To be honest I became a teacher not because I loved teaching but because I loved traveling. Like many people, pubic speaking was not my favorite activity and whenever I was called upon to do a presentation in front of class I would get all sweaty and sometimes I would start to tremble. I hated it so the thought of making that my job and doing it every day was not high on my list of things I dreamed of doing. After graduating from college with a degree in history and political science, it became apparent that I was going to have to do something however, and I had no idea what, so I ran right out and got a job in a cruise ship. This was great, I met lots of really cool other people who had also recently graduated and didn't know what they wanted to do; we explored the Caribbean, Central America, Alaska and the Mississippi River together. The only problem was that we had to work 7 days a week and it was brutal on the body. Clearly this was not a career that was going to last beyond a year or two.
I wasn't ready to give up on the dream of traveling though so when I came across an advertisement, in a now defunct magazine called Escape, for a one-month certificate program to learn to teach English overseas I signed up. Within thirty days I had completed the course and was offered a job in Japan. It was fantastic, I just had to get over my fear of speaking in front of a class and I would be all set. Getting over that fear took a while but as with anything else, if you do something often enough it stops being terrifying and even starts to be enjoyable. Today I love nothing better than to be standing in front of a class, it energizes me, but that is another story. I have also discovered that I don't have to stand in front of the class most of the time, just long enough to get everyone started, switch activities and then wrap things up at the end. My students do most of the talking!
Since then, I have gone back to school to get a master's in teaching so I could be better at it and would have access to better teaching positions. I have never regretted my choice to be a teacher and I have even had the honor of being a teacher trainer! Teaching has given me much much more than just the opportunity to travel!
1. I Get to Meet People from All Over the World!
I get to meet so many people every year and I have the chance to spend enough time with them to form meaningful relationships. Many jobs that I had before teaching involved meeting lots of people but I only got to interact with them for a few minutes. As a waitress, sometimes I got to know the regulars at the restaurant but even then, my role as a server limited the interactions we had to conversations about food and small talk. As a teacher, I see the same students every week for up to 2 years. I get to listen to their opinions, read about all kinds of things and connect with them in a way that I don’t often get to even do with my friends and family. How often do I get to read a 5 page essay written by a friend? My life is infinitely better for having had those relationships.
2. Every Day is Different
I am incredibly lucky to be able to do something different every single day. I get bored easily so many jobs are great in the beginning but as soon as I have them mastered, they loose interest for me. I can remember working at a candy shop when I was 16. I loved learning how to work the cash register, how to make cotton candy and dip ice cream bars into chocolate. It was wonderful and an added bonus was that I got to eat as much candy as I wanted, paradise! As soon as I had all of the tasks mastered however, I began to get bored. One day resembled the next so much that they began to blur together. When I teach however I get to plan my lessons. I get to decide how to spend my days and I rarely make them the same. I am never finished learning about how to teach, I can always do it better and that makes me happy.
3. I get Paid to Read
I get to read as a part of my job. I can not tell you how much I love reading so any job that includes reading is good in my book. As an English teacher, I am often asked to teach things that I am not overly familiar with. For example, several years ago, I was asked to teach a course entitled “Adolescent Issues”. The principal of the school explained that I had to teach sex ed but the rest of the curriculum should be based on what the students thought was most important in their lives. Many students said that things like alcoholism, gambling, and other destructive behaviors were disruptive in their lives so I lumped them into addiction. I have had limited personal experience with addiction so I got busy reading books. What I found completely changed my understanding of what causes addictions and how to help people overcome them. Reading about teaching, reading to educate myself and reading to find good materials for my students has made my life richer.
The Power of Reading is a fantastic TED talk by April Qu, an elementary school student. She explains what is so amazing about reading.
I love work but I love having time off of work too. Vacation gives me a chance to recharge my batteries, travel, read and spend time with my family. Of course I do all of those things on the weekends too but having a chunk of time in the summer makes me one lucky person! As a matter of fact, I am writing this while sitting at a camping area on the northern coast of Spain. Today, my cousin who I have not seen in years (because she lives in Spain and I live in Japan) taught my daughter how to surf while I took pictures and tried to avoid getting too much sun. Life is good!
This TED talk explores the Science of Vacation and tells us about how important vacation is for our health and stress levels and how to get the most out of your vacation.
