Search any site on the Internet for the highest paid professions in the world and you will not find “teachers” in the top 30. Expand your search and look for the list of professions in different countries where the practitioners receive the best compensation packages and you will find out that teaching is not among them. You will not find a country where teachers are ranked among the highest money-earners.
Teaching not classified among the highest paying jobs, of course, is not surprising. That has been the case since time immemorial and it is not expected to change anytime soon. However, insufficient remuneration does not deter teachers from performing the role they have embraced. Such is only one of the steps in the extra mile that teachers need to walk when they have accepted that teaching is not merely a profession but a vocation. It is not merely a job to perform but an obligation to carry out.
Acknowledging that teaching is not merely a job but an obligation to carry out is what makes teachers go the extra mile, to do what is more than required in the performance of their tasks, including sacrificing personal resources…sometimes happiness. Teachers know the nature of the responsibility that they agreed to fulfill when they signed up for the job. They know it’s not easy. How in the world would one consider being responsible for the education of other people, especially the young ones, easy? When did it become easy to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and values and the development of skills of your fellow human beings?
If only pay would be commensurate to how significant is one’s job in the enlightenment of the soul, the preservation and enhancement of the fabric of society, and the socio-economic development of a nation then teachers would get paid handsomely.
But it is what it is. Teaching is not a profitable profession. Realities teachers confront in the academe could really make them say a lot of things in the “present unreal conditional” form. There are times that they couldn’t also help but make a “wish-statement” like “I wish that I were a health care professional.”
Health care professionals (physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, etc.) consistently round out the top 10 in the lists of highest-paid professionals.
What they (the medical practitioners and their fellow health workers) do, maintenance and restoration of good health is very important. For that, they deserve the pay they get, most especially during this time that the coronavirus pandemic is still raging. But nurturing the human spirit…helping a person achieve holistic development is as equally important, if not more important. What professional endeavor could be more meaningful than helping your fellow men achieve their full potential for them to become responsible human beings and productive members of society?
And not only are the teachers not getting the pay commensurate to the importance of the work they do and the effort they need to exert when doing their job, but they don’t also get the recognition they deserve.
American society, for example, does not generally view teachers in the same way, as they view other professionals; the belief that “anyone can teach” is not found in other professions (i.e., not just anyone can play professional baseball, or be an accountant or engineer, or practice law or medicine.)1
Such is the indifference teachers, as professionals, are getting.
How true is the contention that “anyone can teach?” Those who know what it takes to become a teacher would say it is a fallacy.
Education is not just a matter of whether you can teach or not but also whether or not you can make the students learn. Even if a person is an expert in a field of learning it is not a guarantee that he can teach what he knows. Knowing something is different from knowing how to teach it.
Hiring just anyone to become a teacher would be a huge mistake. Hiring somebody to teach a language just because he or she could speak that language is a huge mistake. It takes a lot to become a teacher. Teachers undergo rigid training for them to hone their pedagogical skills. They read a lot knowing that teaching and learning are both grounded on Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and other related fields. They know they need to be familiar not only in their field of expertise but with different principles and strategies to effectively deliver learning and teaching. They know that when they are done teaching they still have to evaluate the learning.
The list of the things that teachers need to know and to do is long. At the end of that long list are two characteristics that teachers need to develop if they wish to succeed in the profession – PASSION for their work and COMPASSION for the students.
How then in the world it becomes possible that just “anyone can teach?”
Be that as it may, teaching will forever be a NOBLE PROFESSION! Nothing can diminish its intrinsic value.
One thing is for sure, all successful professionals in the world – business executives, lawyers, architects, engineers, surgeons, physicians, dentists, nurses, brokers, etc. – know that their teachers contributed a thing or two into whatever they have become.
1 Tichenor M.S., Tichenor, J.M. (2005). Understanding teachers’ perspectives on professionalism. ERIC.
I have been a teacher since 1988. It has been a long journey full of ups and downs and filled with joys and sorrows. I don’t regret anything that I have undergone as a teacher and proudly I could l say that I triumphed over all the difficulties and pains because I wouldn’t last this long in the academe if not.
I worked in eight different schools in the Philippines, in six as a full-timer and in two as a part-timer. Here in South Korea, where I am teaching now is my second university. I stayed a year in the first one and now I’m on my way to completing my fifth year where I transferred.
Go back to the previous paragraph and count the number of academic institutions where I worked.
Two short of a dozen.
In those schools, I met different kinds of students, administrators, and – teachers, the best and the worst.
This essay deals with teachers I refer to as “jokers in the academe.” The experience I had with them taught me to have a great deal of patience. There were times though that I lost that patience and locked horns with them. Actually, I wrote this essay right after a verbal tussle with one of them.
