite all of her experience and passion, she STILL sometimes has doubts about whether what she is doing is adequate, about whether she’s really cut out for teaching.

I myself really love teaching, have accumulated a lot of experience over the years, but still have some anxiety over choosing to go into the field full-time because, well, I believe teaching is something you should be 100% committed to. To me, it’s not a side gig or something to pay the bills; it’s a huge responsibility. Would you really put TEACHING in the same category as walking dogs, babysitting, mowing lawns, driving for Uber, bagging groceries, ripping movie tickets ???

Look, I believe in letting everyone make their own choices. I’m not going to tell anyone to stop working in education, and certainly I won’t stop anyone from giving teaching a try to see if it’s something you enjoy and feel good at. And I don’t mean to insinuate either that all of the people who have said that teaching isn’t ultimately for them are only doing the bare minimum and then punching out. You can care about your work and also know that it’s not what you’re ultimately cut out for. But I think it’s a big old shame that teaching is such a disparaged profession that we have started to approach it as something people do when they can’t find another option, that they try for one or two years before moving on to something better, because “– what, like it’s hard?”

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Yes, Elle Woods, it is hard. Just ask a teacher ! ❂

8 Comments

  1. So much truth here, Anne!
    Love this. ” To me, it’s not a side gig or something to pay the bills; it’s a huge responsibility. Would you really put TEACHING in the same category as walking dogs, babysitting, mowing lawns, driving for Uber, bagging groceries, ripping movie tickets ???”

    It’s an ever-changing world and that means constant learning by all teachers! And of course, they don’t have the summer off either. They are still working to be better teachers! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Girl, preach. You are so right and I have similar frustrations. I spent 26K getting a 4-year degree in teaching, it’s sometimes frustrating when others treat it as a job anyone can do, just cause they went to school themselves… you are a great teacher – it’s obvious 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been hearing it soooo much recently as the majority of my friends are ending their second assistant years… it really is so frustrating !

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  3. wow, i was ready to be super defensive about this post (i am not a lectrice. and i actually did go to school and grad school for teaching) i was ready to say something like hey, let people do what they want to do. teaching abroad IS a great way to see the world. and i still agree with that statement, but i find what you wrote very interesting and did make me think twice.
    i agree that teaching is a serious profession and it can be disrespectful to teachers that have spent time and money in the profession to just say it’s a “means” to traveling and living abroad. however, i dont think i can agree ALL the way with what you’ve said. i think it depends on what you are teaching and your position.
    teaching english esp as a lang assistant or a lectrice does not require years of higher education and degrees and even skill (i know u must have ur masters to be a lectrice but a masters in anything, not necessarily education). to my understanding, a lot of lectrice positions hire you because u are a native, not because you have a background in teaching. so i think it’s okay to take the job as a lectrice knowing that teaching is not your passion and really you are using the job to travel. i honestly dont think it’s bad or disrespectful because the job is only 2 years and like i said, they are hiring you because u are native speaker.
    i wouldnt say the same thing for a math, science, or literature teacher or a long-term position. for those jobs, i believe should go to ACTUAL teachers that want to do this as a profession and not just a chance to get to travel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, it does depend on the milieu for sure. An assistant or a uni lecteur doesn’t necessarily have the same type of responsibility to their students as say, a high school English teacher preparing kids for the bac. And of course everyone should do what they feel is right. If teaching is your means for travelling then by all means go for it, as long as you feel that you are still giving your students your fully committed effort! My frustration more stems from people I know treating it as a job that just anyone can do… a back-up post for when they can’t quite figure anything else out, because, why not? I think that’s a real bummer, idk. :\

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  4. I can totally feel your frustration – the whole ‘those who can’t, teach’ mantra really devalues teaching as a profession, and the fact that ELT is often seen as an easy way to live abroad/travel/get a visa doesn’t help either. When I was out in France last year as a lectrice, my mum had to field a few ‘So when’s she going to get a *real* job then?’-type questions! Teaching hours might not look like much on paper, but the time spent planning, marking and reflecting on classes all adds up. I actually really enjoyed teaching, but striking the right work-life balance was a real struggle for me. Keep at it, Anne!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excited to see new thoughts from you– because I think you have good ones! I so agree. Teaching is hard. Teaching is important. Teaching is respectable. There’s a big difference between showing up to fulfill a contract and effecting change.

    Perhaps some of the misunderstanding stems from how relatively easy these jobs are to attain, creating the harmful impression that hey! you can walk dogs or you can teach!

    In regards to TAPIF, I think there’s confusion all around. My first year, thought I had worked for three years in an immersion school, lived in France, had a degree, the whole bit, I was waitlisted and then given my third choice. Meanwhile I had several friends accepted on the first round– friends who had never taught a day in their lives. Just one example. But it surprised me.

    Like you, I am considering pursuing teaching as a career and have been looking in the South of France for positions. Not because I think it’s easy, but because I think it’s important, a way to contribute something of meaning, a profession that appreciates my particular skills! If TAPIF taught me one thing (if narrowing it down was even possible), I gained a whole new respect for the profession of teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ack I do really need to get back on the horse with writing !

      You are not wrong- it’s all part of the same cycle: people devalue teaching, so few want to be a teacher, lack of teachers leads to easy to get teaching jobs…. rinse and repeat.

      TAPIF is definitely an exception.. while I do think the program would be vastly benefitted by being a more serious professional commitment, but I also don’t believe it’s designed as such.

      I’m really glad to hear you still love teaching and are looking to stay in the south of France 😍 I actually may possibly have a potential opportunity if you’re interested…. message me on Facebook or Instagram!!

      Like

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