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