Steve Schertzer

We work for the room

ESL ghosts of the past


"Those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
---- George Sanatyana, (1863--1952.)

"Well, I think those who remember their past are worse off. In my opinion, those who remember the past are paralysed by it. Those who can forget the past are way ahead of the rest of us."
---- Ida Mancini, (Character in Chuck Palahniuk's novel "Choke." 2001.)

MY CONFESSIONS:
------------------------------

I have a couple of confessions to make. I have a problem with middle-aged women, especially middle-aged Asian women. Although I've met a few nice ones in my 46 years on earth, most of them come across as angry, bitter, sexually frustrated hags who take their frustrations out on the western men they come across in their country probably because their younger Asian counterparts have already got what they don't have.

Personally I don't care about middle-aged Asian women. I try to stay away from them as much as I can. But occasionally, (and unfortunately), I do run into a few of them from time to time, either currently in some of my classes, or in the past with old ESL jobs and job interviews.

I have another confession to make. I'm going through a bit of a crisis right now. Please don't worry. It's nothing too big. It's a personal AND professional crisis. I've allowed some of my bad past ESL experiences to intrude on my present teaching. And that's not good. At least that's what I'm learning. The demons of bad past ESL experiences should not and cannot intrude on the present. So I must deal with them, one slow and painful step at a time.

PREAMBLE:
-------------------

There's been so many bad experiences, I don't know where to start. Forget the times I was ripped off hundreds of dollars from unscrupulous Korean hagwon owners and Taiwanese recruiters. That might take too long and it's another column entirely. I'm still trying to forget the time when one of the nine million Mr. Kims barged into my class and, in front of the students, told me in Korean what a horrible teacher I was. But he didn't stop there. He insisted that I change my character, and wasn't I ashamed of myself for accepting his money? (No I wasn't.) The only thing stopping me from strangling him to death at the time was the fact that he still owed me $1,500 U.S. I did receive it, and three days later I was on the next plane out of that armpit of a country. Since then I've spent most of my time in Thailand and "I haven't looked back?"

That's not quite right. I have looked back. And I am looking back now. It's funny how the past likes to creep in on the present. If you don't deal with those demons..... well, you know what can happen.

Bored, lonely, and sexually frustrated middle-aged women are only a part of the ESL problem. Greedy, reptilian Korean language school owners are another part of the ESL problem. We are all a part of the ESL problem. Students, teachers, administrators, government officials, immigration. All of us are to blame. And all of us have a stake in fixing the problem.

Even here in Thailand it is all too common for schools to hire western teachers without preparing the proper documents for a work visa and a teacher's license. It's irrelevent that the school can get into more trouble than the teacher. More often than not, the school will buy their way out of it. This is Thailand.

The classroom is where we make our living. It's the students. They will either make us or break us. It's bad enough to have kids kick and spit at their foreign teachers. Afterall, they're just kids. And being strangers in a strange land there is almost nothing we can do about that. Kids mimic what their parents do. If the parents don't like foreigners, their kids sure as hell won't. I've thought for a while that there's no such thing as bad kids, only bad parents. Or bad parenting. This is evident in any ESL classroom where kids are involved.

HUMAN FILTH and ESL UNPROFESSIONALISM:
------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've been thinking recently about a lot of the classes I've had over the years. A kids class, where the Korean teacher before me, a vociferous Christian convert, named all the students after Biblical characters. Both from the Old and New Testaments. In that class we had Solomon, Mary, Joseph, Luke, Matthew, Rachel, Moses, and yes, even Jesus! Diciplining the little buggers was quite a challenge. I found myself saying things like, "Hey Jesus, stop pulling Mary Magdalene's hair!" "Judas, stop punching Moses!" "Solomon, stop poking the virgin Mary with your pencil!" After a few days of that nonsense, I had to change their names.

Most of the adult classes weren't any better. Once I had two students try to convert me to Christianity. They even came to class with a Bible. They failed. Then there was Steve Kim, the millionaire businessman/viagra popper/Russian hooker patron. He claimed to be worth over 20 million U.S. dollars. He'd come to class and want to talk about nothing else but his four hour erections and his nightly romps with Russian "Natashas." "They have good technique", he would say. He walked with a permanent limp because-- legend has it--- he once took too much viagra. It caused a stroke, hence the limp. No one knows for sure how much viagra he really took that night.

