“So, you’re a teacher?”

​-It must be great to have all those long holidays !

-Well no actually, I’m actually busiest in the summer. In fact, I never take a holiday in July or August.

-Oh, so you’re not a proper teacher then ?


-What kind of teacher are you then ?

-I’m  an English teacher.

-Ah, Shakespeare and all that. You must love books !

-Well actually, not that kind of English teacher.

-Ok… I think I’m going to talk to someone else now…

In fairness, I’ve learned to just say English-language teacher straight away now. Still though, such conversations are still pretty common for the average English-language teacher. It’s not too surprising that most people in English-speaking countries, when they hear the word teacher, think only of primary- or secondary-school teachers. For most of us, that’s the only experience of teachers we have. Even if people know that such a creature as a  English-language teacher exists, they assume they can only be found in primary and secondary schools in far-flung corners of the world. But teaching English in an English-speaking country!? Who would you teach!?

Well, lots of people actually. Immigrants of course, and refugees and asylum seekers. But very often, it’s people on temporary visits looking to improve their English for personal, professional, or academic purposes. You don’t tend to notice these people though, as language students tend to move in their own circles, as they’re usually not working, or comfortable speaking at length with native speakers.

Which is why people generally aren’t aware of how big the English-language teaching industry is. Even I had never noticed the school I work in before I started there, and it’s pretty big. But now if I’m on the street I’ll notice the groups of chatty teens speaking Spanish or Italian, and in pubs I’ll notice the international groups  of adult students.

English speakers also don’t tend to imagine the existence of English-language students because we’re generally not so interested in learning other languages. Generally.

It’s an interesting life. It can be frustrating when people don’t really know what you do, but I also kind of enjoy that too. I don’t know what it’s like to tell people you’re an accountant, for example, but I imagine every accountant knows how people are going to react when they tell them. I on the other hand, never know if I’ll get a blank stare, a polite nod, or an eyebrow raised in curiosity. And I like that.

Oh, and if we ever get talking in the kitchen at a party and you mistakenly think I tech English literature, don’t worry. I can probably act the part well enough to play along.

25 thoughts on ““So, you’re a teacher?”

  1. I used to be in the Police and, after a while, dreaded people asking me what I did. You would always get some rambling story about a speeding ticket they got ten years ago that they thought was unjustified, or something. Eventually, I told people I was a civil servant. No one is interested in civil servants!

    Liked by 3 people

      • Absolutely true! The thing is, would you expect every Spaniard to be able to teach Spanish? I keep on having to remind people that there is a huge amount of preparation behind teaching and this includes qualifications as well as teaching skills and being quite communicative.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This whole idea about teachers only teaching children is what prevented me from doing this job for so many years! The whole idea of being self-employed and not attached to a school still confuses a lot of people though!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Probably! When I played games as a child, I was always the teacher! But I just jave up on it and pursued a different career path because I never thought of it as an option for soeeone who didn’t want to work with children. I’d definitely say that advancements in technology have helped as well when it comes to creating jobs that didn’t exist before.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Believe it or not, I always wanted to to be an early childhood teacher…2nd grade to be specific. This was until I picked up a side job teaching Medical Assisting to adults. Then something clicked and I was like omg there is no way I can wrangle 25 seven year olds!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was a high school English teacher for almost 25 years. I’ve always loved telling people what I did, because 9 times out of 10, it would spark a conversation like, “Oh, I remember English class–we read ______. I loved that book!” or something similar:-)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post. There are so many stereotypes when it comes to jobs. When I became a makeup artist, people would just come up to me 24/7 and mention these really unknown brands or just specific names like “v5 serum” and ask what I thought. I would say…I don’t know every product in the world and they would look at me so confused.
    It is so true that English people in general do not really learn other languages. If someone came up to me and said oh I speak French, German and Spanish…I would naturally assume that they are extremely intelligent. Whereas other countries, that is completely normal.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post Niall, and I must admit, if someone says to me they teach English, I assume in a school. I am that person! I should know better though, as I work as a Skin therapist, you can imagine what some people think I do!

    Liked by 2 people

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