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Teaching English as a career
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ExpatLuke



Joined: 11 Feb 2012
Posts: 744

PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:16 pm    Post subject: Teaching English as a career Reply with quote

In the time I've been teaching English as a foreign language, I believe I've met the whole spectrum of individuals who decide to teach in a foreign country. I've met the recent college grads who want to see more of the world before settling down, and use ESL as a means to fund their travels. The 25-35 year olds who never really figured out what to do after college and are just kind of floating through life, and haven't reached that "wtf am I doing?" realization yet. The washed up mid-lifers who grew tired of their 9-5s in their home countries or are running from a divorce, who want to spend out their remaining days chasing desperate women and drinking cheap beer. And the retirees whose pension isn't quite enough to cover the lifestyle they want, even in a 3rd world country. But let's forget about all those types and focus on those who for whatever reason chose to teach English as a career path.

There are multiple routes people can go with this, and I'm curious about others' experiences, and what you personally feel is the best way to go about it.

I've met many people who start out with the intention of just teaching for a few years before realizing they love it and want to continue doing it. These people usually stick with teaching in the classrooms, but as they gain more experience are able to climb the ladder to find better schools to work at, accumulate better rewards and perks for re-signing contracts, or move to countries which offer more lucrative pay. They'll often eventually get to the position of a Lead Teacher, but won't go passed this level, and they are are happy with that because teaching is what they love.

I've also met those who take the more managerial route. Usually these people hold some sort of relevant degree, such as Education, TESOL, or applied linguistics. They teach for some years, and then use their experience and their credentials to take a DOS or Academic Manager position. Once they do this, their teaching days are usually over, aside from giving the occasional presentation or something. This can be a fairly lucrative career move depending on where you live, and how successful your school is.

I've also talked with teachers in places like the UAE who are still teaching full-time, but have moved from classrooms of children or adults and language mills to university positions, where the focus is more on lecturing, teaching language learning theory, or teacher training. These people usually hold very high credentials and are working on their first or second PHds. Their jobs are stable, and pay fairly well.

The last option I've seen is after teaching for some years, some teachers move on to opening their own schools. This can be an extremely profitable career move, or you could end up losing everything.

My question, like I said before, is which path are you on, and are you happy with it? Would you go back and do things differently if you could?
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Jmbf



Joined: 29 Jun 2014
Posts: 663

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quite an interesting post, although my own path doesn't easily fit into one of your defined 'categories'. I suspect there are plenty of others with widely varying stories as well.

For myself, I was in a non-teaching business role and started tutoring on the side (initially just to help out the children of a few friends). I quite enjoyed it and quickly realised that there was a very lucrative market for English tutoring in my location. Eventually I shifted to tutoring English full-time and haven't looked back since. The combination of a very high income, having a flexible schedule and being my own boss is very satisfying. I suspect I will continue to do this until I have built up sufficient savings to effectively 'retire' and then continue to invest / live off my savings.

My only regret? Not starting tutoring earlier!
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ExpatLuke



Joined: 11 Feb 2012
Posts: 744

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quite right, I wasn't trying to say the paths I listed above are the only routes. They just seem to be the most typical.

Your story is quite interesting. Are you tutoring in a foreign country or working from your home country?
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Jmbf



Joined: 29 Jun 2014
Posts: 663

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ExpatLuke wrote:
Quite right, I wasn't trying to say the paths I listed above are the only routes. They just seem to be the most typical.

Your story is quite interesting. Are you tutoring in a foreign country or working from your home country?


I'm based in Hong Kong. Here at least, the ESL market seems to be healthy (for now). For myself and many of my tutoring friends, there simply aren't enough hours in the day.
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guobaoyobro



Joined: 10 Dec 2015
Posts: 73
Location: China

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 8:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm 32, and I'm an early-bird to it all after thinking about it for like 5 years.

I was sick of crappy office jobs. I'm a photographer, and make documentaries on underground music scenes outside of my home country, America. This funds that. I get paid more than I did in America, get paid 80% more, and don't have to deal with Americans.

