The topic of “respect” amongst English language teachers in Korea has come up again in an excellent and thought provoking guest blog post.
Many teachers in Korea see their position somewhere on a tiered scale of respectability. As the previously linked guest blogger mentioned, any teacher, at any level, in any institution of learning has the chance to positively affect the lives of the students they are teaching.
I agree wholeheartedly.
Personally, I have never given a damn about “getting the respect” of the teaching community in these terms. I have never seen one level as inherently better than another (uni, public or academy). My main goal is to learn and improve myself and my students.
To do so…
I need the chance to step outside my comfort zone and try something new.
I want the opportunity to guide students learning rather than help them become better formed English phrase robots.
I need the responsibility to make the teaching choices in the classroom that I believe will best suit my students learning goals.
I need the freedom to make the classroom a sphere of safety, fun and interest.
I need the support of the administration in achieving the goals of my students as well as those of my development.
I want the inspiration provided from building communities of learning.
“Landing” a “more prestigious job” with all the perks has not been my goal. Finding a position that fulfills my teaching wants and needs is.
I believe this idea of “better” is a symptom of a bigger issue.
Too often people see the backpackers and gap-yearers as the standard bearers of our profession. Too many believe that if they can speak English they can teach it. Far too few engage in the personal introspection and learning necessary to teach effectively.
Because of this I believe the entire profession of TESOL is undervalued. Too often people fail to recognize the cultural bridges teachers build. The bridges built not just by being themselves, but by connecting students to a language community that so many participate in.
Language influences our perceptions. It creates a prism through which we see ourselves and those around us. It unites and divides us.
Language affects our rationale. The understanding of which is vital if one hopes to successfully navigate the complexities of the world.
There is far more to teaching English than most give credit.
The “better” job (ie level of institution, pay, vacation) does not make the “better” teacher.
What matters is which job gives us the opportunity to help our students (as well as ourselves) learn, grow, and become more aware of who we are and how we fit into the world as a whole.
Who signs our paycheck is irrelevant.