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Category: The Teacher's Lot

It’s great rubbing elbows (or shoulders as the Brits say) with my English-teaching colleagues. We have shared experiences, think the same way, have roughly the same linguistic brain waves: the same parts of our brains light up like Christmas trees.

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William Christison
William Christison.

William y Steven: MadridTeacher podcast: "Anatomy of a Murder" (MP3, Text)
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So here we all are in the insalubrious (because of secondary smoke) confines of our local watering hole, slaking our thirst after long hours of exposing students to language, clarifying meaning, and uncovering grammar, when I decide to toss out a sort-of serious question.

“How can we as teachers improve our lot?” Without missing a beat, they answer right back to me, “By getting out of teaching”, which was followed by general merriment. Oh well, what was I expecting?

Seriously though, I think the system is skewed against teachers (and for that matter against numerous other labor-intensive professions). I’m all for capitalism and the free market, but something’s not right when large segments of society are left out.

Nowadays a business faces fierce competition: a reputable academy offers classes for X amount, but another less reputable one undercuts it because they pay their (less qualified) teachers less. This sort of cut-throat capitalism tends to drive prices down to the detriment of qualified teachers and of our students, who settle for second-rate teaching.

So what’s the solution? I sometimes think that forming some sort of TEFL union in Madrid (or for all of Spain) might help. The question is, how much real power would it have to regulate the quality of teachers and get us living wages? How would we get it off the ground? I don’t have the answers.

I’m not one to preach doom and gloom, but sometimes the riots in Paris and Greece come to mind. Why did those people go haywire like that? OK, I’m not an expert on this, but it may be there’s a lot of pent up anger out there from this economic underclass working in labor-intensive professions or unemployed, and the victims of the inequalities of capitalism, which is becoming increasingly elitist, especially in the USA where (according to one source) 5% of the population controls 85% of the wealth. Of course resorting to violence is a huge mistake, so these people need to be empowered and brought on board.

I know I’d be happier if I could ply my trade without the feeling that if I want greater economic well-being, my main option is “getting out of teaching”.

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