“So you teach English?”


2016 marks my 7th year as an online/offline/phone English teacher. Honestly, I never imagined I’d make a career out of it. Heck, it never crossed my mind that I’d be a teacher.

But last month, I finally decided to quit teaching. I have 2 weeks left before my resignation takes effect, and I want to take some time to reflect onΒ what other people think of what I do:

(1) Teaching English is what someone does when he/she has no other career options.

NOT ENTIRELY FALSE. Honestly, I chose this because being an undergrad with limited skill set, speaking English was the only thing I was good at. If I hadn’t had to work at that time, I wouldn’t have been in this industry.

(2) Teaching English is fun.

YES, BUT NOT ALL THE TIME. Teaching English one-on-one is very much like dating – my student and I have to be compatible with each other (at some point) to make it work. I may be the perkiest teacher, but if my student is quiet/non-responsive, then I might get frustrated by the end of the class. Also, chances are, my student doesn’t really want to learn English. Often, he/she only needs it for school or work. *sad*

(3) Teaching English is a dead-end job.

YES, MOST OF THE TIME. A small office-based online/offline English school usually has about 20 teachers, 2 team leaders, and 1 manager. The odds of becoming a team leader is quite slim with 19 other teachers to compete with. Unless a team leader quits or gets transferred to a different department (curriculum, QA, training, etc.) or I’m willing to wait for years, advancing my career is next to impossible.

Then how about working for medium-sized office-based online/offline English schools? Sadly, there’s hardly any difference. Most teachers end up doing just that – teaching.

(4) Teaching English is for the lazy.

ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE. It’s only easy when my student requests for a content-free conversation. On second thought, even content-free conversations take some effort. I always have to be updated on what’s happening around the world (especially, in my student’s country). I’m never sure of what my student wants to talk about. That being said, I also have to be aware of the cultural differences (taboo topics are not usually welcome). I can neverΒ be rude to my students.

I may be able to speak English fluently, but that doesn’t automatically make me a good English teacher.

Teaching English – or any other language for that matter – requires me to match my student’s level. If my student cannot speak English, I have to speak their native language or use translations. If my student is still a beginner, I might have to speak slooooowly or talk in sentence fragments (think English Carabao). If my student spews out industry-specific terms, I have to know what they mean to keep the conversation going.

True, I don’t move around much so I don’t get tired physically, but the stress of trying to explain something self-explanatory (not for everyone, though) is enough to exhaust me.

On top of that, teaching English doesn’t end when the class is finished. I have to prepare class materials – search for resources, check the latest news and issues, make sure everything is suitable to the student’s needs and preferences.

Teaching English is no walk in the park, but it is rewarding to know that my students were able to achieve their personal goals because I helped them improve their English language skills.