Then there was Miss Park, the 51 year old virgin still living with her mother. How do I know this? Because she told me. Flat out. And she seemed to be proud of it too. Then there were the housewives in Seoul--- the "Rich Bitches of Gangnam" as I used to call them. These 40 to 50 year olds, with far too much time on their hands, would come to class and demand to play games and talk about every useless thing imaginable like cooking, shopping and makeup. And I had to sit there and listen to them like I was really interested in what they had to say. And then I had to respond. Express some witty and intelligent remark about cooking, shopping or makeup that I knew nothing about. These useless things would walk into class wearing rings on their fingers the size of frying pans and makeup so thick that whenever they smiled, a chunk of it would almost fall off their face. They were loud, brash, obnoxious, rude, bored and as dumb as dirt. One of them paid $50.00 U.S. an hour for private ping-pong lessons. Another had an American "boy-toy" that she loved to talk about. All this in an ESL classroom.

I've had adult students come to class so drunk, they barely made it to their seats. One time--- another one of the nine million Mr. Kims--- fell down twice in an awful attempt to find his chair. You could smell the soju on his breath all the way from the bar. That particular class was on pet-peeves, so I was stupid enough to ask him what his pet peeve was. It took him a while to comprehend the question through his inebriated haze. Then he looked around the room and to no one in particular said, "Women who piss in public." ESL classroom or an AA meeting gone horrible awry? Take your pick.

In another class, I attempted to connect with the students by showing them photographs of my family for the first 15--20 minutes, only to have three women complain to the director that "We're not interested in teacher Steve's family." I was never so hurt and insulted in my life. I refused to step back into that class until I received an apology from each of those students. The following day, I did receive an apology.

Then there were the "Stupid Questions" classes. I learned a long time ago never to ask my adult students at the end of class, "So, any questions?"

"Yes teacher. Are there any bananas in Canada? What's this bone in my wrist called? Are their any pineapples in Canada? Why is it called a hamburger when there's no ham in it? What color is your blood? Do people in Canada have cell phones? Why are there so many guns in America? Is it true that everyone in Canada has an airplane? I heard that Canada is so big that everyone has to fly to work. Is that true? How often do people in the west have sex? Is it true that western people can have sex whenever they want? Are hot dogs really made from dogs?" And my personal favorite, "How can I get a green card for America?"

"I'm from Canada."

"Oh. So what color are the cards in Canada?"

I'm not joking. These were just some of the studid questions I've been asked from "adult" Koreans in various ESL classes. You would think with the huge influx of western English teachers coming to their shores that most of the local ESL students would have more intelligent questions to ask us, but I guess we're not yet at that evolutionary stage. I'm still waiting for my Thai students to ask, "Teacher, are there any clowns and jugglers in Piccadilly Circus?"

These were not ESL classrooms where students learn the English they need to succeed in an ever increasing competitive world. It WAS a circus; a bloody freak show! "Hurry! Hurry! Come see the 51 year old virgin in Steve's class! See the man who once took too much viagra! Watch him limp! See the 50 year old housewife with nine inch make-up! Hurry, hurry!" These people made Michael Jackson look normal. The Neverland Ranch was the bloody Brady Bunch compared to these folks.

There was a teacher I used to work with in Korea. A wise woman who really liked to talk with her students. She'd talk about anything and everything. The middle-aged women loved her. They loved her so much that they began to confide in her. They began to talk about their personal problems at home. How their husbands were horrible lovers. How they came home drunk and beat them. How they puked all over the floor and expected them to clean it up, night after night. How they cheated on them. These middle-aged women expected this foreign teacher to help them with their problems--- sexual and otherwise. "Teacher, how can I have an orgasm? Teacher, why doesn't my husband love me anymore? Teacher, why do I never feel horny?" And on and on it went. Interesting stuff from an anthropological point of view. It would be both compelling and entertaining if it were on the National Geographic Channel. But what in the world does this have to do with ESL teaching and professionalism?

Even after all these years, I still can't help but wonder why we put up with all this nonsense, this garbage, this unprofessionalism, this never ending procession of human filth we call ESL.

Teachers are just as much to blame. I was at one adult school in Taiwan where a few foreign English teachers where found--- on videotape--- having sex with the school secretaries in the classrooms! That course must have been called Full Frontal English, (FFE.) Unfortunately, I left that school before it became public news. Some teachers like to talk openly about how many students they've slept with--- like this kind of behavior will help them to become better teachers.

