Teaching ESL when the World is out of Control

I have been wanting to share something with you, but… I was afraid to share it. Last week, I wrote the email, but I couldn’t click send. Because I was afraid my message would get misinterpreted as nothing more than doom and gloom.

Then, however, I had a conversation with a teacher friend I haven’t heard from in a long, long time. The last I knew, she left her life behind in her home country and moved to a new one to get married. I was shocked to discover that less than two years later (now!), she’s getting divorced. Unsurprisingly and horribly, her visa status is in jeopardy, which means she doesn’t know which country she’ll be living in next year, or exactly how she’ll be earning a living.

“Hello, instability and chaos, you ugly beast, you.”

She already went through a hell of a lot to move countries once. So for her to have to do it again, start fresh… ? You know what I’m talking about. When you’re not in the mood to switch countries, it’s not a cool adventure. And even when it is…

I don’t want her to watch her teaching career dissolve like a sandcastle at high tide. New country. New schools. New CV. New hiring practices. New language. New competition. New economy. New standards. I wouldn’t let my friend go through that (not unless she loves job hunting with a capital L).

Talking with her convinced me that I need to share my original message with you. And then there was the bombing in Baghdad… and then Medina.

So here it is…


July 1, from my computer, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean

Hey there,
I don’t mean to smash into your life, but this week, the world got some bad news. I recorded a video journal about what I was thinking…

Click here to watch it on YouTube

I shared it with friends and colleagues and when people saw it, many of them resonated — even people who are outside the ESL industry.

Why? Because each of us knows at least one flavor of uncertainty and tragedy. Politics and alliances shift. The economy rises and falls. People die. Needs and wants fade and are replaced by new ones. Things you thought weren’t important one day will be. These kinds of events can bring everything into question.

Do you stay or do you go? Are you in control or are you controlled?

It is because I teach ESL exams online and have a source of mobile income from anywhere that I can bounce around and bounce back when the worst happens. I’m not saying this to rub it in your face. I’m saying this because you need to know you are not anchored by the choices you’ve made so far… And you don’t have to give things up (the way that ESL teachers have been doing for decades).

Life is flying by. People are getting older. Weddings are happening. Babies are being born. Stuff is changing. Memories are being made. Where are you while it’s happening? Are you satisfied with life on social media, or has some part of you just gotten used to settling for digitized relationships? Or do you have the freedom and security to show up in person and dive deep with family and friends?

Human to human, I want you to be able to live in the real world. Your real world. Whatever that is, wherever you need to be. If it’s what you want, you deserve it.

I literally wrote this original post from a plane while I flew from London to Washington DC so that we could submit my application for a visa to live in England. At that time, the uncertainty of how long I would be there for was overwhelming. But one thing is certain: I was going to keep training teachers in the next cohort How to Teach Exams and I had my schedule full of the same students. In other words, I had consistency and a source of meaning — despite the uncertainty.

If I had a “normal” job and needed to rely on a bricks and mortar school, this multi-country-visa-drama would stop me from teaching and put me in debt within a few weeks. Not to mention I would be miserable with 6 to 12 weeks of forced time off in a location without even one decent beach.

Thanks to the miracle of video conferencing, my bank account will continue to be healthy and I get to keep working with teachers and students who give me purpose every day.

“Bye bye, instability and chaos, you ugly beast, you.”

I was not gifted some magical luck. I made this happen. There are two necessary ingredients: a hell of a lot of effort and perseverance and the right strategy. (What I mean is that I focused all my effort and energy on the right things.)

I don’t know what is going on in your life, but I’m willing to bet that it wouldn’t hurt to have the same kind of security and freedom.

What do you think? Are you interested? If yes, leave a comment. Share what is going for you. Let’s connect.

  • Claire Bodur

    A very heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing this Jaime, it really resonated with me. x