For my first blog on this site I want to give my opinion about some of the ideas that, for whatever reason, have been perpetuated by certain people. Here are a few of the negative misconceptions about ESL…
1. ESL teachers are not real teachers: What do you call a ‘real teacher’ nowadays? Some say that people who teach English as a foreign language are unqualified and have jobs that are in no way similar to mainstream state school teachers back home. Okay, so most ESL teachers don’t have a Masters degree in Education and their role is much different to an elementary or high school teacher in the U.S.A, U.K and so on. On the other hand though, most of us complete a recognised intensive training course before beginning our careers, prepare detailed lesson plans and carry out teaching duties under the same basic principles as any teacher in, any subject, anywhere in the world. ESL teaching presents a whole range of challenges that are unique to this area of education. The job is often hard work and professional development in the industry is a long, bumpy road. If people don’t consider this job to be ‘real teaching’ they should talk to the millions of students in the language schools across the world and ask them what they have gained from attending an ESL school.
2. English language schools only care about making money: Around the world, particularly in Asia, language or ‘training’ schools are often private enterprises- offering extra-curricular education in English to local children and adults. Is there money involved? Yes. Does that mean that employers don’t care about their staff? Not necessarily. Obviously there are some organisations that are keen to make a quick buck at the cost of low paid and overworked teachers, but like any business, the people who start it usually have some interest in the well-being of their clients and staff. It’s easy to generalise from the horror stories that appear on forums and it’s easy to forget about the thousands of reliable, trustworthy and highly professional organisations that operate in every country!
3. You can’t earn big money from ESL teaching: This misconception usually comes from people who have looked at the salary amount on job ads and noticed that compared to equivalent wages back home, the monthly earning figures are small. What people need to bear in mind is that English teaching jobs abroad usually involve bonuses such as free or subsidised housing, air fare allowance, contract completion bonuses, regular pay increases and most importantly; MUCH cheaper costs of living in your new country of residence. Add all this up and compare the amount of money you can save every month to how much you would have to earn back home to bank that same amount after all your monthly outgoings! Probably the best way to debunk this myth though is to read a job ad for ESL teachers in Saudi Arabia…
4. Many teachers find themselves alone and without any support: Again there will be instances of this happening but if prospective teachers do their research beforehand and make back up plans for the worst case scenario they should be fine. If teachers feel like they don’t have the support network they need or feel trapped and alone, they can always leave to go back home or find a job elsewhere at any point in time. In fact, if your employer is not providing you with the basic support you require, you should probably think about working elsewhere anyway!
So I suppose on a final note, the thing to say is that despite some of the negative reputation the ESL industry has picked up in recent years, the industry on the whole is incredibly dynamic and I believe it’s gaining more credibility as time passes. Job seekers are right to read some of the more negative opinions before they reach a decision on their future, but I would strongly urge them to consider the misconceptions that often result from these views.