Looking for a job ain’t easy. It can be frightening and stressful. So much you have to attend to and on top of it all, you have to stand out from the crowd. Furthermore, us TEFLers seem to change jobs much more than regular subject teachers. We are the gauchos of the educational world.
Last Teacher Talk webinar, we got to talking about “feel good” portfoliios. Collections of student work or things you’ve done in the classroom that can make you feel good about your career and also reflect positively on your career path. A great thing!
I added that these portfolios might be something we use at a job interview and I added that we might begin making our portfolio by asking for student or parent letters of recommendation. I know it isn’t usually done but I’ve found throughout the years, if you pull out one of these at a job interview, people sit up, read and listen. Nothing better than a letter of reference from a student or a parent – they are major stakeholders and adminstrators know that.
By way of example and to urge other teachers to get letters of reference from the parents of the children they teach (be it for a job interview or just a feel good portfolio), here is a letter of reference from parents of a student I taught years ago – Priyanka. I’ve written before about this special class of Grade 4 ESL students, so I won’t drone on. Here’s a picture of some of the girls from our portable (they are all grown up now!).
Rose Avenue Grade 4
I do hope I had the influence on Priyanka that her parents suggest. I do know, she would have made it, me as her teacher or not. I can imagine her only as a success – in the biggest,most complete sense of the word.
Here’s the letter her parents left on my desk in a plain envelope one winter morning.
This morning during my usual coffee and book – came across the above quote. It really got me thinking about the reasons many EFL teachers (or others), pack their bags and leave home behind.
It is relatively easier to “take off” these days. Not so much isolation, faster travel, the world is getting smaller. Still, it is a big decision to leave the comfort of your own culture, community, your family and friends. Not to mention time lost working your way up the “job ladder”.
I have packed up a number of times, each for different reasons. The first time, fresh out of teacher’s college, the main reason was to get into a classroom, any classroom. The teaching job market was tough in Canada, so I headed first out to British Columbia. Same situation there, so it was off to the heady and velvety times of the Czech Republic.
The second time, I went overseas “to meet honorable men”. I loved Europe, especially the people I’d befriended. I wanted to meet others and grow as a person, thinker.
The last time I went overseas was to Korea. To be honest, there were many reasons. I was an established teacher but tired, very tired. So I have to say I went to “leave my troubles”. It worked out and the change and challenge renewed me.
I’d love to know the reasons others have “left home”? Are they one of the 5 above or are there other reasons/considerations?
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
– Henry Miller
I wanted to name this post – “We need bad teachers” but thought that would get me off on a tangent. So I decided to voice it about those who might think they have “the authority” to decide who is or isn’t a bad teacher.
It’s cold here in Canada. I’m snowed in. Seems like the world is going to end. The good thing is that I live right next to an amazing library. Also, have begun collecting all my own thousands of books in various homes and storage lockers. Further, got all kinds of channels and “English” content.
I mention this by way of introducing the fact that I’ve been bombarded by media here in Canada and the U.S. declaring the need to “get rid of bad teachers” and “passing blame” on teaching for all kinds of societal failures. So I got to asking myself – “Who has the right to say another teacher is bad?” — besides gross negligence, what is a “bad” teacher?
I was watching Oprah and this angelic lady comes on representing some budding organization called, “Students First”. Oh yeah, just what we need – the tea party for education. Now, I knew nothing about this group but could smell a rat a mile away as she kept saying that study after study said that if America only eliminated their worst 5% of teachers, they’d become 30% more “achieving” and enter into the world elites in education. Malarky! (read her wish for “excellent teaching” - which I’m not against only that it will turn into a witch hunt). I was tearing my hair out and almost threw my new big screen out the bloody window! Oh, yeah, this group shouldn’t be called “Student’s first” but rather, “Teaching last”.
All these bureaucrats and those without an iota of actually getting in the mud – calling for the heads of “bad teachers”!
The next day, I finally got to see the documentary, ” Since when do we divorce the right answer from an honest answer? – the story of Professor Norman Cornett. (borrowed from the library, the headquarters of civilization and that’s why I mentioned it). Please view the trailer and see it when possible. If any case addresses the need to have “bad” teachers, this is it.
