This post, written by @sophiakhan4, was originally posted on the English Australia blog and reposted here with her permission.
This post is a chat summary for a recent #ELTchat, which I was very proud to do as #ELTchat have been such a big influence on and support to #AusELT. This particular chat concerned “dream jobs” for TEFLers, and it was very entertaining, meandering happily between daydreams, wishful thinking, aspirations, misty-eyed nostalgia, and both gloomy and not-so-gloomy reality. The summary is divided into the topic areas that we discussed as (possibly) essential to a TEFLer’s dream job. You can read the original transcript here.
Location took the lead early on, with many of us longing for warmer climes. ‘Beach’ was a popular dream location, although @Shaunwilden objected to beach-teaching due to “all that sand”.
@OUPELTGlobal suggested “basking in the sun while your language school is making loads of cash” was the dream job, and this clearly struck a chord with several #ELTchatters who were being rained on at the time. @suzanne_efl expressed a wish to teach in Columbia, and @claubluefeather in Great Britain. But it was quickly agreed that location is NOT a key factor when identifying what makes a dream job:
- @suzanne_efl: I think you can make the best of most locations but respect, recognition and a decent salary would make it the dream
- @esolcourses: IMO, respect, working conditions etc, more important than locale
- @sophiakhan4: I agree – location can compensate for, or add to, but can’t substitute 4 the qualities of the job itself
And it didn’t take long for @TPMcDonald85 to start us off on the unavoidable topic of money:
- If I was paid a fair salary and sick pay everything else would be a bonus!
There was general agreement that “unfairpay is often an issue in elt” (@Shauwilden) with wavering during the course of the chat between acceptance and annoyance:
- @TPMcDonald85: it comes with the job I guess. Overworked and underpaid. It helps to enjoy what you do.
- @hartle: if pay is not important, then it means, in fact tht only those who cn survive on less r supported cn do it! A loss of resources
- @OUPELTGlobal: hm, sucky pay does not equal dream job, right?
- @SophiaKhan4: Guess it depends on yr criteria for “success” & “happiness”. Think in ELT we have 2 survive on ‘alternative’ criteria
Being independent and trusted to do your job well is clearly a strong preference amongst us.
- @buckyacademics: Somewhere you have freedom over what you teach. I love experimenting with new ideas & approaches. Luckily I write the syllabus!
- @Marisa_C: freedom to work the way you want to work
- @theteacherjames: a big part of my ideal job would be autonomy & the freedom to get on with teaching without interference from outside . . . managers who don’t know what they are doing, politicians, parents etc. . . . I enjoy that freedom at the moment. Hope I have it in the future!
This led to a tangent on parental involvement in teaching
- @Shaunwilden: Parents pay for the teaching though so surely they have a right to an opinion?
- @theteacherjames: Of course, as long they don’t tell teachers how to teach.
- @susana_castaned: some schools here in Peru are actually owned by parents, so yes, they have an opinion
- @theteacherjames: They’re entitled to an opinion, just not on everything. I don’t tell doctors how to operate.
- @OUPELTGlobal: I always felt the fine line between parents contributing and interfering.
- @susana_castaned: Parents are supposed to trust teachers, and teachers are supposed to build trust
This was another major sticking point, which includes “being treated as a professional” (@OUPELTGlobal ), “appreciation and recognition” (@FionaTT) and feeling “valued” (@PatrickAndrews). It was a factor people returned to again and again, and it seems that whether you get this or not is just luck of the draw. Managers should take note that a little bit of apreciation can go a very long way to making up for other issues such as heavy workload, poor pay and stress . . . We didn’t really explore what it requires to be shown appreciation, recognition and value, but perhaps this is a topic for another chat!
- How important is promotion to you? Do you expect to move beyond the classroom at some point or do you prefer to stay there?
@hartle seemed happy with her uni language centre even though there is no promotion at all, because “that also means there’s no hierarchy and we work quite well”. And many agreed that keeping at least one foot in the classroom is important:
- @hartle: 2 much material development without classroom work drives me mad and it is important to be with stds
At the same time, having a sense of career progression is necessary. For @FrancesEales, the dream job is
- Working in a school or uni where professional development and career paths are explored, fostered (and paid for)
But @susana_castaned wasn’t alone in feeling like she hadn’t had many options open to her:
- @susana_castaned: You just have 3 paths: u can be a teacher, a coordinator (6 of them, same hierarchy) or the owner of th school! . . . I quit my last job for not having opportunities for promotion
Many of us are interested in particular teaching contexts or specialties, or looking for ways to apply our teaching knowledge other than in the classroom. Here’s a list of some of the jobs we have (or aspire to have) as discussed in the chat:
- A university role: @Julian_Lenfant: A uni role has its perks, more people in the community willing to talk to me; have a healthy book budget, uni resources, etc. . . But the challenge in a uni environment is that innovation can take time, & requires lots of discussion & diplomacy.
- Materials developer
- Syllabus writer: @pjgallantry: my dream job would also involve developing materials and courses, especially online/blended learning stuff and m-learning
- Conference speaker
- Teacher trainer
- ‘Other’ trainer: @FrancesEales: I know colleagues who moved from training in ELT to training in e.g. NHS or the Ministries or Retailers Skillset is v transferable
- Business-owner: @susana_castaned: I hv a business now, teaching in-company, a staff and sometimes am invited to give conferences. I work mon-fri up to 3pm no more.
