One of the reasons why I waited a few years after college to join Peace Corps is because I didn’t want to teach English. I studied English lit in college and tutored ESL as a side job for several years, but what I really wanted was to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in the environment sector, not TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). So after college, I volunteered for organizations like TheSCA and Arlingtonians for a Cleaner Environment in order to try to build up my resume. In the end though, I had to choose between my top country choice (Mongolia) vs top sector choice (environment) and well, here I am in Mongolia.
Here’s the thing though, I kind of love teaching; I have always enjoyed it but I’ve never wanted to go anywhere with it. It’s childish, but the rebellious side of me didn’t want to fulfill people’s expectations that because I studied English, naturally, I would teach it. Also, I had heard (and continue to hear) horror stories of under-paid, over-worked teachers who were too busy fighting bureaucracy and bogus testing requirements to really dedicate themselves to the art of educating. I worked in a school for a year through AmeriCorps and that notion only proved itself further. Even in Mongolia, I see my counterparts struggling to balance demands from the country boss, provincial boss, and school boss. (However, unlike in America, my CPs here have one less party to cater to which are the parents; A teacher’s word is law and from what I have seen, Mongolian parents are very respectful of their children’s teachers).
I get that every career has pros and cons but becoming a teacher seemed … well, like a very crappy option.
But the longer I’m here, the more I can’t ignore a very simple fact: I love this work. I think I’m good at it (at least with TEFL) and while teaching for too long can leave me utterly exhausted, it’s very rewarding work. I am very well-received by my students and fellow co-teachers and I love thinking about and trying to break down the psychology of acquiring a new language skill. All I want, everyday, is for my students to enjoy learning English and eventually feel like they know it.
And here’s another thing, you know how people are always saying, “Oh, you don’t know what to do with your life? Travel the world! See some cool things, reflect, find out who you are, etc…” Well, here’s a crazy thought – what if I finished Peace Corps and that actually happened to me? What if I emerged from the other end of this knowing what I now wanted to do with my life? Okay so I haven’t decided 100% that I’m going to pursue teaching after Peace Corps (because of the above mentioned hesitations) but I’m at ~80% now and that’s closer than I’ve ever been with any possible career. If I did teach though, I think I would continue doing it abroad either in ESL or secondary school English literature/writing. So, it looks like my expat life circuit may not be over as soon as I originally thought! Kinda exciting.