School owners, directors, and administrators are just as much to blame. Just look at most of the advertisements for ESL teachers in the newspapers and on websites. In most cases you still need nothing more than an undergraduate degree and presto, you're an English teacher. Just speak English and you can teach English. Nobody in their right mind would think that they can be a doctor because they've watched all ten seasons of ER. No rational thinking person can claim that they are a lawyer just because they've never missed an episode of Ally McBeal. That would be nonsense. So what makes anyone think that just because a person can speak a language, they can teach a language? Who's fault is that? The teachers? Maybe. The school owners? Most probably. Some greedy Korean hagwon owner offers a 24 year old newbie two million won a month, a free return airplane ticket, and a rent-free apartment within walking distance of the school and we're supposed to say, "Well, that's a sweet offer Mr. Kim, but I must respectfully decline because I'm inexperienced, quite naive, and not TESOL certified." Right! Like that's ever going to happen.

Thailand has some great teacher training schools, as does other countries, but most places, (I hesitate to call them schools), will accept just about anyone, anytime, anywhere. Most students know this. Why should I learn anything from this person, they may ask themselves. Afterall, they haven't been trained for anything. Fresh off the boat, they are. So let's talk about four hour erections, viagra and Russian hookers. Let's talk about how my husband's a terrible lover. Let's play scrabble. You're not a real teacher anyway. So forget teaching. Forget your lesson plan. Let's go out and get drunk together.

My mind is going back to a time--- almost two years ago--- when I was told just that. Global Language School in Korea, and that reptilian brained director Mr. Kim. I was preparing lessons for my evening classes. You don't have to do that, he told me through his translator. The students want to drink with you. They want to see you after class. They want to be friends with you. How will that unprofessionalism help to make me a better teacher, I asked. He didn't understand the question. How could he? Mr. Kim and his ilk are light years away from ESL professionalism. That was the same Mr. Kim who looked at my TESOL certificate and couldn't figure out what the hell it was. Even after I tried to explain it to him. I refused to get drunk with any of the students. I was tired, and I just wanted to go home. That was the same Mr. Kim who made up his mind that day to replace me. It was the same Mr. Kim who burst into my classroom soon after that and called me a horrible teacher; told me how I had to change my character. And wasn't I ashamed to accept his money. (No I wasn't.) But I still regret not putting his head through a wall when I had the chance. Fifteen hundred U.S. dollars or not.

So after that reptile decided to replace me, he began pulling students out of my classes. How did I know this? Because the stupid reptile told me. I thought I was just being paranoid. I thought the students really hated my classes. But he told me flat out: "I put no more students in your class!" So for a week I would sit there with one student, or two students, or no students in my classes. (Thank God I had a book to read.) Then he would come in and ask me, "Where are the students?" He would send his stupid little minion of a secretary to peer into the window of the classroom and report back to him. I had no doubt that after a week or two of his childish games, he'd tire of it, come into the classroom one final time and say, "Sorry kid. You have no more students. So we have to replace you." But he never got the chance to finish his little game. I collected my final pay, and off I went.

One of the ugly truths about the ESL world is that there are thousands and thousands of others out there in ESL land just like me going through similar experiences--- or worse. After that horrible experience with that reptile Mr. Kim, I went to Pattaya. I spent the next six weeks getting drunk every day and having nightmares about it for three months every night. I thought that I had buried that ghost. But I guess not. I thought that I had a handle on it, but maybe I don't. If you don't bury the ghosts of the past, they will come back to haunt you.

My current school, AUA, unlike most schools in the ESL world, has a policy about teachers inappropriately socializing with the students. The key word here is "inappropriately." Sharing a meal with the class at the end of the term is fine, I suppose. Taking her back to your place and dropping your pants is not. After so many times being told that I had to socialize with the students, or else. After so many times being told that I must drink with the students and talk about whatever they wanted to talk about, it's quite a relief to know that I could just teach. No childish games of pulling students out of my classes because I refuse to get drunk with them. No stupid, leering secretaries counting my students and reporting it back to the director. And no director bursting into my classroom and yelling at me about what a horrible teacher I am--- regardless of whether or not it's true.

