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Escape

After the age of 40, English teachers are burnt-out, skill-less and unemployable, their working lives a wasteland, their future oblivion. Sebastian Cresswell-Turner.

Once overseas it is not difficult for a native speaker to become an English teacher. Just turn up at a school and ask to speak to the Director of Studies. You will be whisked into the presence of someone screaming into a telephone.

“No, Kevin, you can’t be sick too, you swine, that means I’ll have to teach Junior IELTS—”

DOS catches sight of you and slams down phone.

“Yes yes yes yes yes, sign here, take the board markers, it’s Room 4, starting five minutes ago, hurry!”

And you are in. No problem. You then spend the next twenty years trying to get out.

A lot of English teachers are writing novels, of course. They show them to you when drunk. One or two teachers have even become well-known writers, like what’s-her-name. The rest keep their manuscripts in drawers or upload them to the Internet, where nobody reads them.

Some teachers set up businesses in the countries they are teaching in. Too late they realize the protective cocoon of the language school has been ripped away and they are at the mercy of unscrupulous rivals and rapacious bureaucrats.

Others consult career advisers and take computerized tests that assess their aptitudes and qualifications. The computer weighs up all the factors and asks, “Have you ever thought of becoming an English language teacher?”

Even prison is no escape. A former colleague of mine had to teach his fellow lags English, in exchange for them not pinching his cigarettes.

In the end most teachers realize the impossibility of doing anything else, so they look around for cushier jobs within the ELT field. Some have business cards printed with that seductive word, Consultant. They spend their time at home surfing the Internet, checking their email every twenty minutes and hoping the phone will ring. After a few months they have starved to death.

Some teachers do “research” at “universities” (glorified technical colleges in dull cities). Their unremarkable findings appear in IAWAFL group newsletters.

Publishing is another favourite choice. Unfortunately, while your colleagues in other departments commission books on interesting subjects, yours are all about English teaching. You spend your working hours listening to ELT Bores and rewriting their wooden prose.

By the way, if anyone wants to employ a middle-aged layabout with no skills, currently masquerading as a DOS, perhaps they could contact me.