The start of a new series on Vagabond Journey about the unsavory side of teaching English abroad.
A typical night in Kaifeng, China usually falls into a similar pattern that involves beer, food, and bitching about people or work. The world over, having a bitch about work is pretty much akin to talking about the weather.
The complaints range from the incompetence of the students, to the dryness of the curriculum, to management, and on to other teachers on the team. For the most part, our team of teachers get on well enough. Without a doubt, outliers exist. There is the loud-mouthed redneck, the people who love sharing intimate details of their sex life in the office, and those who just talk about wildly inappropriate topics in office meetings (think pedophilia or she-male porn).
Part of the reason, I think, this happens is that China is a lo-fi work environment — especially compared with Australia, where we’re all primarily based. So teachers feel they can get away with being more ‘honest’ than they would back home, where they are burdened with over-zealous P.C. etiquette.
I voiced this opinion and one of my co-workers shrugged and replied, “I just thought since this was such a prestigious university that the selection criteria would be higher and they would have some standards.”
“It’s an industry full of degenerates and perverts,” was my rebuttal. As that comment sank in I felt proud to be from the same state as Hunter S. Thompson.
The beer kept flowing and the conversation drifted on to weekend trips and the dregs of being back in classroom the next day.
As I walked back to my apartment, I started wondering about my brash comment. Is English teaching really an industry full of creeps and weirdos? On the surface the answer, of course, is no. There are plenty of motivated teachers in the ESL world. English teachers are usually up for adventure, bored with sedentary life, and are looking to expand their knowledge of the world. In a word, they’re game.
On the other hand, anyone who has taught in Asia has seen the older guy, half-drunk, hitting on his students. It’s common knowledge that no one back in his hometown would come within ten feet of him. In my teaching career I have seen co-workers drink in class, overdose during break time, and even one asshole who exposed himself to a Taiwanese student. So yes, there are definitely freaks out there.
Some teach for the easy money, some for the girls, some to avoid having to face whatever demons they left behind. Most, but by no means all, of these can be classed in the degenerate category.
So what I would like is for readers to send in their “Degenerate and Pervert” stories from the lives of ESL teachers. Not all these stories have to be edgy or supremely perverted, but they are always welcome. Anything will suffice, funny tales, interesting experiences, moments of beauty and episodes of extreme frustration. I would absolutely love it if people sent in poetry. Each story should be a few hundred words or so, but if the story requires more, then it requires more. There are no fixed word limits. Humorous or interesting photos are welcome.
There is a whole generation of us who have left home to seek out the world and our place in it. We have been fortunate to travel the globe and teaching English has given us the means through which to explore. So there should be some pretty amazing stories.
I will try to fish out the best ones and put them up here on Vagabond Journey. If I get enough replies then maybe I will even try to make this a weekly post.
So send your stories through to LawrenceCasey@runbox.com. Please put ‘Adventures in English Teaching’ in the subject line.
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