The truth is--- even if we don't want to see it and admit it--- adult ESL classrooms the world over are full of losers, loners, social outcasts, social retards, neurotics, psychotics, perverts, fruitcakes, and nutcases. Adult ESL classrooms the world over consist of a preponerance of men who are really little boys, women who are really little girls, wife beaters, wife cheaters, wife swappers, men who like little boys, boys who like big men, rapists, drunks, drug abusers, peodophiles, and sons and daughters abused in countless ways by their parents. The ESL classroom has been used for every conceivable purpose. To play games; to meet women; to meet men; to meet kids; to flirt; to cheat on your spouse; to fall in love; to have sex. The ESL classroom the world over has been used for just about everything--- except for its intended purpose: To learn English.

Another ugly truth about the ESL world is that the locals can say whatever they like to you because they know that you must sit there and take it. They can insult you, your family, your culture, your religion. They can call you and your class boring at will. They can tell you that you're overweight, ugly, that your eyes are too big, your ears are too small, your nose is too long, your hair is too short, too long, too gray. They can ask you what religion you are and how much money you make.

Greedy, ignorant, and racist school directors, and administrators have created an environment where ESL students can get away with asking and saying just about anything to their foreign teachers, all under the guise of education and learning. We ESL teachers are partly to blame for this as well. With our timidity and our reluctance to stand up in the face of this nonsense and injustice, we help to perpetuate a situation where we are actually afraid to really teach our students anything for fear of them complaining. If the students behaved this way in the presence of their own local teachers, they would be whacked in the head with a stick! It's that simple.

Just pay your Baht, Yen, Won, Yuan, Peso, or Riggit, and you too can play scrabble, poker, rummy, blackjack, word-up, yahtzy, musical chairs, hangman, bingo, and what's my line? The ESL classroom the world over is seen and treated as the ultimate social hub. Just pay your money and make believe you're in a bar, a pub, a brothel, a gameroom, a karaoke lounge, a gambling den. Yes, we have every imaginable variation of human slime invading and conquering ESL schools and classrooms, or what passes for schools. ESL teachers the world over are forced to play the clown, the buffoon, the idiot, the fool, the jokester, the jester, the boob, the psychologist, and the priest, just so we could keep the students happy, jolly, elated, ecstatic, jubilant, merry, and mirthful.

That reptilian director Mr. Kim gave the students a free pass to go to any class they wanted. No level testing. If they didn't like your class, they got up, walked out and went into another class. Just like that. Right in the middle of a sentence. It worked both ways. I also got students from other classes. Students who think with their feet. Now there's a novel idea in the ESL world. I was told that this was a "selling point." I tried to explain that it's not a selling point, but a selling OUT point. Students need structure. They need to be advised of their level and what their responsibilities are. Otherwise, nothing works.

And we are all suppose to relate to each other, like one big happy family. Do we honestly think that by playing scrabble, poker, or anything else, that we are changing ONE life? Does anybody honestly believe that by catering to the students' every whim and fantasy that we are helping anyone to become better people--- including ourselves? Where is the connection here between US as ESL professionals and TESOL providers, and THEM as ESL learners?

"That was a great game of gin rummy, teacher. Now I can go home and make love to my wife instead of my mistress. Thank you for changing my life."

"Thanks for that wonderful game of scrabble, teacher. Now I can go home and finally have that orgasm I've been thinking of."

"Another great bingo lesson, teacher. Now I can give up drinking forever!"

Who are we kidding?

CREATING and MAINTAINING PROFESSIONALISM in the ESL CLASSROOM:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To have any legitimacy, to be considered a profession with all of the benefits and responsibilities that real professions have, ESL/EFL/TEFL/TESOL must be,

1) Process and results driven
2) Individually liberating for both teachers and students, and
3) Socially transformative

It must give students alternatives. It must give them clear and unambivalent choices. It must show them a better way. It cannot, under any circumstances, be a free-for-all. If we are to become ESL professionals, we cannot tolerate useless ramblings about four hour erections, viagra and Russian hookers by bored and horny millionaires. We cannot give into the frivolous whims of bored and lonely housewives who frequent ESL classes simply to escape the drudgery of their days. That will contribute to nothing more that the drudgery of OUR days. If we are to become ESL professionals, we cannot tolerate for one second the rude, vulgar, uncouth, uncivil and ill-bred behavior of some of the locals who would like nothing more than to turn the ESL classroom into their own personal playpen.

ESL professionals must maintain a higher profile than your average backpacker who is simply posing as a teacher. It is an extremely important and intrinsic part of our profession. There is a very specific social dynamic at work in every teacher/student interaction. An ESL teacher--- like any other teacher--- must always be in a position of respect and authority. Sleeping with your students changes that. Becoming "chummy" with your students outside of class changes that. Acquiesing to the students' demands, requests or frivolous and perverted fancies for discussions about viagra and Russian hookers drastically alters the social dynamics of the teacher/student relationship, and puts into disrepute the very important role that teachers play in their attempts to personally liberate their students and to transform the very society in which we teach and live.