...and I like eating.

Pretty cut and dry for me.
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suphanburi



Joined: 20 Mar 2014
Posts: 916

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I started in TEFL about 16 years ago.
I added experience and additional post grad credentials along the way.

I am now a school administrator (k-12 & 3000 students) and make a decent living.

I also do research, speak at conferences, have a few articles and a book published.

.
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currentaffairs



Joined: 22 Aug 2012
Posts: 828

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see it as a natural, organic thing. You teach, you gain experience, you get better qualified, and you go up the ladder. When you are in your 20s you might quite enjoy working late shifts at a language school so that you can go out in the week and have a lie in. That was quite nice for me when I was in Tokyo.. Later on, you get bored with working at weekends and at night and you go for a 9-5 job like you would find with a regular university gig.

Some people have had enough of the classroom and go into management or teacher training.. For me, the admin side of those kind of positions would put me off unless it was fairly minimal.

A friend of mine teaching at a university in the UK reckoned that his job was equally split between teaching, admin, and research. That seems a fairly healthy balance.


Last edited by currentaffairs on Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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ExpatLuke



Joined: 11 Feb 2012
Posts: 744

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

suphanburi wrote:
I started in TEFL about 16 years ago.
I added experience and additional post grad credentials along the way.

I am now a school administrator (k-12 & 3000 students) and make a decent living.

I also do research, speak at conferences, have a few articles and a book published.

.


Great to hear about your success. Could I ask where you're currently living and working from?

currentaffairs wrote:

Some people have had enough of the classroom and go into management or teacher training.. For me, the admin side of those kind of positions would put me off unless it was fairly minimal.


As someone who is currently headed towards the more managerial route, I can definitely agree with this. Being a go-between between decisions from the top and the teachers who have to fill them out is one difficult job. Basically, you argue on the teacher's behalf once a new "decision" comes down from the top, and then once you pass it on to the teachers you have to argue on behalf of the management to get them to do it... can't wait to climb out of this spot.
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Teacher in Rome



Joined: 09 Jul 2003
Posts: 1286

PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a lot older than your 25-35 age bracket and STILL haven't figured it out! That partly explains why I've been in ESL so long. It gives you variety and space to try different options at the same time as giving you skills you can use in other fields. I know what I don't like (tutoring / teaching children / working for other people) which leaves me with the stuff I do like (teaching adults, writing materials / trying to develop an online business). If you like being your own boss and crave variety in your working life, I can't really think of any other line of work which comes close.
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 15343

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2016 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was good enough for James Joyce !
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getbehindthemule



Joined: 15 Oct 2015
Posts: 712
Location: Shanghai

PostPosted: Mon Mar 14, 2016 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a great post (and it is so true about the spectrum of individuals and their unique twist on things, from the go-getters to the borderline alcoholics)...

I am mid-30s and one of those people who took a 'year (or two) out' and have recently realised that I love it and want to continue doing it.
Coming from a background involving both the management and training of adults, my current position (teaching Science at primary level) is a refreshing challenge.
Now, I just need to figure out the 'best way to go about it' (hence my interest in this post) Wink

In line with Jmbf's post, I have recently started tutoring and there is serious saving's potential. After turning down numerous approaches, I have recently started teaching a small class of young learners once a week and it pays unbelievably well. Taking on a load of tutuoring work is not for me personally but what some parents are willing to pay towards improving their kid's English is hard to turn down! I am only in my second school year here, but the key for me was having a good rapport with my students and co-workers which in turn helped me to build contacts and create openings for private work. It seems a no-brainer but the amount of teachers that make little to no effort with their Chinese work colleagues continues to amaze!

I do need a plan but I am currently enjoying the experience of teaching in a foreign country and the lifestyle it is affording me! Looking forward to hearing more people's stories on how their career's have developed teaching oversees Smile
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Kowloon



Joined: 11 Jan 2016
Posts: 133

PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 8:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is an interesting discussion.

