Age and ELTing

courtesy SteenDoessing

courtesy SteenDoessing

Let me start by asking this – do you love your teaching job?

Let me now ask, can you imagine teaching until you die?

I can. I really can. I don’t know what the future holds but right here, right now, I can imagine being old and teaching, loving teaching.

Now let me ask – do you think you’d be allowed to? Teach that is – when you’re say 68 years young or 72/73? Probably not and I think that unfortunate. And it happens to a helluvalot of teachers, day in and year out.

This post is to bring this issue into the light of day. Please tell me what you think by commenting….

I am raising this issue because this year, I’ve got contacted quite a few times by teachers who love teaching, with a lot of experience but who can’t get a job doing what they love. Why? They are “too old”.

And I’m at a loss as to what I can advise.

I tell them that they can find a job, if they truly love teaching. Just hang in there, I say. Some school will want them. Too often then not, that isn’t true. Too often then not, they have to go further afield, further out on the fringes of the ELT world. And I think that is wrong.

Now I know governments have to operate by rules. I know private schools prefer blonde and bouncy. Now I know that teaching is a demanding job. I know all this – what I don’t know is why someone in good health, with a vast amount of experience, can’t find a job teaching? Why the bias, why don’t we stop this and raise our voices in our staff rooms, lunch rooms and board rooms?

And it is even just as bad getting elderly people into our classrooms when they are NOT even teachers! As a public school teacher, I advocated bringing the elderly in our community, into our school’s classrooms. I got nowhere! It was an insurance issue. Parents would complain, yadda yadda yadda…. Our class had to be satisfied trekking to the old age home once a week. God forbid they’d show up in our classroom – though many could have worked me under the table!

What I’m asking is — why the societal and institutional bias against the elderly teaching our children, either formally for pay or informally, for the love of it?

What are your thoughts and experiences?

To those teachers I’ve emailed about this – keep looking. It’s worth it.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi David,

    Another question I usually ask is why is it that there is such prejudice against old teachers when society doesn’t seem to want any real change? I mean, this could be something I would even be trying to understand if people were willing to let teachers experiment with new things in the classroom. At least they could argue that they needed young people because the elderly wouldn’t want to learn new things and be stuck in the past.

    However, we all know this is not the case at all. Regardless of age, there are people who are committed teachers and those who are simply there because it was an easy way out, and they couldn’t care less about what they do. It’s just mindless repetition of what had been done to them as students.

    I agree with you that we should discuss it more openly in our teachers’ room. As long as teachers understand that they are to be constantly learning, and willing to do so, age is irrelevant.



  2. ddeubel says:

    Good point! I know that argument usually comes up but it is a red herring. Even with technology, believe it or not! I know more than my share of older teachers who are great with technology. Same with “change”. I think older teachers are much more apt to try new things and adapt. They benefit students greatly and we owe it to students to have many ages of teachers in front of and amid students…

    I also think that we would all benefit professionally by working with older teachers. Not just for their teaching skills/experience but for their perception, attitude, wisdom and “being”.

    My first few years teaching were in a private language school in the Czech Rep. My colleagues were elderly teachers – George and Daisy Stocker (I think George even has a website hanging about). They were retired dentists who went to E. Europe to help start a school when the wall came down. They helped me immensely – not only with teaching skills but with their approach and stability.

    I think we have to air this laundry and raise the issue more. Life doesn’t stop at 65 so nor should teaching…

    Slow but sure…

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