WE WORK FOR THE ROOM.
------------------------------------------

In education, especially in the ESL world, we've been experimenting for far too long as to exactly what the ESL classroom should be. We've been bouncing back and forth between two extremes: The "teacher centered" classroom and the "student centered" classroom. Neither one works.

A "teacher centered classroom", where the teacher becomes the center of attention, is too authoritarian and autocratic. It creates and perpetuates a sort of master/slave relationship between the teacher and students. It also stiffles any potential creativity and imagination that the students have. With a good teacher, a teacher centered classroom can be results driven, but the process and the enjoyment of learning can get lost in the shuffle.

A "student centered" classroom is too liberal and lenient. It becomes the free-for-all that I've been railing about. It's reminiscent of the California "permissiveness" experiments on children in the 1960's and 70's where parents allowed their children to virtually raise themselves by allowing them to eat and do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. We're still feeling the repercussions of a whole generation of 300 pound idiots and their 250 pound descendants. A student centered classroom, without teacher control and guidance, is like handing a 10 year old the keys to the Oldsmobile. Here kid, teach yourself to drive. I can't be bothered. It excuses us from any responsibility we have, or think we have, towards our students. It smacks of experimental, altra-liberal, artsy-fartsy, mumbo-jumbo California crap. Student centered learning is just another buzz phrase. It has to be called something, I suppose. It didn't work in the 60's and it doesn't seem to be working now. So let's heed the message.

We put students into small groups and hope that something actually gets accomplished. But without teacher guidance and support, without a controlled learning environment, students will just sit in a small circle and look at each other like they're on a bad first date. Instead of admitting that we really have absolutely no idea what in the world we're doing, vis-a-vis ESL students and the classroom, we experiment with the very same people we're responsible for, like rats in a laboratory. With the absense of a teacher, or direct teacher involvement, a student centered classroom becomes only process driven. It may be fun for the students, but the class lacks direction and, as a result, not much of anything will be accomplished.

There is a third way; an alternative to the two extremes. It's called an ESL "classroom centered" learning. Actually, it's not a third way at all. It's always been there, but we've have rarely bothered to use it. ESL "classroom centered" learning, for lack of a better term, doesn't put the teacher at center stage. It also doesn't allow the students to do and talk about whatever they like either. It brings the classroom back to where it belongs: The pinnacle of learning. We all work for the room. The classroom. ESL "classroom centered" learning puts the classroom at the centerpoint of the learning process, and brings back the dignity and integrity that the classroom rightly deserves and has always had in years gone by.

In years gone by, people used to learn in temples, churches, and synogogues. No one would dare think of using the temple or church or synogogue to play poker, or talk about Russian hookers. No one would dare walk into a temple or church or synogogue wearing a mini-skirt or torn jeans. No one would dare say to a Monk or a Priest or a Rabbi, "Hey man, you're boring. Let's play games."

No one whould dare do that because the temple or church or synogogue are places where people go to reflect on our past errors and mistakes, and to look ahead as to how we're going to correct our errors and mistakes. It is a room of ultimate respect, repute, honor, and esteem. It is a room for spiritual renewal. It is a room to go to when we want to know who we really are and where we came from.

The ESL classroom must also be thought of and treated with that same respect, honor, and esteem. We must stand together in awe of the room. All of us. From teachers, students, school directors, supervisiors, and administrators. We must stand in awe of the world maps on the walls, the books on the shelves, the pens and pencils on the desks. We work for the room. All of us. We stand in awe because the room is a place of learning. We stand in awe because the room is a place of spiritual renewal. We stand in awe because the room is a place where great personal journeys begin. We work for the room. All of us.

A judge will hold anyone in contempt of court who disrespects the courtroom. You wouldn't dare walk into a courtroom wearing a mini-skirt or torn jeans, would you? You would be distrespecting the room and the whole process of jurisprudence. A judge, a lawyer, a baliff, the stenographer; they all work for the room--- the courtroom.

