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ESL: Only for pro teachers?

29 Apr

Over at Dave’s ESL (the Japan forums), there has been a discussion going on about whether or not it is ok to take a teaching position if you don’t intend to make ESL or teaching a professional career. The logic is that people who take teaching positions just so that they can experience a different country are taking away from the people who actually want ESL or teaching as a career.

I see the logic in that, but I don’t think that people coming over to Asia (or any other place) for the travel experience are necessarily wrong in doing that in many cases. Here’s why:

First of all, there are teaching positions in Asia (mostly in Korea, but some in Japan) where the foreign “teacher” is nothing other than a glorified conversation monkey. What I mean by that is the teacher is given a set curriculum to teach and is watched like a hawk to make sure he or she teaches according to the method that the boss prescribes. Professional teachers I’ve talked to have told me that they want to avoid these types of positions. It’s not that they’re bad jobs, but it doesn’t give aspiring teachers the freedom to teach the way they want to teach.

Second, there are plenty of people who go to a foreign country to teach without the intention of becoming professional ESL teachers, but wind up loving their job and going back to their home country to get certification in order to become professional teachers. I think there’s nothing wrong with using ESL abroad to discover whether or not ESL or teaching is right for them.

In both cases, I feel that the person who is taking these positions without the intent of becoming a professional teacher needs to understand first and foremost that they’re an employee first and a traveler second. That means showing up on time each day, making adequate preparations for class and taking your responsibilities seriously.