Just a Job: Are Teachers Settling?

Just a Job: Are Teachers Settling?

A few days ago, I was conducting a seminar for Chinese primary, middle and high school English teachers. A couple of the fundamental questions that I posed to the attendees of that seminar were: “Why did you select teaching as a career? What is the most important quality that should be acquired by a teacher?"

 I was surprised by the responses that I received from them.

Pertinent to the first question, their responses indicated that most of them didn’t select teaching as a profession. The majority thought that it was just a job that can provide them with a steady income along with long winter and summer holidays.

Few of them chose it motivated by its prestige and its respectable status in the Chinese society. The rest were driven to teaching by the nature of their majors and the careers that were available in the job market for those majors.

When I expressed my belief that teaching is a passion not a career, they argued that one can’t feel passion toward a job that is full of disappointments. When I asked them to elaborate, they mentioned the fact that most students resent being forced to attend classes. They added that they felt disappointed seeing the lack of appreciation from their students for their efforts.


Discussing the issue with some of the foreign teachers here and abroad, I discovered that they are equally divided pertinent to the question “Is teaching a career or a passion?” Those who believed that it is a career argued that most teachers don’t like their jobs and they ended up there because of their majors or the availability of jobs in the market.

They also mentioned the fact that most teachers feel burned out after few years due to the work overload and the endless efforts they have to exert to satisfy the needs of their students and keep their teaching positions.

Those who believed that teaching is a passion insisted that teachers need to be passionate enough about their jobs to be able to transcend all common obstacles in the profession in order to guide their students toward the path of the acquisition of knowledge. Otherwise, they would not be able to stand the heat, which may lead them to quit or, worse, fall victim to mental anguish.

They stated the fact that the students of nowadays are so intelligent that they can sense the attitudes of their teachers toward their careers. They need to see that the teachers are enthusiastic about enjoying the experience in order to be receptive to their teaching.

As for the second question, I was perplexed to discover that they believed that the acquisition of knowledge in relevant subjects is what distinguishes an excellent teacher from a common one.

When I asked them the following questions: “How many of you believe that they have sufficient knowledge to be considered an excellent teacher? How often do you spend time to update your knowledge?

Surprisingly, none of them believed that they possess sufficient knowledge that would categorize them as excellent teachers. They explained that they have social and family responsibilities to fulfill beside their jobs. They had no time to be familiar with the latest advances in the educational field.

They were adamant in stating that finding the balance between the responsibilities toward their jobs and those toward their families and friends is one of the most difficult obstacles that they have to deal with on a daily basis.

Asking the same question to foreign teachers, I discovered that there was a consensus that caring is the most important trait of an excellent teacher. Teachers who are fond of and care about their students will exert every possible effort to provide their students with every possible opportunity to enhance their knowledge. They will also do their best to facilitate the learning process and make it an enjoyable experience.

Opening a forum of discussion, regarding the most important attribute that a teacher should acquire, with my students, most of them agreed that they believe a caring teacher would do everything possible to help his or her students. They also stated the fact that knowledge is available to them online and in books. However, caring teachers will find the most effective means to share their knowledge with their students.

Being open-minded, knowledgeable, patient, tolerant, compassionate were attributes that students seek in their teachers.

Regardless of the differences in opinions pertinent to the teaching profession, one must make sure to be aware of its merits and shortcomings prior to embarking on a career as a teacher. Lack of passion or the acquisition of the misconception that it is just a job may lead to disastrous consequences for both the teacher and the students.

Of course, some teachers may hold different views from the ones stated in my article. I just hope that my article will open the door for a wide discussion of the issue that may lead to the evolution of the educational system in China.

Holding an honorary professorship from China, Sava Hassan is a Canadian Egyptian author, poet and educator. He had published three books and wrote numerous articles in various topics in Canada, USA and China. He, also, won several writing awards including four from China. Currently, he is residing in China.

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Keywords: teaching job passion teaching China school


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i have a weak back, so one of the first things that struck me in children's english classrooms, is that there are no desks. teachers are not allowed to sit, and the only desk is usually in a corner, to stash cards and other teaching materials. at one point, they tried to make me wear a colourful, oversized dungarees. what i don't understand, is how parents are fooled into paying high tuition to spend time with a teacher they don't take seriously. do they honestly believe a few weekly 45-minute sessions in a room with a foreigner will improve their language skills?

Feb 03, 2016 20:43 Report Abuse



The whole article sounds like it was written to make foreign teachers sound bad. Just a load of crap.