Yes, you need to be patient when you encounter the jokers among your colleagues. These jokers aren’t funny at all. They are annoying.
I am not saying that I am a perfect teacher. I still have lots to improve. At least I have been trying my best to conform with the existing and evolving professional standards set for teachers.
Most importantly, I am not a joker. I would never be.
Who might these jokers be?
One of those that I classify as jokers are the “super dependents.”
The “super dependents” are teachers who will not solve their own problems. They expect their colleagues to do that for them. They are the ones who hate exerting extra effort to find a solution to whatever bugs them. Their sense of entitlement is so strong that they think that it is the duty of people around them to help them get out of a difficult situation.
What these jokers consider as problems are not problems to begin with.
For example – the school requiring teachers to apply a new technology in the classroom. That for them is a contentious issue. They would try to dip their hands deep into their bag of reasons to justify their non-compliance.
You would hear the lamest of excuses like “My training as an educator did not include applying those technology.”
Another excuse, lame also, “It’s labor-intensive.”
They want things to be given to them on a silver platter. They would never go the extra mile.
They are like square pegs in round holes. No amount of explanation would make them buy the idea that being a 21st century teacher teaching 21st century learners would require the learning of 21st century skills.
These jokers don’t understand that part of their responsibility as educators – if they really consider themselves as educators – is to retool and retrain if necessary in order to cope with the demands of what has become a technology-driven pedagogy used by 21st century teachers.
They should not subscribe to the idea that “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” because they are not dogs. They’re human beings who are supposed to be rational.
Anyway, let’s talk about dogs.
They bark, right?
Some of the jokers in the academe are like dogs. They bark a lot.
I call them the “barkers.”
These jokers bark about their disagreement with school policies and what they perceive as incompetence among the “people upstairs.” They are the eternal fault-finders who see nothing but negative in the organization. They live to seek the “tiny black in an ocean of white.” For them nothing is right, everything is wrong.
They complain day and night, except when they go to the ATM machine during payday.
Do they deserve their pay? Are they doing their job? Only them and their students could tell.
Yes, there are times that they have valid reasons to disagree. But what is frustrating is that they bark up the wrong tree. They don’t address their concerns to the right people at the right place and at the right time. They grandstand during meetings wasting their colleagues’ precious time. They force them to listen to their misguided eloquence. Sometimes they also write long unsolicited e-mails where they express their grievances. They don’t understand that not everybody in the organization share their opinion about the policies and their school administrators.
The funny thing is these jokers just bark but they don’t bite.
They do nothing about their complaints except bark about them. But when the administrators responsible in implementing the policies they disagree with are present in meetings, they are very quiet, silent in one corner of the room wagging their tails.
These jokers curse the school and their administrators at every opportunity they have. They tell everybody that the school where they work is the worst place to be. Yet at the end of the school year they (let me use these words again) wag their tails as they sign their names on the dotted lines for a contract extension.
Dogs bark. They also eat their own vomits.
The last category of jokers in my list are those who applied (and luckily got hired) as teachers even if they are not qualified and trained for the profession.
They are the ones I call the “pretenders.”
Yeah, they pretend to be teachers.
These jokers applied as teachers because there are no other jobs available. They are very fortunate (and the students unfortunate) that there are schools willing to hire them even if they are not qualified to be teachers.
Among these jokers are English teachers who thought that they could be English teachers because they can speak the language. I have emphasized in one of my essays that it doesn’t mean that when you know something you can already teach it. “If you know it, you can teach it” is a fallacy.
Knowing a subject matter is different from knowing how to teach it. The former is only one of the many requirements for the latter.
“Real teachers,” those not pretending to be, know what it takes to be a teacher. Teaching is not parroting the contents of the book. It’s not delivering a monologue in front of the students.
Teachers need to choose the best strategy to use in the class from a variety of strategies available. They have to set objectives and test if those objectives are met. They need to differentiate the levels of their students and identify the corresponding techniques and activities suitable for those levels.
“Real teachers” know what philosophy would inform whatever they do and say in the class. They know which sociological, psychological, historical and legal foundations upon which they would base all their decisions as teachers.
It means that the job of a teacher is so complicated that not just anybody should be allowed to teach. And when a school commits the mistake of hiring applicants who are not trained to be teachers, expect them to become the jokers in the academe.
In the academe, most of those who complain a lot – those who create a lot of troubles – are the ones who are not really trained to become teachers. These jokers are the ones who seemed to be lost in the wilderness not knowing what to do and how to do things related to the job of a teacher. They are the ones who would blame others when they encounter difficulties and can’t figure out how to deal with them.
