By Gary Barbour
People, liars mostly, led me to believe that teaching English was the most noble profession.
I can’t rule it out as a badass job. I get to tell people how to speak good and they can’t argue with a word of it because “Some old, dead, white guy made this rule, so deal with it” beats even “Because I’m your mom, and I said so.”
Badassitude aside (How awesome is it that I’m just allowed to pull that word out of my ass, and you understand it? ENGLISH!), I don’t feel particularly noble. I have my share of Professor Higgins moments, and occasionally a student will say something so spectacularly well that I skip around the room. But I don’t feel like I’m bettering the world for a number of reasons.
1) Applauding victory is nice, but Schadenfreude is sweeter.
On one hand, I spent a week preparing a student for the IELTS interview and he scored a 7 (out of 9) on the test. I felt pretty great about that.
On the other, I read a test answer this week that made me pee myself.
Question: Describe the woman.
This just comes down to human awfulness. We will always cover our mouths and titter when some schmuck trips down the stairs. No buts about it, that shit is funny. Just like listening to a student attempt to justify his ineptitude.
2) Define Truth.
Every month, I have to give 10% of a student’s grade to how much work they put into class. And every month, I want to call my dad and shout “This is what you do with a degree in writing FICTION!”
3) Everyone, everywhere is an idiot, and that includes me.
Nothing grinds my gears more than people making decisions in a field for which they have no qualifications. If your job is to make money, make money. Don’t dictate that 8 tests in an acceptable number of tests for a 16 day course. I will hate you. I will consider lighting the computer on fire as some sort of sacrifice to whichever vengeful deity deals out fiery haemorrhoids.
But then, I’m aware of my own limitations, and I know I’d be cocking the whole mess up if it were in my hands. The only difference being that I would be in charge of cocking it up.
4) I’m treated like an expert which makes me fudge my pants.
People actually look at me like I have the answer to their questions. Sometimes, I do because we live in a world with Google, and I don’t trust myself to give the correct answer. There are times when I explain something so incredibly well and thought out that I think I might know what I’m talking about. I don’t.
So there it is. Two years of teaching, respect and grudging admiration from students, and still no clue how to explain a gerund.
Gary teaches English to Middle Eastern students at an American school in Malaysia. Read about the convergence of this cultural mishmash on his blog, Collecting Sparrows.