The room demands and commands respect from all of us. And when we give it the respect it rightly deserves, it gives us what we need a hundred times over. Working for the room liberates us, it frees us from every constraint we believe ourselves to be in because if gives clear and powerful choices. With its immense knowledge and wisdom, the room gives us ideas and the power to transform our lives. The room is both process driven and results driven. The classroom helps all us to become better than who we now are because we respect it and treat it with the dignity it rightly deserves. All of us work for the room.

MY CRISIS:
----------------

So here I am, at a crossroad in my teaching. A couple of columns back I talked about a wall that I built some years back to protect me from the bad experiences of my ESL past. At times it has served me well. And at times, it has gotten me into a bit of trouble. I feel it's time for a part of that wall to come down. I've developed an aloof and standoffish approach to teaching, and consequently, I'm not relating to many of my students now as well as I once did. So a part of the wall must come down. But how much of it? I don't know. And that's what scares me. If I don't take down enough of it, both myself and my students will become frustrated by a lack of progress and connection. If I take down too much of the wall, am I inviting some of the same bad experiences that I suffered in the past?

I suppose I can rely on teaching talent alone--- assuming I have any--- and continue the aloof and standoffish approach in hopes that the bad experiences will stay away. But who am I really fooling? Do I honestly think that I can develop into the kind of teacher I truly want to be, and that the students deserve to have, by using only a third or 50% of my potential?

In the past I went through a lot of these experiences alone. Most of the ESL world doesn't give a crap about teacher's problems, crisis, and development. Just keep the students happy and coming back for more, is all most local school directors care about.

But this time I've been truly fortunate to have been offered the time, attention, and the vast knowledge and wisdom of some truly remarkable people. Dr. Dee Parker and John Whenshall are two people that come to mind. They have helped me and stuck with me, and for that I'm more than greatful. I have also been given the opportunity to speak to and observe other teachers in action, great teachers that I am learning so much from. Peter Filichetti, Dave Scholz, Mike Dupre, Greg McDonald, and Benny White are just a few. Thanks a lot guys.

I'll solve this crisis. I'll bury the demons of my ESL past. And with the help and guidance of some truly remarkable people, I just may become the teacher I was really meant to be. But a very ugly fact remains. There are literally thousands and thousands of other ESL teachers out there going through this very thing, and right now, they are not as fortunate as I am.

The Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Thai, and other local school owners and
directors in this part of the world are neither prepared nor interested in helping us through a teaching problem or a professional and personal crisis. Although it is certainly in their interest as business people, psychologically and emotionally many of them are still children themselves, and are light years away from developing anything resembling the kind of pathos and empathy required to relate to their employees as equal partners in the eventual success of their school. Those in power and authority in this part of the world have neither an inkling nor a clue as to how to relate to their own people, let alone western English teachers, except as subordinates and inferiors. This is the kiss of death for any westerner who happens to be in a typical and traditional Asian school. And unless this changes, thousands and thousands of our fellow western English teachers will continue to be harrassed and abused at the hands of these brutal, dictatorial, and childish directors.

But this is highly unlikely. It is highly unlikely that some greedy Asian language school owner will tell the students, "Look, John here has worked very hard getting his TESOL certificate. He doesn't want to play scrabble all the time or talk about Russian hookers. So knock it off!" It's a pipe dream that some greedy Asian language school owner will sit down with his western English teachers and say, "So Peter, Paul, and Mary, I truly understand the wall you've built around yourselves. Some of our students can be very difficult. And I want to help you in any way I can. Remember, we're all in this together. We're all in the same boat. We're all equals." Ya, right.

So it's up to us to stick together. It's up to us to get each other through the tough and difficult times. I like what some athletes say when they are faced with tough times. "Tough times don't last long; people do." I've spoke about this in past columns: Our intense need as ESL teachers to contribute something positive to the ESL experience and to make a difference. That is the common thread that binds the ESL and TESOL community together. If ESL teachers cannot accomplish this, or, for some reason, are not allowed to contribute something positive to the TESOL experience, then our disillusionment alone will contribute to a huge turnover rate in the ESL world, which, by the way, we have had since our profession began.

The past must not be allowed to intrude on the present or dictate the future. This is another tough lesson I'm learning. How much of our past to remember, and how much of it to forget. Or, at least, bury and try to forget. This is something we all must come to terms with in our own way.

A new day has begun. And with it, another chance. Another opportunity to knock down one more brick. One painful but necessary brick at a time.




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Need Thailand insurance?

Need Thailand insurance?

Have a question about health or travel insurance in Thailand? Walter van der Wal from Pacific Prime is Ajarn's resident expert.