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AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!Are we all just "professional backpack

 
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elainenatal



Joined: 29 Mar 2003
Posts: 34
Location: South Africa

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 2:34 am    Post subject: AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!Are we all just "professional backpack Reply with quote

I know that this topic has been touched on many times but I must admit that I really haven't given it much thought .....until now! In fact, I've got a headache just thinking about it!(maybe, I should take Woody Allen's advice and take a valium tablet the size of a soccer ball and have a nice lie down).
But I started thinking after reading Sublimehusker's post and after seeing an old movie, "To Sir, with love" on TV.
After graduating from Uni with both teaching qualifications and a Masters Degree, I wanted to go into teaching more than anything else. I had "stars in my eyes" and couldn't wait to go out and "enlighten the uneducated masses"!
I really did see teaching as a professional career and I must admit I've only had one overseas teaching job so I'm not worldly experienced.
In the movie, the main character went into teaching with an Engineering Degree. Sublimehusker has a Business Degree.
Is teaching really just something to fall into while travelling the world? If so, then are we all just "professional backpackers"!
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bnix



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 645

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 3:18 am    Post subject: No,We Aren't All "Professional Backpackers"... Reply with quote

You sound very disenchanted.If you are really interested in teaching,you might very well want to consider the option of teaching in your home country.True,there would be problems there,too,undoubtedly,but teaching in your home country is usually a lot more stable than teaching overseas.

There are a lot of people in this business,who either see teaching overseas as an"easy out"(it usually is not an"easy out" at all,as many soon discover to their eternal dismay!)...or they see it as their "only option" because they cannot(or at least they think they cannot) get a job in their home country.I know of people who have degrees in engineering,law, business(almost everything except medicine) who are teaching overseas.A lot of this is probably a reflection of the poor economies in many countries of the world right now.In addition,universities keep pumping out graduates willy-nilly every year,even though there is no way that the job markets can absorb the great amount of people graduating every year.

There is also a core of dedicated,professional teachers....but before long,some of them see the light and see all of the problems of working in such an unstable field,and some get out.Of course,some don't.

In addition to the groups who have already been mentioned, there are people who are running from the law,from a "bad relationship" from themselves...for a multitude of reasons.Because basically it is an unregulated field,almost ANYBODY can get a job SOMEWHERE in the world "teaching" TESOL.The job they get "teaching"TESOL may not be(and often is NOT) a very giood job,but they can delude themselves into thinking they are doing something esoteric and romantic....and well,hell,it probably IS more exciting than flipping burgers in Podunk.

Unfortunately,I do not see these problems being resolved in the near future.I would suggest,however,that you consider one or two(at least) other non-TESOL options for the future. Smile
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Roger



Joined: 19 Jan 2003
Posts: 9138

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 5:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If a doctor in medicine wants to teach English to toddlers, why not? There might be a genuine paedagogically-gifted man or woman.
But for people with no background at all to want to be teachers is another matter!
I would not mind if they had proficiency in one or several other tongues, but just being native English speakers is not enough!
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Kent F. Kruhoeffer



Joined: 22 Jan 2003
Posts: 2118
Location: 中国

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 5:59 am    Post subject: true confessions Reply with quote

Hi Elaine Cool

The world of EFL is never quite as black and white as we sometimes wish it would be. bnix made some excellent comments in that regard. There is a core of dedicated and serious EFL teachers out there, and I like to think that I belong to that 'core' now. There are also many people who "use" EFL for other purposes; to travel, to find "the good women" Wink , to escape from various problems at home, etc...

A True Confession:

I hate to admit it, Elaine, but I started out in this field rather by accident. I had spent 4 years living and working in Germany (where my father's roots are) and had saved up enough money to do some travelling around Europe. So, with wanderlust swirling in my heart and a thick wad of Deutsch Marks tucked into my jacket pocket ... I quit my job in Munich and hopped on a plane to Istanbul. While on holiday there, I ran into a real estate agent whose English was excellent. We became good friends, and he helped me to get set up there with a decent apartment.

Then ... one day, out of the blue, he said to me, "Kent, why don't you teach English here in Istanbul? You could earn some money and enjoy your time here even more!"