Feb 02, 2016 05:22 Report Abuse



Interesting article. I do think you only see a small part of education field. I didn't choose to be teacher but i choose to work in education field. That's very different because in France education job is very large and can bring you to around 40 different kind of job. Before, being a teacher I worked as community worker with kids and teenagers specialist of alternative education outside the bound of academic institution. Then teacher is more like an evolution in my career into education field. Chinese education system got few different issues. The first one is nothing let pupils able to think by themselves and develop a critical thinking. They 're in system of memorize things. So learning a language in that way doesn't work. You have to develop yourself as person. In my opinion, a teacher in china should be able to bring to their pupils different angles in a topic to let his pupils able to develop arguments and a critical thinking. Nothing is black or white but more about shades. Then, china as other asian countries like japan, south korea is a country where education is very competitive. It's pushed to extreme way in all these countries because in some way it's their best chance to have a good job at the end. It's how private "business" schools grew up a lot in that part of the world. It's just a question of values. what kind of education and values you wanna bring to pupils. I can tell you for sure, all the answers are not into academic way. schools will never ever give you a good level in languages. It just brings you some basic to be independent. Then, it's only by your own experience in real life that you'll improve your level in a language. Interaction, reading, travelling. Teachers should look how it could work in alternative system where a teacher is not the center in class. The way is the change the paradigm that knowledge come from teachers. It comes from cooperation and interaction between pupils. teachers should be more like a guide not like the one bring knowledge.

Feb 01, 2016 21:37 Report Abuse



I selected teaching as a career because I like doing it, and I also like Chineese culture very much, so I hope I will get a job here soon :)

Feb 01, 2016 00:23 Report Abuse




Jan 29, 2016 13:08 Report Abuse



This article would be more insightful if it did not stop at telling foreign teachers--in a somewhat condescending manner--that they lack a professional attitude and are not good enough. It should ask the WHYS. I have talked to people with Masters and PhDs in Applied Linguistics and education. They had no passion for teaching in China, either. One cause is that, in China, a foreign teacher is as good as another foreign teacher. This culture is small minded and xenophobic. No one who has invested in their professional quality will take to the same salary, lack of professionalism on the part of their employer, and generally being treated like you are an idiot who will never do your job as well as a Chinese teacher as the nearest backpacker with a pulse. China wants the cheapest white monkey that they can appease with the least amount of work for themselves...that is what China gets. You can't blame the shabby status quo on the foreigners...it is China, trying to get as much as it can from the least amount of investment. ESL in China is a typical 'made in China' product. One PhD this I knew was Jewish. She taught at an international (haha...run by Chinese, drawing students from countries with zero academics, she later learned) university. Every day when she walked across the campus to her class, all of the students from a CERTAIN background cussed her out, spit on her, and said they would behead her someday for ISIS. She complained to her Chinese boss. He said the students were paying customers, and he had to keep them. She quit, he probably replaced her with the first person who came in for the position. I have a relevant degree, and I taught ESL before coming here. I taught war-shocked Chechnyan refugee kids. One kid actually stalked a teacher home and had to be taken away by the police. Teaching in China made me miss that job. I felt like I accomplished things with those kids. In China, both my students and the academic system reduced me to a source of entertainment, then blamed me for the fact that students did not learn from me! I have been in positions where I have researched and prepared for lessons and poured my heart into it...only to not be able to deliver the end product because students were shouting loud personal conversations to each other in my classroom while I tried to talk. I was later told by these studentthat this was because my focus on learning made my classes not 'funny' enough. One does not need to marvel that these kids had spend nearly a decade learning English and still do not know the difference between fun and funny. If students do not even respect you enough to listen to you out of the gate...why bother? And don't look to your fellow teachers for support...one Chinese teacher regularly makes an assignment for his students to demonstrate that laowai are bad teachers. I once accidentally agreed to let some Chinese students interview me, on my own time, unpaid for that assignment. They responded by sitting in my class and observing me without my permission. I ended class, and some student came to the front and started lecturing me for doing a dictation activity with my class (they learn listening from the CHINESE teachers). They then asked me how I would turn my 45 minute per week class into a class where all the students walked out speaking perfect, native like English. I replied that this was an impossible goal due to critical Windows for language learning, and they needed to make different parameters. They said that the professor wanted this. I said...reduce the class to smaller sizes, and assign them to their language levels, so that the teacher can address the needs of the students in each cohort. They said that this was not allowed. I said, give the teacher a proper book, the power to assign homework, and power over grades, so that students would apply themselves in class. I was informed that this answer was not allowed. I was then yelled at by the 18 year old STUDENTS that I had volunteered to help, asked why I was allowed to have a job at the university, and told that I was as incomprtant as their professor told them I would be. If you want to know why China does not have teachers who care...ask why China does not. It is because the Chinese education system is not worth caring about. Chinese love to blame everyone but themselves for their woes, but they are the ones setting the terms of what is acceptable, here.

