Thursday, 6 May 2010

Back Up Plan

I started teaching in 1997. I was 23 years old, I was young and had my whole life in front of me (sounds like a movie). I'm 37 on my next birthday and I'm starting to reflect a bit on the choices I've made along the way. I love teaching EFL. I wouldn't change my job,  but there are things that I wish I could change about my situation. I spent my first ten years teaching working in private language schools where conditions were not bad. I was relatively well paid for TEFL in both jobs. I started to get itchy feet about three years ago when I realised that I wasn't getting any younger. After my Dip I started work as a freelancer. I've been working as a language assistant in a project in a state primary school here in Spain for the past three years. I've had the chance to see what goes on in state schools and had the opportunity to break into teacher training.

I read an interview with Alex Case recently and he said that TEFL teachers should have a back up plan. My problem is that I'm sliding towards 40 and have no back up plan. I don't want to go back to the UK and change careers. I love teaching I just don't much like the conditions in the profession I'm in. So, apart from moan about my situation I've figured out that I have a few options.

1) Set up my own language school.
2) Re-train as an English teacher here in Spain and work in a state school.
3) Move to a bigger city and work as a CELTA trainer.
4) Do an MA and try to get a job at a university.
5) Get more into teacher training and the conference circuit.
6) Try and get into materials writing.

If these fail I'll still be teaching the verb to be when I'm 63 which wouldn't be so bad if I had some job security and a decent wage. I know that these days nothing is certain but I can't help dreaming of a fixed contract ,paid holidays a pension, security and a decent wage......

Anyone out there in the same situation or feel the same?


  1. I know exactly what you mean and I think that pretty much all of us feel this way at some point in our careers.

    Good post on this topic on Richard's blog "I'd like to think that I help people learn English"

  2. Thanks Michelle,

    I'll check it out!

  3. I know how you feel Leahn!

    It's a tough one, isn't it? I'm also in Spain, did my Delta in Seville a couple of years ago, now going to do an MA in Manchester next year. I plan to become well qualified in an attempt to find more open doors, but my only back up plans are a move into edtech or doing a PGCE!

    Good luck with whatever you decide.


    (Thanks for the plug Michelle!)

  4. I'm coming up 40 in September. I've been doing this since 1995, with a couple of breaks (career change, but then changed back, and maternity). I often wonder how people do it here in Italy - I'm lucky - married to a person with a "real" know what I mean. Pension plan, sickness benefits, etc etc.
    I work for a language school. The pay isn't great, but at least it is regular, and they pay our "contributi" - but because it is "project contracts" it appears to the government that we hardly work at all! What to do? As you all say...time to branch out, look at other options, teacher training, etc.
    Good luck to you all!

  5. Hi Jo,

    Nice to see you again! Yes, I know what you mean I live with my partner and so financially it's much easier. I remember living on my own a few years ago and the money was tight. I used to go back and do summer schools to survive the summer but I'm just too old for that now and have house, dogs, cats and a 'real' life here. How are your YL classes going?
    I've just started reading Vanessa Reilly's blog. It's got some great ideas check her out.

    Thanks for your great comments


  6. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your comments and thanks for your post (thanks Michelle for the link)I read it, very intersting. I'm enjoying following your blog nice ideas about dictation.

    MA sounds good I'm thinking about doing one too. I really like the look of the Young Learner option at York University but it is soooo expensive!

    You're right though the more qualified we are the better.

    Thanks for your great comments and your blogs


  7. Hi Leahn. I too understand what you say and I've only been teaching for four years. I changed from a career in IT to teaching (something I'd always wanted to do) but the conditions and prospects are very poor compared to other professions. I'd like to do DELTAs and MAs and other teacher orientated training but it's too expensive. It's ironic that I have done less courses since I became a teacher than all my previous working life! I have a few ideas about the future but none of them include being only teaching. Although I love teaching, I'm so busy topping up my salary by doing other projects or private classes that I don't have the time (or the money) to get more qualifications. It's a sad fact that TEFL is not a career job so if you're looking for prospects, you need to change direction - at least in part.

  8. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for taking the time to pop by and comment. I know what you're saying but I just can't contemplate leaving TEFL. I've spent 13 years and a fair amount of money on books, courses and training I just can't change career now! I'm going to make it into a career! Well, I'm going to give it a go at least!

  9. Hi Leahn,

    Goodness I understand this situation so well. I started teaching English full-time in 1999 (had done several years of tutoring on a part basis before that) and will notch up my 38th fence post next to the track of life a little later this year.