I replied, "But I'm not really a teacher. Hell, I only have a BA in Political Science!"

"No problem", he said. "With a BA and your status as a native speaker from the USA, you'll have no problems finding a good job."

Well, the rest is history. I did find that good job. At first, it was just a thrill; something different ... insofar as I hadn't really commited myself to teaching English as a career. Not by a long shot. As the months turned into years, however, I found myself becoming more and more devoted, even 'addicted' to the field of teaching English. From Istanbul to Romania to Japan to the Philippines to Korea to Russia, where I live today ... teaching English has become my passion.

I love what I do, and I do take it seriously. EFL has opened doors to people ... and to places I never dreamed I would see, and I am still very thankful, even today, that I ran into that Turkish real estate agent in Istanbul over a decade ago. Cool It changed my life.

The moral of the story? Try to be patient and tolerant of our EFL brothers and sisters out there; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are not all automatically 'good' or 'professional' teachers simply by virtue of our degrees. Becoming a good teacher is a process. For some, that process begins at university with a formal teaching background; for others, like me, it happens just by accident.

Warm regards,
kEnt


Last edited by Kent F. Kruhoeffer on Fri Apr 04, 2003 7:38 am; edited 1 time in total
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MartinK



Joined: 01 Mar 2003
Posts: 344

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

...

Last edited by MartinK on Mon Nov 17, 2003 9:41 am; edited 2 times in total
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cafebleu



Joined: 10 Feb 2003
Posts: 404

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 8:55 am    Post subject: Backpackers?!! Reply with quote

Hi Elaine, I understand what you are saying but as somebody who has lived for a while in Japan (though not as long as the likes of Glenski), I am a little puzzled by the `backpacker` image of ESL teachers.

I can only speak for the Japan experience, but I have not encountered foreign teachers here who have obtained jobs with no or few qualifications. In Japan the job market is competitive - and when you go to smaller places it is even more so. Of course chain schools such as Nova are supposed to be less than fussy about the teachers they employ, but I honestly have not heard of people being able to get jobs in Japan easily.

On gaijinpot.com I have read posters telling questioners such as backpackers that yes, they can come to Japan and get a job with no problems regarding cv, referees etc. That is nonsense - the Japanese are most likely to check your references as they like to know as much about you as they can, and they like to connect you with organisations and groups. The `lone wolf` is not considered a role model here in any way.

I think the days of backpacking around, picking up an ESL job here and there are gone in Japan. I cannot speak about China, Korea, Thailand, etc but I do know I have heard stories about those countries that make me want to avoid them like the plague. Japan has its problems but I would argue overall it is the most professional non-western country in which to teach ESL.
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cafebleu



Joined: 10 Feb 2003
Posts: 404

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 8:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OOps, I re-read your post - Professional Backpackers is what you said. I`m sorry Elaine. However, I think I made some valid points. On the question of being a professional backpacker - no, I do not see myself as one.

I see myself as a person who discovered that they enjoyed not being settled at a certain age. Teaching ESL has its price for people such as myself - some of us lose contact with our friends, acquaintances and communities back home because we cannot go home at times when we are likely to be able to re-establish contact with our friends, acquaintances, and communities.

However, I have chosen this life and I like it. I don`t know when I will return home but I hope I have more journeys ahead of me. The price I have paid in terms of loss of contact with those in my home country, a certain isolation, etc, are balanced by the enjoyment of continually learning about Japan.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I started thinking after reading Sublimehusker's post and after seeing an old movie, "To Sir, with love" on TV....In the movie, the main character went into teaching with an Engineering Degree. Sublimehusker has a Business Degree.

Is teaching really just something to fall into while travelling the world? If so, then are we all just "professional backpackers"!


I wouldn't put much stock in comparing one's profession with that in a movie. Remember that word. Movie. (ie, fiction). Let alone a movie that was made in 1967.

Of course, if one wants to perpetuate the myth about such kind of living... one will forever be stuck in the rut that makes one think such life is not only commonplace today, but lucrative.

Quote:
I must admit I've only had one overseas teaching job so I'm not worldly experienced.


