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Topic: Author:  
Fr. Uzbekistan
Topic: Hustling the English
Why are some ESL Teachers solipsists and apologists? ESL is crap.

I hate people like this. The apologist/solipsist for how shallow ESL is in China. So...every conversation I have with these ESL Solipsists goes something like this:


Solipsist: Do you like ESL teaching?

Me: No, I hate ESL teaching, for 3 reasons:
1.) It isn't "real" teaching, its entertainment masquerading as teaching,
2.) I am not a good teacher anyway, that is an honest, personal appraisal of myself that I am not ashamed of, but is incidental to point #1; and finally
3.) the "professional culture" (or lack thereof) disgusts me...there is no trust, no job security, constant scandal, poor communication.

Solipsist: It sounds like you are just a bad teacher.

Me: Like I said, that is, indeed, one reason. But as I said - it's not the only reason. ESL in China is "edu-tainment" and not "education"...It is about be entertaining and 'lively' so as to attract the lowest common denominator. An idiot with a high-energy personality, who makes the students happy, but who can't really teach, can do just as well or even better than someone who genuinely understands English and how to teach it, but who can't work with students who aren't self-reliant and inspired to learn on their own and need high-energy entertainment to push them to do so.

Solipsist: That doesn't mean it isn't real teaching.

Me: Yes it does.

Solipsist: How so? There are still opportunities to teach despite what you just said.

Me: Except no, not really. Here is an example...ever see the movie "Cocktails" with Tom Cruise? In that movie, Tom Cruise hooks-up and becomes mates with an Australian huckster who also works as a bartender. The type of bar they run is one of those "show bars" where they juggle alcohol and light drinks on fire before serving them to the customer. You know the type of bar I mean?

Solipsist: Yeah, one of those kinds of bars where they flip and spin bottles of vodka in the air.

Me: Right. When the bartender finally gets done spinning the bottle of vodka in the air, he'll eventually pour you a drink. And that drink'll get you drunk, same as if he hadn't spun the bottle in the air.

Solipsist: Okay...your point being?

Me: Well, I could've just as easily gotten drunk at a regular bar without all the pomp and flashy bull****. When I drink, I don't need a lot of bombast and showmanship...just the drink will do.

Solipsist: I guess most people feel that way; but I still don't follow.

Me: Which means that the only REAL reason one would go to a Show Bar like the one from Tom Cruise's "Cocktails" in the first place is for the is the showmanship, and not the quality of the drinks, that distinguishes "Cocktails" from other bars. Sure, the drinks at "cocktails" will get you drunk; but the drinks anywhere will get you drunk. So you aren't going to a show bar like "cocktails" for the drinks, but for the showmanship. That makes it cheap and ****ty.

Solipsist: Okay...

Me: So, here's my point, an analogy: ESL Teaching in China is to real teaching, what a show bar is to a real bar. A cheap, flashy, piece of crap that tries to overcompensate.

Solipsist: That's not fair!

Me: Yes, it is. The drinks at a show bar will get you it's not entirely without substance...but you're not really there for the substance (little as it is)'re there for the flashy bombast that a better bar doesn't need. Same thing with ESL. Sure, some real learning can happen at an ESL school, so there is SOMETHING genuine there (albeit very little), but whatever that genuine thing is, it isn't what you are actually selling...what you are selling is a shallow appearance, fun foreigners who are native speakers, who will teach you in an exciting, friendly environment. This shallow appearance which they sell is just like the juggling act at a show bar, meant to disguise a lack of substance.

10 Jun 2016
Fr. United States
Okay, we get it, you don't like ESL teaching. So, what do you like?

For example, I like cool jazz, rock, baroque, and African music, beautiful women, fun adventures, Mexican food, science writers like Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan, Thai massage, news from the BBC and AlJazeera, solitude, good friends and family, the perks of being a white guy in East Asia, cities like Vienna and Prague, political leaders like the American senator, Bernie Sanders, etc. etc.

Now back to you.
11 Jun 2016

Fr. United States
But I really do teach English, amongst other things. There are thousands of expat teachers like me who earned their bachelor's or master's degree in education, got state certification (and have to renew it every 5 years by taking more education courses.) We teach professionally in accredited international schools around the globe. Those schools offer professional development workshops annually for their teachers. And although most of these schools offer Pre-K to 12 education in English, some of them are French, German or whatever. And they almost all offer some mother-tongue and local host country language, as well. My wife teaches Chinese at my school.

I don't feel any shame in having taught mainly 4th and 5th graders science, social studies, math and language arts in English in countries like Slovakia, Ukraine, China, Thailand and Burma over the years. It's been very rewarding both professionally and financially. I would strongly encourage people who enjoy teaching ESL to get a degree in education and become certified. If you like teaching, international schools are the best way to go.
11 Jun 2016

Fr. United States
I definitely see your points, but I try to make my teaching as educational as I can. I have known "teachers"(definitely matching your definition) out here who just click play and pause on a video and don't really make sure the students understand what they're learning, just want some of that sweet, sweet cash to spend on "massages", booze, and travelling for more "massages" and booze.

Now yes, I agree, I'm not quite a full on teacher. I don't do report cards, I don't do meetings with parents, I don't wipe my younger students' asses, but I do try to teach. Also, edutainment does work pretty well, just ask anyone who's ever played Oregon Trail the symptoms of dysentary!
12 Jun 2016

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