    Back up plans are one thing, but using what you know and creating a new direction are another.

    I saw this coming about 5 years ago and started the process of setting myself up as an independent online teacher. I also wrote a major series of coursebooks with Pearson Longman, which helps with income and other work opportunities, but it is the online teaching business which has been the revelation. It's a market that is only going to grow, so it's worth looking into. It doesn't necessarily make tons more money than regular TEFL, but it gives you your independence and the chance to balance work/family life or explore other career avenues.

    Just an idea!

    Love your blog, btw, and plan on getting back here to visit regularly.

    All the best to you,

    ~ Jason Renshaw

  10. Well, I studied at Uni in York and it's a beautiful place to live, but also expensive. I also looked at an MA course there, but I prefer the tech side of the Manchester one.

    Talking of the expense, my trick is to work at summer schools in the UK, where I got my first management experience as a stand-in DoS, due to someone doing a runner. I've since made it up to Centre Manager, which I'll be doing for a third time this summer. This is non-teaching and hard work, but I've really enjoyed it and also pick up £700 per week, plus bonus. That has paid for my Delta and will pay for the MA.

    If you can, look into it!

    I love Jason's idea of basing himself online, it's something I might try to get into after my MA, if possible.

    It's great that there's a bit of discussion about this, as it's such an important issue.



  11. Hi Jason,

    Thanks popping over from Oz. I was at the beach today. In fact I've based my TEFL career around beaches! (Phuket and Fuerteventura)and they say we are not professionals!

    Thanks for your great comments and suggestions. I read your post a while back about online teaching and think it's a great way to go and definitely here to stay. Unfortunately here we only just get a signal in the village where I live with satellite net and it's so slow! I can't watch videos, well I can. I watched you talking about scaffolding a while back but it took so long with all the pauses and breaks! (very interesting by the way)

    Thanks for the suggestion and if we get a bit more technologically advanced here on my island I may give it a go.

    Thanks again

  12. Hi Leahn,

    I felt the same way you do around 6 years ago and that's when I started materials writing. It's quite hard to get to a point of complete financial security with this (and even if the money is good for awhile, there is no guarantee it will last). And not everyone can do it. However, there are opportunities out there and the market for materials for little ones is substantial especially in a place like Spain.

    It may not be the most secure back up plan, but it is a useful extra string to your bow! Good luck with it, and good post too!

  13. Hi Lindsay,

    Thanks for popping by, I really appreciate it and thanks for your suggestions. I'd really like to do more teacher training here in the islands. I'm still not sure that I've got what it takes to write materials, infact I'm pretty sure that's it's not my thing but you never know.

    Congrats on 'Global' and all the stuff you've done since I saw you last.


  14. Hi Leahn

    I came across your fantastic blog today via your excellent guest post on Alex Case's blog. You are doing a grand job!

    I taught EFL for a whole year in Gran Tarajal, Fuerteventura in 1983-84. I was the only English person in the whole village at the time and I got to know most of the villagers. I taught classes of 6-year-olds and adults. The 6-year-olds would all now be 33. It was one of the best years of my life! I too lived just in front of the beach and I went swimming every day for the whole year.

    Your back-up plans sound great. Go with what your heart says. I have a picture on my desk which says "Don't just dream it. Do it. Take control of your future." This has really been inspirational.

    For me, the opposite has happened. I had it all -a fixed contract in a fabulous school in England, paid holidays, security and a very good wage, CPD etc. Now I am freelance, with no paid holidays, no job security but I am still extremely happy. I didn't know I would be so happy until I jumped in at the deep end. That's what it boils down to.

    Good luck Leahn with whatever you choose to do.

    Best wishes


    Ps I've added your blog to my list as you have such lovely ideas for young learners

  15. Hi Janet,

    Thanks for your comments. Gran Tarajal huh? definitely a small world. I bet it's changed a lot since you were last here. Thanks so much for addidng you to your blogroll I'm very honoured only hope I can keep writing something of interest!

    I've had my mother in-law staying and found another doggie on the streets so I'm a bit late in replying SORRY!

  16. Hi Leahn

    I haven't been back to Fuerteventura since I left in 1984. I am sure it has changed a lot. It was a very sleepy village with the main strip of bars on the beach front promenade being the focal point. The "Majoreros" are fantastic people.

    Thank you for adding me to your blog roll! I look forward to reading more of your lovely posts.