This might just be one of the most hilarious, yet sadly true pieces about the realities of teaching English overseas, ever.
There's a healthy mix of both true anecdotal evidence and satire that makes for a very entertaining read. Yet it should kill all remaining doubt about teaching ESL being a worthwhile career. I'll go through some of the highlights.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language consists of under-qualified teachers working in an impoverished nation teaching the top 5% of society a language that only the top 5% of their students will ever be able to speak properly, often working in schools more cut-throat and money orientated than your average US private hospital for less money than you would earn working in a bar at home.
This is why ideally you should only get into teaching ESL/EFL if you're fairly old and have already made a good amount of money. However, you won't ever be doing anything good for society, you'd better have a decent underlying motive! Silverboy has admitted in the past that he was far more interested in the sex and the beer and that is actually a far more worthwhile reason to teach English than trying to convince yourself that you are saving the third world.
Many theories have been suggested as to why TEFL attracts some of the strangest cross-section of society outside that of a mental institute or the sex offender wing in a prison.
The author gets very direct when he offers his reasons shortly afterwards. Yet this confirms that you can't trust the vast majority of foreign English teachers in China; who are some of the most two-faced creepy snakes that you'll ever encounter anywhere. What's more, some of them may have actually been decent people before they came to China, as being in an open mental asylum is guaranteed to eventually send you crazy.
They will be society’s under-achievers, or just people who were lucky enough to be born in an age where degrees grew on trees and polytechnics counted as real educational establishments.
This is generous, many of the crappier teachers don't even have real degrees at all! However, I don't mock those that underachieve, I just hope that their time to shine will eventually come.
While the world’s economies are faltering, the TEFL industry is booming with an influx of cheap flexible labour creating a kind of economic ulterior universe, an unreality where-by a man with little or no qualifications, no discernable talent in anything, is guaranteed a job in some of the most exotic locations on the planet.
Of course, China with its 5000 years of history® is considered to be 'exotic.' It is indeed depressing that in a time when the Western world is faltering, partially due to trade barriers being lowered and allowing firms to outsource labour intensive processes to developing countries, that our not so adequately educated citizens are increasingly heading off in the other direction. However, if you're that kind of person, don't give up! There's always room to improve yourself and get yourself out of that mess, as will be mentioned later.
The TEFL teacher is notoriously badly dressed, possibly a combination of a lack of money and self-esteem, being easily spotted by their baggy polyester trousers, over-sized short sleeve shirt and cheap rubber shoes.
I've posted a link to a pic on a couple of occasions that perfectly highlights what many a loser ESL teacher looks like. It's quite hard to define a true loser English teacher look as we have already found before.
I'd like to think of it as the bastard lovechild of a training school's dress policy that relates to their desire to appear to be classy and professional, whilst simultaneously employing the kind of staff that not only cannot afford to wear good quality suits on a daily basis due to the meagre salaries paid to them. They are also required to work with kids that constantly run around (thus rendering a suit impractical) and a need to constantly travel across a city to various training centres or schools in sweltering hot heat due to their employer farming them out. Think of the English teacher look as: 'Office casual meets the loss of all hope.'
They will be highly sexually frustrated and, depending on age, quite often a failure in their “true” path in life, whether it be a writer or a musician. They usually have a wealth of stories about past adventures, many very interesting, yet all too often revolving around the excessive consumption of alcohol and a regretful sexual encounter.
This is what happens when whole generations of young people are constantly pursue useless degrees that offer no guarantee of gainful employment. Of course, some of these hipster guys that you're likely to meet in Shanghai or Beijing do get lucky and do break free; even using English teaching as a platform to move onto better things, which I can't fault at all. Although most of us do love a good beer, there is indeed a tendency for ESL teachers to drink too much, too often. The fact that they know that they can get away with it due to the sheer incompetence of many of the managers/admin that work at the schools and demand by far outstripping supply means that for many, life revolves around a portfolio of jobs and constant partying. Fun at the time, but not worth it in the long run.
It’s not his fault, he has simply succumb to draws of what in the industry is known as TEFL Madness – it can happen any time between 2-15 years after the first entry into the industry, but seems to fully manifest itself at around the 10 year mark.
We've all suffered this at some point, but I do believe that it is a curable disease.
A person with TEFL Madness will often display an over-inflated ego combined with an intense air of self-righteousness mostly originating from a strong conviction that no matter how badly you do your job, no matter how many corners you cut and no matter how many people you manage to drunkenly offend, you are still vastly superior to the natives around you and pretty much everyone who still “stupidly” inhabits your home country – so what is essentially 99.9999999% of the world’s population – and you are most definitely sure that you have the best job in the world.
Does this apply to a lot of the posters on this board that still believe that they are engaged in a honourable profession?
So what is the outlook for one diagnosed with TEFL? Well if spotted early then a person can go on to live a long and healthy life beginning with self-acceptance and a move back home.
The common cure seems to be to head back into education, in the hope of being able to differentiate themselves from other candidates. If you suffer from TEFL, save up some cash (if that's even possible) and head back home either to work or study.
Those who are stupid enough to pay for TEFL tend to leave their short internship relatively unscarred, and it seems couples manage to retain a grip on reality – yet only ones who met before they were TEFL teachers.
I don't think I have ever seen an English teacher couple survive more than one year in China. Sometimes, the relationship dies before they return home. There is also a tendency for foreign English teachers to hook up, but as they are both TEFL sufferers (it really is just a disease, isn't it?), it won't be smooth sailing.
If you’re thinking about becoming a TEFL teacher, then take the time to consider just to what extent you have right qualities to swap the comfort and security of your cosy developed country for the turbulent life of TEFL: just how big a loser are you?
If you were ever thinking of becoming an English teacher... Don't. It really is a job that sends people over the edge and it becomes a trap of sorts; often offering a relatively high salary for pretend work and once you get into that comfort zone of sorts, it can be hard to leave. That's why some of the regular posters here would like to think of ourselves as 'The ESL Dream Killers.'