The common trait among these jokers is that they want everything given to them in a silver platter. You need to explain to them in detail (and repetitively) how to perform tasks that teachers are supposedly trained to do. Sometimes they would even require their colleagues to do things for them. They would not bother learning how to do it themselves.
Beware of the jokers in the academe. They’re not funny.
These jokers could be many or but a few in schools everywhere.
There was a voice within that kept telling me not to mind the jokers in the academe. I did so, but not for long. It became too difficult for me to hold my horses when I heard the “non-performing” barkers whined and whinged so persistently. It’s so difficult to just turn a blind eye (and a deaf ear) to the things they are doing (and saying) all the time. I had to say my piece – through this essay.
What’s dangerous is that they are contagious. They contaminate the working environment. They have the ability to flip the organizational climate, from positive to negative.
So, beware of the jokers. Avoid them like a plague.
These whining and crying babies are not cute. Don’t babysit them.
(My Journey as a Teacher – 4)
I decided to try ESL teaching here in South Korea not because there were no teaching jobs available in the Philippines for me then. As a matter of fact, I had to cut short my employment back home in 2013 to come here. That time I was employed as Principal of a basic education institution. To earn extra, I also worked as a part-time instructor in a college and academic consultant in another school .
I had no problem finding jobs in the Philippines.
So, what made me decide to teach here?
Firstly, I suffered from a severe “job burnout”. I got so tired being a school administrator and a teacher at the same time. There was no sense of fulfillment. I desired to go back to full-time teaching and try to discover what I was missing.
I started doing supervisory works in 1994 in a technical-vocational institution. I resigned in 2002 then moved to another school, a Catholic tertiary institution, where I was offered a supervisory position – head of the Education program. From there I became a college dean in another school then principal in a basic education institution. From 1994 to early 2013 I was a school administrator and a teacher at the same time.
I really got tired supervising people and doing administrative works. I felt sick about it. I wanted to go back to just being a teacher. That’s the reason I applied for a teaching job in South Korea. Luckily, I was hired.
It was that “job burnout” that got me seeking for a job opportunity overseas. Not that I wanted a greener pasture. I would be branded a hypocrite if I say I don’t need a higher pay. But I was really satisfied with the salary I was receiving at that time. It was good enough that it enabled me to buy a small parcel of land and had a house built.
Of course I am happier and more satisfied with my monthly pay in this country. Who wouldn’t be. It’s roughly 75% higher than what my Pakistani employers paid me in the Philippines and with me having to work 60% less in terms of hours. That basic (K to 12) education school where I was Principal is owned by Pakistanis operating a vast network of schools (The City School) in Pakistan and some parts of Asia.
At that time I felt that I was at the crossroads of my career. I have to admit that there was some kind of dissatisfaction within me. Burnout torched my soul and I was really unhappy.
Then came the opportunity to teach here.
When I got settled, I figured out what was missing. Because I was so busy with my administrative functions and was teaching at the same time, I was not able to attend to my other passion…WRITING.
In the Philippines, being a school administrator and teacher at the same time require that you stay in the workplace, officially, for 8 hours a day. But most of the time, I would stay way beyond that, even if I wasn’t required to. It was just something that felt I ought to do. Sometimes I would even go to my office on Saturdays. With that hectic schedule, I could hardly find time to write poems, essays and stories… much less do research.
That’s what makes teaching in South Korea different for me. It afforded me a lot of spare time which I could use to write. I was even able to write papers for presentations in international conferences and for publication in international journals. Something that, unfortunately, I couldn’t do in the Philippines. Back then I would be lucky if in a month I could write even just a poem.
ESL teaching is part of the career-path I paved for myself. I really trained and prepared for this. As early as 2009, I was already thinking of coming to this country to become an English teacher. I applied also in schools in the Middle East but it was my hope that I would be given the opportunity to do ESL teaching here.
I did not become an English teacher overnight. I am a licensed English teacher in the Philippines. I passed the Licensure Examination for Teachers 2003. Then in 2010, notwithstanding my busy schedule, I enrolled for a certification class in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).
My second (and last) reason for deciding to try teaching here (South Korea) has nothing to do with my career. At that time I was journeying to midlife. There were some personal demons that I OUGHT to slay. It’s too personal to share. Suffice it to say that I needed space. I needed that entire space between the Philippines and South Korea to really get my bearings back.
Then my efforts paid off and my prayers answered. I was hired by a South Korean university in 2013.
God is really good. I got what I wanted… just teach and no more supervisory works. That gave a lot of time to write. I was also able to squeeze myself out of a personal crisis. I wouldn’t have not done so had I opted to just stay in that principal’s office.
My journey as a teacher continues. I don’t know for how long it would last.
As I said in another essay, “Nobody knows if where I am teaching now is the final leg of my journey…my final destination. I’d love to if given the chance.”