The first thing I did when I received my university degree was to send out an application to my alma mater, Apollo, in Vietnam. I was fairly confident that I would get accepted, after all, their website stated that they prioritise their graduates, that they prefer applicants who completed CELTA with a Pass B, and that they have a place for newly qualified and experienced teachers alike. Plus, I knew that they didn’t discriminate because I happened to meet a fellow countryman who was working there as a teacher during my training. So I sent it off and waited. And waited. And waited. My confidence sank with each passing day, until I had to accept that I hadn’t made the short list. It’s quite discouraging when my own school won’t hire me and I couldn’t help but think–If they won’t hire me, who will? I’m a big believer of “everything happens for a reason” and this is no different. I couldn’t stay in Vietnam in 2012 because I didn’t have the papers for a work permit, and now, 2014, my job application wasn’t accepted, so I think it’s safe to assume at this point that perhaps Vietnam just isn’t where I’m supposed to be, and that’s perfectly okay. Either way, I get up, dust myself off, and keep going forward.
When I chose to pursue ELT as a serious career, I knew that I had three main obstacles to overcome.
Not having a degree. I will never forget what my CELTA tutor said during one of our afternoon sessions when we were talking about careers. He said, “you don’t need a degree to be a good teacher.” That resonated with me so deeply because I felt it was absolutely true and that as long as someone is passionate about something, they will be able to produce results. But as long as it was a requirement in nearly every institution, it would be a roadblock.
#2 – Being Asian. In this line of work, being a “native speaker” is kind of an advantage. That means that one comes from an English speaking country such as America, Canada, Britain, or Australia. The Cambridge TKT Glossary defines a native speaker as, “someone who has spoken a particular language since they were a baby, rather than having learnt it as a child or adult.” I consider English to be my first language and I didn’t become fluent in the local language of my country until I was eighteen, and I’m not even really fluent because I’m still pretty useless in it in so many ways, but it’s hard to sell that when I’m Asian with an Asian passport, therefore, not really considered a native speaker. I’m highly irritated when I see job ads that list being a native speaker as a job requirement. Which brings me to a separate afternoon CELTA session when we had a Q&A with the course assessor who said that if an institution refused to hire us because of our nationality, then it is not an institution worth working for and is likely not a reputable institution to begin with–and, of course, I agree with that wholeheartedly. Regardless of the encouragement, though, I still feel like I’m a minority and that I need to work twice as hard to get to where I want to go–and that’s perfectly okay because I don’t mind hard work. It gives more satisfaction once the goal is reached.
#3 – Experience. Currently, I have a year and seven month gap since my certification where I haven’t managed to get myself into a classroom, due to #1 on this list. In the last few weeks that I’ve spent job hunting, a lot of ads are looking for experienced teachers. Some of the top schools, my dream employer included, require at least two years post certification classroom experience to qualify for a position. So the challenge now is to get experience without any experience.
I don’t enjoy job hunting. I find the entire process to be very stressful, and if one isn’t built strong enough to accept rejections, as there inevitably will be, the stress can be that much more wrenching. I like to think that I’m one of those people who is strong enough, but I’ll admit that I’ve been procrastinating in order to delay the rejection, I suppose. This seems to be my process. I first go through a stage of self-doubt and then slowly give myself a pep talk to build up my confidence that will then give me enough courage to press send. I’m currently at the ‘press send’ stage where I take a leap of faith, keep everything crossed, and hope for the best. If it doesn’t work out, try again.
My biggest fear is that I’m trying so hard to break into this profession and when I finally get there, I’ll find out that my first instincts about being a teacher were true and that I’ll end up hating it.
On the bright side, I have a job interview tomorrow.