To anyone who’s curious about ESL teaching, this is for you.
ESL teaching is like any other jobs. You’ll be excited for days or weeks but eventually as time goes by you’ll start to feel shitty about it: from the salary to the people you work with including the students. I’ve been there and trust me you’ll go through all that one way or another. The thing is, it’s okay. You can either stay where you are or be unbothered in trying something different.
Truth be told, working as a teacher (in general) isn’t the most glamorous career in the world. In fact, it can be the opposite of that. To those who are sensitive about openness and frankness, please skip this and go to my previous posts instead.
I began teaching English to foreigners about a decade ago. ESL teaching wasn’t my very first job, but I was thrilled in landing that first teaching role.
At the time, I was already a registered nurse. I worked as a private duty nurse prior to my first teaching job, and just like what I thought, nursing and teaching are sister professions. Despite the differences between these two, nursing and teaching require plenty of people skills and are generally viewed in a positive light. Both careers are physically and mentally demanding yet the compensation remains scanty (in the Philippines).
I’ve never thought teaching is what I’m passionate about. I mean, not in my wildest dreams I’d imagine myself standing in front of a student (or students) explaining/discussing/trying to sound knowledgeable about a topic. Life can really be ironic sometimes.
When I was in high school, we had this conversation with my mom about what course to take up when I go to college, and I can vividly remember what I said to her.
Me: ”I want to study ****** or whatever it is that doesn’t involve teaching”.
Mom: ”But teaching suits you well”.
Me: ‘‘There’s no way I’m going to be a teacher”.
Little did I know that the moment I stepped in to that pint-sized ESL classroom was the beginning of my 6-year career in teaching. What’s more, I formally studied Professional Education and passed the License Examination for Teachers.
What I love about ESL teaching
It’s not the company nor the compensation. It isn’t always about the students either. What made me really thrive in this industry is the joy and satisfaction that I get, knowing that this is my forte–I mean, I’ve discovered that it’s what I’m confident doing (well at least in my opinion). The confidence I’m talking about isn’t about appearing or feeling superior to others. It’s the feeling of certainty within yourself–not in a conceited or cocky way but in a realistic and resolute way. It’s a quiet inner acuity that I feel.
But just like what I’ve mentioned–ESL teaching isn’t the greatest job of all time. There are pitfalls and ugly truths about it too–which for sure you already have clues about. BUT if you’re truly gratified about the overall nature of this work, then you’re perfect for this.
What I don’t like about it
The pay sucks. I had plenty of moments were I was in despair realizing that my salary couldn’t cover all my bills. There were times where I had to borrow money from my parents just to pay my rent and all that. Since then I’ve decided to not rely with one source of income. I began having side hustles to make ends meet and came across ideas to the next.
By the way, when I said I’ve been teaching ESL for about 6 years, I didn’t mean ‘for straight 6 years’. I can’t even phantom doing that–to be honest. I’ve been trying to juggle the demands of 2-3 jobs all with the aim of achieving the goal of ‘more than enough’. Truth is, when you’re in the Philippines, from a mediocre background, with mediocre ability–there’s no such thing as more than enough.
In ESL teaching (both online and in classroom setting), being financially stable is quite impossible to achieve. The worst part is that most ESL companies (if not all) don’t give benefits to ESL teachers like health insurance and the like. Simply put: no work, no pay.
So over the years, I’ve been jumping from one job to another, one ESL company to another ESL company, from 1-3 ESL companies to a totally different industry then to the next. Sounds awful but there wasn’t a slightest moment of regret to that. I never feared changing from one career to another–not coz I was erratic but mainly coz I’m plainly finding my strong suit. If I feel horrible about my current employment, who do you think can resolve it? You? Them? It’s me–no one else can do it but me.
I’m thriving in this world with my own terms, without concern, so it’s important for me to tune out the voices outside of me that don’t matter—and just keep going. Just like everyone else, I’m still a work in progress.
What I did
I was employed to a number of ESL companies (mainly online) to a point where I lose count of them. I know it sounds like I indiscriminately send out my CV but no I’m not like that.
Before I send my application, first thing I do is to research the company: website, salary, benefits, work time, reviews from past employees, among other things. If they fit the bill, then I proceed to step 2 which is to prepare my credentials: updated CV or resume, cover letter, and certificates. I normally receive an interview invitation in less than a week, and when I do, I always do my best to pass all interviews. I don’t mind spending much time or effort with these companies coz I chose them for a reason.
I intentionally go through the whole application process in order to get all the important details about the position and the company I’m applying for. Again, these are the companies that I carefully handpicked. It may sound time-consuming but when you’re applying online, it’s worth it. Also, when I reached the point where I have to sign a contract/agreement–I make sure that I stay professional at all times. If I’m unsure to pursue the job, then I make a good excuse and inform the hiring manager. If I’m interested with the opportunity but not pleased with the offer, then I counter their offer. Simple.
The only failure is not trying.
Another interesting fact that I’d like to share is, when I see a job post that says ‘Native English speakers only’, ‘Applicants from the USA, Canada, UK, NZ, and AU’ –I still apply for it. Although I have a very slim chance of getting accepted, I’m always happy to try my luck–which I really did succeed a couple of times.
My advice (as if you need one–but just in case you do)
There’s no perfect advice for everyone but here are my takeaways..
- If you didn’t enjoy ESL teaching the first time you tried it, then the feeling would be the same if you do it again.
- Contemplate on what you truly love doing and leverage on that
- Take what’s good in your life and move forward cautiously; if the odds aren’t in your favor, try again–or try another
- Always manage your expectations wherever you are and whatever you do
These pieces of advice are for myself too.