Have you ever wondered about all those advertisements for TESOL and TEFL schools. You know, the ones with catchy little titles like “Travel the world and get paid for it!” or “Make your life an adventure and become an English teacher!” Well, yes, these things are possibilities, but it takes quite a bit of craftiness to make it work for you. And there are numerous anomalies which these schools and advertisements omit. This is the first of a series of articles for anybody interested in joining the ESL field, or simply just curious about the aspects involved in such a career venture.

Yes, I am very happy with my choice to become an English teacher as I have had close encounters with foreign cultures I would never have experienced as a simple tourist. However, it was not a walk in the park or an extended vacation. I have really had to become a student myself in dealing with other cultures and in saving the much needed income to travel within the countries I have visited.

Perhaps the largest misconception among those entering the field is that this is job set up for the amusement of white English speakers, created in order to enable them to travel. I have worked with undergrads who have never had a real job and come in without an idea of what true responsibility entails. Or how about aging divorcee men looking to get it on with third-world-women while having no respect for the culture or the children they’re teaching.

Yes, these people have been led to believe that they are superstar teachers as they form such a conception from the demand to learn English. They believe that the schools are lucky to have them. Many of them don’t consider that their foreign co-workers are paid significantly less money and some have worked half their lives to earn the pay they bring home. These are teachers who have made education their lives and take their jobs seriously while most ESL teachers are just standing behind the blackboard for the first time. When these teachers see Americans, Australians, people from the UK, Canadians, and various other English speaking countries taking their situations for granted, one can only imagine the image they form of such nations.

Conversely, there are those who truly do care about the job, but have not a clue as to how they should begin teaching, as they have no hands on experience. Or how about those who simply don’t take the time to learn or understand the cultural differences of their fellow co-workers.

Unfortunately, many people end up leaving their employers without fulfilling the contracts and find themselves calling home to have money wired to them as they don’t have sufficient savings for a plane ticket. Please, this article and the ones which will follow are not meant to discourage would be ESL teachers. I simply write these so that those entering the field or who have curiosity about this occupation can understand the reality of this career, which, if approached correctly, could be the greatest experience of one’s life.

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