You see, Dr. Cornett was fired without explanation from McGill University in Montreal. And he was a born teacher, a loved teacher, a guy who put “student’s first” by being there every day and caring. Knowing student’s names and lives and doing what is best for them. Fired, most likely because he was a teacher that didn’t stick to a “fixed” curriculum but saw students as human beings and not empty vessels. Most likely because he taught students, not curriculum. Most likely because he tried to awaken students, not put money in their academic piggy bank.
What about all the teachers out there who “awaken”, who are different and who care in a different way? If I know anything, once we start deciding what a good teacher is (without asking parents/students) we will start eliminating the Professor Cornett’s from our kindergartens and our middle schools. We’ll have a regular, puritanical witch hunt. You know how it goes, to quote Pastor Niemoller’s words, “First they came for the Socialists but ….” Now, I’m speaking. (and please see this post and comments about Prof. Cornett. – speaks volumes about how he continues to teach without a job/income!)
And presently there is the “Edublog Awards”. Now, who is to say who is a best blogger? Just throwing that out there but I only want 3 readers. I can drum up 2 any day. The third I’m always looking for…. I don’t need another system (Edublogs, PLNs) saying who is better than who. I really don’t. Let’s get off this boat before we sink and start thinking water is air.
Education and teaching should not be based on outcomes. It should be based on engagement. These are two, two so very different things. Thank god for the Professor Cornett’s of the world. Wish I’d of had more in my own development (all I remember in this vein is Dr. Rosa – a Texan cowboy anthropologist who taught me a course in “The Science fiction of anthropology”).
Teacher’s are not “made” overnight. They bake slowly. They are not all similar and two “great” teachers might appear made of completely different cloth and batter.
So what am I saying in a nutshell?
I’m saying, based upon my own years of having to go into classrooms and evaluate teachers (there are probably some of them reading this) – it is all nonsense. Who knows who is a better teacher? Beyond negligence, we need those committed to teaching and committed to their students. The rest is chaff and blow and hot air.
Education does not need “a system”. WE DON’T NEED TO JUDGE TEACHERS. WE NEED TO SUPPORT THEM IN THEIR CREATIVE ENDEAVOR TO BETTER THE WORLD.
My previous blog post “Fire All English Teachers” was a satire on my part and not what I fundamentally believe. I tried to put a lot of “references” to tongue in cheek stuff but I guess I was just too subtle with the “Swift” and the “Common Sense” references.
So let me come clean and be brief.
I DO want the world to hire more teachers! MORE and MORE and MORE! But not because students will learn language better or quicker but because there is so much else that a teacher brings into the lives of students, communities, cities, countries, THIS WORLD. There is no greater calling and nothing greater you can do with your life. If you are the kind of teacher that gets paid for what you do – so much the better!
Jobs are important, they are the door to $$$$ and it is important even if you have a secure job, to keep intouch with what is happening in the ELT (English Language Teaching) job market. I’ve been a student of this biz for awhile and will be coming out with a new site that is a major innovation in this field. Stay tuned.
But now I have developed something even better, a neat twitter site http://twitter.com/eltjobs All the jobs in the ELT world (or at least 99% of them) are in this feed and it would be a great service / item on your blog. I spent hours and lots of expertise to put this together to feed the twit machine.
Help promote this tool! It will also drive traffic to your own site/blog.
Simply copy the code to get the button to place on your site.
As many here know, I’m a teacher in Korea. I constantly get asked questions about teaching here — about visas, cost of living, requirements, job conditions etc…. Always happy to reply to the best of my ability.
John at JetsetCitizen just published an interview with me covering much of this. If you are wondering about teaching in Korea or anywhere around the world, it might help you. Also a nice link to a recent podcast by Ben Glickman from Footprints talking about the job market for ELT (English Language Teaching).
I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies in the interview! Please comment and let me know what I didn’t say or didn’t say so clearly / correctly!