ESL professionals often have a lot to complain about, and rightfully so. Long hours. Low pay. Small program budgets. Lack of job security. These are real concerns within the profession that affect our careers and our quality of life.
Today, however, I’d like to see the glass half full. As a new academic year approaches at my university, I’ve been reflecting on our profession. This is my first TESOL blog post, and I want to focus on the positive—things that make our profession so fulfilling, things that draw us to teaching and make us stay. I’d like to raise the half-full glass and make a toast. This is why I love teaching English:
- The opportunity to work with students and colleagues from all over the world. After 17 years of teaching, I can connect a name and face—a real person—to just about any region of the world. Somalia, for example, isn’t just a vague, war-torn country in the news. It’s Amina, Rhama, and countless others with whom I’ve shared food, frustrations, successes, and laughter over the years. This human connection allows us to move far beyond cultural stereotypes to form a more nuanced and thoughtful understanding of the world.
- The opportunity to work closely with language. I’ll be perfectly honest: I am a language geek. To me, phrasal verbs, participial adjectives, and perfect tenses are fun. As language educators, we get to geek out about grammatical minutiae on a daily basis—what could be better than that?
- Relatively long breaks. As rewarding as teaching is, it can also be intense and demanding. Having time off during school breaks to recharge, travel, spend time with family, or just catch up on work is a job perk that our nonteaching peers often envy. Coming back to the classroom refreshed helps us maintain a semblance of work-life balance and stay excited about our work.
- The chance to make a difference. It’s true, English teachers are not curing cancer or eliminating world hunger. I wish we could. But I truly believe that we regularly make the world at least a tiny bit better for many people. We may help students pass the TOEFL so they can pursue their educational goals, or develop functional English skills so they can survive in a new country, or acquire enough English proficiency to succeed in their jobs. And to me, making the world better in those ways feels like a worthwhile endeavor.
What about you? What do you think makes English language teaching such a worthwhile profession? Why do you teach English? What keeps you coming back, year after year?