5. I get to Move My Body While I Work
I once had a job as a receptionist at a trucking company. This job required me to sit for 8 hours a day and answer phones. This is a bit like being on a flight from the US to Europe or South America every single day. It was terrible for my body and not great for my mind either since they are both connected. As a teacher when I am not sitting lesson planning or grading, that is to say when I am actually in the classroom, I am constantly moving. I start the lesson in the front of the class, but very quickly I have the students start some kind of activity and I start moving around the room monitoring groups, answering questions, asking questions, and generally just admiring what the students are doing. I do so many squats every day in order not to be towering over my students, I lose count. Sometimes I run and jump and act things out, it is fun. Physical activity is not only enjoyable, it is vital for keeping the mind healthy and active.
Moving you Body is Good for Your Mind by Christopher Bergland of Psychology Today explains just how important moving is.
6. I get to be Creative
Every day I have to think of new ways to get my students to understand and engage with content. I get to combine things, build curriculum, solve problems, create materials and generally figure things out. Teaching is an art and I love art. Part of being creative, means taking risks and trying new things. This can be scary but it is also incredibly rewarding. Even more than being creative myself, I get to see how creative my students are; that is inspiring.
Here is a great TED talk on how to build your creative confidence.
7. I Don't Have to Wear a Uniform
Teaching in Japan I have to dress more formally than I had to dress when I taught in Turkey and the United States but being a woman, I don’t have to wear a suit. I can dress more or less as I wish. When I worked on a cruise ship that went up and down the Mississippi river, I had to wear a different uniform for breakfast, lunch and dinner, complete with stripes and bow ties. We servers went to great lengths to individualize our uniforms but at the end of the day, we were wearing uniforms. This is great when it comes to not having to decide what to wear, that decision has already been made, but it did mean that I had to do laundry all the time because I didn’t have that many uniforms.
8. I Can Live and Work Just About Anywhere in the World
I love to live in different places much more than I love to simply travel. Living somewhere gives me the chance to explore slowly, one thing at a time. I don’t have to try to fit all of the sights into just a few exhausting days, I can spread them out over years. Every day can be an adventure or it can be a day I sit at home and write (or read). People can come visit me and I can explore with them and see everything through new eyes. I really am lucky to be able to find work in so many different places!
Some of the websites I have used to get jobs abroad are:
the TESOL website
Dave's ESL Cafe
Higher Ed Jobs
9. I Get to Hang Out with other Teachers and Talk about Teaching!
I always feel like a bit of a nerd but I love talking about pedagogy and I am so lucky to have had the chance to work with so many amazing teachers over the years. I always learn so much from watching how other teachers do things and how they think about teaching. I have also had the chance to attend and present at many wonderful conferences and conventions.
Some of my Favorite Conferences are:
TESOL Convention - for some of the wonderful ideas I got from other teachers last year, check out Fresh Ideas from the 2017 TESOL Convention in Seattle.
Spain TESOL- This conference is full of very useful presentations and provides plenty of opportunities to get to know other teachers.
CamTESOL - This conference is run by a wonderful group of teachers and students from Cambodia.
Conference for Families Learning - This conference focuses on multi-generational learning.
10. I Get to Learn from My Students Every Single Day
My students never cease to amaze me with the wide range of skills and talents they bring to class with them. I have learned all about the history of the copper industry in Malatya, Turkey, when a group of students went out and interviewed local artisans for their presentation. Another student taught me how to draw a realistic looking eye by filming himself doing it, speeding up the video and narrating it. Students are continually teaching me about technology and in a fit of generosity one of my high school students in New York City even taught me how to get around the school’s block on websites like Facebook and Youtube. I am so lucky to be a part of such amazing learning communities, it keeps me sharp.
Check out How to Step Back and Let your ESL Students Teach You.
Are you a lucky teacher? Write a few of your reasons in the comments and I guarantee some of the stresses of the day will fall away.
Check out these posts for ideas that will bring joy into your classroom and into your life!
Hi, I'm Kia.
Teaching is my passion, I have been teaching for over 20 years in 4 different continents. One of the things I have learned over the years is that I am never done learning about teaching. Both teaching and learning should be fun and inspiring.
Are you looking for more posts? Click on one of the categories below to find it.