Teaching is a noble profession

One of the things I remember from initial teacher trainer is something a lecturer uttered to bring order to a class of nervous and exasperated young trainees who were panicking about the amount of assignments and TPs ahead of them. After a heartfelt cry for order, something like “shut up” but a bit more polite, she went on to explain how we were training to become teachers and how important it was and then said:

“Teaching is a noble profession”

This has stuck with me ever since and even more so as the lecturer in question was from a developing country and was teaching us about multiculturism and the joys and trials of teaching EAL students and refugees. She went on to explain about how we shape minds and set an example for students. Of course, when I was thrown into an East London failing school full of rather less noble people, it didn’t seem like I was much of a role model compared to parents, rap stars and soccer stars.

This has led me to think about this question:

“What would YOU do for EFL and your students?”

As a teacher you feel honor bound to do what’s right for your students and you make decisions regarding your personal life with this in mind. For instance, how many builders would say “ooh Kev, I can’t go for a bevvy cos I really wanna do a good job on this wall for little Tommy, I can’t let him down”?Hmmmmm????

I’m sure we’ve all made sacrifices for students so here are some to reflect on, they may or may not be mine.Who knows!

1)Keeping a class for 3 terms instead of changing teacher because there is nobody else specialised in the topic

2)Staying at a school until the term finishes so your students don’t have to change teacher in the middle of a course

3)Working late/weekends at home to prepare classes

4)Going to work on the weekend unpaid

5)Giving free lessons to weak students

6)Taking part in after work events

7)Giving up a better job offer because there is nobody to replace you

8)Buying books with your own money because there are no materials at all in English

9)Paying for your own photocopying because the department has no copier

10)Supporting students requests to change class/group/level to your boss

11)Completely changing the course/book because the students want to but it means not following what your boss says

12)Changing test grades/attendance sheets due to a sob story from a student

13)Helping students with personal problems by taking them to doctors/experts

14)Going to help students who are in trouble

15)Loaning students money because they have lost/run out of their own

16)Taking students out in the evening or weekends

Any sound familiar?

6 thoughts on “Teaching is a noble profession

  1. You’re right, of course, but in our industry, nobility isn’t always the first concept that comes to mind when looking at how we’re treated by mainstream teachers and the contracts we acquire comparatively.

    Another term I’ve often heard about ELT teachers is that of the ‘mother theresa syndrome’. Can you guess what that means? I’m reminded of it based on the points you suggest to reflect on.

    • Oh yes. I’ve seen may female teachers mothering their students and even calling them “my little babies” and going “ooooo, isn’t he sweet”. I’ve seen this from nursery level up and it may be natural but for us men it’s a bit different I think. But then again I have been told by some schools that “we don’t employ men to work with kids”. Call it sexism, or fear but being a parent myself I would still prefer a female teacher perhaps for the early years but then I’d love a male one.

      I’ve also seen teachers with CAE/CPE get to know them better and spend time with them but I have also heard bad stories about such events so I usually just teach, chat and leave. But then again I do organise events in class time or near where we’ve done trips/visits and it’s been great but educational.Hmmm

      • The “Mother Theresa” syndrome among ELT teachers really refers to the fact that we go beyond just teaching and do almost anything and everything for the student, far beyond the call of duty, like Mother Theresa. We try to be a solver of all, doing much on our own time, without being asked, just for the good of the students.

        • Hmmm. I don’t know too many of those here in France. Particularly not freelancers as they are too busy. I’ve always agreed that every school should have a counselor who is trained to deal with problems. Yes, you may feel good about yourself for helping X students with her problems but it’s always better to get a professional. Some schools even have policies where a teacher should never be alone with a student. While there are others that encourage or demand teachers to do pastoral duties or organise evenings out.

          I had many issues with students playing teachers off against each other last year and I’ve had many many students cry or beg or even try to bribe me to get better marks so now I play it professional and state the rules and if they break them then they know the results. I think ‘firm but fair’ seems to work for me. But then again I’ve had girls come up midclass and say “I have to go to toilet, I have diarrhea” or ‘women things’ whilst clutching products. Yes, it may be an excuse but what am I going to do? Trust is an important issue and students who sneak out and use the phone etc needs to be dealt with I think.

  2. Going to work on the weekend unpaid? Hmm, not sure I could be guilty of that! I think it’s common in our professional that the boundaries between work and life are often blurred, if they are there at all.

    I’ve definitely changed a students’ attendance in the past to make sure he didn’t get into trouble. I have my reasons… all pedagogically sound! Needless to say he’s still a good friend!

    • I had a friend who used to prepare all weekend as he was (still is I think) Spanish and he needed more time but other people said “I do my work here and then I go home, I’m professional”. This may have to do with culture but I do know that in one job we were expected to arrive early and not leave until the boss had gone, even on days when we had no classes. I also had a DOS who used to patrol the school at 8:35 to see who had arrived as officially that was the time we should be there but classes only started at 9.

      Nothing to do with a free gift? I’m guilty of changing grades to balance out but I’ve had students beg, cry and even get violent because they were not happy with my grades. I do blame this on my bosses though for not making the marking clear. In one place every teacher gave what they wanted and it was a mess so a student who got 100% was happier than one who got 50% but did the same amount of work. I developed a mark scheme and set quotas but still some teachers wanted to ‘reward’ their students so it didn’t work 100%.

      With teacher FB there’s also a bit of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ ie if I give a good mark then they will give me one.

      The worst I’ve ever had was when I failed a thesis paper for being completely copied, then I failed draft 2. The next day I was accosted by the dean and told to pass the next draft. Why? Because the student had gotten a job and the uni had to pass him.

      Re:Attendance

      If someone says “I was ill yesterday so I didn’t come”.Well, you can ask for a doctor’s note but if they didn’t go to the doctors what can you do? I’ve known teachers who have actually taken their students to the doctor and students who have sat ill, sniffling or in agony in my class just to get an attendance grade.

      I have done courses where I’ve said “only come if you are going to participate” and generally it works and the others came at the end for the test and did well. I did keep tabs on them via email though and their friends took them copies. Some were busy doing other things or just nacked from study while some really didn’t need the class or were resitting. 1 girl was really bright and was made to resit because she refused to do the test. In the class she was very disruptive and had a really bad reputation so I told her to work at home, mail me her writing and it worked.

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