I am still at the beginning of my career journey in EFL. I taught for 18 months in South Korea as an unqualified backpacker type and really enjoyed it. After that I went in to office work in Amsterdam doing remote student support for online students. I missed being in the classroom quite a bit but used the time to do my M.Ed through distance learning and after I finished working there I got a CELTA and moved to Hong Kong. Have been working here for a year now - Primary school.

Like above I'm not sure if I would ever like to be completely out of the classroom. I would miss the buzz, the rewarding feeling from positive classroom experiences etc. However I could see myself in a senior teacher role perhaps mentoring a few under me. In terms of age groups I like Primary and I enjoyed adults when doing my CELTA. A bit wary of High school as I think I would struggle with classroom management.
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suphanburi



Joined: 20 Mar 2014
Posts: 916

PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2016 1:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ExpatLuke wrote:
Great to hear about your success. Could I ask where you're currently living and working from?


I am now working in Thailand. I spent a couple of years in China/Japan and a decade in S. Korea.

Beyond being a school admin my research is primarily focused on L2 early literacy.

I often speak / present in the Asia / Pacific region.
My next one will be in Vladivostok at the end of June (Asia TEFL).
Other recent presentations (last couple of years) were in Seoul, Penang, Bangkok, Khon Kaen, Loag, and Kuala Lumpur.

.
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In the heat of the moment



Joined: 22 May 2015
Posts: 392
Location: Italy

PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2016 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Put me down as a washed up, borderline alcoholic 25-35 year old who never really figured out what to do after uni and was just kind of floating through life, also grew tired of a 9-5 in my home country and also running from a divorce, wanted to spend time chasing desperate women and drinking cheap beer, then (in my sixth country) reaching that "wtf am I doing?" point and realising it's having a proper career in TEFL.

Although everyone does have their own route, I find some similar character traits in established TEFLers. People are more like a leopard or a chameleon and TEFLers generally tend to be more chameleon-like, with a thirst for knowledge and travel, and can see an opportunity and take it. I appreciate it's been around a while but has only really expanded in the last 20-ish years, how long TEFL goes on will depend a lot on technology; once Google perfects instant translation TEFL might once more become less mainstream.

Sorry for the small digression, back on point my first gig was in China and that was also the first time I'd been in a classroom since studying at university. A steep learning curve, but ten years on I'm still learning.
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BadBeagleBad



Joined: 23 Aug 2010
Posts: 1186
Location: 24.18105,-103.25185

PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2016 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I started out with a degree in Bilingual Education, taught in public, Charter and a Catholic school for 5 years, towards the end of which time I also strted tutoring adults in ESL. I loved teaching in the Catholic school, the students were lovely, classes were small, management was supportive, parents were involved, it was as close to an ideal job as you could. Except for the way. Once I was in public schools all the good things went away, thought the pay was much better. Two incidents happened that sent me out of public schools, the first, being threatened by gang members and having security refuse to even walk me to my care, even while the gang members were waiting to follow me. In the end, nothing more than some verbal back and forth happened, but the principal could not have cared less. The second incident was when I reported a gang member for hitting a girl at recess and the principal refused to do anything, saying if he did things would get worse for the girl. I found out years later that this principal ended up going to jail for a variety of things some related to the school, some not. I was enjoying teaching adults so decided to get a TESOL cert. About that time my parents moved back to Mexico, and I soon followed and have been teaching adults ever since. I have worked in a variety of settings, from language institutes to business institutes to private tutor. My last job before starting to work online was the teacher coordinator for a business institute. I have always made decent money for Mexico. Five years ago I started working online and never looked back. Working online allowed us to move from Mexico City to a rural area, and I am no longer teaching, but have been in a salaried management position for three years now. I should be able to retire in about 4 to 5 more years, my husband is already semi-retired. I will probably go back to teaching 10 or so hours a week once I retire, since I do really enjoy teaching and miss it. So I don't really fall into any of your categories, at least not neatly.
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