It's always difficult to find a suitable opening sentence for a blog post, especially if I need to pour out my heart. Although the title usually unveils my plans and the topic in advance, I can't simply get to the point straight away. So these are my introductory words for today's post:
I passionately love my job.
I've been a teacher for 20 years and I confess I've never done anything else (apart from a few temporary or part-time jobs ages ago). It won't be a surprise if I say that I don't dream of doing something different than teaching English - neither in the near nor the distant future. I suppose that's how many EFL teachers feel, at least those I've had the opportunity to encounter online or offline.
The thing is that presently the situation in the Czech Republic is not ideal as far as ELT jobs (or any teaching jobs) are concerned. I should stress that I don't live in a rural village but in a town with a population of about 17,000 people. There are three primary schools locally. The secondary school where I work is currently educating about 400 students. There are seven English teachers employed full-time, one English teacher who can't teach English, even though she would love to (there are no more lessons available). One of the seven teachers is (luckily) planning to start her maternity leave soon, which means more lessons for the rest of us next year. Yet, two more teachers will be made redundant due to the lack of students (hopefully not any English teachers). This is a worrying situation, in spite of the fact that there are some freelance job opportunities. But even these are becoming rarer.
Some days, when in low spirits, my close friend and colleague (female, single, childless, now in her 30s) seriously contemplates going abroad some day and she hopes she could teach English there. I've had to warn her, though. Even before reading Vedrana Vojkovic's or Ana Elisa Miranda's posts I was aware of the fact that being a fully qualified English teacher here in the Czech Republic doesn't necessarily mean that you will be regarded qualified abroad. What is worse, non-native speakers have a minuscule chance to do the job they've been trained to do outside their native country, even if they have a vast experience in teaching - their applications won't even be considered in most cases.
Another misfortune affecting teachers all over the country is the fact that many of them are considered unqualified, even though several years ago their qualification was fully sufficient. This is due to some recent education law changes. I find it really unfair that now, with the surplus of teachers, we are treated almost dismissively. I can still remember the days (about 10-15 years ago) when school principals were stopping me in the street offering me a job, which I had to keep refusing. I wasn't fully qualified back then but apparently it didn't matter - they desperately needed someone with some knowledge of English. At that time a lot of under-qualified English teachers were hired and cherished, to be later sternly asked to leave due to their insufficient qualification. Some argue that since then those teachers have undoubtedly had plenty of time to complete their education, but in effect many of them have meanwhile become busy parents who have to support their families. And while they might have had plenty of time, they might not have had plenty of opportunities - not all universities offer the right courses one needs to complete the qualification.
I was lucky; I got my MA degree two years ago, just in the nick of time - right before the proposed legal changes were about to get into motion. But even then I had to self fund my studies and beg and plead for days off work to be able to sit my exams (even our students normally get a day off when they are preparing for a regional competition, for example). Not to mention that I had to commute 100 km every week to attend the lessons, which obviously cost me a fortune. But I'm not complaining. It was worth it and I learnt a lot.
Nowadays I attend conferences, which I self fund as well, and I do everything in my power to become a better teacher. I listen to teachers from all over the world and hear that they face similar problems and joys (this is a post by @swanDOS, for example).
Finally, on a more materialistic note. They say I should never speak about the money I earn (because some might feel envious). Nonetheless, a teacher's average salary over here is 650 euros a month (this is not an official statistic; it's reality). I'm not complaining - I passionately love my job and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be there in the classroom every day. But I think at least I deserve some respect for what I do and for what I've been through.