What do flight attendants and English teachers have in common?

cc-nikki-knightThey both get stuck even though they think they’ll be on the go.

Every now and then, a friend of a friend contacts me: “My girlfriend and I want to travel and teach English!”

“I get it,” I say. “That is exactly why I came abroad, too.”  The reality, dear reader, as I’m sure you’re well aware, is often quite different, even for solo adventurers, so I gently explain what I’ve seen in the last five years…

“If you’re moving to an attractive, major world city, there will be competition for teaching jobs. If you’re willing to live in a less urban place, you will have better job opportunities. Otherwise, prepare to be expendable because you probably won’t get treated awesomely or paid handsomely out of the blue. You can certainly find a job somewhere, but you may never receive a legit work permit that actually arrives before your work contract expires.

“You and your lady will end up at the same or different schools. Either way, you probably won’t have the same days off, so you will have to be adventurous about taking solo day trips. It’s unlikely you can take the same extended vacations (unless they are public holidays, in which case any domestic travel will be very expensive because all the locals have that time off, too).

“You can, of course, get to many other countries easily, but the fact that the local currency isn’t doing so well compared to the euro means that any trip you take is going to be… pricey.”

By the end, so-and-so is reconsidering.

Being an English teacher is to Generation Y what being a flight attendant was to Generation X — a life of glamour that takes you to exotic, far-flung places…  Or so we thought.

My early self, Rookie J, was heartbroken to learn that she wouldn’t travel nearly as much as she thought she was going to. The bucket list grew ever longer and Facebook contributed to travel envy.  I always hated futzing around in the mornings, doing a bunch of nothing because I was too lazy to get out, but then start scrambling to make it to through the evening commute to teach night classes, and miss having any semblance of a normal dinner.  Oh, not to mention all day Saturday.

When I unshackled myself from local English schools, I gleefully looked at my blank canvas — a giant, flexible calendar stretching as far as the eye could see. There was some panic because I needed to fill that with students to make money, but come hell or high water, I was going to have a reasonable schedule that allowed me to take vacations and work when I wanted, not when it was ordained from on high.

It took a long time to craft the business structure that now facilitates an endless supply of students, but the results of that structure give me immeasurable value.


Why is an online TOEFL teacher luckier than a whole plane full of English teachers?

cc-matthew-hurstTeaching TOEFL online is a trifecta of mobility, time flexibility and job satisfaction.

Thanks to 24 time zones, I can schedule students whose schedules are compatible with the hours I truly want to work.  

I saw my sister graduate one random May. I went to Cambodia and Thailand in the dead middle of winter, exactly when my soul needed sun the most. I take time off when fantastic people come to visit me, or go back to my mom’s in California for a few weeks whenever I need a dose of her. I am tailoring my current teaching schedule to allow me time to study for DELTA.

And then, whenever I want, I just tell my assistant and she schedules ambitious, intelligent, inspiring students.

For me, that’s the life.

I honestly don’t think that it could get any better — until I teach you how to have the life you want, too.