I've read many teaching blogs down the years and I generally enjoy hearing about other people's experiences. Most of the time I find myself nodding along in agreement when reading about the lives of other farang teachers.
However there is one thing I'd like to see more of - honesty.
Before I go on, I'm not calling anyone a liar, I simply would like to see a bit more self-criticism. I include myself in that. I am just as guilty as anyone of presenting myself as a know-it-all super teacher. I think we are all a little bit scared of admitting our weaknesses.
A few years ago my school hired a teacher for the last two months of term with a view to giving him a contract for the next year; however in a short space of time he managed to infuriate everyone, including the office staff, his co-teachers and the owners of the school with his bad manners and superior attitude. He wasn't a bad teacher but he refused to listen to anyone and he wasn't kept on.
I later read a blog written by him where he claimed he was treated unfairly. According to his version, all the students loved him and this made the other teachers jealous so they conspired to get rid of him.
This was nonsense of course but I don't blame him for it. When things go against you, it's natural to invent a narrative where you are the victim of an evil conspiracy.
I've seen other blog posts where teachers complain about everything, for example:
"The staff were unfriendly and didn't like farangs."
"They told me I should do it their way even though my way was clearly working."
"My lessons were awesome but the students didn't appreciate it."
These may well be true but a lot of the time I feel like these teachers are not being honest with themselves. While thinking about this I realized I have been doing the exact same thing for many years.
Sucked at the job
I was actually sacked (well, my contract wasn't renewed) from one of my first teaching jobs. There was no grand conspiracy, no disagreement with the boss - I just plain sucked at the job.
It's hard to admit that I was a crap teacher but it is a fact. I took a job on an EP program at a good high school. I felt pretty proud of myself as I had beaten other candidates to the job due to an impressive demo lesson and I had high hopes for myself. Things started going downhill pretty quickly however and I soon found myself floundering.
I had absolutely no clue what I was doing and the students knew it. My lessons were awful. I would stand at the board waffling about whatever the topic was for about five minutes, then I'd give the students some activity to do. I'd give them nowhere near enough time to do a task (which I had already explained badly), before changing to something else. I kept doing this until everyone lost interest. I'd then start shouting at them for not trying which made me even more unpopular.
Instead of try to make things better, I became lazier. I didn't seek advice from other teachers because I didn't want them to think I was clueless. After two months I was deservedly given the boot - although they offered to let me stay until the end of term so I could find a new job. I was disgusted. How could they treat me so poorly?
When asked why I left, I would explain it was because the head of the program never wanted me and the students were all a bunch of spoiled brats. I told this story so much that I started to believe it.
It was not nice to be fired for doing a bad job and I felt terrible at the time but I learned from it and enough time has passed for me to be able to laugh about it. I also haven't been fired from a job since which is surely a sign of progress.
Admit to your failures
I would like to see more teachers talk about their failures because, as hard as it is to talk about, it might be more useful to fellow teachers than "Let me tell you about all the brilliant stuff I did in the classroom."
Particularly in an industry where the majority of us learn on the job without much guidance, failure is pretty much a guarantee at first unless you're blessed with an innate talent for teaching. So why are we so afraid to talk about it? Perhaps the TEFL teacher has a more fragile ego than most. We constantly feel like we have to reassure ourselves that the job we are doing is worthwhile and our skills are legitimate.
But if we are going to write about our experiences in order to enlighten others, let's not neglect to mention some of the massive clangers we have made too. It's easy to criticize others but how often do we own up to our own flaws?
Has anyone else had a similar experience to mine? Let us know in the comments.