Jan 29, 2016 12:49 Report Abuse



"I was then yelled at by the 18 year old STUDENTS that I had volunteered to help" -> That's when you woman up to tell them to shut the fuck up and sit down. Then after the class you go to see the teacher in question. You don't respect me? I don't respect you either, piece of scumshit. You got a problem with me? Let's go out now and solve it. See who gets the last laugh. When someone deliberately gets onto my nerves I will face them with their own bullshit, then if they give me that snarky smile "lol stoopid laowai gets angry" I will make them eat the pavement, happened a couple of times, whatcha gonna do now motherfucker? You asked for it.

Jan 30, 2016 14:32 Report Abuse



Eh, I actually kicked them out and said that they were giving me a bad impression of China. I said that students in my country were respectful, but in China they must be rude because of Chinese teachers. The bad impressions line usually shuts idiots up. Something about loosing face for the entire country....

Jan 30, 2016 20:01 Report Abuse



Yeah you're right, it's a native-speakers curse that I keep falling victim to even though I know better...

Jan 27, 2016 11:47 Report Abuse



. The premise in this article was that this speaker was conducting a forum for the improvement of teaching. I am greatly surprised by this, for all but the best schools (i.e the other 95% percent of the education market) an opportunity specifically for improvement is rarely provided. There is a "sink or swim" attitude that is ubiquitous in China. Part of what makes a good teacher is not just himself(or herself) but also the staff that supports them and this is one of the main differences between being a teacher at home and abroad. There is very little support for the foreign teacher and moreover even less communication between him and his or her management and support. The author has written a wonderful article and is obviously well educated,but maybe not experienced in what its like for the other 95%.There are many here that would love to have more passion for there job, but having passion metaphorically means having something to burn,and if there is nothing in your enviornment to burn...well then keeping that fire becomes a lot harder. The author might say, "well what about the kids" and rightly so because education should always be about the students, however this article is specifically addressed to foreign teachers and there problems with a passion for teaching. So simply put If the author truly wants to solve the problem then the discussion should be about the cause of the lack of passion; which in my opinion is a lack of support due to communication barriers. We should be providing/provided with mentor/mentee programs, teaching seminars, and emphasizing continuing education in the work place. Teachers have very large support systems back in our home countries, if we are truly interested in improving the educations system in China then let's try to bring them (or gain access to them) here.

Jan 26, 2016 10:40 Report Abuse



I was going to give you 10/10 for a well written response but you kept using "there" instead of "their"

Jan 26, 2016 21:51 Report Abuse



Hahaha, nah, teaching is just another way to collect generous hongbao with cash inside. "What are you saying PengPeng's mama? Your daughter only got 98 out of 100, I understand your disappointment. About that, I haven't entered the marks into the computer network yet, maybe there is a way to fix the problem *shining eyes*", of course it works better if you actually speak the language, enjoy the cash flow twice per semester for the mid term and final exams, each red envelope can contain twice or thrice your salary, per student, imagine when you teach 2 or 3 classes and have 100 students. How do you think local teachers who officially make 6000 per month end up buying apartments that cost millions and luxury cars that cost hundreds of thousands. This is China, don't be a fool, play that game, no one will ever call you out on it because that would mean shooting themselves in the foot.

Jan 26, 2016 10:07 Report Abuse



Three downvotes from Chinese who are angry because I know how to play the game hahaha bunch of losers, increasingly more laowais will collect bribes, cheat and lie, this is China after all, your own system, the one you created, now we play it too, there is nothing you can do to stop us, any action you take would be like shooting yourself in the foot, deal with it. I will keep spreading the word, advise foreigners to play the system and collect hongbao, try to stop me if you can!

Jan 30, 2016 14:19 Report Abuse



I would say that the more education is privatised, marketised and traded as a service good, the more feelings of carelessless and indifference by teachers will prevail. After all, it is usually not the case that the fees students pay transfer into teachers' bank accounts but rather are sucked up by consultants, management and other so-called "education professionals" who are not actually teachers. The best example would probably be Chinese training schools.

Jan 26, 2016 07:48 Report Abuse



Teachers respected by Chinese?! Scapegoats get respect?

Jan 26, 2016 02:18 Report Abuse



students intelligent nowadays?! what's the qualification, being able to play itunes?

Jan 26, 2016 02:16 Report Abuse