I've been pigeonholed. Typecast. A big, scarlet 'K' has been branded onto my CV. The letter represents the language learners I'm best with: Kids. It's not something I'm ashamed of or embarrassed about. Some of us have the temperament, patience and classroom presence to be good at teaching young learners and adolescents. Some of us have that inherent ability to be measuredly authoritarian when the need arises. Some of us would rather teach prison inmates than ride herd over a gang of kids.
I've been a little surprised here early in my career to find I'm part of the former group, as I don't have kids of my own, and I certainly can't have any type of latent maternal instincts. Nonetheless, at my mid-sized language school of a dozen or so teachers here in Yangon, Myanmar, I've become the one whose 'good with kids' and whose course load reflects that.
Another guy, he's the IELTS expert. A couple teachers are known for being pros at business English. This one, she's experienced in customized, one-to-one programs. Me, I'm the funny guy who plays ukulele and the kids love. Nothing wrong with that. I know that I could be the business English guy if needed. I spent 20 years in the business world before becoming a teacher of English as a foreign language. I speak corporate probably better than most of my peers. From my understanding, you can learn to teach IELTS in a day. My only issue is how these different skills are valued.
I'm fairly sure that my company is not unique in it's compensation package. Teachers who have specific skills and can teach courses other than general English get extra money added to their paychecks every month. It's a fair enough system. I've no problem with it. IELTS, business English, customized corporate classes, these are offerings that language schools have to have to distinguish themselves from the competition. Teaching kids? Those places are a dime a dozen!
Why? Why do my colleagues who can teach IELTS get paid more than I? My scarlet 'K' should count for just as much. Having not taught IELTS, I can't speak too much about what skills or knowledge being proficient in it requires, but I'll venture it's no harder than teaching kids.
Not to pat myself on the back, but my talent with teens has allowed my school to offer teen classes that they've never offered before outside the now concluding 'summer' break. I'm gonna teach after school classes as several of my 'summer' students have asked their parents to see if they could continue on with learning English with us. Kids wanting to spend time in a classroom? I could ask for no higher praise (other than few more thousand Kyats on the paycheck).
As I said, being a teacher of teens requires a certain classroom presence, but it's more than just knowing how to organize and direct fun and games. Certainly, there's plenty of that in my classroom, but in between, my goal is to present English as a puzzle to be figured out. The English language itself is a game with rules and strategies, and if you learn it, I stress, you can win more than a game, but at life itself.
Your thoughts? Should I press the bosses to have my 'K' added to the list of bonus-worthy teaching skills? Or, is teaching business English, IELTS, TOEFL or EAP inherently more valuable than being a glorified babysitter?