Earlier this week I received a very polite e-mail from a native English language speaker enquiring about a teaching position in my language institute. I will copy below the part I found fascinating:
“ …[I] would like to enquire about English teaching opportunities. I’m 33 years old, have a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and several years’ experience working in the financial sector in London. Hence I am able and willing to teach English in any area of Brazil, to any age group.”
I imagine you can guess the part which fascinated me the most in this short text: the use of ”Hence” and “able”.
Just for a tiny second I wondered: if I sent him an e-mail asking for a position in his Financial firm, would he give me the time of day if I wrote: “I am 43 years old and have a Master’s degree from the Institute of Education, London University, and many years working in ELT. Hence I am willing and able to work in any sector of your Financial Department: Risk Management, Investment Accounting, Tax planning, etc.”
No, I think not! I rather suspect my e-mail might not even be answered. And, as I see it, quite rightly so. I would have to be undergoing a moment of complete hallucination to even propose such an idea. And yet, flip the coin, and such a proposal was sent to me.
I wonder what spurred him to send the e-mail? You see, I can perfectly understand people deciding to change careers and wanting to teach. I have seen this over and over again. Indeed, this is one of my sources of CELTA candidates: mature professionals who want to try ELT and I even had a young chap, a graduate in History, who was a mountaineer and wanted to go round the world climbing mountains, living in remote communities teaching English. This is fine by me and I actually think this adds greatly to the field of ELT. (I myself am one who graduated in History and Education and only subsequently did I choose the world of ELT.)
But what was going through his mind when he sent the e-mail? Was he informed that in Brazil we are in dire need of native English language teachers as we do not have qualified teachers otherwise? Or does he think that ELT doesn´t require the same level of expertise as other fields? Or was his use of “hence” and “able” a simple demonstration of his lack of command of written English? I really don’t know.
Apart from the fact that no one in their right mind hires a non-Brazilian to work in a language school in Brazil without a work permit (if caught it leads to a mega fine for the language school and deportation for the teacher), which self-respecting language institute would hire someone with no experience to teach a group of, let’s say, young learners? You’d have to be bonkers! You’d have parents breathing down your neck! I wonder, does this young chap have any idea what it involves to become a teacher? Probably not, otherwise he wouldn’t have been so categorical affirming he could teach any age group.
Am I ranting? Yes, I am, a bit.
Was this a one-off? No, this wasn’t. I get about three requests like this every month, so that probably accounts for the rant.
The question is: is there anything we can do as a group to ensure people understand the seriousness with which most of us see our profession? Are we by any chance sending some wrong signals?