Accepting and Embracing My Role as an English Teacher Abroad
Teach English, live in a foreign land and make bank! Sounds like the perfect plan right?
Newsflash: it's a bit harder than that.
It's easy to get caught up in the possibilities of what teaching abroad could be. While being an English teacher is one of the coolest and most rewarding things I've ever done it's also the most challenging.
People have an interesting belief of what they imagine teaching abroad to be like. Some think it's going to be like studying abroad, which anyone who has studied abroad knows, is 65% play and 35% work, while others think it's like participating in a working holiday. Before I left I had one friend say, "Oh, you don't know where your position is going to be? That stinks! You might barely be able to travel on the weekends." It was like I had to remind people that I would be working a 9-to-5 job every day.
In the beginning, I underestimated what it really meant to be an English teacher especially because it wasn't something I ever thought I would do. I think the underestimation comes from a sense of privilege and assumptions that second and third world countries value education less than first world countries. This leads people to think they're going to come to a foreign country, half-ass their job and be allowed to take sick days and personal days all in the name of "immersing themselves in the culture."
For me it took one moment of having a student cry in class, pulling him out, talking through what happened and having the class leader say, "Wow, teacher. You're really good. That was good. Thank you, teacher." That was when I realized how necessary it was to be a teacher who actually cared about what I was doing. The class leader was praising me because the teacher who taught the period before saw what happened, and instead of trying to fix the problem, sped right by me and left me to deal with the mess from his class period.
I realized that being an English teacher, or a teacher in general, was about so much more than just passing on knowledge. It's about being patient, empathetic, compassionate and objective to how kids are going to act. I thought about when I was in school and remembered the teachers I loved and the teachers I hated. I realized the teachers I loved were the ones who connected with me on a personal level, and the ones I hated were the people who just passed out information and kept it moving.
I live in a beautiful country that's considered a travel mecca for blackpackers and luxury travelers alike, but I have a job that requires planning, discipline, patience and so much more. I've accepted that I can't jump up and visit another country because the airfare is cheap. I can't go out with my friends on Wednesdays or Thursday because I need to be in tip-top shape to teach my crazy M-1 (seventh grade) class. Sometimes I have to spend my own money on extra supplies like lined paper, markers and colored pencils. And I'm okay with all of that. In the end, if you're a teacher you're an example, confidant, and important figure for your students, whether you treat your position as a working holiday, a study abroad opportunity ora major move.
Read more about the steps I took to become a certified English teacher here.
Read more about the how I found a job as an English teacher in Thailand here.
To keep up with my journey as a black expat follow my blog: onecupoftee.com and my Instagram and Twitter: @onecupoftee_