- Language consultant
- Kindergarten teacher: @yitzha_sarwono: never imagined it before but teaching montessori kindergarten has become my dream job. I get to learn everyday!
Career path in EFL
Some chat participants are lucky enough to be doing their dream job, at least in terms of the section above. @MarjorieRosenbe tweeted:
- I like combination of teaching, teacher training and materials development and writing
And @Shaunwilden agreed, saying at another point:
- my career path all a matter of luck I think
@sophiakhan4 bemoaned the fact that paths aren’t really clear and whether you end up in teacher training or in management, for example, can depend entirely on being in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time. @suzanne_efl agreed:
- I would love to get into teacher training but not sure how
@FrancesEales suggested going to a school that regularly does teacher training and expressing interest/getting involved that way, and @sophiakhan4 added:
- At least knowing u have that goal is good. The good thing about ELT is that there’s always an opportunity somewhere
Of course you can always do what the impressive @susana_castaned did and set up your own company – although, as she said herself, don’t expect this to be easy!
Are we already doing our ideal job?
- Is it possible we already do have the dream job – just can’t recognise it because the pay is so sucky?
And “sucky pay” aside (see “Salary” above), it does seem that we have a lot to be grateful for:
- @Shaunwilden: i dont know about dream but I enjoy what I do and I love being self-employed
- @Marisa_C: I am doing my ideal job – observing a class
- @FrancesEales: I love working with other teachers to share ideas
- @theteacherjames: I think I might have already had my dream job when I taught in Korea. Not sure to feel happy I had it, or sad it’s gone.
- @eltknowledge: This is without doubt my dream job. Always a chance to grow, develop & learn. But u r right abt the pay.
- @OUPELTGlobal : Having started out in banking, I’ve always considered being in EFL a dream job
Here’s where everyone got a bit misty-eyed – it seems that colleagues are often crucial to our happiness in our work:
- @Julian_Lenfant: Actually, I remember the great people I worked with more than the place. That was ideal!
- @buckyacademics: Working with colleagues who want to learn and develop from each other. That’s why conferences are so great.
- @FrancesEales: I’ve worked in many environments and never found same positive learning atmosphere as ELT staffroom
- @SophiaKhan4: Some fantastic, educated, intelligent, well-travelled ppl in an ELT staffroom. Spoils u for real life
- @eltknowledge: I agree! The International House London Staffroom is electric and so supportive!
- @teflerinha: Had a lot of dream ELT colleagues- motivated, supportive, happy to share…
- @Shaunwilden: I think i had dream colleagues in my early days in prague, a buzzing staffroom full of supportive colleagues
- @ hartle: We had a good atmosphere in early days in verona. Everyone on gd contracts, team spirit, which brings us back to pay etc.
- @ OUPELTGlobal: It was a great EFL staffroom that made me stay in EFL – hadn’t really considered that in a dream job
- @pjgallantry: in some ways, my old job at Dilko in Istanbul in the 90′s was a dream job – great friends and students, cheap booze & fags . . . . and, of course, great lessons
- what would your dream colleague be like?
sparking a flurry of responses:
- @GemL1: like r PLN on here ~ supportive, knowledgeable, creative
- @ PatrickAndrews: Helpful, engaged, open minded and realistic
- @ yitzha_sarwono: people with passion on their classes
- @ PatrickAndrews: People who read quite a lot
- @eltknowledge: A dream colleague be like you, James! Fun, generous, intelligent and well-read, thoughtful, humble and creative!
- @alturki3: my dream colleagues are from different backgrounds, native and nonnative teachers
We also need to thank @theteacherjames for bringing up the fact that:
- Nobody has mentioned the students – what could be more important in defining a great job for a teacher?
And to thank @yitzha_sarwono for being pretty much the only person to jump on this:
- I’m having the best students ever! Young and restless with great enthusiasm!
Variety is implicit in the “Opportunities” section also, but came to the forefront towards the end of the chat, when @eltknowledge wrote:
- I know the topic is about where we’d like to end up…but perhaps the best thing about our job is constant change & learning!
- I don’t know where I want to “end up” either.. Ends are depressing it’s all about getting there, isn’t it
And @Shaunwilden added:
- Very true, the constant variety is one thing that has always appealed to me and kept me energised
To sum up
Everyone had a good go at reiterating the key factors, so to sum up, a dream job is one which has
- a good salary/fair pay
- motivated students
- opportunities for development/promotion
- good location (preferably a nearby beach and with opportunities for fun/a life outside ELT)
- freedom to teach as you want
- appreciation and recognition
- challenge and stimulation
- great people (colleagues, students, parents)
- a decent textbook and syllabus (and the freedom to decide how much to use them)
Now, is that too much to ask? Maybe all at the same time. But as the song goes, “You gotta have a dream, / If you don’t have a dream, / How you gonna have a dream come true?”
- @FionaTT has a great post on OUPELTGlobal’s blog on Recognition & Motivation
- For those interested in writing, @FrancesEales suggested ESLTeacher2Writer and looking at publisher’s sites such as Pearson’s page here
- @TPMcDonald85 wrote an honest post inspired by this chat: Teaching English as a foreign langauge: the good, the bad and the ugly
- Favourite comment: @pjgallantry: ideal job? Being Scott Thornbury- does that count?
I still think they need to make a movie called that.
- Second favourite comment: @Marisa_C: Does my ideal job have to be teaching – cos I really wish I were Annie Lennox
Feel free to file this under “Things You Can Bring Up One Day When You Meet @Marisa_C”
This summary by @sophiakhan4