Relax, elaine. Settle back with a little more experience, and rent more movies for entertainment, not as a source of career info. (P.S. I like that movie a lot.)
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Ben Round de Bloc



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 1946

PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2003 1:45 pm    Post subject: Not a backpacker Reply with quote

Quote:
Is teaching really just something to fall into while travelling the world? If so, then are we all just "professional backpackers"!
- elainenatal


I agree that the field seems to have an overload of professional backpackers. However, there are some of us who didn't fall into it while traveling the world. A few of us actually planned ahead with the purpose of ending up where we are.

In my particular case, I wasn't overcome with wanderlust. After years of teaching in my home country, I wanted to relocate to another country and continue teaching in a more relaxed, less stressful teaching environment. I prepared myself as well as I knew how, made the move, and am glad that I did.

I've never had a desire to hop from country to country. Living out of a backpack isn't something I would find appealing.

Best wishes!
Smile
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elainenatal



Joined: 29 Mar 2003
Posts: 34
Location: South Africa

PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2003 2:06 am    Post subject: Thanks Reply with quote

Thanks everyone for your replies - it has put it into the right perspective for me. As mentioned, I've only had one overseas experience which turned out not to be a very pleasant time in my life. But, special thanks to you Kent because I'm now prepared to give it another shot. Maybe, I'll try Turkey!
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reality



Joined: 13 Mar 2003
Posts: 105

PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2003 2:15 am    Post subject: Working and Travelling is Fun Reply with quote

I have spent most of my working life, travelling and working. Its probably one of few passions, to work in another undiscovered Country. One reason I attended a TEFL Course after completing a non-Teaching Degree.

Working as a Teacher opens new doors, and is one of the few Jobs that allows you to travel and work. The hours are good, and you meet interesting people.

This is one of the main reasons people choose to teach English, away from their home Country. Others discover life is much better, than at
home, and home suddenly becomes more a distant foreign Country.

I am not a backpacker.
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bnix



Joined: 16 Jan 2003
Posts: 645

PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2003 2:56 am    Post subject: Reality.I Wish You Were Completely Accurate... Reply with quote

A very nice ,upbeat post Reality.Unfortunately(and I am not just being cynical),it is just not as simple and rosy as you paint it. Maybe you have been extremely lucky and had only positive experiences. It is much more complicated than your post indicates,in my opinion.Your post,althoguh very nice to read and positive,does not give the whole picture.Anyway,thanks for your positive words. Smile
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Paulyboy



Joined: 23 Feb 2003
Posts: 7
Location: Czech Republic

PostPosted: Sun Apr 20, 2003 10:15 am    Post subject: Professional backpackers? Reply with quote

I'm glad you've learned something from this discussion, Elaine, and I have found the postings here very interesting too. I strongly agree with Kent on his statements: there is no black and white. The business of EFL/ESL is very fluid and teachers come and go all the time. Such is the demand for English around the world that it is a very easy profession to get into and hence the reputation for "unprofessionalism" and "backpackers".
I try not to be too critical because the backpackers do fill a gap - otherwise the industry requirements would be higher and it would be more difficult to get a job. I myself started as a "professional backpacker" and envisioned staying in the business for no more than two or three years. 10 years and an MA in ELT later hey presto, it's now my career and one that I love - lucky me Very Happy.
So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that for better or worse we need the professional backpackers, and some of them go on to become leaders in our field. Just look at the likes of Scott Thornbury (NZ native, now in Spain) or Jim Scrivenor (UK? native now, in Hungary), are they professional backpackers?
I think that anyone who has trained as a teacher from the word go can look at it as a serious profession - just don't go looking for job fulfillment at the Dodgy School of English. There are plenty of university or international school posts out there for the right person. There are many layers to our profession and we shouldn't lose sight of that.
There are unqualified and unmotivated teachers who might dent the credibility of our profession, but in my previous jobs as an office worker there were also some complete tossers parading as managers, who did nothing to enhance their profession - it's a phenomenon of every profession; we're only human beings Confused

I've only just started to find the time to write to these discussion sites - they're fun, aren't they Razz
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