Hands up if you have ever experienced a dialogue similar to this one that happened in my classroom recently:
Teacher: If you had a million pounds, what would you buy?
Oh, to have been the student in that situation.
As a hilariously overworked and ludicrously underpaid teacher, I know full well I’ll never, ever be in a position to respond the way my student did if someone asks me that question.
ELT is not a high-paying industry. This we all know.
I admit that I occasionally dabble in the self-delusional exercise of believing that there must be certain sub-categories of the ELT industry which do pay a salary commensurate with the level of training, experience and expertise a ‘good’ teacher can be expected to have, but which are so mysterious/soulless/competitive/far from civilisation that I have given them up as realistic future career options.
To quote a favourite blogger of mine, The Secret DoS:
I hate the exploitation. I work with people who have degrees, postgraduate degrees and years of experience in many different contexts. Some of them have families and mortgages. Some of them are employed on zero hours contracts – which means we pay them for the hours we get them to teach, but there our relationship ends. We have no commitment to them, we pay them a starting salary that is marginally higher than what an unqualified school teacher earns in the UK and we never increase this.
We are not the most exploitative company that exists. I am expected to demand high from these teachers, but understand the truth that there is to be found in the maxim about paying peanuts and getting monkeys. Truth be told, I manage a team of very committed monkeys for the most part, but this is a tribute to them because they are committed, once again, in spite of the context in which they work.
Oh, for someone to put a stranglehold on the throat of the cash cow and choke it to within an inch of its life!
I think many of us also like to imagine that the ‘big names’ in ELT are rolling around in piles of cash while the rest of us are slipping on piles of photocopying and guillotine scraps. Who was it who once told me the creators of Headway bought their own tropical island?
But you know what? After years of feeling myself becoming progressively more bitter and jaded by all this, I’ve decided to just… get over it. Let it go. Rise above it all.
I mean honestly, we’re not in it for the money, are we?
Education is about making a difference to people’s lives, communities and the world we all live in. And focusing on the money takes away the love I have for that most laudable and virtuous of goals.
To paraphrase Jessie J:
It’s not about the money, money, money
We don’t need your money, money, money
We just wanna make the world learn,
Forget about the Price Tag!
So… I’ve decided to give it up!
The money, not the teaching. I’m going to work for the next 12 months in an entirely voluntary capacity.
By dispensing entirely with the unhelpfully simplistic notion of being compensated financially for my training and expertise, my passion and performance, I hope to do away with the constant interference to my creativity and drive.
Money is just so vulgar. So from now on: no carrot, no stick, just unadulterated motivation to help people learn the English language.
Why only 12 months? Well, I do have bills to pay and only enough savings to live off for a while. But I can consider my voluntary teaching year as a long-term investment in myself and in my students’ education, as my teaching will clearly be much better when my mind isn’t cluttered with useless mutterings about not being paid enough to do it.
Who’s with me?